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Apr 16, 2019

According to Joe Heron, ignorance is underrated.

A serial beverage entrepreneur on his third startup, Heron joined us for an interview included in this episode, in which he expressed his belief that “the number one characteristic of an entrepreneur is stupidity... because you manage the opportunity, you don’t manage the risk.”

Having founded and successfully sold functional drink brand Nutrisoda and Crispin, a brand of premium hard ciders, Heron is now at the helm of Copper & Kings, a brandy-centric distillery based in Louisville, Ky. Prior to launching Copper & Kings in 2014, Heron had no prior experience in the distilled spirits industry, and, as he would learn, the process of starting a new distillery is notoriously difficult and expensive. Nevertheless, Heron couldn’t pass up an opportunity to fill what he identified as a gap in the market for high quality American brandy.

“For entrepreneurs, it becomes a compelling challenge of making the idea real,” he said. “When you look at brandy, an enormous category, and the fact that was no American brandy, that felt like a really big idea.”

As part of our conversation, Heron spoke about his career as a brand creator beginning with Nutrisoda in 2002 through to the launch of Copper & Kings in 2014. Heron also explained why he views entrepreneurship as an art form and an outlet for creative expression, how he identified cider and brandy as two beverage categories that were ripe for innovation, what he took into consideration when selling Crispin to MillerCoors and why he decided to sell a minority stake in Copper & Kings to beverage alcohol conglomerate Constellation Brands.

Show notes:

2:50: Interview: Joe Heron, Founder/CEO, Copper & Kings -- In an interview recorded via weblink, Heron spoke with BevNET CEO John Craven and Taste Radio producer Ray Latif about his path to entrepreneurship and what motivated him to launch Nutrisoda, a functional beverage brand that was acquired by PepsiCo in 2006. He also explained how a British trend of hard cider served over ice led him to create Crispin and why the company’s focus on marketing and innovation helped it to stand out among competitors. Later, he spoke about the sale of Crispin to beer giant MillerCoors and discussed his belief that “it’s better to be fast and messy than slow and late.” He also explained why it’s important for the company to “behave like an incumbent, not a challenger” and why he views distilled spirits giant Constellation, which holds a minority stake in Copper & Kings as “essentially as startup masquerading as a giant corporation.”

Brands in this episode: Nutrisoda, Vitaminwater, SoBe, Crispin Cider, Copper & Kings