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Growler startup competes for capital

Michael Thompson June 19, 2014 0
Jordan Childs. Photo by Michael Thompson.

Jordan Childs left Lego to build something of his own. Photo by Michael Thompson.

It’s been less than a year since Jordan Childs quit his job in Connecticut as a marketer for the Lego Group, the world’s second-largest toy maker.

Now, the Virginia Commonwealth University alumnus has relocated to Church Hill, and he could win $25,000 for his local startup by the end of the month.

Childs’ Shine Craft Vessel Co., which makes stainless steel beer growlers, was chosen this week as a finalist in the Ledbury Launch Fund contest. Spearheaded by Ledbury, the Shockoe Bottom shirt maker, the competition seeks to give a financial jolt to new or still-developing consumer products companies.

The contest started this year and attracted 146 startup applicants from across the country. Shine Craft Vessel was picked by a panel as one of the three finalists, along with California-based food company Kuli Kuli, and Thread, a Pittsburgh-based firm that makes fabric from trash.

The winner will be chosen by a public voting process that runs through June 24. The prize is $25,000, along with a year under the mentorship of Ledbury co-founders Paul Trible and Paul Watson.

Childs, 32, got into the growler business out of an interest in design and beer.

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The Shine Craft Vessel Co. website advertises growlers for between $50 and $60. Photo by Michael Thompson.

“I wanted to make a growler that could go on a table at a dinner party and not be an obstruction, but be a conversation piece,” Childs said.

Childs said he thinks launching a successful business is achievable in Richmond.

“It doesn’t cost what you what it does to live in New York,” he said.

After quitting in his job at Lego in October, Childs, a 2009 graduate of VCU’s business graduate program Brandcenter, moved back to Richmond with his wife and started researching growlers.

Childs and his wife eventually took $6,000 of their personal savings to order 100 stainless steel growlers, which Childs said sold out in weeks. To date, the company has sold 650 growlers at about $50 a piece through its website. Sales have come from all over the globe.

“I really believe scale can come from e-commerce,” Childs said. “That theory is being proven with shipments going to Germany and Australia.”

The growlers are designed by Childs and manufactured in China. They are then treated and finished in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Richmond. Childs said he couldn’t find someone state-side who could make metal-spun steel in small batches.

“I would love to be 100 percent domestic,” Childs said. “It’s kind of the state of American manufacturing that it’s just not possible.”

Childs handles orders from a 1,500-square-foot office and shared 3,000-square-foot warehouse at 5715 Old Osborne Turnpike, just past Rocketts Landing.

Most breweries sell their own branded glass growlers on site.

Childs said that glass growlers break easier than their stainless steel counterparts. Glass also lets light in which can alter, or “skunk,” the brew.

“The majority of growler manufacturers make their money selling to breweries,” Childs said. “I totally flipped the model and decided to sell it direct to consumer.”

Childs said he’s been thinking about how he would use the $25,000 Ledbury prize.

“It’s one of those questions I think about in bed,” Childs said. “To say, ‘Oh, we’re really focused on our growth,’ doesn’t cut it.”

He said he’s focused on putting the capital, which comes with no strings attached from Ledbury, toward increasing his inventory of growlers and expanding his product line.

But before he can put Ledbury’s money to use, Childs has to garner enough votes to win it.

“My friends and family are emailing everyone they know,” Childs said.

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