David Solomon is having fun. “If I had known how much fun this business is, I would have done this years ago,” he told us. The Philly-based serial entrepreneur behind Redbox and several other ventures is now getting in the vodka business with Golia vodka, which he first tasted when visiting a business associate in Mongolia. Now Golia is the official vodka for the Philadelphia Flyers, Buffalo Sabres, Adirondack Phantoms and Syracuse Crush. We talked with Mr. Solomon about this new vodka and his journey into the vodka business.
From a business standpoint, what made you look into Golia vodka?
I’m probably best known for doing retail and consumer products. Probably best known for the DVD vending machine business, now called Redbox that I sold. That turned out pretty well and I see some parallels with that and the vodka, actually. When we first started talking about the vodka, there were people… who said, “God, why does the world need another vodka?” There’s so much competition out there. When we went into the DVD business, we heard a lot of the same thing. “The big box stores are going to crush you and if they don’t then video ondemand and the cable guys will kill you. If they’re not the ones to finish you off then surely Amazon and Netflix and the Internet will.” Today that business has 40,000 plus units. So, my feeling is there’s always a place in business for the mouse who’s willing to tapdance around the elephant. And I think that’s Golia in a nutshell.
What is Philadelphia’s role with Golia?
My company [is in Philadelphia], I’m a Philadelphian, born and raised. Basically all of marketing and sales is run out of Philadelphia. The production is in a distillery in Mongolia, so we have operations in Mongolia. We make our bottles in China, so there is some Asian operation overseeing bottle production and production of vodka and shipping and logistics and that kind of stuff. But the biggest market is North America and that’s all centered here in Philadelphia.
Golia is the official vodka of some hockey teams, including the Philadelphia Flyers. Why did you look to hockey for marketing?
This is the best vodka I’ve ever had ever. We’ve won medals all over the world in competitions: Moscow, London, Brussels, San Francisco, most recently in New York. We won the New York World Wine and Sprits competition…
To really enjoy a fine vodka, you have to taste it on its own. This is one you don’t need to crap up with flavors and sugars — you can enjoy it the way it was meant to be.
That explains the hockey side because we’re marketing in a large part to adventurous family men, 25 to 54, who don’t yet have an ultra premium vodka to call their own — and the women who love them, of course. It’s ultra premium… but we tried to make the price accessible to everybody… to make it an affordable luxury. And we felt like hockey in many ways tied into that. It comes from a land that’s rugged and icy cold, a little more male-centric in our marketing and we felt that tied into hockey. The nice part about the arenas, where the teams play, is that it’s great exposure for the brand. You have 2.6 million people a year go through the Wells Fargo Center. The exposure from a brand perspective is tremendous.