Roughly 2 years ago, I ate dinner at a sub-par sushi restaurant and I had my first bottle of premium sake served chilled. Over the next few weeks, I frequented many sushi restaurants in search of the same sake brand but with better quality sushi. I did not find it. In fact, I realized that each restaurant that I went to had altogether different brands. So, I did what most people do nowadays, I Googled the name of the brew. Nothing. I took a step back and Googled the word “sake” and hoped for the best. The number one result was a Wikipedia article. I then clicked through the next 10 sites and not a single one of them actually sold sake. Lots of disparate information and nothing close to getting a bottled delivered.
I then decided to try the ecommerce wine sites. Each sold a few sake brands but provided very little information about the brands. I quickly ordered some bottles only to be disappointed when they arrived; they were nowhere near the quality of what I was hoping for or expecting. During the next few months, I scouted the sake sections of a number of local liquor stores and premium grocers, randomly buying any bottle with Japanese characters.
Then, in 2008, I traveled to Japan to visit my brother who lives in Tokyo. During a stop-over in Kyoto, I took a private tour of a sake brewery which proved to be an amazing experience. The history, the science, the labor that went into every bottle blew me away. I was shocked at how something—sake—so central to the culture of one industrialized country is such a mystery outside of the neighborhood Japanese restaurant in the US.
When I returned home, I purchased the domain name "SakeSocial.com" and began to work on my fourth startup venture. I have taken what I thought are the biggest barriers to American consumers buying sake and worked hard to overcome them.
-Help consumers find what sake brew(s) best suit their palate;
-Provide a community where others can share their thoughts;
-Offer a Sake of the Month Club where an expert takes consumers on a tasting adventures; and,
-Present a easy-to-use ecommerce experience with peer reviews and suggestions.
Being a web-entrepreneur, I had no idea what I was in for launching a sake business. I figured, launch a webby 2.0 site, with a robust ecommerce package and community plug-ins, buy some inventory from an importer, and BAM! Piece of cake, right? Then came my first call with a consultant: five pages of notes and more questions than answers. His cautionary tale was no joke: Prohibition laws, restricted interstate commerce, licensing restrictions, and the like. To this day, the list of hurdles to jump is still growing.
I forgot to mention the other part of this story; I am still working on my third start-up company while doing Sake Social on the side. Over the course of the past year in launching this company, I have brought on a number of talented partners to help me, including Beau Timken, the owner of True Sake in San Francisco.
No matter who I talked to in the sake world, Beau’s name was always part of the conversation. My response, “Why would I talk to a future competitor?” I even refused to buy the book he wrote to educate the masses on sake. Finally, one day I caved and decided to call him. The stage was set from the start. He was passionate about sake and I was passionate about technology. The day before I traveled to San Francisco to visit him at True Sake, he was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle about a pairing that he did for a French restaurant.
Most of the content that you have read on this site was written by Beau. Sake of the Month Club picks are from Beau. Even our tagline, “Rice, Water and You” is courtesy of Beau.
Sake Social is my first foray into what is referred to as a "lifestyle business." We are using technology to take a nascent product and launch it onto the grand stage—all the while enjoying the experience of creating the kind of company we dreamt of working for. Everything from the packaging to the marketing and branding has been toiled over to provide our customers with something that we are deeply proud of.
Our mission is to simply find the perfect bottle of Sake for YOU.
If you feel there is any way that our service can be improved, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to your ideas, feedback, and your business.
Welcome to Sake Social.