Being in the #winetech game with our connected packaging solution, it’s safe to say the team at Cellr love talking innovation in the wine industry- and we think you will too. In this installment of “What the Tech?!” we got chatting with Cheryl Murphy Durzy, Chief Executive Officer and an original founder of Californian #winetech company, LibDib.
Tell us about LibDib, what’s the tech and how does it work?
LibDib is a technology platform based marketplace that is three-tier compliant- we are a licensed wholesaler in the states we operate in. We offer distribution for any Maker that wants it and we cover over 30% of the country. It’s free for any licensed winery and distillery to use LibDib and be in the marketplace for restaurants, bars and retailers to discover and purchase wines and spirits. We specialize in artisan, small batch products, however there are Makers of all sizes on LibDib. Our business model is different from traditional distribution in that we do not have trucks and warehouses filled with inventory. We use innovative solutions to get products to the buyers that want them. Our margins are approximately half the price of traditional wholesalers, making LidDib an efficient and accessible model for all.
What gave you, as the original founder, the idea to use the internet to better facilitate distribution in the liquor industry?
I spent the first nearly 20 years of my career managing sales and marketing for my family’s 80,000 case winery. I worked with over 200 distributors during my time there in approximately 40 markets. The first ten years were great! I sold all my cases, I was able to get into the market to do my job and things were going well. Then distributor and large supplier consolidation started happening across the board. My sweet spot was the mid-sized wholesaler. Well, they got gobbled up by the big boys. We were too small to get attention from these companies. And the smaller guys were going out of business or not able to pay their bills.
I tried many tactics to maintain and grow my sales. We had an internal sales team of 5 at one point. We worked with a sales and marketing company to be part of a larger “book” and therefore being more important to a distributor. That was a disaster and we went from 40 markets to 14 in the course of 4 years. Sales plummeted.
So, over a glass of Pinot of 5, I threw up my hands and said there has to be a better way of doing this. And that’s where the idea of LibDib came to be. A three-tier compliant marketplace for Makers and Buyers. The business model is different… instead of trucks, warehouses, salespeople with different priorities, and inventory sitting all over the country again… we have an online marketplace for Buyers to shop. Makers are encouraged to build their own relationships with their customers… Makers fulfill products “direct” to the account (I use quotes there because that depends on the compliance and at-rest requirements in each state) and we provide access to ALL Makers, no matter the size or product. Let the market decide what the new and hot trends are, not a tasting panel at the distributor level.
What did the early days for LibDib look like? What was your approach to engaging wine producers with your service?
The company was founded at the end of the summer in 2016. Our first hires were the amazing engineering team who built the platform. I spent my days convincing 100 suppliers to join the platform. I was pretty involved in the wine scene, so I used my relationships to get meetings and convince people that what we were doing was the future of the industry. We launched the platform on St. Patrick’s Day, 2017. We launched in California and New York, our first two states, with a solid supply of unique products in the store. After we announced the platform we were inundated with interest and it took off from there. But I really had to sell those first 100 suppliers on the platform and the process.
Where is LibDib currently being used, and what has the feedback been so far?
We are currently live in 6 states (CA, NY, FL, IL, NY, CO and WI). The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We are working with well over 1000 Makers and thousands of buyers. There was a need in the marketplace for small to mid sized Makers, brand innovations and new introductions to the marketplace. And LibDib is the perfect solution. We partnered with RNDC, the country’s second largest distributor and just a great company overall, to bring us to the next level and help make LibDIb a national player.
What is a success story/case study you can share with us about a LibDib customer?
Here are some links to all of our customer case studies. https://libdib.com/success/
What was it that led you to being involved in the wine industry?
After college, I was in high-tech PR before the first tech bubble in the mid-nineties. I loved working with the press and our clients. It was a great learning experience, but after a few years, I found that I was not passionate about what I was doing. My parents at the time were starting to grow their hobby wine business and had an opportunity to build a winery and plant a large vineyard in the northern Central Coast. They were going to hire their first sales and marketing person. I applied for the job. They actually made me interview and really considered hiring someone else for the position. I convinced them otherwise.
To be honest I didn’t know much about wine at the time. But I immersed myself in it. I did a little work in the cellar around harvest (Brix and Temps!) and started taking all the classes I could and reading about the industry. I took the Intro course for Master Sommelier and then was introduced to the WSET. I took three levels there and have a goal someday to start working on the Diploma level. Working with distributors and selling wine, while managing the branding, PR and marketing…..it was all really fun and natural to me.
I joined several boards, including the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association (where I was President for a hot minute), the Wine Institute’s California Sustainable Wine Growing Alliance and Free the Grapes. When I was really digging into the winery DTC issues and challenges, I started recognizing that while the three-tier system provides a lot of value, it was exclusive and expensive for wineries to really break in. And it was a stopgap for many suppliers to get to market efficiently. It took me a few years to get from there to LibDib, but it truly has become my passion to change this industry, evolve the three-tier system and provide consumers access with amazing products from all Makers, no matter what the size. I have learned a lot along the way and I am thankful everyday for the opportunity to build this company and fulfil my vision…empowering brands by enabling them to sell, even one case at a time, to any licensed Buyer they want to.