Aug 23, 2023 - Food and Drink

Belle Isle plans a new taproom in Manchester

A rendering of Belle Isle's new tasting room. Image: Courtesy of Campfire & Co.

Richmond's Belle Isle Moonshine is in growth mode and crowdsourcing funding for its next big moves.

Driving the news: Belle Isle launched a Start Engine campaign earlier this month hoping to raise $2 million to fund a new tasting room in its Manchester HQ and expanded distribution outside of Virginia.

Why it matters: The crowdsourced fundraising is a newish model that allows people to invest in a business or startup for just a few hundred dollars instead of tens of thousands.

  • It gives regular investors the opportunity to participate in a private company's upside — or the opposite if a company goes under, Axios' Courtenay Brown reported.

With the expansion plans, the 10-year-old moonshine maker is hoping to build on its success during the pandemic, much of which was driven by its direct-to-consumer relationship, Vince Riggi, co-founder and co-owner of Belle Isle, tells Axios.

A rendering of Belle Isle's new tasting room exterior. Image: Courtesy of Campfire & Co.

Zoom in: Belle Isle's sales increased 70% during the pandemic, something Riggi credits to a 2020 change to Virginia ABC law that allowed Virginia distillers to ship directly to consumers.

  • The change allowed them to get out new products in a matter of weeks as opposed to the nearly yearlong process it used to take to get shelf space.
  • It also meant more products, with Belle Isle launching something new every other month as opposed to once a year.

New moonshines that didn't work could be sunsetted quickly, and those that did, like its newest offering — a ready-to-drink lemon drop cocktail that sold out in an hour — could be reproduced and back in the online store in days.

  • "Direct-to-consumer fundamentally changed — and honestly saved — our business," Riggi said.

He imagines that process could happen live in the new tasting room with Belle Isle sampling new products regularly and opening the door to even more creative blends, including its next release for later this year: bourbon.

Meanwhile, the company hopes to start engaging in market research to grow its client base beyond Virginia, which currently accounts for 99% of its sales.


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