To say we are proud for Swilled Dog to call West Virginia home is an understatement. From its beautiful mountains to the great people all around the state, no matter where our travels and our brand take us, we will always represent proudly.
West Virginia first is quite the divergence from a lot of headlines you read today. We can’t say we have seen it very often. When you are from a state that ranks at or near the bottom of almost every list out there, you start to think about how you can make a difference – or can you even make a difference at all? Sure, you hear all the time from local West Virginia businesses that they are all about West Virginia. Of course, there are plenty of people that say all the right things but how do we go from saying to doing? What does it mean when people say they want to make a difference in our state - be part of the movement that changes the narrative? We run across these people all the time, and it made us think about our brand. What are we doing? How can we get others to stop just blowing smoke and actually start to make an impact? West Virginia first doesn’t mean blindly following the things that got us to 50th. Adaption and innovation are needed to raise our state from the bottom.
As a small, family owned business in West Virginia, we focus on these questions all the time. We love to have a good time, #GetSwilled, but these questions are on the front our minds with every decision we make. Hell, we could have started our company anywhere else in the country – in a bigger market or even where hard cider is more accepted. In fact, it could probably be argued that it would have been the best for our brand. In traveling around the state over the last year visiting with other local small business owners and even meeting many people at local festivals, we have received all kinds of questions. These questions aren’t just “What is hard cider?”, but “What are you guys thinking?” Why start in a state where hurdles to start a small business are high – let alone an alcohol manufacturing company where wine liter tax rates or regulations haven’t caught up with the rest of the country to even really recognize hard cider? Why hard cider at all? One of our favorites isn’t even a question - “West Virginia just isn’t ready for cider. It has just started to begin accepting craft beer.” Sorry, but we invited ourselves…
Our answers to many of the questions are pretty damn simple. We do it because someone has to start the movement. Someone has to be part of the change. Contrary to popular belief, people aren’t just going to swoop into our state and help us. We have to develop the mindset that we have to help ourselves. I’m not talking about the movement to get West Virginians to love hard cider…that will come! I’m talking about putting West Virginia first and not only supporting West Virginia businesses, but actually embracing West Virginia businesses. It is the engine that will power the movement from the bottom. We aren’t naïve enough to think that craft cider makers and craft brewers are the panacea for West Virginia economic growth. However, look around your community and see all the other hard-working entrepreneurs who are out busting their ass trying to make a difference. It sure is a damn good start!
People come up to us all the time and say, “What do you think about the other craft cider makers in the state?” Well there is only one, and we unequivocally answer “We love those guys!” Our answer is the same when people ask us about the craft brewers in our state. Nothing makes us happier than to go into a local bar or restaurant and see our fellow WV craft brewers and cider makers on tap, on the menu or on the shelf. It means a lot and for all the local small businesses that support us, we can’t thank you enough! For those that have yet to get the memo, know that we can’t do this alone. Craft brewers and craft cider makers can’t even do it alone. Small businesses from every sector of the local West Virginia economy combined with the loyal support of fellow West Virginians is needed. Other states have already seen the impact, why should we be last to the party?
We have heard a lot of excuses as to why it is difficult to support local West Virginia small businesses – even from other local West Virginia small businesses, which always baffles us. “It’s too expensive” to “Well, it’s a harder sell.” We aren’t just talking about craft cider either. We have even had people lie right to our faces as to why they choose not to support local West Virginia businesses. Some have even said, well Virginia is “pretty local”. What does that mean? To those people, we aren’t going to change their minds. They just don’t get it. We could sit around a nice West Virginia camp fire and drink hard cider or craft beer all night and come to the same conclusion. However, that’s the problem! What will it take to change the narrative? For those not carrying West Virginia products or utilizing West Virginia service companies, our question is “Why not?” Do you think those other brands or companies care as much about your home state as local West Virginia small businesses do?
Look, we definitely don’t have all the answers nor do we think that we are doing everything in our power to make the impact that is needed. There are some things, as they say, that will never change. However, we feel like that is the easy way out. If everyone had that mindset, which many do, how will things ever get better? When will West Virginia have its day in the sun? To say never is shortsighted. Will it take a shit ton of work? Absolutely! Will people continue to say all the right things but not actually do anything about it other than act like they are part of the change? You bet!
At Swilled Dog, we try our best to support West Virginia businesses as much as possible. We not only support local West Virginia business and entrepreneurs, but we donate 1% of company-wide sales proceeds and all sales proceeds from our West Virginia Scrumpy to support local West Virginia causes that are important to us. From donations to West Virginia animal shelters to West Virginia education and health care, we strive to do our part. We even include the outline of the state of West Virginia in our logo (for those that don’t see it, it’s in the middle of the apple tree). So, no matter where our brand goes, it will be with us every step of the way. Is all of this enough? Absolutely not! But if combined with other West Virginia businesses and loyal West Virginians, it’s a hell of a start.
Unfortunately, we can only control what we can control. We try to do our part, and hopefully we have started a conversation. But a conversation isn’t anything without action. The most common thing we hear in our travels outside the state from people isn’t that they have visited their cousin in Richmond to which we respond that’s great but West Virginia is a separate state. It’s West Virginians are the most loyal people they know. Let’s live up to that quality and put West Virginia first in something for a change. Whether you are a West Virginia business yourself or just a proud West Virginian, let’s step up and put West Virginia first by supporting West Virginia businesses which includes your West Virginia craft cider makers and craft brewers! Until next time, #GetSwilled.