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York entrepreneur, owner of former Whitetail Brewing launching canned cocktail line

Wade Keech's new company, Better World Spirits, plans to open a limited distillery in Chester County that will make an all-natural line of hard sodas. - (Photo / Submitted)

Wade Keech is looking for people who want to invest in a better world, or at least in canned cocktails.

The York entrepreneur, who was among craft beer pioneers in the midstate in the 1990s with his former Whitetail Brewing in York County, is now trying his hand at craft cocktails in a can, but with a crowdfunding twist.

His new company, Better World Spirits, plans to open a limited distillery in Chester County that will make an all-natural line of hard sodas. But instead of being malt-based like many alcoholic soda products, Better World will make vodka-based cocktails mixed with other flavors.

Keech has started an equity crowdfunding campaign on StartEngine to raise some funds to help support the effort. The distillery could open by this summer.

“It’s inherently challenging to get conventional financing for a startup business,” said Keech, who decided crowdfunding was the best way to raise money.

How this works

The crowdfunding campaign for Better World Spirits launched this week.

Here’s how it works:

Investors kick in a minimum of $100 or other increments of $100. The goal of the campaign is $10,000 to $1 million.

The company will pay investors annual interest of 8 percent, or $8 on a $100 investment, over a five-year term. Over that period, investors stand to make $40 for every $100 they contribute.

The $100 principal will be repaid at the end of the five-year term.

Submitted

Keech said his plan is to lease space in a building in Coatesville to produce the canned craft cocktails and open a tasting room.

He hopes to release three or four initial flavors in 12-ounce cans that the company would distribute on its own to bars and restaurants in the Philadelphia area.

Keech said he looked at locations in York, but felt the Philadelphia area, with a higher concentration of bars and restaurants, made “better business sense” as a place to launch the new brand.

The company’s lineup could expand over time and come to include seasonal releases, he said. As the company grows, he said he plans to expand distribution into his hometown of York and other parts of the state.

“Initially, we’d like to do 1,000 cases a month and then scale to 1,000 or 2,000 cases a week,” he said.

Down the road, the company might begin selling kegs of its cocktail products for draft purchases by bars, Keech said.

Better World Spirits, which is set up as a benefit corporation, or B Corp, also plans to source as much as it can locally and give back to local agriculture.

A benefit corporation is a for-profit business whose central purpose is to have a positive impact on society and the environment. Benefit corporations consider the impact of business decisions not only on shareholders but also on employees, communities and the environment.

“Profit is not our primary goal. We are making a difference,” Keech said.

Initially, the company will give back to the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. Keech is looking at other community development opportunities, including product contests where portions of the sales would be donated to charities.

Ultimately, his goal is to make Better World Spirits a national brand and compete with the big hard soda and cider brands.

The online public offering will run for almost three months. Depending on how it goes, Keech said, he may do another round of fundraising to support company operations.

“This is an investment opportunity for members of the public who wouldn’t typically consider themselves investors,” he said.

Still risky

Crowdfunding, like other forms of investment, still has risks.

For example, the venture could fail and the entire investment could be lost.

Here are some tips for people interested in crowdfunding.

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