THERE ARE few things that can make a person more interesting than the knowledge that they can make a really good cocktail. Thanks to Corrie Scully, her wife/biznass partner Renie Schoenkerman and their cocktail company MiddleBar, even the messiest muddler can now become a master mixologist. Aside from developing a slew of addicting ingredients to be used in cocktail concoctions like their Mary mix (as in Bloody), these two ladies are leading the charge in the male-dominated industry of cocktailpreneurship. Corrie took time out of her schedule to tell Lady Clever about how she and Renie started their own business and the challenges they’ve faced as females getting a business off the ground.
What is MiddleBar and what inspired you to create this line of products?
The original “MiddleBar” was literally a gorgeous piece of redwood we found at a lumberyard that we then brought home and built into a pub-height narrow counter. We built a library bar around it and called it “middle bar,” because we had a different bar in the front of our home. MiddleBar was immediately adopted by our friends, and it became a joke about MiddleBar being the “best bar in town.” We’d cook and cocktail and always have people coming in and out. We set up a speakeasy call signal, so all you had to do was “read the sign” to know if MiddleBar was open. Then, during football season, MB went digital. We started a blog, and created a Facebook page so people could check-in. We loved it, but we didn’t take it seriously until a couple years later. We started hosting parties, cocktailing events, and delivering Marys during football season only.
The idea to develop our product line came from our interests and from the level of comfort we started feeling with our craft. We love brunch. So developing the MiddleBar Mary Brunch Line was the first order of business. Now we have our MB Mary and 4 perfectly-paired pickles in different retail and wholesale options. Our cocktail line has just come together over the years, because cocktailing is what we do. We were both bartenders for years before we went all professional and became producers and shrinks. So it’s been a nice return for us as entrepreneurs to get back to our roots.
Was MiddleBar your first entrepreneurial endeavor?
MiddleBar is our first joint venture in cocktailpreneuring. Renie had her private practice before that, and continues to develop her entrepreneurial interests in positive psychology, writing books, giving talks, and projects along those lines. Since I left my career in television, I’ve found that my production skills are much better used in starting and running my own business than in running someone else’s
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in running your business?
The biggest challenge that we have not successfully whooped (yet) is learning how to balance business and life. We got the heads-up from our friends who started their own successful companies, but it’s like child rearing — there’s really no informed consent or adequate preparation. It’s constant, it’s a whole lot of work, it keeps you up at night, and sleep is all but totally forgotten, but the rewards are immeasurable.
Are there any challenges that you’ve faced so far that you feel are gender-specific, which you might not have faced if you were a man starting a similar business?
Gender-based challenges? I don’t think so. I think business start-up is an equal-opportunity offender. It’s so hard, but it’s hard for anyone. We’ve been slow to develop a real belief in ourselves, our brand, its worth, its value, and I don’t know if that would have been easier or faster to come if we were raised as men. It’s a good question.
What goals do you have for your company?
Where there’s a MB MARY, there’s usually a smile, some relaxing, and a dose of happiness happening, so we want MiddleBar Marys everywhere. We see our Marys in stadiums, theatres, shops, hotels, boats of all sizes, and of course, in the airways. We want to be the first Bloody Mary on the moon!
What is one piece of advice you wish you had been given as a woman starting her own business? What’s one piece of advice you would give to other women starting their own business?
The most useful things we could ever give or receive are honesty and support. We always tell people to be honest with us, we’re big girls, we can handle it, we don’t want yes-men. So when people believe in us, even when we don’t, they guide us to keep doing what we’re doing. There is nothing more valuable.
Have you found it difficult to balance your personal and professional life?
The word “balance” is kinda funny. We hope to one day get there, but… not today. As far as what it’s like working together as a couple? We had to really learn how to do that. We have come a long way from where we started, and we’re getting better all the time! It’s such a blessing to be able to spend our days together, so many couples don’t get enough time with each other, it would be a pity to screw it up.
Talk about ambition, wanting to put their Mary mix on the moon! Aside from their signature Mary mix (and the necessary pickle and celery accoutrements that make a Bloody Mary a Bloody Mary), Middle Bar carries cocktail syrups and garnishes like Bourbon Poached Cherries that will have you mixing up mouthwatering drinks like a pro in no time.
In the Los Angeles area, MiddleBar is available at 3 farmers markets: Yamashiro (Thursdays during the summer), Studio City (Sunday), and Warner Bros (every other Wednesday, for those times when, you know, your financing falls through and you need to get plastered). MB products will also be available for home delivery service on goodeggs.com and can, of course, be found at www.middlebar.com. And if you’re interested in helping these ladies take MiddeBar to new heights (no, seriously, they just signed with a private jetliner company!), check out their Kickstarter page here.