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Innovation & Job News

Startup Weekend DC leads to viable business for EliteCru

Sean Weppner walked into Startup Weekend at 1776 with an idea. Forty-eight hours later, he and teammates Emily Berger and Sam Krassenstein had created a business—EliteCru—and already had 10 customers.

The business Weppner and his team created is “a trunk club for wine,” he explains. “It’s a personal wine buyer for clients, with no markup or extra cost. Clients just pay for shipping.” Weppner tapped his prior relationship with a wine retailer to create a sales affiliate model. “That allowed us to start selling right away, so we had a viable business model right off the bat.”

Startup Weekend is a workshop competition that brings entrepreneurs from different sectors together, puts them in a room, and invites onlookers to watch. On Friday evening, would-be business owners have one minute to pitch their ideas. The judges and the crowd vote on the top pitches, and roughly a dozen are selected to advance to the next round. Over the next day and a half, teams form, business ideas are fleshed out, sweat equity happens, and on Sunday evening, the judges vote, the audience votes and the winners are crowned.

EliteCru won second place in the popular vote. “It was an amazing weekend,” Weppner says. “Lots of collaboration—it was a very synergetic experience. I am not a morning person, but I was a morning person that weekend.”

As part of EliteCru’s marketing strategy, Weppner and his team hosting a tasting event at Startup Weekend and collected email addresses. That led to 10 clients before Startup Weekend even finished. “We’re shipping to them this week,” he says.

Weppner believes that EliteCru is a service whose time has come. Wine selection apps, he says, are difficult to use unless you are really educated about wine, and most people don’t have the time or inclination to learn that much. “We’re taking the automation [of an app] and turning it into a personal relationship,” he explains.

“There’s a stigma about wine,” Weppner explains. “Much like art, much like music, no one should be embarrassed about what they like.”

The nascent business is slowly stepping up its user base, relying on word of mouth to gain additional clients. EliteCru sponsored a black-tie event last weekend and hopes to develop a relationship with a local magazine.

Read more articles by Allyson Jacob.

Allyson Jacob is a writer originally hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, and is the Innovation and Job News editor for Elevation DC. Her work has been featured in The Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati CityBeat. Have a tip about a small business or start-up making waves inside the Beltway? Tell her here.
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