Millennials want story, sustainability

Michigan business owner gives generational marketing advice

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Nate Blury II holds a custom laser-engraved “Tiny Tin” stainless steel cup, bearing the logo of the Red Devils, the A-10 squadran stationed at the Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena. Blury, owner of the Original Tin Cup company, took the cups to the airbase on a recent trip to Alpena.

Millennials don’t just want the best deal. They want to know where the product came from, why it matters, and what it can do for them before they buy into anything. Once they hear the story behind the product, they can determine its value and decide if it’s worth the price.

“Being a kid of the 90s, the realization is it’s all about story,” said Alpena native Nate Blury II, whose Original Tin Cup business was featured on Kickstarter’s Top 100 in 2017. “And so, if you can be transparent, open and honest with your story, and tell your story about your products, then all of a sudden you start to see millennials jump on board.”

Blury, 32, said with the increase in technology and social media, platforms have changed, and businesses need to follow suit to be successful.

“A smart phone from 10 years ago had better access to information than the president did in 1993,” Blury said. “Think about that. In your pocket you had something as powerful as what William Jefferson Clinton had while in office. And by today’s standards what we have access to is better than what George W. Bush had.”

Keeping manufacturing as local as possible was important to Blury when seeking to make his Original Tin Cups, stainless steel drinking cups that enhance the flavor of whiskey and other spirits, as well as non-alcoholic drinks. Blury runs his business out of Grand Rapids.

“For us in particular, the idea of making a cup, like a drinking cup, you would think, could be done in the United States,” Blury said, adding that although it seems like it would be simple, “It’s almost impossible. We’re the only ones that do it, to my knowledge. We had over 200 manufacturers tell us ‘No’. Because with all the tooling costs, they want to make either millions of them, or thousands. Our closest bid in Ohio, it came to $54 to make a shot glass, so it almost became like we had to do it because it was so difficult.”

For Blury, the challenge was on. He found a company in Grand Rapids that fit the bill. The cups are all made by hand.

“I come from this belief that we can do things right here in the States,” he said.

He is working with another Alpena alumni, Chad Lewis, owner of Superior Manufacturing in Marquette, to design a new cup, set to ship this holiday season.

Blury came to Alpena recently to interview Austin Brothers Beer Co. for his “Cocktail and Conversation” online video series. While here, he also took some custom-engraved cups to the Alpena airbase.

“This is the ‘Tiny Tin’,” he said of the stainless steel cup. “We’re actually going to the air base after this, the CRTC, to meet with the Red Devils. They’re the A-10 Squadran that’s there, and this is their logo. So we can actually burn the carbon in the stainless with a laser, so this is actually part of the stainless, it’s not painted on.”

The Original Tin Cup idea was born of the transcontinental railroad era, when workers would drink whiskey on the job, but their glasses kept breaking because of the heavy hammering and machinery. They started using metal cups, and realized it actually made the whiskey taste better.

Blury said everything tastes better in his cups, even non-alcoholic drinks.

“Everyone’s palate is different, but almost everyone that tries drinking something from our cup will say it tastes different, and it tastes better or smoother, or richer,” he said.

“It’s not just about drinking, it’s about the idea of, we make something here in the United States that we were told we couldn’t make,” Blury explained.

The cup’s packaging is 30 percent recycled Grand Rapids trash, and the ink is soy-based, he added.

“It goes back to that principle of telling a good story, of finding something that’s a unique part of history, as well as this match of being open, sustainable and transparent about your process.”

In “Cocktail and Conversation,” Blury travels around the world interviewing bartenders, brewers, and others involved in the art of making of alcoholic drinks. He focuses on Michigan, but his travels have taken him as far as Iceland to sample “the best drink of his life,” and interview the winner of the 2017 International Bartender’s Open.

For more information about OTC, go to originaltincup.com. To view the Austin Brothers Beer Co. video, visit cocktailandconversation.com. The brewery’s website is austinbrosbeerco.com.

While in Alpena, Blury also met with Clarice Kramer Cadarette Grzenowicz, 99-year-old Guiness World Record holder for the longest career as a bartender. She has served at the Maplewood Tavern for 78 years. His interview with her will appear in an upcoming episode of “Cocktail and Conversation.”

The Original Tin Cup sells for $32.95, and the Tiny Tin is $19.95, available at The Local Basketcase.

Darby Hinkley can be reached via email at dhinkley@thealpenanews.com, or by phone at 989-354-3111 ext. 324.