Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, My name is Corbin with Tap Truck. I co-founded it with my buddy Taylor Steers in August of 2016. It has been a great journey that began here in San Diego. Our initial goal was to service local weddings, corporate events, and private parties, with an occasional festival or two! We quickly learned and tapped beer, wine, and cider to be served from the side of classic trucks. It was a major hit so much so that starting September 2017 we began licensing the brand nationally beginning in Boston, Massachusetts, and San Luis Obispo, California.
Taylor and I have known each other since tee-ball where they grew up in San Luis Obispo together. They even graduated high school together, successfully! Before Tap Truck, Corbin had a history of catering and serving local farmers’ markets with his BBQ company Corbin’s Q.
Each year Tap Truck San Diego sales have essentially doubled. It has been so exciting adding on more and more Tap Trucks so that we could serve 2, then 3, then 4 events on a Saturday! On a branding level, which we refer to as Tap Truck USA, the family or licensee locations began with three (2017), followed by ten(2018), up to the mid-twenties (2019), and as of today, we have 45 locations (2020)!
We enjoy refurbishing classic panel trucks and pick-up trucks, installing the taps so it is a turnkey money maker for a new licensee to launch their own business. This is a revenue stream for the business, along with brand royalties.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Initially, the business idea was just that. We researched some other mobile bars but wanted to fine-tune something that spoke more of the character of Taylor and me. Taylor has always been a craft beer enthusiast. My family history actually owned a dealership for about 70 years, so love for classic cars was in my veins.
Taylor and I did the bodywork on our first truck ourselves. We enjoyed sanding it all day and listening to Drake and Future Songs. So the 1952 Chevrolet panel truck was named Bae. She has been to the Hollywood sign, to Palm Springs, and over San Diego and orange county. We learned a lot from this first truck build, what to do, and probably more importantly as an entrepreneur what not to do.
Our validation really came in launching the truck with the feedback we would get. If you are a fan of vintage Americana, Craft brews, or classic cars then you are a fan of Tap Truck. Seeing people's eyes light up at the sight of Bae was a huge relief that we might be onto something. Still, a favorite of mine is when you hit a certain part in the reception where all the groomsmen want to see under the hood!
At the time financially we were really bootstrapped. Hence doing all our own bodywork on the vehicle. We were incredibly frugal back in the day with doing all our own email campaigns and social media. We would spend our hours unfollowing and following which even got us more business out the gate! Through our awesome story and young hard work, we even were highlighted on the local news several times!
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
When we were building our initial proof of Tap Truck concept, we learned more and more in each event. We overhauled our beer system a couple of times. It was awesome utilizing our brewery connections as we refined the system so we were pouring flawless beers.
It really is a science of its own to make sure a brew is served ice cold and with the proper head (foam). The next level we have reached is serving margaritas wine, and even hot chocolate on tap!
In business, there are so many hats to wear as an entrepreneur. It can be quite a headache at times but it is all about pushing yourself. We began to build our own websites and learning how to do so was a fun challenge. If you aren't pushing yourself in life then what are you really doing? We also began to learn more about licensing and how to spread the brand more while keeping its integrity,
Now as we build more trucks for our growing family and brand, finding good vehicles is always the challenge. Starting with something that is in one piece really helps vs looking for more parts and setting a build back weeks or even months. So now more than ever we have worked with Dodges, Chevrolets, Fords, and even a Willys jeep. We have built a lot around the engineering going back to trucks from 1929, 1931, and even 1934. So these days our next perspective Tap Truck Licensee can even fly into town and drive off with a vehicle.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Launching the business here in San Diego was too much fun. Naturally, Yo hit a few snags when getting ongoing in business. With the truck a dead battery or two. Eventually having to overhaul the engine. My goodness headaches can really add up. Not pouring a perfect beer and adjusting the beer system on the fly. But hey it wouldn't be a party if there wasn't a hiccup or two!
Whatever you do and decide to do, make sure you have a lot of pride and passion in it. Without pride and passion, it is difficult to get yourself going on those long tough days.
So when we began our first events at some SDSU football tailgates we started by donating them. It was so cool being able to snag marketable photos so we could get some better ones on print and for our website we were building. We knew we were on to something once we had our site set up and began social media.
We were getting contact forms left and right! We even got a call from the local ABC (alcohol beverage control, some call it the TLC) asking how things were legal. We gave them the correct answers to our research there!
When it came to launching the business on a national level it was a very different ball game. Organizing and polishing the brand as a whole was a lot of work. Helping licensees learn their weaknesses from website buildings in the midnight hour. These were the different types of launches we were seeing. Then building upon and finding the right person to run our brand in their territory was a different focus vs the discussion of what beer do you simply want at your party for San Diego.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
To retain customers we have continued to keep a spot on Tap Truck experience at all events. It is incredible the power of social media when people enjoy snapping shots and spreading the word that beer trucks do exist!
We also enjoy checking in with event planners and venues through email. Just that simple shout to keep things professional. For the close ones, it is nice to reach out with a call to get details dialed in. From time to time it is nice to reach out to news, magazines, and the newspaper to share an update of our growth and achievements. When we have reached out it is always important to be telling a cool story to get picked up by the news. The people need to know something cool is happening in the community!
We always continue to keep up efforts of solid marketing on Instagram and Facebook. The mobile bar industry is new and very hip to marketing as such. It is cool to see how the two platforms have such different audiences. By our hard work, we always keep our following updated with new trucks, growth, and good times!
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today COVID-19 has granted us all quite the twist and turn. We all know that story that seems to be ongoing! Tap Truck San Diego had record sales in 2019. It was awesome and we were using 4 of our beer trucks to keep the weddings and corporate gigs stocked! 2020 has really shrunk our sales and put a cap on our goals for the year. With a little or a lot of luck, we look forward to another record year in 2021! After all, a lot of our events have pushed to those!
Tap Truck USA after growing year after year across the United States of America now gears up for more international licensees! We are talking about Australia, Argentina, the United Kingdom, and possibly even Germany! We continue to push ourselves and refine our brand. We will have obstacles when adapting to these awesome cultures. But people are looking for just what tap truck brings!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
“Nothing can stop a focused mind” is a term I coined with one of my employees. I enjoy repeating it to someone motivated and working toward a goal. I strongly feel that this applies to anybody, they just have to stay determined in the task at hand to conquer that goal. If they have their mind, their heart in the right place then it is incredible the amount that they can complete while staying focused.
I think this determination has helped me every bit of the way. I might not be the smartest or have the best start out the gate, but I can work toward these things. My journey and growth on the way are going to achieve just that. You yourself just need to start marching in the right direction!
Have you ever heard of too much planning? Like wow, everything was just terrible all because some guy planned too much?
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our favorite tool is always focusing on a good sales team to build. Right alongside that with spot-on support is a great marketing team. Working together is always able to build and see different trends that will take us to the next level.
For the marketing team, content really is the king. Having great content is bar none to sell the brand. Engagement is the queen. It showcases what we truly offer and the direction we are going! A solid marketing team will have some basics of keywords for websites and hashtag algorithms.
We were able to utilize a great marketing team called NextWave Social to help build the Tap truck brand from two licensees to over 50 in just a couple of years. They specialize in Web Development, SEO, Content Creation, Social Media Management, and of course Facebook and Instagram Ads (Which have been the most useful in attracting future Licensees and potential clients.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Great question. I feel like you could spend years listening to every “professional” and his take on the business. Most of it may apply. But in the midst of things you are the best person to decide what is right for you and your business. It is that method of doing that helps iron out the way you like things and the type of leader you need to be. But I will admit, I really enjoy a few audiobooks from time to time.
From Good To Great and Great by Choice. The awesome thing about Jim Collins is his books are researched together by a team. They are backed by years of study and I really respect that style. Business is a gnarly science. But with that science, a little luck can go a long way!
Sadly, sometimes you get a little too busy to have plenty of time for reading and listening to everything in the world!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Whatever you do and decide to do, make sure you have a lot of pride and passion in it. Without pride and passion, it is difficult to get yourself going on those long tough days. And you are going to need that in your corner with whatever you're faced with.
You have the best answer for your situation. You may have several mentors, several books you have read, podcasts you have listened to, and watched everything possible on Youtube. But the truth is how much does the other business knowledge relate to your situation.
Sadly some friends and family might think they know exactly what your business needs to do. Just listen, be patient, ask more questions even when you know your answer. Then finally do what you need to do!
Have you ever heard of too much planning? Like wow, everything was just terrible all because some guy planned too much? Now without a doubt, some things surprise us but these are natural! Let’s plan for these and it is not going to hurt when doing so. This is that extra credit type of polish and grinds before implementation.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yeah, we are always looking to expand our sales! Sales pay for themselves so it is always safe to hire. Right there would be an expansion of our marketing team. Which in a way means more sales. There is a lot more we can do to help grow our foothold in the marketplace, which is not as easy as it is a rapidly growing industry. Fortunately, we are several steps ahead and look forward to staying focused on such.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Tap Truck USA has provided an update on their business!
8 months ago, we followed up with Tap Truck USA to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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