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The story of Battle Brotherhood Vodka started over a year ago with five Marines and one Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technicians trying to plan their lives after active duty. Dave Lyon, Grant Depew, Zach Clayton, Tim Lynch, Andrew Bottrell and Dan Shankle wanted to run a consulting company teaching NATO countries what they had learned from over 10 years of war. Kinetic 6 Global (K6 Global) was formed and worked at getting sub contracted to handle teaching explosives and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) training to foreign militaries. Each time they were about to secure a contract, the parent company would lose the bid and they would have to start over. Not letting a few roadblocks get in their way, they kept pushing; always looking for new ways to establish themselves.
Dave Lyon was invited to Russia to give a speech to their military at a veteran’s ceremony where he was introduced to Iskander, a Russian veteran, who had fought in Afghanistan in the 1980’s. Dave and Iskander quickly developed a friendship that only honorable warriors can understand. When you spill blood, sweat and tears on the same piece of dirt, there is a bond that is developed. This bond is stronger than ideology as it is based on a respect and understanding of what each person has been thru. You share the same horrors of war; memories you cannot shake. This understanding brings you together to form a bond; making you brothers in arms.
Iskander invited Dave over one night for dinner while in Russia and as is customary, they toasted with vodka. The vodka for the toast was no ordinary vodka. It was Iskander’s personal recipe. Iskander told Dave of his plans to create an international veterans’ organization to help those veterans in need. This organization would be called Battle Brotherhood and would be funded mainly by the sales of his vodka. He wanted to make Battle Brotherhood Vodka a worldwide brand. Iskander also told Dave that he wanted veterans from Afghanistan to handle the running of the vodka companies in their respective countries. This would help veterans find work through direct hire as well as contribute a portion of the sales to veteran charity organization in each country.
Iskander asked Dave if he knew anyone who would like to run the American wing of the company. Dave informed him that he could make a few phone calls and find him a team that could run a national vodka brand. During the weekly K6 Global conference call Dave informed the team of his new contact and asked if they would like to switch gears to becoming a distilled spirits powerhouse. After suffering a series of setbacks in the contracting world the vote was unanimous. It is still up to debate whether it took 6 or 10 seconds to decide that conducting Vegas trade shows was a better deal than walking military training lanes in the desert.
The only thing the Battle Brotherhood Vodka team knew about the alcohol industry was that they enjoyed drinking it. They quickly began researching all facets of this new world. They formed friendly and business relationship with a wide range of consultants to learn the legal system, importation, marketing, distributing, distilling and anything else they could about the distilled spirits industry. In March of 2014, Battle Brotherhood Vodka conducted a soft launch of the Russian Battle Brotherhood Vodka at the 2014 Nightclub and Bar Convention in Las Vegas. The launch was a huge success with an overwhelming majority of the people who tried it enjoying it. Jon Taffer from Bar Rescue and host of the convention even stopped by for a well deserved drink. Dave Elger from Hotmixoligy interviewed the group on his set at the convention. He also enjoyed a few drinks and gave the vodka his approval.
With everyone enjoying the vodka, it seemed like this was going to be an easy venture. Then the geopolitical climate with Russia took a tailspin. With the possibility of high tariffs or even the halt of all imports from Russia, Battle Brotherhood Vodka faced its first huge hurdle. The American and Russian side of Battle Brotherhood Vodka quickly began to look for alternatives. The plan agreed upon was to secure capital to build a distillery in the San Diego area and begin distribution to California and Arizona.
The plan seemed simple enough. After months of planning with consultants, they decided that they were a little over optimistic on raising the required capital to build the distillery without giving up their company to outside investors. Like most start ups, the team was living on their saving while looking into options to keep their dreams alive. They had a great product, an intriguing story and a strong work ethic. All they needed was a little luck and that was the last thing they got. On July 29, 2014, Dave Lyon, their CEO, passed away unexpectedly after suffering a stroke during an emergency surgery. This was a huge blow to the team. Dave was their leader. He was the one who brought the team together. He was the one who met Iskander and established the bond and trust that would allow the team to bring this brand to America. Not knowing what would happen next, the team informed everyone involved they were still working to move forward but they would need a little time to regroup.
First, they needed to lay their friend Dave to rest. The Battle Brotherhood Vodka team was surrounded and supported by veterans who came together to help the team during this difficult time. One was BNS Brewing and Distilling out of Santee, California, ran by Wes Richey a former Navy SEAL. He had met Dave while helping BBV distill some test batches. Helping again, he held a reception after the viewing. In true EOD fashion there was lots of beer, cigars, good food and lies told amongst friends. The team then traveled to Utah to bury Dave and spend a few days with his family.
With little time to mourn, the team left Utah knowing Dave would expect them to look to the future instead of dwelling on the past. Battle Brotherhood Vodka elected Dan Shankle as their CEO and he quickly went to work reorganizing the company. Dan arranged meetings with all the consultants to restructure the company as a C Corporation; get detailed quotes for the distillery and figure how to move this company forward. Their new mission was to get their vodka and Dave’s dream on the shelf as soon as possible.
After talking with their partners in Russia, Dan came to an agreement to import the Russian recipe from Moldova until the required capital could be raised to build their own distillery in San Diego. This wouldn’t come at an easy time for the team. Dan was transitioning out of the military and moving his family from Virginia to California. With the furniture in the moving van, Dan sat on the floor with his computer and wrote emails, made phone calls and conducted meetings. Battle Brotherhood Vodka had to redraft their corporate structure and business model. They had to run the numbers to figure out break-even points for importing. All of this had to be done while living off of their savings.
Having friends who had started their own companies, Dan began to inquire how they could raise capital to cover future bills from marketing and consulting fees. Jarred Taylor from Article 15 clothing introduced Evan Hafer. Evan was in the process of starting TwistRate, a crowd-funding site for veterans by veterans. Concerned that there wouldn’t be enough foot traffic to raise the required capital they needed, Dan was skeptical about using TwistRate versus another more heavily visited site. After a long phone conversation with Evan, Dan knew they were meant to work together. They had the same goals of veterans helping veterans. Evan wanted to grow TwistRate to become more than just your standard crowd-funding site. He wanted to create a place where veteran inventors and entrepreneurs could come for help to get their ideas off the ground. Evan wants a site that will have support available from patent lawyers to mentors and that will be available at a reduced or free cost to the veteran. This will help veterans who have a great idea actually be able to achieve their dreams.
That strategy goes hand in hand with how Battle Brotherhood Vodka plans to help veterans enter the business world. BBV wants to establish internship programs, grants and mentoring to become a leading company in helping veterans transition from the military to work force. The GI bill will cover schooling but Battle Brotherhood knows a degree without work experience in your field will often leave you without an interview. Having an internship program in the company will give veterans valuable work experience, references and a stipend to help transitioning members of the military go to school. Dan and Evan knew they could help each other grow their ideas together and expand the amount of help they could provide to our service men and women.
After several weeks of research, Dan was finally ready to launch his TwistRate campaign. Battle Brotherhood Vodka’s goal is to raise $50,000. This will cover consulting fees as well as a marketing campaign to raise awareness about Battle Brotherhood Vodka. By offering numerous perks for contributions such as, VIP tours of the Distillery when finished, plaques to be hung in the distillery, naming of signature drinks, T-shirts and hoodies they were able to raise over $4,000 dollars in the first week. When asked why they weren’t offering their vodka as a perk, they said “We would have liked to do that but US laws are very strict on distilled spirits and won’t allow it.” Their campaign is currently running until November 5, 2014. Click here to visit our TwistRate Crowd Funding Campaign. Join their journey. Help make these combat veterans dream a reality and you could soon be enjoying premium vodka that will blow you away.
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