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Community Highlights: Meet Kathy Sullivan of Sidecar Bartending

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kathy Sullivan.  

Hi Kathy, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I started bartending in college to pay for school. After I graduated, I got a job in sales and moonlighted as a bartender. I went from a bartender and short order cook at an American Legion to the General Manager of a high-end seafood restaurant in San Francisco. After having kids, I went back to work as a bartender. It was the perfect flexible job. While behind the bar, customers were always asking me to bartend at their private parties, and I soon realized the demand for this business. People wanted more than just a person pouring wine and beer. In the age of specialty cocktails, an experienced bartender could bring the fun bar and cocktail experience into their homes. And that is what I set out to create in 2015. I was stirring Manhattans and shaking martinis behind a real bar at private events. There was no longer a need to leave the house for a real cocktail. Word spread, and business picked up quickly. People were excited to have a professional bartender serving them…it made the party special. We are licensed and insured, so we quickly got busy with corporate events too. Whether it be a need for bartending and table service to enhance the product that the client brought in themselves through a caterer, or perhaps the brides that are having more unconventional weddings, we were quickly viewed as the perfect solution. We found ourselves very busy bartending weddings that were catered by food trucks and places like Slows to Go. Brides didn’t have full-service catering and needed staff to bartend. We also added the special element of being great at making specialty cocktails. 

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Getting up and running as a business was fairly challenging in and of itself, but I managed to make it happen. What was more challenging was finding the funds and having the courage to invest in the future of my business versus just putting money back into the day-to-day operations. To help find the funds, I entered the Michigan Women Forward Up and Pitch contest. Entering the contest was not an easy decision, as I knew that I would have to invest many hours into the contest if I had any chance at all to win. These were going to be hours, as a mother of three young kids and the only full-time employee in my business, that would be hard to find. Yet I mustered up the courage to enter, and after submitting a business plan, answering many questions, being interviewed, and the hardest part, making a presentation in front of the panel of judges, I won the contest. The win provided the funds I needed to invest in the future of my business. And trust me, I easily could have put that prize money to many other things, but I stayed focused on investing in Sidecar’s future, and the investment ultimately took me to the next level as a business. 

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Sidecar Bartending is a licensed and insured mobile bartending business. We provide everything needed for a full-service bar, including professional bartenders, bar options, mixers, garnishes, glassware, and ice, among other offerings. We provide fresh squeezed juices and syrups. We provide professionally trained servers, as well. We have worked events from 10-1500 people, and we bartend all types of events, including corporate, non-profit, storefront, weddings, birthday parties (even children parties), bar and bat mitzvahs, holiday parties, and corporate happy hours. We have had 7 straight years of year-over-year growth. We pride ourselves on top-notch service. 

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you, and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
My business is such a person-to-person, hands-on service operation that Covid-19 was obviously a major blow. For what seemed like forever, my phone stopped ringing, and there was simply no work to be had. While it would take over a year for big events to start happening again, I was able to figure out a way to keep revenue coming in while we waited out the storm. I had always wanted to start selling products (vs. just being a service business), so I took the opportunity, which the pandemic provided, to come up with multiple cocktail-related products that I thought may be of interest to my client base. I started by giving away mixers, and other non-alcohol products, to friends and family to see what they liked. I then started offering these products to a wider audience in my nearby community and delivering them myself. After repeat orders started coming in, I offered the products online, and through email distributions to past clients, and orders grew to the point that I had to set up daily pickups and deliveries using the USPS. As events started to come back, the products continued to sell. I’m not sure I ever would have had the time to work on my product line had it not been for the downtime that was forced upon us during the first few months of the pandemic. 

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