Veteran using "crowdfunding" to help open whiskey distillery in South Bend
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – A local army veteran plans to start a whiskey distillery, the first of its kind using purely Indiana ingredients, in South Bend.
Charles Florance was inspired to start The Indiana Whiskey Company after being hospitalized for Guillain-Barre syndrome, a nerve condition, while serving in the army. The recovery process was painful and was aided by whiskey, not the alcoholic content, but the camaraderie of sharing drinks with friends.
"Part of the catharsis was meeting with people around drinks at the legion or the VFW,” Florance explained. “I found that people really get together around brands and can really find a sense of healing and sharing around them."
Shortly after moving to South Bend with his wife, Florance entered Notre Dame’s MBA program. Already a “hobby brewer” he wanted to learn how to make his dream come to life.
“Indiana has a strong agricultural heritage and, South Bend in particular, a strong manufacturing one,” Florance described. “The fact that we’re sort of lovingly nestled between Tennessee, Kentucky and Canada mean that we’re kind of agriculturally ideal for creating something like this.”
With assistance from other members of the MBA program, Florance hit upon a unique way of raising start-up money for the business online. "Crowdfunding” is an increasingly popular way of raising money to start small businesses. Everyone from close friends to complete strangers put money forward, even small amounts, to help grow a new business.
"At the very beginning you think, oh I'm just getting my name out there, I'm trying to raise some funds,’” Florance described. “But what ends up happening is you actually find that people are either interested in your product or they're not."
It seems people are indeed interested in a whiskey distillery opening up in South Bend. Florance’s goal was to raise $10,000 through crowdsourcing, as of late Monday night he has over $13,000 pledged.
“There’s no way that one man can do it all,” he explained. “I’ve had to rely on the support of a lot of people, not just from Notre Dame’s MBA program but local folks from Downtown South Bend, from the small business development center, even from the VA (Veteran’s Administration).”
Donations online can be made in varying levels, folks can give $5 as a show of support and donations of $50 gets a bottle of whiskey and an invite to the distillery’s launch party. A $250 donation gets a bottle of whiskey per year for life, but Florance said he would only allow close friends to make such a large donation.
“We’d really like to sign a lease in the next couple of weeks,” Florance explained. “Build up the distillery over the course of the next few months, get our licenses both on the federal and state side and then start production hopefully by Valentine’s Day 2013.”
Florance said he planned to donate 3-percent of all the company’s profits to veteran’s programs.
More information about The Indiana Whiskey Company can be found at http://www.indiegogo.com/inwhiskey