Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Man Behind the Bourbon Zeppelin

Next Tuesday is a fairly significant milestone for Steve Akley and his team at Bourbon Zeppelin. It's their sixth edition of the email magazine "written for bourbon fans, by bourbon fans." That means a half-a-year has already come and gone. With a sixth month promotion leading up to the first issue on June 1, I decided to check in with Steve and see where he's at a year into this passion project if he holds the same passion for it as he did a year ago.

Here's a look at his responses to the questions about Bourbon Zeppelin, what he's up to now, and what the future holds for him and the BZ crew.

Hasse Berg (HB): Steve, first, thanks for agreeing to do this interview.
Steve Akley (SA): Hey bro, if you ask for anything... I am there.

HB: So, you are right around the corner from your sixth issue. That's an accomplishment.
SA: Thanks, man! This project has been fun each step of the way.

HB: Let's back up and have you tell us why you started Bourbon Zeppelin.
SA: For me, there wasn't anything like this out there, but it was something I would want to read. We are so unique, people don't even know what to call us. Are we a blog? A newsletter? A magazine? A website? It gets called all of the above. What we are, and I'm talking the collective group of 25+ people we have involved, is a passion project for all of us. Some of the blogs have newsletters, but it's rehash of the stories on their website. We have unique content we create for BZ. This isn't a marketing tagline, we truly are a magazine written for bourbon fans, by bourbon fans. The closest thing to us would be a "for profit" publication like Whiskey Advocate. The difference between us and them, though, is the fact we are 100% volunteer.

HB: Including you?
SA: Yep. There are no revenue streams with BZ. We do it because it's something we want so we just do it ourselves. Everybody on the team brings something unique.

HB: Is that one of the rewarding aspects?
SA: It definitely is. I mean the talent we have on staff is unbelievable. There are many of these individuals that are going to go onto great things with their writing. I can't believe they are just pitching in and part of these fun thing we are doing now.

HB: What exactly is your role with BZ?
SA: A little bit of everything. I write many of the articles. I also bring in the outside content from pertinent press releases. I layout everything. I mail out the monthly prizes. Remind people their articles are due (easily the worst part of the job). There's a lot to it. If a month is 30 days, I'm working on BZ at least 29 of them and probably all 30. Some could view it as a drag, but I love it.

HB: Even with your other projects?
SA: What's happening with me right now was always the plan. I started writing books. My next step was to add a bourbon-focused newsletter. That happened last December when I came up with the name Bourbon Zeppelin and decided this was something I needed to get to work on. The third component I was always planning to add was a podcast. It happened before I thought it would, but I'm glad I am where I am at now.

HB: Does doing all three take away from all of them, though?
SA: No, I think all three truly need and complement each other. In almost everything I do, I use a personal quote that if are doing what you are passionate about you are always at your best. I am passionate about all three of these facets of my brand. Hopefully you are seeing my best for each. I think that's where I am at, but you, the reader, has to be the final judge on that one.

HB: What is it about Bourbon Zeppelin that connects with people?
SA: I think it's a cool name, paired with a great logo designed by my buddy Mark "Cake" Hansen. I swear I love that little zeppelin. I call it Zeppy. When you combine a great name, with a fun mascot like Zeppy, and you deliver content that exceeds what people expect of you, you've got a pretty solid formula for success. That's where we are at with Bourbon Zeppelin.

HB: So, what does the future hold, specifically for Bourbon Zeppelin?
SA: I think in six short months the publication has opened up the eyes of the industry. Getting looped in on a Jim Beam release before it came out and having a person onsite to cover the Bourbon Festival are just a couple of examples of how far we've come in a very short time. I look for this to continue to get better and the publication to continue to evolve in the best way possible. I have no idea how high this Zeppelin can go, but I'm looking forward to the ride.

HB: Thanks for taking time to talk to the Son of Winston Churchill about everything you have going on.
SA: Thanks for having me.

Check out the latest issue of Bourbon Zeppelin, by clicking here