King of Kegs
Founder & President, KegWorks
The year was 1998. The Internet was a new and exciting frontier, and most people didn’t quite know what to make of it yet. Blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit, David Rivers spent his childhood working at his family’s full-service grocery store, Rivers saw the Internet for what it was: an opportunity to change the way the world does business. He had a vision, and that was KegWorks.com, a one-stop shop for draft beer dispensing equipment.
What he did not have was an office, a warehouse, or pretty much anything else that might seem like a necessity to turn this vision into reality. But details like that don’t stop men like David Rivers. He set up shop in the living room of his apartment just outside Buffalo, NY, and got to work. From those humble beginnings, KegWorks was born.
KegWorks is a privately-owned multi-channel merchant of professional draft beer equipment, bartending tools, premium cocktail ingredients, brewing supplies, and the world’s best selection of novelty drink accessories.
Recently entering the Indian market, Brewer World in conversation with David Rivers, Founder & President of KegWorks
What was the vision behind starting as an online supplier of draft beer equipment? Can you briefly give us a glimpse of how KegWorks has grown since 1998?
I started the company back in 1998 when the internet and ecommerce were both at their earliest stages. My gut feel was that this was going to be huge and world changing. I had always been in the beer business in one form or another and thought that doing something online could have potential. At that time, the average consumer had no one place to buy draft beer equipment. The internet could solve that problem and I launched KegWorks.
Since 1998, KegWorks has grown from a one-person operation working out of my apartment to 2 large warehouses in Buffalo, NY with 40 employees.
Back in 1990, when e-commerce wasn’t a concrete concept yet. How did KegWorks manage to create attention around the brand? What was the response?
We tried a lot of things back then. Banner ads on sites where we thought potential customers could be. Also, back then you paid to get listed on some search engines. There weren’t many places to advertise online. We also did some offline stuff like actual phone books and print ads in beer related publications. The responses were very hard to track but traffic kept growing so we must have been doing something right.
As an online supplier could you talk to us about the problems you face with storage & warehousing? And how you addressed the same?
For the first few years we were drop-shipping everything from our suppliers. We would send them an order and they would ship it from their own inventory directly to our customer. On one hand, it’s great because we had no capital outlay for inventory but on the other hand you’re relying 100% on your suppliers to ship items in a timely manner with zero mistakes. When we started to outgrow our suppliers we knew it was time we had to control our own destiny, so we started bringing inventory in to our small office. That of course didn’t last long, as we ran out of space. We have always rented space, not owned so that gave us flexibility to move quickly to larger spaces when needed.
What was your motivation to start shipping to the Indian Market? How has the market responded? What to do you foresee from entering the market?
I have been to India a few times and saw that the potential was enormous. We now offer shipping to India and many other countries directly from our website. All prices are even quoted in local currency. I think India is in the very early stages as far as draft beer dispensing equipment. As the beer culture there grows, so will our market.
What’s the future of KegWorks looking like?
Draft beer equipment is still our bread and butter but after 17 years of steady growth, we’ve expanded our offerings to include everything from premium cocktail ingredients, bar tools, and liquor bottle shelves to homebrew supplies and equipment, bar rails, and a host of other legendary Tools For Drinking. We are now designing more of our own exclusive products as our brand name for the past 20 years is now established.