FIVE x 5 Case Study
- Headquarters: Denver, Colorado
- Acquisition Date: January 2019
- Vertical Market: Supply Chain & Inventory Management
- Website: fx5solutions.com
FIVE x 5 Solutions: Growing with Strength and Longevity
While working as an Operations Manager at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, Jason Lippa used his computer science background to build and launch Stillhouse – a complete production and inventory solution for operating distilleries. The software simplified the process of keeping manufacturing, warehousing, and enterprise resource planning in alignment with the distillery’s production licenses, store warehousing licenses and sales licenses. When Stranahan’s was acquired in 2011, Jason retained the rights to Stillhouse, and began selling it to his friends and colleagues at other craft distilleries around the United States under the Distillery Solutions brand.
Lippa built the software with no intention of ever owning a business or even starting a business out on his own, and ended up relying on friends to help him grow the company and continuing to run it bootstrapped. In 2015, an outside CEO was brought in to start rebuilding the product from its original framework to its more current version.
When current CEO Caroline Calhoun joined the company in 2016, the company had grown to over 100 customers while simultaneously developing multiple iterations of a new brewery software. As the company’s evolution took them into similar beverage industries, the business was rebranded to FIVE x 5 Solutions to reflect the growing diversity of the software offerings it provided. But the company needed more than a new name to support its rapidly expanding customer base; they needed a partner.
THE DECISION TO SELL TO VOLARIS
Lippa was quickly becoming overwhelmed by management responsibilities for the growing team and the increasingly complex technical challenges of having so many distilleries using his software. Bringing in new leadership from outside alleviated some of the burden, but after being a one-man show for so long, Lippa began looking for a way to exit the business while ensuring the company had a stable path forward.
Other firms had approached Lippa about acquisition, but Calhoun said, “He never felt like he had found the right fit in terms of providing that stability and longevity, both for the customers and the employees. The last thing that any business owner wants to do is watch their baby wither as a result of a sale.”
Volaris initially reached out to FIVE x 5 as a potential tuck in for DRAMS, another Volaris-owned business operating in the European distillery space that was exploring entry into the US market. But after further diligence, there proved to be a noted differentiation between the brands, with FIVE x 5 focused on small to mid-size distilleries and DRAMS focused more on much larger producers.
In speaking with Volaris, Lippa found that there was a sense of commitment to the brand that had been built, the software that existed, and to both the employees and the customers who relied on it for what they needed to do. The acquisition was closed on January 20th, 2019, and from there things for FIVE x 5 really started to take off.
POST ACQUISITION SUCCESS
In July 2020, FIVE x 5 closed a tuck in of its own, acquiring their then largest competitor, Whiskey Systems, and effectively doubling the size of their installed customer base. Just four years post-acquisition, FIVE x 5 has grown from 200 distilleries to over 1,000 customers in 20 countries across five continents.
Volaris’ model is build, strengthen and grow. FIVE x 5 literally would not be where it is either in size or in strength without the backing of Volaris.
- Caroline Calhoun, CEO FIVE x 5 Solutions
Since adopting Volaris best practices for customer service and pricing, the company has seen reductions in attrition and sustained double-digit organic growth year over year. In the process, the team has doubled in size and is expected to triple by the end of 2023. “Had we not joined Volaris, we would have reached a plateau much, much earlier and would not have opportunities for growth in the next five years without substantial efforts,” Calhoun said.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR FIVE X 5 SOLUTIONS?
Finding new clients in the contracting distillery market and enriching their solutions for existing customers are FIVE x 5’s paths for future growth. They launched a new consulting arm this year that focuses on evaluating additional services for customers and pursuing additional revenue opportunities. FIVE x 5 is also looking at their own M&A activity for future growth, whether that's within regulated businesses or related markets.
The fact that we are part of a bigger organization with Volaris’ reputation gives us the ability to talk to potential acquisition targets that we would never have been able to get in front of otherwise or honestly would probably never even [have] thought to try to acquire.
-Caroline Calhoun CEO FIVE x 5 Solutions
Calhoun is now meeting with business owners in other regulated industries to gauge the potential for FIVE x 5’s expansion into new product lines and different geographies. “All regulated industries including breweries, wineries, cannabis manufacturing are probably where our bread and butter is, regulated manufacturing more than anything,’ Calhoun said. “Additionally, we are looking at new geographies…that we probably would not have been able to access to on our own – thanks to the network, it’s a little bit easier.”