Wheyward Spirits, founded by Emily Darchuk in 2017, produces alcoholic beverages from Whee, a nutritious liquid derived from cheese processing. For every pound of cheese produced, nine pounds of whey remains. Howard spirits ferment and distillate the material that would otherwise be spoiled, cleaned.“Special Spirit.” Through a partnership announced in March, the two-employee Portland-based company is now offering Ben & Jerry’s Spirit as an ingredient in Dublin Mudslide, returning to ice cream maker “Flavor Graveyard” for the first time since 2007. (Darchuk declined to disclose financial details of his company or partnership.)
With the launch behind him, Darchuk, 35, shares tips on how to build a partnership with a larger, established company and maximize its success.
1. Check the alignment first.
It would not be right to work with every company. When Ben & Jerry contacted Darchuk in 2020, he spoke to a company representative and quickly realized that a partnership could be mutually beneficial: Ben & Jerry wanted to work with a sustainable, women-led business, and Darchuk Ben & Jerry Focus on values, fun messaging, and quality. Darchuk warns that entering into the wrong partnership, however, could tarnish your brand identity, adding that he has rejected contracts in the past when they did not meet his goals for Howard Spirits. “Don’t be afraid to say no,” he says. “Especially if it changes your focus or changes your product or takes you away from what your core business needs to be.”
2. Stay closely involved in each step of the process.
In the two years since the partnership began, Darchuk has worked with many business groups in Ben & Jerry, collaborating on every aspect of the campaign, from research and development to packaging. Flexibility, he said, is the key to navigating the complexities of working with a large company. “It was my goal to see how we could add value to the launch and be able to support it through the process and then,” he says. Being an active partner in every step of the process ensures that you and your partner are always on the same page and that the campaign achieves the goals of both parties.
3. Prepare while you wait.
The long lead in the ice cream rollout has proved to be a major challenge for Howard spirits. Since the partnership began at the height of the Covid-19 in 2020, no company was initially sure when the product would be released. Instead of just lazily waiting through each step of the process, Darchuk took the opportunity to make improvements that would prepare his business for the final launch of the campaign and bring in a new audience. He did more research on the science and environmental impact of his products, and worked on scaling the product to optimize his website, among other things. Darchuk says, “It’s about leaning, and really taking those opportunities to clean and find the house: if it’s huge for us, how do we try to show it?”
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