For Brady Konya of Middle West Spirits, successful entrepreneurship is all about three Cs: connection, contribution, and commitment to craft. And, for Konya, membership in Experience Columbus is about connecting.
“Obviously every company has different considerations as to why they join associations,” says Konya. “For us, membership in Experience Columbus has always been about opening doors.”
Middle West Spirits is an urban microdistillery in the heart of the Short North Arts District. Opened to the public in July 2010, Middle West produces a line of artisan vodkas and whiskeys under its OYO brand. (Named for the original word for the Ohio River Valley and pronounced “O-Why-O.”)
Konya and his business partner, Ryan Lang, both relocated to Columbus with significant others who transferred with Abercrombie & Fitch. Their love of Columbus and the supportive nature of the community, along with a supply of high-quality, natural ingredients and materials, quickly led them to realize this was the place to launch their business.
“Columbus is such an incredible place to be a small business owner,” says Konya. “The environment –young, affluent, ethnically diverse, highly educated– allowed us to take a risk with a new product.”
Konya, whose background is in advertising and marketing, and Lang, whose forte is mechanical engineering and industrial manufacturing, met at a dinner party five years ago.
Lang is a fourth generation distiller with roots in the Appalachian region of Pennsylvania and a bootlegging legacy that originated in Italy. Konya hails from Seattle, epicenter of the micro coffee roasting movement. They were drawn together by their entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and desire to have a sense of purpose in their work.
Very early on, Konya and Lang sought advice from other small business owners about groups that effectively articulate the Columbus brand.
“We were introduced to Experience Columbus by Charly and Jeni Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, and it’s been a love affair ever since,” Konya says. “Our bottle and our brand are all about sense of place, and that’s all tied back to Columbus and Ohio. We want to align ourselves with organizations that can help us be a better advocate for the city. At the end of the day, making Columbus a better brand makes our product a better brand.”
Experience Columbus membership has been especially valuable for the editorial exposure it has helped to generate for Middle West Spirits outside Central Ohio.
“As a brand with the potential for a national footprint, it is extremely important to attract the attention of editorial tastemakers,” he says. “When Experience Columbus gives us opportunities to tell our unique story, it very directly impacts our bottom line and can help us break into new markets.”
Middle West also actively participates in Experience Columbus opportunities that might not have such an obvious impact on the bottom line, such as a recent tasting event at the organization’s Evening Exchange.
“We work really hard to make sure we contribute as much value as we get back,” he says. “We’re firm believers that you get what you give, and we intend to keep giving to keep our relationship strong.”
Konya and Lang enjoy being ambassadors for Columbus.
“As a young company, we’re trying to contribute to the conversation about what makes the city special,” Konya says. “Experience Columbus membership has provided a great conduit for connecting the dots for us, both within the community and outside it. There isn’t a single membership since the founding of our company that has paid us back in a bigger way than our membership in Experience Columbus.”
For more information about how membership in Experience Columbus can benefit your business, contact Melissa DeGraw Metz at 614-222-6126 or [email protected]
To learn more about Middle West Spirits, visit MiddleWestSpirits.com.