Blog: David Katz of Zyr Vodka Tells His Story and Gives Advice

Dear Viewers,

I see you too are addicted to the Big Idea!

It is an impossibility to get everything out in such a short time frame, so I thought I'd expand on a few points here, and offer some advice at the end. I hope this helps. You can always learn more at!


As I briefly mentioned on the show, ZYR is no doubt my baby, brought to life (restaurants, bars, stores etc.) by a wonderful team that has made my dream theirs. My first passion of ice hockey, and Russian goalie Tretiak grew into a passion for all things Russian and later brought me there as a student. I took a one-way flight to Russia in


1995 and ended up enjoying life for five years there. I returned to the US bilingual, truly bitten by the Russian bug and passionate about brands, as I had spent 5 years working to develop, sell and market brands.

I'm not sure if ZYR found me or I created ZYR, as I only wanted to be challenged creatively, challenged analytically (I love #s), work with a brand, work with Russia and wanted some ownership (no more working for someone else!) As I'm finding these criteria for what was next in my life, I watched as vodka exploded all around me. I didn't touch vodka in college! I was certain I had better in Russia and aimed to find an existing brand.

The next two years were spent asking questions, learning how vodka is made, controls, filters, how it's consistent year after year. It was also spent studying the consumer. Literally offering free drinks in bars if someone who had ordered a luxury vodka would fill out a questionnaire I had filled out. It worked as I got into their minds. Know the consumer! I created a package, added the shortened version of one of my favorite songs, Zyrkalo Mira, or
Reflection of the World, and was off!

ZYR has since one every review in this country and winning the taste tests! Sadly we're still only in a few states (more info on site) but I've taken the approach, slow and steady. When it's your baby, you can't fail. I'd rather go slower, and win a few markets, then have a bottle collecting dust on every back bar in the country.

We market ZYR exclusively through samplings, in-store demos, top events and bartender and server seminars. We do this because the consumer said that's where they learned of their brand. There's a ton of competition but I believe if you can prove your product is better, just give it time.


Here's what I'd recommend from what I've learned in my 5 years from bottle one to over $10M in sales...

1. Before you do what you think sounds great, research it. Literally ask people professionally if they would buy it, if they liked it and how much they would pay. Everyone is willing to talk to you. If you collect e-mails at this time, or perhaps a free something or discount, you might even have your 1st 1,000 customers.

2. Money raise - Raise double what you think. As you sell more, you'll have more and more money tied up in receivables or might need a special pack, or holiday something. Raise double!

3. Protect it - spend the time to trademark, copyright or patent now, and around the world.

4. People - no matter what you're going to do, you'll need great people. Be fair and don't over-promise. If it works, there will be plenty of money or fame or other. Make sure your people are a real part of it, and treat 'em like gold, but talk bigger picture once you make it, or at least on the right path.

5. Quality - make sure you don't cut this corner. Not on product, nor packaging nor materials. It's the most important attribute for any company.

6. Ask questions - if you seem to have an idea, or are about to launch, it is so easy to ask people their opinions. I asked every bartender, store owner, store clerk, consumer, distributor and more... everything. Be an investigative reporter. Be sure to thank them for their input.

That's all for now. Go and find your passion and e-mail me at if I can offer any advice. And try vodka without mixers... and try ZYR if you can!

- Dave

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