Starting as a small blog discussing and reviewing non-alcoholic beverages, The Zero Proof is a prime example that sometimes a niche market and a strong logistics plan can get a business off the ground. Scaling your business can be challenging but if your business is expecting to be successful throughout the ups and downs it’s best to be prepared.
En Route focuses on highlighting our incredible Saltbox Member stories, from the beginning of their business journey to the nitty-gritty of growing and scaling. Joining in meaningful conversation between entrepreneurs, En Route host Cee Ng, the host and CEO of Live Learn Dream, covers all things business, growth, and development for Saltbox Members. This week, we’re providing insight into what it takes to scale your business and the benefits of working with a 3PL to help you grow.
Founded in 2019, The Zero Proof was created by Sean Goldsmith and Trevor Wolfe, two friends who stumbled into the non-alcoholic (Zero Proof) movement in their own ways. The Zero Proof was their answer to finding the best products, restaurants and bars, events, personalities and cultural influencers to make life easier and richer! Starting as a blog, the business took off and quickly became an ecommerce company specializing in non-alcoholic wine and spirits from around the world, brought directly to customers online.
After joining Saltbox, Sean and Trevor were able to grow and scale their business with some strategic assistance from Saltbox’s eForce team who helped pack and ship orders. The Zero Proof benefits from expanded warehouse space at the Saltbox Atlanta location, along with all the resources and support to grow and develop their business across the country.
CEE NG: Let’s jump right in. Tell me about Zero-Proof and who it’s for!
SEAN GOLDSMITH: The Zero Proof is an importer and distributor both online and business-to-business of non-alcoholic wine and spirits. It’s for anyone who likes to go out and enjoy a good adult beverage. My business partner Trevor and I quit drinking a few years back for business purposes. We were burnt out and just needed to take a break from booze. We noticed how great we felt, not only sleeping better but also handling stress better, and losing weight, too. So we started a blog, TheZeroProof.com, as a vehicle for us to learn about this sector. As we got more traction, we noticed there was something there! We were sent a lot of non-alcoholic product samples from different companies because they wanted us to write about them. We saw and tasted all these amazing European brands that wanted to make it to the United States. We stepped in to start importing and now we have 20-30 pallets on the water to us now!
CG: With all those pallets on their way to the U.S., let’s chat more about your storage and fulfillment strategy. What made Saltbox stand out as the right 3PL service for The Zero Proof?
SG: We looked at a lot of different options for fulfillment and warehousing. The typical product out there is a blackbox 3PL facility and in addition to that, the minimums are typically bonkers. They also ask you to forecast out your storage needs, which isn’t feasible for start-ups and small businesses. Trevor actually knew Tyler, the founder of Saltbox, through Techstars in Atlanta. We looked into Saltbox and it checked all the boxes for what we needed! It was way more flexible than most 3PLs. We could be involved and have visibility. Because we were so new to this business and industry, we wanted to have eyes. We needed to be there. The eForce ended up being an amazing resource, using them basically all day every day. We were fortunate to be able to grow and are now on our third unit with Saltbox.
CG: You scaled up! The opportunity that’s there is what is so nice about Saltbox. I’m appreciative of the opportunity to grow and be flexible, along with all the benefits of eForce, as well. What would you consider to be your three biggest adversities when starting your business?
SG: Cash flow. We came into this as doe-eyed entrepreneurs that saw an opportunity, but then we quickly learned it was more complicated than that. Scaling for an inventory-heavy business requires a considerable amount of capital. That will continue to be an issue because greater growth costs more. We’re a new brand in a completely new category. That’s just another issue, the low-margin nature of the business. Another adversity: We’re hiring! We haven’t even really started. Right now it’s just Trevor and myself, but we need to find good salespeople, operators and finance people, which is not easy in today’s inflated market.
CG: As an entrepreneur, you always have to be ready to face new problems and learning curves. What has your experience been like on that front?
SG: We had to pivot right at the beginning, importing instead of creating product. The birth of this whole business was a pivot. It became all consuming very quickly. We’re at a phase now where we’re making a lot of changes generally. We’ve proven the concept, we’ve generated revenue, and moved some product. Now, we’re transitioning the website to a better platform. He put this site up and we took off! You have to start somewhere, but now we’re at the point where we need to level up. Probably a bigger warehouse space at Saltbox, as well!
CG: With such a strong entrepreneurial community in Atlanta, what kind of support do you lean on when it comes to building and improving your business?
SG: What I like and do most is just… spill. I always have a lot going on in my head, and I find it very helpful and clarifying just to get a coffee with someone and talk. That’s my favorite thing to do, generally! With a lot of the logistics stuff, it’s been Paul, one of the founders of Saltbox. He’s here in Atlanta, so he’s been very helpful with giving us insight into inventory and systems. I’ve learned there’s no one person for everything. You just have to navigate your network and find the person that has the most expertise in the area you’re looking into.
CG: What can we look forward to from The Zero Proof in the future?
SG: We’re going to raise some money, we’re going to get a slick new website and approve all of the back-end systems. We’re bringing on some new brands and new products. We’re continuing to grow distribution, since we’ve barely scratched the surface on potential there. I’m excited to build out a sales team and really start to make it happen across the country.
It all starts with an idea. Saltbox is here to bring your business to the big leagues by offering the space, resources and community to grow and scale seamlessly. The Zero Proof works with Saltbox and benefits from the warehousing and resources to fully develop their business strategy in a constantly developing product sector. Growing exponentially each month, the Zero Proof is on track for an exciting year of surpassing business benchmarks in their untapped market of non-alcoholic adult beverages.
Interested to hear the entire interview with Sean Goldsmith, Co-Founder of The Zero Proof? Check out the full interview here to learn more about running an importing business through COVID-19 and the day-to-day practices of successful entrepreneurship.
Connect with The Zero Proof at the official website or on socials like Facebook and Instagram.
At Saltbox, we want to grow your small business with you. Offering the key fulfillment services all businesses require across a wide variety of locations, Saltbox benefits your growing business by focusing on those personal needs that many 3PL services overlook.
Saltbox offers hands-on care when it comes to logistic solutions and fulfillment, letting owners take the lead on running their business and improving their marketing while we handle everything else. You don’t have to expand your business alone. Get started with Saltbox Fulfillment and let’s grow your business together.