Tana Rulkova of PourMyBeer: “Working for a startup is NOT going to be a 40-hour work week”
Working for a startup is NOT going to be a 40-hour work week. I’m someone who likes to get things done. Throughout high school and college, I was an A student, and receiving a B was not acceptable for me. This was a challenging personality trait when working for a startup that didn’t have the resources to hire more people to run everything properly. Having to wear a lot of hats by myself, from organizing trade shows, maintaining and building our website, creating video content, all the way to designing our sales literature, was impossible to ace in 40 hours a week. I spent an unhealthy amount of hours in our office the first year, but I have to say that things have gotten much better. Not only have we grown as a company and I now have help from many amazing and talented people, but I have also gotten us to where I wanted it to be. Things are only going to get better from here!
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tana Rulkova of PourMyBeer.
Táňa, a daughter of a pub owner, was born and raised in the Czech Republic, the country with the highest beer consumption per capita in the World. This gives her a unique understanding and appreciation for what goes into running a successful Pub as well as mature understanding of the different styles of beers. Táňa has lived in the U.S. for the past seven years, but spent the first five exploring and hiking the Pacific Northwest, where she focused on becoming a digital marketing ninja while studying at Bellevue College. While earning her degree she also competed in marketing competitions that resulted in her team being crowned National Champs. While in college, she worked as a bartender, event manager, and even quality assurance tester at Microsoft. She now holds the title as Senior Marketing Manager for PourMyBeer, the leading self-pour beverage system with 7,000 self-pour taps in service in over 270 locations around the world supporting large brands like Buffalo Wild Wings, Caesars Entertainment, and Whole Foods. She is fluent in 5 languages — Czech, English, Slovak, Polish & Spanish.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I am from the Czech Republic, one of the countries with the highest consumption of beer per capita. Also, my father owned a bar when I was growing up. I helped run the show and quickly became fond of the hospitality industry. On top of that, when I was in college, I needed jobs with flexible hours to accommodate my school schedule, so I started to work as a party planner and barback, which I enjoyed as well. I knew that once I finished up my degree in Digital Marketing, I wanted to find something in the hospitality industry. Initially, my goal was to find a bigger brewery where I could lead the marketing efforts, but I accidentally ran into a Craigslist ad posted by PourMyBeer. They were looking for a Marketing Manager, and the rest is history.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
It was March when COVID hit the US hard, as I’m sure most people would agree. I was so grateful that just a few months before the pandemic, I rejected a role with another much bigger company that offered me a significantly higher salary, as I watched them lay off many employees as soon as the pandemic started. With PourMyBeer, not only was I able to keep my job and not watch my colleagues get laid off, but I could show my leadership and try to keep the team glued together. I also came up with several ideas to keep myself more occupied, such as creating our Self-Pour University for people who are new to the hospitality industry and opening up their self-serve beverage business from scratch. Our University provides all the resources from A-Z to get going. Besides that, I also started organizing regular Fireside chats with our most successful customers so we could share tips with those that were feeling overwhelmed with the changes caused by the pandemic. Working on all that kept me quite busy, not to mention, now I feel much more prepared to open my own self-pour brewery one day. That is definitely the plan, although not for several years from now.
Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
Since PourMyBeer was recently invested in by Coca-Cola European Partners, we are working on developing a technology that will focus on all types of beverages. Currently (and that is partially due to its name), PourMyBeer is often used only for alcoholic beverages — mainly beer, wine, and cocktails, now also more for seltzers, sake, and other more unique drinks. However, I only know of a few establishments that use PourMyBeer technology for soda and other non-alcoholic beverages, so that is next for us. We are working on a sister product, called PourMyBeverage, and its liquid agnostic in its name, making it much easier for schools, offices/corporate campuses, and other places to implement. We are also working on self-pour technology that will allow for an entirely touchless experience, such as RFID technology in a cup! Stay tuned.
How do you think this might change the world?
It will make drink service in bigger organizations such as universities, libraries, office spaces or even movie theaters much more efficient and, of course, also much more fun for the people enjoying the self-pour fun! On top of that, operators will see increased sales in two ways. First, with self-pour technology, customers tend to sample (drink more = spend more), and second, operators won’t require as many staff members to run the show, which simplifies operations.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Absolutely. I used to work as a bartender and I love people, so I can’t stress enough how important it is to utilize the power of self-pour technology in combination with beverage wall ambassadors, or at least a waiter/waitress who is always around to help. We did NOT create this revolutionary tech to replace humans. The most successful PourMyBeer family members (this is what we call our customers) have beverage wall assistants, or as my team likes to call them, beer ambassadors. These beer ambassadors are craft beer enthusiasts who hang out around the beverage wall and ensure that all the self-pour first-timers know how to pour their beer properly or learn something about beers or other drinks. Not to mention, these days, the beverage wall ambassadors also make sure that the wall gets sanitized properly and everyone remains safe.
The potential drawback of our awesome tech could be seeing fewer and fewer bartenders. Nevertheless, PourMyBeer is not here to replace all the hardworking waiters and bartenders out there. We are simply providing a different experience than what you get at a traditional bar. Self-pour technology offers a tasting journey. One of our favorite PourMyBeer family members, District Brew Yards, located in Chicago, has an amazing concept going! They are quite unique as they are a no-tipping facility, pay their staff fair wages, and they always have several beer ambassadors around, ready to educate all the craft beer enthusiasts on what might be the best beer for them. This venue is phenomenal! It is four craft breweries under one roof — a real paradise for adults. So if you ever find yourself in Chicago, make sure to put this special spot on your list!
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
Yes. I was once on-site visiting a customer that runs their establishment with almost no staff, and while they are very profitable, I quickly learned that their patrons were hungry to learn more about beers and loved it when I shared some of my beer geekiness with them. They asked me if I worked there, and I said I did not, but explained that I was a PourMyBeer team member. They told me their experience would have been much better if there was someone like me around to help them with their decision on what to taste next. They also said they would most likely end up drinking more, and frankly, this is what we continue to see at our most successful locations. Those that have at least one staff member around to encourage patrons to try something new and help them out if it’s their first time experiencing self-pour tech, tend to have the highest consumption per visitor, thus the highest beverage sales.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
I think we are close, particularly now with COVID and all the staffing challenges that operators are facing, changed consumer expectations, and decreased capacity regulations. The main thing we need is for people to get a better understanding of self-pour technology. It is not just another cold machine. It is a unique experience, and I like to call it a tasting journey. No matter how fast and efficient self-pour tech is, you always need a human to at least check your ID and connect a PourMyBeer card to your credit card so you can start drinking. Someone also needs to reauthorize the limit once when you hit your allowed serving, but as I mentioned above, hopefully, that someone will be there for much more than just that and provide some level of human interaction, too.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
I can’t call this innovative, but content marketing has been working very well for us. Blog posts on creating a COVID strategy and gated checklists for reopening have brought a great amount of traffic, as well as interest in self-pour tech, our way. Another effective way we communicate is through videos. This video is from our PourMyBeer family member Beasts & Brews, and in just a few months, it has hit over 20K views! For a small company like ours, that is huge! There certainly are big things ahead of us, and I am proud we get to lead the self-pour revolution!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
So true! It is hard to choose only one person, so aside from those non-surprising ones such as my parents, I would have to say my boss, Josh Goodman. He gave me the chance to become a Marketing Manager and fully build our marketing department from the ground up. Two and half years ago, I interviewed with Josh in a cool startup incubator in Chicago called 1871, where PourMyBeer was based at the time. I was freshly out of college and barely had a few marketing internships below my belt, so interviewing for this position was a bit of an overreach. However, since I am hardworking and love being in charge, I wanted to at least try for the opportunity to do something much more senior level than I was at the time. Luckily for me, Josh trusted his gut and chose me over many other candidates who I am sure were much more experienced than I was back then. Along the way, there have been many moments when I could come to him and share something as a friend. He is not only an awesome boss but a great human being who makes PourMyBeer a fantastic company to be a part of.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I love animals and always had one growing up. When I moved to Chicago, I started volunteering in a local animal shelter since I could not have a pet of my own due to frequent traveling. Besides cleaning and socializing the animals, I helped with several marketing projects such as video creations and charity events. I also started fostering animals, and thanks to my use of social media, I have managed to find several of them their forever homes. Now, I foster dogs that have slightly tricky behaviors, and as soon as they find a permanent home, I get a new furry friend. My current love ball is this Rottie mix. Not only does this hugely enrich my life, but it also allows me to use my marketing skills (mostly social media) for something greater than just helping to sell some awesome self-pour beer tech.
Also, as a company, we have provided several donations to local animal shelters and we will continue to do so as we grow! I am very excited about that!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
What an interesting question!
- Working for a startup is NOT going to be a 40-hour work week. I’m someone who likes to get things done. Throughout high school and college, I was an A student, and receiving a B was not acceptable for me. This was a challenging personality trait when working for a startup that didn’t have the resources to hire more people to run everything properly. Having to wear a lot of hats by myself, from organizing trade shows, maintaining and building our website, creating video content, all the way to designing our sales literature, was impossible to ace in 40 hours a week. I spent an unhealthy amount of hours in our office the first year, but I have to say that things have gotten much better. Not only have we grown as a company and I now have help from many amazing and talented people, but I have also gotten us to where I wanted it to be. Things are only going to get better from here!
- We don’t really do much marketing yet. I joined the team under the impression that PourMyBeer already had some good marketing collateral in place, but shortly after I came on board, I learned that the sales team barely had a few very basic pieces to use, which made their job much more challenging. So, there was a lot of work that needed to be done. Nevertheless, this goes back to the point above, working for a startup is not going to be 40 hours a week if you want to get things done well and frankly, I would not have it any other way! This was a fun challenge which allowed me to embrace many different areas of marketing. It also feels great to know that our sales team is now properly equipped.
- We just got our website recreated for a “great price”! Without naming the company here, I do have to say that when it comes to website development, and honestly, investing in technology (this goes for PourMyBeer, too) in general, going with the cheaper option is going to hurt you in the end. I came on board just when we got this “new” website handed to us. While some of it looked good on the surface, it was a wild mess of countless plugins and spaghetti code on the backend and it took a lot of work to get it to where it is today and even now, there is still a lot more work to be done.
- You will get to work with some truly inspirational doers from all over the world! Most of the PourMyBeer family members come from areas completely unrelated to the hospitality industry — from veterans (woot, woot!), ad men, and music producers to financial advisors and marketers like me! I love and admire people who don’t sit around, but rather push themselves to chase their dreams. I am honored to work with so many amazing people who turned their dreams into reality. Seeing PourMyBeer play a role in their success only gets me more inspired to openup my own self-pour brewery down the road.
- You should start training your liver as you will be required to drink when working on-site with customers. I can’t complain about this one, but it would have been good to know what was coming, so I would start training more. Honestly, all our testimonials and case studies would not be as detailed and sincere if there was not some “tasting” involved before their creation.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would call it the “heroism movement” and would love for everyone to participate. The premise is to be a hero for someone every day. It does not have to be a new person every time, as sometimes you are helping a family member, friend, or colleague get through something that takes a while. However, the ultimate goal is to at least once a day set your selfishness aside and provide a helping hand to someone else. It is an easy and relatively fast habit to create. I have been doing this for years. Sometimes it’s silly things like staying on a work call with a colleague longer to ensure you got their back or simply returning a shopping cart for someone who looks exhausted and would have to walk across the entire parking lot. Whether you send a few dollars to an interesting GoFundMe or help out at your local animal shelter, there are so many things we can all be doing. Show those around that you care and in a magical way, you will feel the care back! So, let’s all hop on the “heroism movement” today — I promise it feels amazing!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It’s honestly hard to choose just one, but a quote that continues to resonate with me year after year, spoken by Thomas Edison, is, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Luckily, I don’t usually have to try 10,000 ways when trying to solve an issue, but the core of this quote for me is that as long as you are working on the solution, it is already a success in progress. This goes well beyond just solving a problem at work. It applies to life and one’s happiness. Throughout life, we take many routes and some of them don’t turn out to be the best for us, but those that don’t work are ultimately what leads us to finding the right path, success, and happiness.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
The recent pandemic has accelerated the need and trend toward technological innovation for the hospitality industry to provide safe dining experiences and simplified operations, especially now when high-quality staff are hard to find and hard to keep due to the current instability in the industry. Thus, it comes as no surprise that PourMyBeer has seen a large spike in interest from businesses of all kinds. Particularly, restaurants, bars, and breweries see increased sales and decreased operational costs, not to mention, self-pour tech is a unique and fun differentiator! If you are interested in partnering up with the market leader of this revolutionary tech, we are your crew! Not only do we have the most self-pour taps on the market, but unlike other self-pour tech providers, we have never been replaced by another company. I will cheer for that!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
My favorite social media platform is Reddit, but I don’t contribute much. I mainly just enjoy my favorite subreddits. The best way to connect with me is on LinkedIn, which I check daily, or follow my adventures on Instagram. I’m always glad to meet new people!
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
Thank you so much for having me, this was a great experience!