Atlanta’s Old 4th Ward neighborhood has seen a lot of new construction, and with that an influx of new business. Missy and Kristin Koefod are part of that new business influx with the introduction of their 18.21 Bitters Company. The duo is manufacturing small batch, handcrafted bitters and Prohibition Era cocktail mixers at Irwin Street Market’s commercial kitchen incubator.
What are these two up to? Well, Missy, a former bar owner, and Kristin, a culinary and craft cocktail enthusiast, decided it was high time that Atlanta produced a local, small batch and high-quality handcrafted product aimed at crafting a better cocktail. They are manufacturing a line of bitters, tinctures, simple syrups and shrubs (a prohibition era cocktail mixer) as well as ginger beer and tonics and expect the products to hit the market later this month. They have launched a Kickstarter campaign and begun manufacturing.
You can find Kristin and Missy at farmers markets and festivals across the Atlanta area this summer and their product will be in several local shops and restaurants. They will also be at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans from July 16-20 and will be participating in several local pop-up shops in and around Atlanta.
Tell us a little bit about your business.
We manufacture bitters and prohibition era cocktail mixers. Our line includes bitters, tinctures, shrubs, syrups, ginger beer and tonic. We are based in the Old 4th Ward neighborhood of Atlanta, Ga.
What was the inspiration for your business?
I (Missy) am a former bar owner and Kristin is a foodie and craft cocktail enthusiast. We also have a thing for New Orleans which happens to be the birthplace of the cocktail. We always enjoy drinking prohibition era cocktails there and wanted to put a modern spin on old cocktails.
Did you have another career/other careers before you started your business?
Kristin is a designer and I am an attorney.
What obstacles did you face in establishing your company and how did you overcome them?
I think one of the biggest obstacles was finding the time to start and run the business when both of us were working 60 hours a week on our day jobs. It was tough to find time for everything, especially each other. Luckily we are both passionate about the company so any time spent working on it never feels like work and we are in it together and make a pretty good team. Funding is always a challenge for any new business. We are utilizing Kickstarter not only for those purposes but also to get the word out and have seen a very warm reception.
What’s the single most important piece of advice you received when first starting your company?
Talk to everyone about it. I think that it can be hard to sell yourself and talk about yourself especially when we are raised to be modest. It almost feels bad — like bragging — until you realize that, hey, this is a great product, we do a great job, it tastes good and we want to share it with people. We want people to taste our products because they are good, we love them and we know they will too!
What aspect of business ownership came as the biggest surprise to you?
The time — the hours and hours you put into every detail of making your business succeed. We have never ordered so much Chinese food in our lives. There is no time to cook.
What do you find most rewarding about owning your own business?
Doing something we care about and doing it well is really great. Seeing the results of your hard work pay off is probably the most rewarding aspect of running your own business.
Do you use social media to engage your customers? If so, does it play a key role in your marketing efforts?
We do. Currently, social media and word of mouth is our only form of advertising.
What resources would you recommend to someone who is contemplating starting her own business?
Find a mentor — reach out to someone who has done it before, made the mistakes and is willing to share with you what not to do. It is so much easier to learn from someone else’s mistakes than to make them yourself. We are always happy to speak with young entrepreneurs.
What would you say is the single most important key to sustaining a business long term?
Passion and drive. You have to love what you are doing because you are going to be working longer hours than you ever have before and you will always be on; always thinking about your business. We can be laying on the beach and Kristin and I will be thinking of new flavors.
Is there anything we didn’t ask you about that you’d like to share with the Lesbian.com audience?
We love meeting our customers! Kristin and I are always happy to enjoy a cocktail on the town for any customers that happen to be visiting Atlanta. We are so excited about what we do and love to share it!
Missy and Kristin are offering Lesbian.com readers a special gift opportunity. If you back the 18.21 Bitters Kickstarter campaign on any level and complete the questionnaire you receive after doing so, mentioning Lesbian.com in your response, then you’ll receive a special gift from the company.