Bob Walkenhorst | Crain's Nashville

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Bob Walkenhorst

Background:  

After 27 years in the distribution industry, Bob Walkenhorst and his team identified a gap in the beverage industry and launched their beverage company, Vivify Beverages LLC. Recently launched Bravazzi Hard Italian Soda and Itz Spritz, a sparkling alcoholic spritzer, are the company's first two products.

The Mistake:

My big mistake would be with this product we just launched, Bravazzi. I've been a distributor for 27 years prior to this. In the development of this product, the biggest mistake I made was, as we chose partners to move forward, I missed the importance of examining all our options.

We chose partners for the development and production processes. And in particular with one part of the production process, I really didn't do my due diligence. They're friends of mine so I'm not going to say who it is. But as we started out, I was familiar with these guys who were potential producers of our product. They had a pretty good reputation and had already worked with a number of startups, so it's not like they were new to the business.

But as we began working with them, the process dragged.

The corresponding mistake I made was waiting too long to respond to the lack of commitment and slow response on their part. We probably worked with them for six months and it just never seemed to really come together. I don't know if they had too much going on, or if our product wasn't big enough for them – but it was a struggle to get things done.

The eventual partner that I ended up with had much greater capabilities in terms of what they could produce, and how quickly they could produce, than our original partner.

Don't take the first option that you see.

The Lesson:

I'm one of those guys who always has to look back and say that a mistake can end up being for your benefit in the end. But if I had done my research, I think I could have saved myself a lot of time.

Having said that, that extra time almost turned out to be a benefit because it gave us more time to develop our packaging, branding and marketing. It might have been a blessing in disguise.

It's really important to examine all of your options up front because you have all of these partners including legal, labeling and packaging. Once you find out that maybe you have picked the wrong partner, don't wait too long to respond and make the changes necessary.

Don't take the first option that you see. In my case, I knew these guys, and they were and still are friends. The time it takes you to examine all of your options can save you a lot more time in the long run.

Follow Bravazzi on Twitter at: @DrinkBravazzi

Photo courtesy of Bob Walkenhorst.

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