Getting Craft Brands to Market

Hosted by WSWA President and CEO Michelle Korsmo, this webinar engaged a panel of craft brand founders and executives along with the wholesalers they are working with to build their business and connect with licensed retailers. Sharing their unique stories and experiences, the panel not only shared best practices for getting to market, but also the challenges facing craft brands and wholesalers in a dynamic marketplace. Recorded on Wednesday, June 24, 2020.


Cheryl Durzy

Cheryl Durzy

Founder & CEO


Phillip Rawleigh

Phillip Rawleigh

Senior Vice President, Business Development

Distillery 291

Kat Hantas

Kat Hantas

Co-Founder & CEO

21 Seeds Tequila

Sara Harmelin

Sara Harmelin

Vice President, Digital Innovation

Allied Beverage Group

Drew Levinson

Drew Levinson

Vice President Business Development

Breakthru Beverage Group

David Munoz

David Munoz

Vice President, National Sales Manager

Back Bar Project, LLC



  • Bring a unique story and purpose. All brands, but especially craft brands, need a point of differentiation. Commerciality is pivotal. Distributors are looking at packaging, story, and the juice inside the bottle. 

  • Relationships between distributors and producers are intended to be long-term. Distributors are looking for people that are committed to not only the product but the growth of the brand. 

  • Know the markets you want to expand to and have specific reasons to be there. The old strategy of launching across the country simultaneously has become very challenging, if not impossible. Brands need to be able to commit to the markets they're in financially and physically.

  • Distributors aren't looking for a 1-2 year relationship, they're looking at 5-10 years before they see true value back from a new brand. They put a lot of their efforts and investments into that brand on the front end, in the hopes that a long term strategy will yield value to everyone over time.

  • Modifier brands have the opportunity to connect their product with a growing base brand. Modifiers can harness another brand's growth to expand its impact.

  • Use influencers employed by distributors. Beverage Development Specialists (mixologists) can help products get onto cocktail menus.

  • Know your consumer and where they will find you. Harness digital media and marketing to get to that customer. New brands can't expect customers to go where they place themselves, reach the customer where they are (whether it be via social media, craft bars, grocery, etc.).

  • Use your distributor to amplify your message through their network but pick meaningful messages to give them. The quality of your communication with your distributor will increase the frequency. Avoid noise. 

  • Be smart with operational discussions. Don't score-keep, add value, and establish a consistent cadence with your distributor. 

  • Up-to-date digital content is now more important than ever. Make sure platforms like Drizly, online retailers, and digital distributor platforms are accurate.

  • Consider the challenges and impact of COVID-19 on traditional market strategies. Make recipes accessible to home bartenders by simplifying ingredients and using kitchen staples.

  • Don't just focus on large retailers, arm local independent retailers with great plug-and-play content. These retailers can act as micro-influencers on behalf of brands.



  • For more information about this webinar or the panel of industry experts, contact Michael Bilello at

  • To learn more about our Virtual Marketplace contact Kari Langerman at

  • Interested in becoming a WSWA member? Contact Catherine McDaniel at