I Lived in the Back of My Store and This Is What I Learned
Slice.ca has launched new social series Go Here Meet Her, which profiles Canadian female business owners, and explores how they started to where they're at now. Basically, it's showing that journey, that evolution, as they went from dreamer to eventual butt-kicker/name-takers.
In the latest episode, we meet Kristen Voisey, owner and founder of Cocktail Emporium, a specialty cocktail store which has now expanded to three locations. While she touches on how she lived at the back of her store in order to get her business off the ground, we needed to know more. So we dug deeper — and we got to see Voisey's success story, also learned a little more about those meager beginnings.
Location, location, locationThe inspiration for Cocktail Emporium came after a visit to L.A. where Voisey came upon a store called Bar Keeper. "I thought Queen [St.] West was a great spot for this type of store. It was right before the rise in cocktail culture in Toronto so it was great timing."
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Sacrifices for long-term gainThe reason Kristin lived in the back of her store was simple: money — and what she saved during her first year of business was put towards the store. Voisey admitted, "It was a smart idea but not sustainable for long term. I was 30 so I was a lot less picky about life back then."
A make-shift apartmentIf you've ever worked in a retail space, then you know what that back area is like; not exactly spacious. But Voisey "had a great little set-up with a bed and living area with a couch," as well as "a bathroom with a toilet and sink." Not too shabby.
And because she doesn't really cook, the lack of kitchen space wasn't a problem for Voisey, who was able to make the area where the kitchen sink was a little homier by adding a mini fridge and toaster oven, as well as a pull-out wall table and some added shelves.
"But there was no shower, or windows," said Voisey. "I had a membership [for the YMCA] up the street so I would just go work out and shower there. That became annoying." Understandable.
Embrace the fearVoisey was young when she started out but she also admitted on Go Here Meet Her that she was also fearless — a quality many aspiring entrepreneurs don't have. But is there a way to overcome that fear? Kristen, unfortunately, doesn't think so.
"There is no way way to getting rid of the fear. The fear will always be there," she said, but advised, "You need to embrace the fear because you'll regret it if you don't." And who wants to live with regrets?
No days offVoisey doesn't hold back when it comes to doling out advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. "I didn't live in the store so I could get help," she explained. "I lived there to save some money in the first year so I could build the concept."
And if there isn't any money for employees or staff, some sort of team to help out, then it's all on you and it's all about sacrifice. "You can't take on stuff that you can't accomplish on your own," she added. "You have to be 100% in to be an entrepreneur. No days off until you can afford it."
It all comes down to this one thingAside from all the sacrifices Kristen made, she's also a successful business owner because of her passion and work ethic. "I try really hard, I work really hard, I care a lot," she said. "I guess it just comes down to passion."
As far as motivation, Voisey added: "Seeing my efforts and hard work turn into busy stores and happy customers."
Not your average entrepreneurVoisey laughed that while she has a lot of ideas, she isn't super-organized like many business owners, nor does she have those Type-A personality qualities you hear about entrepreneurs possessing — yet she surprises herself every day. "I honestly never thought of myself as an entrepreneur so learning that I was a good one was pretty surprising."
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A success storyIn today's world, when many retail stores are struggling to keep their doors open and having customers not just walking in but making purchases as well, what is it about Cocktail Emporium that sets it apart from everything else.
"It's our unique concept and fun stores," of which there are currently two, with the third set to open in January 2020. "We are always changing our offerings and we always have tastings on the weekend so it's a fun place to come back to time and time again. Our staff is also very helpful and knowledgeable so people can always learn something when they are in our stores."
Our entrepreneur expert: Kristen VoiseyKristen Voisey is the owner and founder of Cocktail Emporium, which has two locations in Toronto and a third on the way. But if you like to do your shopping online, that's cool too because they also ship around the world so cocktail lovers, you really have no excuse.
Voisey has one simple goal with her dream: to elevate your at-home cocktail adventures to new heights. And all one needs to do is peruse their social media pages to see that it's unlike any other experience. From the ingredients you need to make a mean drink to detailed, specific recipes you might not find anywhere else, it's the one-stop shop for everything bar and cocktail-related — and beyond. It also happens to be the perfect place to buy gifts for your nearest and dearest — and if that happens to be yourself, all the better.
Cocktail Emporium is truly like no other shop and for those searching for the perfect bitters, the most unique and beautiful barware, or simply need an expert to find the most perfect drink, Voisey and her team of experts can start your tab. Drink up!
Watch Kristin Voisey on Go Here Meet Her as she talks about how she created Cocktail Emporium.