Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with River Hawkins, Owner of The Bebedero, located in Charlottesville, VA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I'm a Barman, Mezcal Expert, and Artist. I own a few restaurants: The Bebedero, The Milkman's Bar, and The South and Central Latin Grill. My customers are anyone who likes rare agave distillates, excellent Latin food, and eclectic art.
Tell us about yourself
I've been a bartender and bar manager for 25 years. I believe it's one of the noblest professions. For those who disagree, remember where you went after getting married, straight to the bartender. Or where you mourn the loss of a loved one. Probably a bar. Where did you first meet and fall in love with that special someone? Probably a bar. A barman has the unique opportunity to serve society at all points of the spectrum of life experience. Whether you're celebrating or suffering, you go to a bartender.
I think that's what keeps me going each day. Even though owning a restaurant is one of the most chaotic and difficult jobs with some of the lowest profit margins, I can't imagine doing anything else. Only restaurant life allows me to be as creative as I want, whether it be painting the art on the walls or the table or crafting beautiful and delicious cocktails. It's never boring, and I get to interact with new people every day. I couldn't work in a factory talking to the same eight people every day. I thrive on chaos, so bar life is perfect for me.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I think one of my biggest accomplishments that I stake claim to is helping to bring Mezcal to Virginia. When we started The Bebedero, Virginia had maybe 3 varietals of Mezcal. Now we have hundreds on our shelves, and through my Mezcal tasting classes, I've been able to create a large infrastructure of Mezcal lovers from all over the east coast. I now tour with my classes all over the states bringing my passion for Mezcal to new groups every year.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The uncertainty in the restaurant industry is exhausting, especially through the pandemic and after when no one wanted to work again, and now inflation is killing us. The hardships never end. A restaurant is not a machine that functions reliably every day. It's an organism in constant flux. Everything might go fine for a few days, and then your head chef ends up in jail, and you have to rush to damage control.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Expect chaos. When you're expecting it, you'll get it, but you will also be prepared for it.
- Be creative in any way you can. Don't be afraid to push boundaries or cause some controversy to get people's attention. There's no point in being just like everyone else, hoping they'll appreciate your mediocrity. People want stuff they haven't seen before, even if it scares them or puts them on edge. At least they won't forget you. Stand out or sit down.
- Have faith in your vision and endure. Business is never easy, but if you stay focused and believe what you're creating is good, the whole world will bend to your will, and one day you'll realize you have achieved your dreams even if it doesn't look like the success you envisioned.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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