Tulsa Business Journal: Tell us a little bit about your business. When did/will you start it? Why? What is the overall mission of your business?
Blue Label Bartending: I started Blue Label Bartending in Tulsa in March 2007 and expanded to Oklahoma City in September 2008.
This business provides professional and knowledgeable bartenders for private events, such as wedding receptions, holiday parties and class reunions. The customer supplies the alcohol and location while Blue Label Bartending supplies the bartenders, ice, cups, napkins, straws, and bartending tools.
We have 10 employees (five in Tulsa and five in OKC). We served seven events in 2007, 76 events in 2008, and we are on track to serve more than 250 events in 2009.
TBJ: What is your background? What made you interested in starting this particular business?
BLB: I was born in Napa, Calif., surrounded by vineyards and wineries. I consider that my introduction into the alcohol business, even though I was too young to drink it.
My family moved to Oklahoma, and I graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2004 with a business degree in finance.
While at the school I got involved with a few private events and realized that there is a serious lack of organized, professional, private-event bartenders, not just in Oklahoma, but nationwide as well. I created Blue Label Bartending so that customers can easily find affordable and professional bartenders for their private parties.
My first private event, I made $255 for four hours of bartending. I had fun and would have done the job for half that amount. Then I thought, “Hey, I bet other bartenders would do this for half the amount too.” So I hired other bartenders, found private events for them to work, and paid them to serve the events.
TBJ: How are you funding your business?
BLB: I was lucky to start a service business that requires no assets or overhead. I funded my business with my own savings (with a little help here and there from a credit card).
TBJ: Have revenues been what you expected and/or hoped?
BLB: I spent a lot on advertising in the first two years, and I guess I was a little too optimistic about the return I would see on my advertising. Revenues were lower than expected the first two years, but future revenues are projected to be much greater than originally expected.
TBJ: Where would you like to take your business in the next year?
BLB: I am going to open a bartending school in Tulsa (Tulsa has not had a bartending school since spring of 2008) and continue to expand the private-event services. One year from now, I would like to have at least one franchise underway in another city, such as Dallas or Kansas City.
TBJ: What do you hope to gain from participating in the Spirit Award?
BLB: Valuable insight from the business coaches, publicity about my business, and funds to expand my business outside of Oklahoma.
TBJ: How important has the Spirit Award been in encouraging you to try to start a business?
BLB: I started this business before I was aware of the Spirit Award.