From beauty exec to founder of hard-cider marketplace, this entrepreneur shares how she transitioned right into a highly regulated industry
Before Annie Bystryn created Cider In Love, she spent months studying countless rules and laws that could govern her business.
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Annie Bystryn is no stranger to success. The wonder industry veteran has held leadership positions at brands including Laura Geller Beauty and, lately, Becca, that was ultimately acquired by Estee Lauder in 2016. Towards the end of her tenure — even though she was taking part in the transition, looking forward to the Estee Lauder transaction to be completed — Bystryn started laying the groundwork to check out another passion: cider. The bubbly liquor created from the fermented juice of apples was something the executive loved, but she had trouble finding high-quality offerings at her local stores. So she attempt to bring the drink to consumers everywhere, which past June, she introduced Cider in Love, a curated marketplace of high-end ciders — and the young company’s sales are doubling month-over-month.
Here’s how she achieved it.
Bystryn had always been a fan of ciders — she spent time traveling through the entire UK and Ireland in her early 20s and developed a taste for the beverage that hadn’t yet infiltrated america. Years later, a weekend visit to New York’s Hudson Valley reignited that passion.
“I was there with my hubby. We had had the perfect dinner at a farm-to-table restaurant, and tried an extremely high-end heritage cider,” she says. “It had been dry, nuanced, sparkling. I was like, ‘I will need to have it.’”
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But beyond ordering it by the glass at dinner, she couldn’t think it is. “We tried to track it down, but local shops didn’t own it, the cidery that produced it had been closed and didn’t have a tasting room,” she recalls. “It had been a genuine moment of consumer rage. I result from a business where digital is indeed important — easily can’t obtain it on my phone, it doesn’t exist.”
She had her idea: get this to product widely (and easily) available.
Bystryn envisioned a platform that could curate cideries and connect them with consumers, but she knew that was easier said than done.
“This is a regulated market, and I had a need to do my research,” she says. She spent nine months speaking with individuals who ran cideries, people in your wine business and government employees who could talk her through red tape.
“I’ve an excellent appetite for mind-bogglingly boring details,” she admits. “I spent a complete week of 12-hour days poring over every state’s regulations.” She viewed from shipping regulations to alcohol content requirements to how cider’s definition differed from that of wine. “I created the most geeky spreadsheets.”
Despite her love of cider, Bystryn was still an outsider in the market. She started visiting cideries, introducing herself and sharing her story. Eventually she was linked to a business group, which started making recommendations and introductions on her behalf.
“I took amazing road trips along the East Coast and the West Coast visiting these cideries and their farms and orchards,” she says. “I spent time at their kitchen tables, with their kids and pets.”
The interest from those producers gave her the confidence that can work. “I resigned from my job in-may 2017 and left in June.”
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Bystryn says her first order of business was determining shipping and payment. “We are an online curator, but we work like Etsy,” she says. “So, you’re buying directly from the cidery.”
From there, she firmed up her business plan — “I busted out the MBA!” — and pulled together startup expenses, anticipated first-year expenses and projected sales. “Once I determined that the numbers can work, I viewed finding partners in my budget,” she says. She needed assist in e-commerce development and design, individuals who may help her perfect the functionality of the Cider in Love website.
“I’m lucky because I felt confident due to my prior experience,” she says. “I had an extremely rich network of individuals to get references from, and having held the CMO role, I understand how exactly to brief agencies and make the knowledge better.”
Having worked for various companies that were backed by private equity, Bystryn wished to maintain complete control of her burgeoning startup.
“I understand exactly what strings appear to be,” she says. She bootstrapped the business, because of money she had made when beauty brand Becca, where she served as VP of marketing, was sold to Estee Lauder.
“Bootstrapping is terrifying — there’s nobody who can let you know that spending your own money isn’t petrifying,” she says. “But because of that transaction with Estee Lauder, I could do it. EASILY had my aha moment 3 years earlier, it would have already been a whole lot harder, financially.”
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Cider in Love currently works together with 10 cideries and is in foretells grow that number to 20.
“We have confidence in organic growth and dealing with only the best of the greatest,” Bystryn says. That pertains to her (slowly) growing team. “The main way you bootstrap has been a virtual workforce,” she says. “A virtual network includes my publicity team, my design team and my dev team. I’ve one part-time employee who’s permanent and assists me with cidery relationships and customer support.”