Ami Ami
Brought to you by the ex-founder of Haus; Ami Ami makes delicious fresh French wine.
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Under The Hood: Woody & Ross from Ami Ami

Meeting Woody & Ross: The founders of Ami Ami: Premium wine, in a box.

Hi Woody and Ross! When did you launch Ami Ami and what's the growth been like up until today?

Woody - It’s been a bit of a process. We conceptualized Ami Ami about 1.5 years ago and it took us about 1 year to get things squared away (wine licenses etc). And the last 3 months is when we've really started our go-to-market. 

And you 2 bring a ton of experience to Ami Ami. How did your business partnership come about? 

Ross - Woody and I met about 2 years ago. We met through our daughters, we both have a daughter called Sophie. They’re in the same class and best friends. And that’s where the name Ami Ami comes from. 

Woody and I are real wine industry veterans. We each have 15+ years in the industry. We met when I was the Director of Winemaking at Firstleaf (the second largest DTC wine subscription business) and Woody was running Haus at its peak. 

When we met, we knew the same acronyms and could actually have a wine industry conversation that wasn't about vineyards and barrels. Our friendship developed over many shared beers and bottles of wine and it wasn't long before we both expressed that our time had come to an end at both of our respective companies. We were both itching to do something new. 

At that time, a good friend of mine was the VP of Sustainability at Jackson Family Wines. And he shared a presentation with me highlighting the carbon footprint of packaging and wine. I was stunned. It was nearly 60%. 
Glass had been used for centuries as a perfect vessel for aging wine, but as we dug into all the data - we realized that only about 3% of wine produced in the US needs to be aged long-term. So we started to dig into the alternatives including cans. 

And we came across the old boxed wine approach. We put together a pros and cons list. And the pros list was endless (convenience, portability, fresh for 6 weeks, reduced carbon footprints, 100% percent recyclable). And the only thing in the cons list was the negative consumer perception of “box wine”. 

A lightbulb went off in our minds. We knew the both of us could change the narrative around that perception. We knew just the right people to call to start putting this idea into motion. And it didn’t take long to get going. 

Tell me: What’s your approach to channels? Will you be DTC only? Or Omnichannel? 

Woody - From the beginning we've been thinking ‘omnichannel’. The best part of D2C is the direct relationship with the consumer and we value that immensely. So D2C will be core to our business, but at the same time we need to offer a great customer experience. And sometimes the best customer experience is being able to walk into a local retail shop and pick up a box of Ami Ami. 

Ross - The other thing is that our approach to D2C is unique. We can’t go to a distributor on day 1 and say “hey - here’s our wine, go sell it”. They’ll ask for demand metrics / buyer intent. And we can prove that out first via D2C.  So D2C to us is more all-encompassing (building traction on social, via email, finding our audiences etc). 

Super. Let’s chat about drumming up excitement around Ami Ami. How do you do it today? 

Woody - One of the big takeaways from Haus, and this is something that I really learned from Helena, is the power of PR. 
It’s not only bringing more eyeballs, but it's also giving you and the market the validation that you need to legitimize yourself. So from day one, part of our strategy was to find the right PR partner and making sure they have real skin in the game (not just a retainer). We did that with a company called Becca PR

Beyond that, we've done a lot of events, and we use Facebook more as an audience building tool - not as a revenue generating channel. 

Why is that? 

The days of just pumping money into Facebook for most brands is over. After the iOS 14 update at Haus, we saw our CAC go up considerably. So for us at Ami Ami - our approach to Facebook isn’t “let's put in $1 and expect to get $2 out of that”. But it's still a very powerful tool.

What’s your perspective on fundraising? 

Woody - We have raised some money for Ami Ami. 

I personally have had a good range of experiences when it comes to fundraising. Haus raised a lot. But prior to Haus I had other ventures which were completely bootstrapped / cash-flow businesses: 

My family grows about 250 tons of organic grapes in Sonoma County - and whatever revenue we generate there, that funds the business for the next year. And even prior to that, I sold a really high end wine called Alysian which was served in 3 star Michelin restaurants and the White House. I would produce 3,000 cases / year. It was a lifestyle business for me, and my growth was limited by my inventory. 

So if you think about a spectrum between Haus and those bootstrapped businesses, we want to be somewhere in the middle. 

Tell me about operations: Do you have an edge? Are you sophisticated? 

Woody - I'd say we're more sophisticated than like 99.9% of wine businesses. But it's actually really pretty straightforward stuff at the end of the day.

At Haus we started doing all of our own fulfillment and when I left the company, we switched over to a 3PL. But during our real growth phase, we did our own fulfillment. At that stage it’s really important to foster that direct connection with the consumer. And we're doing the same thing at Ami Ami. The white-glove touch, the hand-written cards etc -  that all plays a role in driving loyalty.

Edge-wise: We do have an edge via my family’s agricultural business where we can scale up or down access to labor in a moment’s notice. So I recognize that as an asset that we have and that most people don't. 
Ross - The other edge we have is the relationships we’ve both built working in the business for 15 years. We definitely take it for granted that in 1 text message we can send a container of wine from France to the West Coast via our connections. And also, I'll add that our box packaging has tremendous benefits for our supply chain. Glass prices have doubled in the last 2 years and our materials are always readily available. So that helps too. 

What’s your tech stack? 

Ross - We run off Shopify. We use Klaviyo for email, Junip for reviews, Recharge for subscription. Bloom’s Ship compliance, Shipstation for fulfillment. That’s it really. 

Messaging-wise: What’s resonating with consumers? 

There's multiple answers here. 

  1. Having legitimacy from a taste / quality standpoint is important. GQ said something along the lines of “Box Wine is actually cool and good” . And some of our highest converting ads are ones that highlight: “This isn't boxed wine as you know it. This is actually really, really good wine”. 
  2. Then there’s sustainability. Millennials are really attracted to that proposition. 
  3. But the sustainability message value quickly got trumped by “convenience”: Our box contains 1.5 liters of wine (so 2 standard bottles equivalent) meanwhile 95% of box wines are 3L+. So pretty early on we recognized that our size was another way to distinguish ourselves. It pops in your fridge. It’s very convenient. 

Last question: What’s your key to success? 

Woody - The first thing that comes to mind when you ask that question is that this isn't our first rodeo. Ross and I have both built companies before. And it’s really an advantage. We are mature enough to know where our holes are and who we need to bring in for where we lack expertise. 

Ross - The other thing is our ability to be on the same page. We both don’t have much of an ego. All we care about is the growth of Ami Ami. We're not in this for us. We're in this for Ami Ami. That's all we really care about. And that makes everything so much simpler.

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