Big Thirst, a comprehensive e-commerce sales and marketing company based in Austin, Texas, has expanded by adding noted industry experts to its advisory board and its staff. Big Thirst is a one-stop shop for distilleries to accelerate e-commerce sales to consumers with an online sales solution, marketing services, distribution management and analytics. The company has appointed Tom Jensen, founder of Millstone Spirit Group and Connacht Whiskey Co., and Stephen Johnson, the president, and CEO of Revolution Spirits, to its advisory board.
“Since launching Big Thirst in October 2021, we have had significant interest from distilleries who want to join our online sales platform to ship spirits to consumers across the country quickly and easily,” says Matt McGinnis, CEO of Big Thirst. “It was important for us to bring in additional industry expertise to keep up with our rapid growth. We are thrilled to welcome leaders with exemplary business acumen, strategic vision, and applicable skills to our advisory board and staff.”
New Advisory Board Members
The Big Thirst advisory board taps the incredible knowledge of its members to provide value-driven insights and formal advice on effective ways to help the business and its clients.
Tom Jensen provides strategic counsel to the company’s growth roadmap as a member of the Big Thirst advisory board. He is the co-founder and CEO of The Connacht Whiskey Co. in County Mayo, Ireland, and the co-founder and chairman of New Liberty Distillery in Philadelphia as well as co-owner of Faber Distillery in, and the president of the Americas for Barbados-based Cockspur Rum. Tom is an experienced industry veteran who served as the president & CEO of Remy Cointreau USA, where he led the building of heralded luxury brands including Remy Martin Cognac, Macallan Scotch, Louis XIII cognac, Cointreau and Mount Gay rum. Prior to this, Tom was a Senior VP at Allied Domecq USA where he worked on brands such as Makers Mark, Stoli, Beefeater, Malibu, Courvoisier, Canadian Club, Kahlua and Laphroaig. He is a current board member of the American Craft Spirit Association, a past board member of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a Kentucky Colonel, and a Keeper of the Quaich in Scotland.
Steve Johnson will help shape key partnerships and alliances as a member of the Big Thirst advisory board. He brings more than fifteen years of beverage alcohol experience to Big Thirst. He is the president and CEO of Austin, Texas-based Revolution Spirits and previously served as president and CEO of Vermont Spirits from 2009 to 2019. He has also been involved in key legislative efforts benefiting the craft spirits industry, including the permanent reduction of the federal excise tax initiative. In 2014 Steve was elected to the board of the American Craft Spirits Association, serving as its treasurer until 2017, and since 2018 he has served as the chair of ACSA’s political action committee.
“Craft spirit brands thrive and grow in this complex industry with access to the right insights, people, strategies, and tools,” says Mark Shilling, member of Big Thirst board of directors. “We are focused on helping our clients achieve business results by having the right team and technology at their disposal.”
New Staff Members
Big Thirst is expanding its talented team of beverage industry experts, and it has added two specialists to provide the right solutions for craft spirits brands to connect with consumers.
Keri Emerson brings extensive experience in e-commerce sales and customer service to Big Thirst. She is responsible for customer, client and retailer relations as an account manager. Prior to joining the team, Keri worked as a research engineer for Southwest Research Institute, where she specialized in customer service, technical analysis and reporting, and project management. She most recently served as the wine club and events manager at Pedernales Cellars, where she oversaw customer and member relations, customer service training for staff in, online product sales and inventory management, and marketing content creation. Keri earned a Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering from Texas A&M University.
A 15-year veteran of website design and optimization with a focus on lead generation and increased e-commerce sales, Rich Plakas joins the Big Thirst team as a digital strategist. He oversees website design, e-commerce platform implementation and digital advertising for Big Thirst clients. Rich facilitates online sales with cost-effective, targeted ad campaigns that use extensive data the Big Thirst business intelligence dashboard to meet clients’ business goals. Rich practices agile digital marketing to help clients quickly realize results along with the ability to pivot campaigns when needed. As a whiskey enthusiast, he pursues digital strategies as a hobby outside of work as well. After moving from New York to Austin in 2012, he founded CraftBeerAustin.com which helped promote the Austin craft beer scene and later founded TexasDistilleries.us to help promote local distilleries.
Big Thirst addresses an expanding need in a fast-growing segment of the market for consumers and spirits brands. It is operated by passionate beverage industry veterans and is powered by a distribution and sales consultancy, Big Thirst Consulting, and a full-service marketing agency, Big Thirst Marketing. The combined complementary resources provide a cost-effective, nimble approach to help spirits brands’ get bottles moving.