Welcome to our Happy Hour Question & Answer series, where we ask questions to interesting people in the alcohol world.
This week’s spotlight is Neil Angis, the co-founder, marketing and design of Well Told. Originally sold under Uncommon Green, a passion project by Brian turned into a fledgling business when he brought on friends Dave, Neil and Colin. In the fall of 2012, they created Maps Barware—classic glassware and bar accessories decorated with detailed wraparound city maps—and the rest is history. The company changed its name to Well Told in 2019.
Hops & Spirits: With making drinkware part of what y’all do, what’s your favorite beverage or beverages?
Neil Angis: I think like most people, I tend to go through phases of different beverages I’m really into, especially as the seasons change. In general, though, my go-to alcoholic beverages are about as straightforward as it gets – bourbon and beer. I’m not too picky when it comes to bourbon but I tend to keep a bottle of Woodford on hand since its affordable, accessible, and easy to drink. If I’m out at a decent bar or restaurant and they have a good Old Fashioned on the menu, I’m ordering it 10 times out of 10. As for beer, there is so much to choose from now but lately I find myself gravitating toward a couple from my home state of Maine – Maine Beer Company’s “Lunch” and pretty much anything by Bissell Brothers.
HS: How did you get involved with Well Told?
NA: To say I fell into it would be an understatement. One of my good college friends, Brian Johnson, started the company in 2009 purely as a creative outlet while he was working as an industrial engineer and product designer. He started designing and building one-off pieces of furniture and home decor and selling them on Etsy and was having success. After a while he realized he couldn’t scale the business on his own, so he asked me and two of our other college buddies, Dave Reddy and Colin Woodworth, to help out. At the time we all had day jobs in different industries and different parts of the country, so we worked on it together remotely at night and on weekends. My background was in writing and communications, so that made me the de facto marketer. After more than a decade, Well Told has grown into a national brand both online and in over 1,400 stores in all 50 states, so things have worked out pretty well so far.
HS: How important was the launch of Maps Barware in 2012 to the overall success of things?
NA: Entrepreneurs always talk about their “ah-ha” moment, and creating our Maps Barware product line was undoubtedly ours. We were looking to create a new product that was small in size but that had everyday functionality and could be decorated, or personalized, in an interesting and meaningful way. When we came up with the concept for barware engraved with detailed city maps, we had no idea how much it would resonate with people. Our first run included about a dozen U.S. cities in limited quantities, and as soon as we put them up for sale on our Etsy shop, they sold out almost immediately. We weren’t prepared for that at all so it took some scrambling to replenish our inventory, but we knew we had something then and there, and we’ve been working to perfect it (and continuously add other uniquely personalized products and designs) ever since.
HS: How many different maps do you all have for barware?
NA: We now offer every U.S. city and town in our Custom Home Town Map product line, so that’s more than 100,000 maps alone. We also offer more than 1,000 different Topography Maps from around the world as well, and we’re planning to add to that this year. And through our “Anywhere” Map Product customization capability, customers can create their own custom map item for virtually any location in the world using our proprietary artwork and technology, so the options are truly limitless.
HS: Is there anything that you can’t put a map on?
NA: Depending on the circumstances, probably not! In all seriousness, we’ve attempted to put maps on a lot of products that haven’t panned out so far, but that hasn’t stopped us from trying (yet).
HS: In 2019, the name was changed from Uncommon Green to Well Told. Why the switch and why Well Told?
NA: Our previous brand name, The Uncommon Green, was based on our original positioning as a design company that created unique, uncommon home goods and décor with sustainable manufacturing and eco-friendly business practices. But we learned over time that people had trouble connecting our name to what we actually did as a company. As we grew and the brand and product line evolved, we learned that our real super power was deep personalization on beautiful, every day products that tell a story about the user. We kept coming back to this idea we had for a tagline – Your Story, Well Told – and the name Well Told eventually stuck. Now it clicks immediately when people see our branding and product offering. Environmental sustainability and uniqueness are still at core of everything we do, but we’re glad we made the switch.
HS: You all also give back and that’s been important to you all, why?
NA: It actually started with the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. We were based there at the time, so that event impacted us profoundly. Even though we were still just starting out as a company and making no money, we felt like we had to do something, so we created a limited edition Boston Strong Marathon Map Glass and donated all of the profits to support the victims and recovery efforts. We ended up being able to make a fairly sizeable donation for a company our size, more than any of us could have ever given individually, so from that point on we knew that giving back had to be an important part of our business model. Since then, we’ve launched our Well Told GIVES initiative, in which we have supported nearly 400 local and national charities across the U.S. to date through our pledge to give 10% of profits back to charity every year. It’s something we’re extremely proud of and it’s something that we think our customers feel pretty good about it, too.
HS: What’s the best place for folks to find Well Told and learn more?
NA: To learn more about Well Told and see our entire collection of personalized gifts and goods, visit us at www.welltoldesign.com. People can also find our products on Etsy, Amazon, and in local gift shops and specialty stores across the U.S.!