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Exclusiv Vodka Startup

Exclusiv Vodka

Exclusiv vodka
Exclusiv vodka (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Serge Chistov left Russia in 1992 after the Soviet Union broke down and came to America with $300 in his pocket.  Now, twenty years later, Serge Chistov is the President and Founder of Serge Import LLC; the importer behind Exclusiv Vodka.

I had the pleasure of trying a sample of Exclusiv Vodka and not sure whether I enjoyed the$9.99 price tag or the taste more. I am not an expert on tasting  Vodka and certainly not an expert on where Modolva is located (tucked away between Romania and Ukraine near the Black Sea if you were wondering), but I do know that Exclusiv for $10 bucks stacks up against Grey Goose in taste.

 I have been enjoying Goose as  my Vodka of choice since 2000 and although I won’t abandon it completely I think it has serious competition from Exclusiv delivered at much lower price point.  Both products distilled from wheat.

One random thought is I enjoy the spelling of “Vodca” on the bottle to add to the Russian authenticity.

“In Russia we do not have ‘expensive’ vodka. That phrase doesn’t exist. We don’t look at vodka as being expensive or cheap. Vodka is perceived to be a drink for everybody to enjoy.” —Serge Chistov, Importer of Exclusiv Vodka.

Before coming to America and founding his business, Serge Chistov was in Russia planning a career as a doctor. He had finished school, got married, and was entering medical school. However, he had to escape from the country after the Union’s collapse, and he chose to come to America and explore entrepreneurial possibilities.  He stated the following after to coming to this country:

“American Life: true freedom, freedom of choice, ability to succeed. Opportunities are given to somebody that is willing to go after his or her dreams.  Encouragement of small and large businesses.  It’s very natural to me. This is the country that I truly appreciate, its freedom I love and I would be honored to defend.”

Serge arrived in America with a dream and a product he strongly believed in—an affordable vodka with a tremendous taste. He chose to bring Exclusiv Vodka to America, because it stemmed from Moldova, a country with a reputation for high vodka quality that is also the #1 per capita consumer of hard liquor in the world. Moldovans considered Exclusiv the TOP vodka available on the market, which is a testament of the product’s high quality and exceptional taste.Like most startups, Serge did not have a huge advertising/marketing budget for Exclusiv Vodka, making it hard to compete with multi-million and billion dollar vodka companies with huge promotional budgets.
Instead, Serge competed with the big guys by over-delivering at the price-point, staying true to the quality of the product, working long hours, and not adding in unnecessary things. Serge maintained Exclusiv’s affordable and appealing price-point by “trimming the fat” and eliminating all of the unnecessary expenses from the supply chain. He excluded the overpricing of marketing and presentation material, and instead focused on the following:
  • the core values of making good vodka:
  • tremendous taste
  • no hangover
  • drink-ability
  • ability to mix well with any mixer
  • selective materials
  • extremely unique water source
By making Exclusiv Vodka for taste and enjoyment rather than for show, Serge made the product one of the least expensive, but highest quality, imported vodkas. Since 2006, Serge hasn’t increased the $9.99/bottle price of Exclusiv Vodka, as he believes that “expensive” vodka is an obsolete term.

Exclusiv Vodka’s low price tag and upper-end taste has proven wildly successful in Serge’s launch and expansion of the product in America. He sold 10,000 cases three years ago after its launch and is projected to sell a quarter million cases by 2012. Exclusiv Vodka has also earned nine coveted international awards, a Double Gold Medal in the 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and has been ranked so highly by the Beverage Tasting Institute, that it’s placed in the same caliber of today’s most expensive top-shelf vodkas. It is now available in NY, NJ, CT, GA, SC and FL, and has plans to expand to other states.
It just goes to show that good booze doesn’t cost of fortune to produce but it goes to show if you acquire a brand like Grey Goose for $2.2 billion you probably do have to charge north of $20 bucks.
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