Let’s face it, everyone has had conceived of a plan in their head to take something we cook, brew, or grow and turn it into a business that enables us to walk away from our jobs and do our own thing. Some of us even take it a step further and develop a business plan and inch a step closer to making it a reality. More often than not, somewhere along the way, the reality of what’s involved running a business, especially one that involves food or beverages, hits home and that steady gig does not look so bad.
Then there are people like Melani and Jeff Gordon who have taken their solid sales, marketing, and technology skills, and applied it to their mutual passion for beer and turned it into a thriving San Diego based company called TapHunter. In a nutshell, TapHunter is a website and mobile app that updates users with what’s on draft at their favorite bars in 11 cities nationwide. They also host the annual San Diego Brewery Awards. Their story is a great example of two people taking their passion and turning it into a viable business not just with passion, but with solid, real-world skills behind them to help make it happen. I had the chance to interview Melanie recently and we talked not only about the craft beer movement, which has been well documented, but how her and Jeff started TapHunter and continue to build it.
So you come from a sales and marketing background and Jeff from a technology career, that sounds like the perfect combination to give TapHunter a solid foundation. What companies did you both work for and what were your roles?
I started my career in Internet Marketing at Z57, San Diego’s largest web development firm then worked at handful of other startups and agencies around town, just when online marketing was starting to explode. I helped to develop their marketing programs. In 2006 I started my own Internet marketing agency that I built to 100+ clients, including public companies in the fashion and pharmaceutical space.
How long have you both been into the craft beer movement? Was there a time where you were both drinking mass produced beers and if so, what was your introduction into mirco-brewed beer?
I started with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale who has been around for 20+ years so I never really had a yellow fizzy beer phase.
How long did it take from the time you came up with the TapHunter idea, to you starting the business and working at it full time?
We launched version one of TapHunter on a WordPress template and announced and promoted through Twitter. We learned quickly on that we wouldn’t be the only ones who wanted a tool like this. Six months later we launched version one of the iPhone app and that’s when things started to really take off. Discovery and finding great beer is definitely more of an “on the go” type activity plus people started telling their friends to download the app.
While everyone gets very excited about combining their passion with work, the bottom line is that enough revenue has to be generated to make it happen. Given both yours and Jeff’s backgrounds I’m sure you are very familiar with this. I’m guessing advertising fuels a portion of your business, are there other streams of revenue?
Advertising is a stream of revenue along with bars and restaurants who subscribe to our platform. That’s one of the bonuses of having a programmer partner and husband who can provide that type of added value.
Enough on the business side of TapHunter, can you give readers who may still be drinking mass produced beer some quick advice on some styles of beer to ease their way into your world?
There are some amazing craft pilsners and lagers. I’d start with Trumer Pils Victory Prima Pils and possibly Oskar Blues Mamas Lil Yella Pils. These can all be found at local grocery stores. Try Whole Foods. Specialty bottle shops like Bine & Vine or Holiday Wine Cellar.
Sign up for TapHunter at www.taphunter.com