Entrepreneur Nao Kohara sits at a table in his favorite neighborhood bar, checking emails on his laptop computer and sipping a glass of sake.

Some of his brightest business ideas have been hatched over a few drinks — including the concept behind his latest venture, a startup called Nihonshu Oendan (sake supporters). Despite the fact that, according to government statistics, sake shipments in 2016 were the lowest since 1955, Kohara's fledgling company is flourishing.

Nihonshu Oendan, which incorporated in summer 2015, currently produces four brands of sake — Kakeya, Noto, Kunisaki and Ageo — and aims to expand its portfolio to include 30 labels over the next five to seven years. However, instead of brewing on their own premises, Nihonshu Oendan works with small makers scattered around Japan to craft original styles that express the terroir of each region. Kohara, who spent years living in the U.S. as a child and as a student at Stanford Business School, has effectively created the sake world's first disruptive business model — a radical approach to production that has revived a nearly defunct brewery and is helping to foster a new generation of brewers.