Founded in early 2014 by Jordan Childs, Shine Craft Vessel Co. embraced the rise of the craft beverage industry in the U.S. with aspirations to diversify the market in more ways than brewing beer or cider. According to the company’s website, Childs started this journey to make “something that dramatically differentiated itself from the standard glass growlers and brought beauty to a product category that was lacking.” Since then, his Richmond-based company has grown exponentially through social media exposure and the help of investors interested in making Shine a household name, at least in homes that choose craft beer.

We chatted with Childs about how his growlers have always been focused on serving local business and how their collaborative products have also helped build their relationships with breweries and brands across the country.

Your business is primarily known for the growlers you sell. Was this business venture inspired due to the booming craft beer and artisanal cider markets in Richmond during the past few years?

The venture was based more around looking at the larger market from craft beer, and craft beverages in general, across the country. But it was also really inspired by all the stuff that has been happening in Richmond. Prior to starting the company, I worked for The LEGO Group for a while, and I was doing retail marketing for them. I traveled all over the country pretty often, and I saw all these different types of beer cultures. Even from an amateur’s perspective, which I still consider myself, I saw where the trend was going, and I thought there was an opportunity in the “accessory” category, or some other types of approaches to craft beer instead of just straight up opening a brewery.

What also stuck out to me about your growlers is that they are painted in Virginia Beach, sterilized in Chesapeake, and then sent back to you in Richmond for final graphics and logo work. How did you go about selecting these local businesses to work with?

Half of it was by design, and half of it was by accident. My concept for what the growlers were really centered on making something that [reflected] the exact concept I saw in my mind. I was working on supply chains for four months, and I just started called people. I called the powder coater and [said], “I’m basically making really big water bottles. Is it possible to powder coat these things,” and he was like, “I don’t know why you would want to do that, but yeah, I guess you could.”

So I cooked up some samples, and then not only did we have to powder coat them, we had to figure out tools and ways to hang them, things like that. Everything was basically made up and tested as we went, and I just got really lucky with the passivation piece in Chesapeake because I needed to find someone who could clean the insides of them so they didn’t have a metallic aftertaste. I also run a design studio as well, so I always knew that bringing them back for final quality checks, any of the graphics, any of the designs, and final printing would always happen under my roof because I wanted that final piece for me to be able to see exactly what was going to go either to the site or the brewery customers.

How important was it to you to make your product as authentically “local” as possible?

It was kind of two-parted actually. Initially, my vision was to have a 100 percent domestically-made growler made out of stainless steel, and I quickly found that you can’t make that shape out of that material in the U.S. I’ve met with probably 60 different steel fabricators across the country, and every single one of them has said the exact same thing. The U.S. isn’t “cool” to do this. So I had to find a company overseas that could finish the steel and ship it to me basically unfinished but done. Initially, I wanted to make everything in Virginia, and I still stick to that.

Frankly, it means a lot. I think Virginia is a great representation of the larger manufacturing economy in the U.S. in that, yes there are specialists all over the country, but as a manufacturing culture in the U.S., we have a ways to go to get back to what it once was. It was really important to think about it from the state perspective because I wanted to have it close enough so that as I was figuring out the company, I could drive to the power coater, or drive to the passivation facility, and see all the things that were happening to the growlers so that I could answer any question a customer has. When you are starting a business, you don’t have all the answers, but you have to do as much as you can as fast as you can to be an expert at what it is that you are putting out into the world. Having them close by was super critical.

It’s changing now because our volumes have gotten so high that we are actually looking now for west coast facilities as well because we are still figuring out our supply chain. I do a ton of breweries in California, and if a California brewery orders growlers, we need time to manufacture, plus shipping time, and if they order a lot, I have to ship them in containers. Looking at how I can do west coast is one of the next bigger goals of the company. But we are Richmond-based, and that is not going to change. Using as many local suppliers as we can is always going to be at the top of the list.


Have you looked into bringing the growler manufacturing to the U.S.?

The answer is yes. There are a few challenges. The first one is general capital expenditure. In order to “tool up,” to do this here, you not only have to buy the machines, which are six or seven-figure expenditures, you also have to find talent that can run that stuff. It’s not where you just hit “on,” and it starts making them. You have to find someone who either knew what they were doing in order to train other people.

It’s just not going to happen fast, but how amazing would it be based on the concept of the stainless-steel growler, down the road we open a manufacturing facility here in Virginia, which would provide private-sector jobs and would could literally claim to be the only domestic stainless-steel bottle company in the world. Then, you need to broaden your horizons to where you are making water bottles and other types of category-related items. At the same time, that is an amazing claim.

I’ve been in a lot of entrepreneurial forums recently, and it always comes up. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to speak with the leadership of Virginia and bring up what are some of the things that the state government can do to help people like me to have a three- to four-year plan. How do you get me ready for that kind of stuff?

I read in an article published by in which your company was announced as a finalist in the 2014 Ledbury Launch Fund, however you were not selected as the winners. How have your goals for growth and expansion changed since then?

They have increased probably five to tenfold. Through that competition, I actually met my current investors. We did a capital raise in November [2014], which was actually more than what the Ledbury fund was, but at the same time, the exposure alone had a completely visible ripple effect on the trajectory of the business. Had I not been in that, I would not have met the investors that I have now who are super dedicated to the company from that long-term growth perspective. I think from taking on people that have a stake in the company, and frankly a stake in me, there wasn’t a ton at that point to put their claws into from a business plan perspective. It was more conceptual. They came in wanting me to think big.

Do you still donate a portion of every sale to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition? How do you think that has been beneficial to your business?

We do quarterly contributions so we do 5 percent of net sales profits. Before I started this company, I worked for big brands. In addition to LEGO, I worked for BMW, and I saw people that were doing philanthropic work for the sake of a marketing arm. That was never really the intent here because I always challenge people to dig into who they are and what they are doing. We do it because a lot of local farmers are growing crops that go into craft beers, and there are seven people in their office that spend their days fighting for food sustainability and looking at the long-term of what agriculture will look like, especially organic agriculture, in the U.S.

This is the kind of stuff that needs funding. They do a fair amount of trade promotion, but I don’t really anticipate, nor do I push them, to put a Shine logo on something. It’s more about taking our funds and putting it somewhere that we can say it’s not just about the bottom line business here. Let’s start something really cool that has this social component to it.

In addition to making your own growlers, you have also done some cross-promotional products with other businesses. Can you tell me about those?

That is actually where the majority of the business is starting to go. When I started the company, I really wanted to be this house line of branded growlers, and it was all about buying direct from Shine. We have been so fortunate that we have gotten some great exposure and really just had an amazing outpour from the craft beer community. Some of the more notable ones we have done is Port City in Alexandria, Va. They have been amazing. We have a really awesome line that is about to launch with Hardywood. We’ve also worked closely with brands like Huckberry, Scout Mob, and Southern Season. We do probably 60-70 percent of business now with collaborators and partners.

If a business or brand is interested in having custom growlers made to sell to their respective audience, how do you handle the business end of that partnership?

It’s a lot of fun actually. Like I said, we run a design studio here in Richmond, and any time we have a collaboration, whether it’s a retailer, a brewery, whathaveyou, we treat it just like a design project. We don’t ever just do a “logo slap.” We take their assets, and we often work with that brand or company’s design teams. We try to put together some concepts.

Typically, we will take their branded pieces into the studio, and mess around with them to fit the aesthetic that Shine is trying to develop. Then we send them two to three concepts that we know work well for the medium, and we are getting to the point where we can project performance based on the design. It’s really a process, and frankly, the thing that I love the most is the back-and-forth and making something that is completely unique.

Early on, there were a lot of companies and breweries that weren’t really comfortable with it, but now, we have gotten to the point where we have proven the business case to do a limited-edition, really interesting design, and then promote it two weeks prior to launch. People recognize that it is an artistic collaboration, and it is limited edition. People clamor for that kind of stuff. We are getting more and more data to say to business partners if you go through the process, not only will it be something you are proud of, but it will also be a profitable endeavor for you.

Has your brand launched any pop-up shops in Richmond or elsewhere?

We do pop ups on a biweekly basis. We do everything from beer festivals, and we look at higher-end craft fairs. We have some friends that work with bigger retail brands that help us get into some cool stuff. In the early part of June, we are going up to Dogfish Head, and we are one of 10 retailers that will be there. It’s more of a trial by fire because every single sale matters. We are still trying to figure out what the sweet spot for a pop up is.

With the summer season just around the corner, will your company be represented at any local music and art festivals around Virginia or D.C.?

We haven’t made a final schedule yet because we are still trying to nail down a couple dates, but we will probably end up doing, like I said, something every other weekend. It will all start out at Dogfish Head in Rehoboth Beach in early June, and we will be doing a lot of local stuff. We work closely with Ardent and Hardywood, so you will see us a lot at those kind of places, and we have a fair amount of stuff in New York and D.C. to come as well.

In an article published by Greater Richmond Partnership, you mentioned a desire to start manufacturing flasks, shakers, wine tools and other barware that could be sold alongside your growlers. Have you started developing any of those products yet?

That is where the majority of my time is going now — product development. We have 32 ounce growlers that will launch in early July. We have a line of backpacks that are going to launch in early July as well. They are super intense daypacks that are insulated and padded, and they have bottle holder inside. We are also moving into flasks and more bags. We also just launched some shirts. We aren’t trying to be a fashion brand, but it’s nice to have that stuff to round that out. We are also working on some wine canteens and things like that.

More than anything else, we are trying to determine when to move into these other product categories because our core product — the 64 ounce growlers — for the most part, still have relatively low awareness, which is definitely not a negative thing. It just means that there are more opportunities for growth. As excited as I am about all these new products, I always have to pull myself back to establish the brand as much as possible. But keep an eye out this summer. We have a lot of new products dropping that I am super proud of, and we are trying to keep it all as local as possible.

For more updates on Shine Craft Vessel Co., be sure to visit their website, “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Joe Fitzpatrick

Joe Fitzpatrick

As editor-in-chief, Joe is very passionate about promoting music and culture in Virginia and DC. A resident of Fairfax, Joe enjoys going to shows, checking out local breweries, and trying new foods with his girlfriend Alex.

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