How an Innovative Whiskey Brand Won Angel Investors (Without Getting Them Wasted)

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A free online course " Beyond Silicon Valley: Growing Entrepreneurship in Transitioning Economies " launched through Coursera in April, using Cleveland as a funding case study. Come back to as we feature additional interviews with experts and instructors connected to the six-week course. For more in the series, check out  Think Like Cleveland.

It never hurts to close a deal over a drink. Tom Lix certainly had that going for him when he was seeking funding for his company, Cleveland Whiskey. In 2009, he was experimenting with whiskey aging methods in the basement of his Cleveland home. The process would allow him to age high-proof whiskey in a matter of days rather than years. Still, even this professor of entrepreneurship at Lake Erie College knew that angel investors wouldn’t give him a dime until he built his credibility and got funds elsewhere.

These angel investors were involved in discussions about product launches, the annual budget and spending decisions, often on a daily basis. “Sometimes one of the hardest things to do is to listen and take advice, but it’s important. You have to be able to do that,” says Lix. “You have to be able to accept ideas that sometimes are better than your own.”



My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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