What It's About
A vodka side hustle that really shoots for the stars!
Words of Wisdom
The reason for Dariusz’s scrappy mentality is that he had $10,000 he was willing to “lose” on this side hustle. This was his limit he was allowed to reach before he assessed how the business was performing. If he hit this limit and was seeing growth, he’d continue, and if not he’d call it a day. So he was trying to eek every last bit out of this budget.
When hosting an event in Truckee, California, Dariusz was able to share some of his vodka with cycling fan-favorite Peter Sagan. Peter’s father was there and, through some Slavic language connections of Czech and Polish, Dariusz was able to communicate with him.
Notes from Chris
For Dariusz Paczuski, it was an “involuntary sabbatical” that prompted him to start his side hustle. After four and a half years as the head of marketing for a California startup, Dariusz found himself leaving work due to a restructure in the company. This was the first time he’d been without a job for many years, and he had a lot of time on his hands. At first, he took advantage of that time to enjoy himself and work on projects that had fallen by the wayside due to his job. He spent time with his family, he went on skiing trips, and he even trained for a half Ironman! But as he began to reach the end of his to-do list, Dariusz had to answer an important question, “What am I going to do next?” Although he was actively searching for jobs, he faced an indefinite amount of time without work and wanted to make the most of it. This was when he decided to act upon a dream he’d been sitting on for many years. The dream was to start his own vodka business. Dariusz had long fantasized about finding an old-school vodka maker in a rural town of his native Poland, bringing that vodka to the masses as a premium drink. So Dariusz began what he called his “Polish Vodka Quest” to see if he could find that person. He took a trip to Warsaw, where his mother still lives, and the two explored the vodkas of the region on tastings and tours. They tried lots of different vodkas from many distilleries and talked with many crusty old makers. But the more he vodka he drank, the soberer he became about the problems with his business idea. The logistics of creating, distributing and selling the vodka this far from home would be tough—especially once he found full-time employment again. He came back to California from Poland and put the vodka dream on hold, especially once he did find a job in a new marketing position for Yahoo. His side hustle would have to be workable on evenings and weekends, so if was ever going to happen, he’d need to find a way to make production more local. So, he began exploring options closer to home in northern California. Once he found a distillery in California to make his version of apple vodka, Rocket Vodka really took off, and it was time to focus on marketing and sales. And these sales ended up coming from the Rocket Vodka crew, who are independent salespeople Dariusz has hired, who bring the product to restaurant and bar owners and convince them to place the product on their shelves. It took Dariusz and the crew members 21 months to get the product on the shelves of 80 different establishments, but this momentum carried forward, and it only took them four months to add the next 80. Thanks to this method, Rocket Vodka can now be found on the shelves of 170 different locations, which they call “launch pads,” and has seen sales of over 10,000 bottles. He didn’t have to give away the initial inventory to his 1,200 closest friends after all! Dariusz has also drawn on his experience in marketing to help grow an impressive online presence for the product, with a following of over 42,000 fans. He’s grown this presence by looking for the specific moments in his customer’s day he can look to own. Dariusz knows people aren’t thinking about vodka 24 hours a day, and instead wants to capitalize on the moments in their life the product could be associated with. He calls these moments, “peak moments,” and they usually come during or after a major event in that person’s day. It could be after a hard day on the slopes and hitting the apres ski, or it could be after closing a major deal in the office. Whatever it is, Dariusz looks to create social media updates that bring those moments closer to his vodka. What’s next? He’s following the motto, “If we keep growing, we’ll keep going!” This means as long as he sees continued growth in the business, he’ll keep running it. He has no plans to leave his day job and actually sees running Rocket Vodka as an opportunity to improve in his day-to-day work life. And, of course, when he wants to celebrate after-hours, his favorite drink is always close at hand.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Rocket Vodka: Fuel your next adrenaline-packed adventure with Rocket Vodka—snag a bottle of your own over on Dariusz's website!
- 99designs: The platform that Dariusz used to design his logo for Rocket Vodka
- Homemade Gin Kit Sells 75,000 Units: After encountering a roadblock trying to start their own distillery, two friends create a side hustle that allows others to make gin in the comfort of their own home—and it's a huge success!
- Stressed-Out Mom Gives Up TV to Launch Her Hustle: How a San Diego accountant coping with the struggles of new motherhood launched her own private label wine hustle for stressed-out parents like herself
- "Airbnb for Beer": Digital Nomad Brews Up Frosty Profits: A brewing innovator bridges the gap between local breweries eager to make money off of their idle equipment and event planners who want to create their own customized beer
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