Craft spirits site Caskers skips the seed round, sells itself instead

By Erin Griffith , written on October 29, 2013

From The News Desk

Last year, New York Magazine asked the so-called "maker movement" a big, scary question: What's next? Can something purposely small, craft, and artisanal grow beyond it's small, craft, artisanal roots?

Is there really a mass market for $9 chutney? In other words, can twee scale?
This quandary overlooks the maker movement's secret weapon -- the Internet.

Thanks to the Web, it can be Brooklyn everywhere! Set aside the Brooklyn-themed restaurants popping up around the world (yeesh). The upshot is that small-time businesses can reach a bigger audience of potential customers and clients online. It's magic.

If anyone has benefitted from the maker movement going online, it's been Caskers, a site that sells rare, hard-to-find craft spirits. The bootstrapped company launched last year; now it is on track to do $3 million in sales. This week, the company sold itself to Anderson Press for a seven-figure sum.

At Pandodaily, we tend to cover tech-focused companies that fuel hyper-growth with venture capital. But that's not always the best path for every company. (That's why we dedicated a whole series to micro-entrepreneurship.) Caskers started out with the plan to raise venture capital, and then decided to do things a bit differently.

Formed by two former corporate lawyers, Caskers capitalizes on the proliferation of small distilleries cropping up around the country. At launch, the site's founders estimated there were 400 of these distilleries. Now, over a year later, the company has worked with, or at least had contact with, almost all of them. On the member side, Caskers has grown to 60,000 sign-ups. It has been profitable since the beginning, selling around 100 different spirits on its site at any given time.

The site caught the eye of Harold Anderson of Anderson Press, a family-own group which operates a variety of disparate businesses, including a publishing house for coin collector books, a seller of childrens' tutus, and a maker of wood recycled wood furniture.

Harold Anderson became one of Caskers' biggest customers. Turns out, he was a breath of fresh air compared to VC investors, too. When Caskers' co-founders went out to meet with angel investors and VC's, they all had their own ideas about the direction the business should take, co-founder Steven Abt says. Anderson was the only one who supported the founders' entire vision.

That vision includes selling subscriptions for small sample-size bottles of booze, expanding its existing monthly full-size subscription product and expanding into wine.

Instead of a venture investment, Anderson Press acquired Caskers outright. Because the company was bootstrapped, Abt and co-founder Moiz Ali probably earned more than most well-funded founders do in a soft landing acqui-hire. I'll drink to that!

[Image via Caskers]