Entrepreneurs are able to turn ideas into success with passion and hustle. Chris and Kelsey are the perfect example of that with their portable bar business, BEV the BARbarian! In this episode of The Banowetz Podcast, Sarah talks with Chris and Kelsey about how they took an old camper and the beginning of an idea, and turned it into a successful business.
Sarah: Welcome back to the Banowetz Marketing podcast. We’re glad you’re here. We have two special guests with us today and I’m super excited to have them here. Welcome Chris and Kelsey, how are you? Good. So this is Chris and Kelsey Olson with the Bev, the Barbarian. So tell us a little bit about, before we get into the company, tell us a little bit about yourselves personally. You guys are married.
Sarah: How long have you been married for.
Chris: Our anniversary is this weekend, so six years.
Sarah: Well, congratulations, happy anniversary. And do you have any kids?
Sarah: Three. Boys, girls?
Kelsey: Two girls and a boy.
Sarah: Nice, very cool. Well, you guys have an exciting household then.
Kelsey: Very busy.
Chris: Life is busy.
Sarah: So tell us a little bit about what you do for your company, because it’s super unique and super exciting.
Kelsey: So we are a mobile bar business and we do corporate events, markets, weddings, anything that would require a bar. We just pull up in our camper that we flipped into a bar and serve alcohol.
Sarah: Okay. This is really unique. How did you guys come up with this idea?
Kelsey: Honestly, we just kind of fell into it. I bought a camper off of Craigslist for a hundred dollars.
Didn’t really know what we were going to do with it. Thought about camping. We’re not really a camping family. Then we were like, Hey, let’s just put a bar in our backyard, flipped it into a bar, and then we were like, hmm, we could probably rent this out for weddings. Kind of looked into the liquor laws and it just kind of snowballed from there.
Sarah: Very cool. And that was what, five years ago?
Kelsey: Four years ago.
Sarah: You were fairly newly married at that point too.
Kelsey: Yeah, newly married, but.
Chris: Yeah. She had this crazy idea and I looked at it. I was like, I don’t see it, but let’s do it. And it turned out awesome.
Sarah: Now your Instagram account is cute because this isn’t just a regular camper.
It’s like, tell us a little bit about the camper that you started with.
Kelsey: It’s a 58, 1958 Comet. So it’s like a canned ham, I guess, is what they call it. And it was falling apart on me. Like I pulled up with it and he’s like, what did you buy? But, yeah, but now it is completely fixed.
Sarah: So who did most of the renovations?
Chris: It’s funny because Kelsey does all the building and like I had to gut it cause it was disgusting and she wouldn’t go in there. But once that was done, she does all of that. And I actually manage her as our social media. So it’s kind of a, it’s a weird…
Kelsey: It’s like an opposite of
Sarah: the stereotypical.
Chris: We get that a lot. Like, oh, that must’ve been a lot of work. I was like, I don’t know. I went through Home Depot a lot.
Sarah: So are you primarily using Instagram? Are you, what else are you using?
Kelsey: Mostly Instagram. We do sort of do Facebook, but. Instagram is kind of where most of our social media is.
Chris: And we get inquiries sometimes from like wedding things that were not even registered, like The Knot and stuff like that, where it’s just like, our name gets out there and somebody adds it on there.
So that’s pretty cool.
Sarah: That’s very cool.
Chris: Honey Books? I know we’ve got some inquiries from there.
Sarah: Very cool. Okay. So do you still have the original camper and is that the only one you have now? Or do you have another one?
Kelsey: So we still have Bev the original, but we did buy another one this last fall.
So we’re currently working on our second camper.
Sarah: Okay. Yeah. And then do you have like an indoor mobile? That you have like additional rental pieces, right?
Kelsey: We do have an indoor bar that we do rent out occasionally, but, but mostly the camper.
Chris: So most weddings will want, you know, if it’s a larger wedding, they want two bars going at once.
So we’ll have one indoor and then ours outside. So we kind of built that it’s, it’s like, eight screws to put it together. So it’s cool looking.
Sarah: Okay. Very cool. So when a company rents out your services, tell me what exactly the process is and what happens on the day of.
Kelsey: Oh, so it depends on how they rent us out.
We can be rented out multiple ways, either as a bartending service. So the alcohol is provided by the company and then we just serve it. So like open bar. Or we can get a liquor license and do a cash bar. So it kind of just depends on which route they go. If they choose to provide the alcohol the day of, we pull up with Bev, load up the bar and just start serving.
Sarah: And you provide the bartenders, right?
Kelsey: Yep, yep. Bartenders and then all like equipment, ice, things like that.
Sarah: What kind of things do you guys hear, or the companies hear, as a result of being there? Are people are super excited?
Chris: Yeah, they love it. I mean, we pair really well with like food trucks too.
So that’s nice to kind of have that, you know, as an option and people are like what, this is a bar, this is crazy, you know, so it’s, it’s been really, really awesome to see people’s reactions
Sarah: I saw on your website that you guys can even do indoor events too. If they have the doorway to be able to pull in.
Kelsey: Yep. Yep. We do Celebration Farms in Iowa City. We fit inside of their big round bar barn. So we do a lot.
Chris: Yeah, we bought a handcart, which was like a complete game changer. That was like year two. We’re like we can’t back into these places, so we bought like a little pull cart, which has been awesome.
So we can get it in about any location.
Sarah: So who, who is your target audience with this business? Like who is it? Who is it that you are you mainly focusing on? Weddings or corporations, like corporate events or parties or what is it, what is your target demographic?
Kelsey: Well, the nice thing is we kind of cater to everybody as long as you’re over 21, but I think mostly we prefer to do cash buyers like at markets or corporate events.
But we do still do weddings and that’s why we’re flipping the second one. Just so we can be double booked because a lot of times we’ll get a wedding the same day as a market. So now we can kind of be in two places at once.
Sarah: Oh, so like farmer’s markets and things like that.
Kelsey: We can’t do a farm, well, we could, but it would be pricey.
And the legalities of that are kind of, you have to have like a fenced off area that you serve in. So if we did a farmer’s market, we’d have to like fence off a specific area and then make sure people weren’t taking booze beyond that point. So it’s not really something we want to do, but, like vintage markets.
So we do a couple of those and, I mean festivals.
Chris: Yeah, craft shows. I mean, anything that has like food trucks or music, we’re usually pretty good about that. We do a lot of like grand openings for small businesses too, which has been awesome.
Sarah: That’s a great idea. Yeah. That’s a really good idea. Okay.
So, what is one of the biggest wins that you’ve had I’d say in the past year?
Chris: Yeah, I think outside of our like expansion and growing, I think just adding more markets every year. We’ve added about three new markets year over year, which has been awesome. So, and you know, you always meet people there. That’s a diverse group of ages and all of a sudden we’re getting inquiries from weddings saying, hey, I was, I saw you at this vintage fair, et cetera. So to me, that’s, that’s been awesome.
Sarah: I want to ask what sets you apart from your competitors, but you probably don’t have very many competitors besides just, venues doing, you know, the bar service themselves.
But this is so unique that you stand out and just in that, right?
Kelsey: Yeah, we haven’t, I mean, there’s a couple that are popping up now, but we don’t really have much in the form of competition.
Chris: We got in the market at the right time. I mean, we got, we started doing this before the camper craze went in full effect.
Sarah: Well, and yeah, you’re definitely piggybacking off of the camper craze.
It’s different, but it’s still same. I mean, similar enough.
Chris: Yeah. So I think just the relationships. We’ve done it now for four years, we’ve done the same markets. We’ve added markets. It’s a really good word of mouth. We have great reviews. So from a competition level, it’s more of a, hey, we’re booked this weekend, can you guys take this? That type of deal. So it’s almost like a referral from us to some of our competition.
Sarah: Well, I think that you just, the business model itself is so unique that you stand out in and of itself. But, is there anything that I’m missing that makes you guys extra unique, too, on top of just the fact that the whole business model itself is unique? Like in the way that, uh, anything that you commonly hear from people when you show up.
Kelsey: Well, I think that people are just like surprised that we actually run it. Like if they book with us that we don’t send, you know, like other people to run it. I mean, one of us is always there. So I think in that way, it’s
Sarah: Well, and you definitely have that level of extra attention and care.
Kelsey: Then it’s done. Right. And the way that we. Tell them it’s going to be.
Chris: And we did the flip ourself too, right? So it’s like, not only did we build this, we actually work it too. So I think that kind of sets us apart and people are like you guys did all this, this is super cute, you know, and it’s, it’s awesome.
Sarah: Well, and this is such a great model, role model for your kids. That they’re seeing you guys,
It’s a bar, but it’s still, it’s super creative. And it’s, I’m guessing that not many people leave like drunk from it or anything. More, it’s a social gathering type of situation. And I mean, I was raised in an entrepreneuring home and I just, I really appreciated that.
To have your kids see you guys working together on this and to build it from scratch. Come up with the idea, build it from scratch in such a unique and creative thing. I mean, that’s gotta be a great example for them.
Kelsey: Yeah, I hope so. Or else it’s going to be like, huh, we don’t want to spend that much time on things.
Chris: And they’re smart too. Right? Our oldest babysits for us and she doesn’t ask for 20 bucks, she asks for a percentage of our sales, you know, She’s very strategic. She knows how to position it. We told her, this is your college fund someday.
Sarah: Hey, my parents said the same thing about Warehouse Auto, that was my college fund. So the people who are watching Banowetz Marketing tend to be business owners themselves. So what piece of advice would you give a fellow business owner? Something you wish you would’ve known at the beginning that might help other people.
Chris: She’s looking at me, like answer this.
I think just consistency, you know, having a presence on social media has been huge, you know, we’ll go out and we’ll go out to eat or grab drinks somewhere. And people are like, Oh, that’s you guys. We didn’t know. You know? So it’s like kind of a nice, you know, forming of relationships. Um, You know, just consistency and just putting your message out there and not being afraid to expand, you know. This is Kelsey’s idea, but when it started to get really big, she was like, Aw, man, I didn’t want this. And I was like, no, this is really good. Let’s figure out a way to make this expansion happen. So I think just having the confidence to grow with the business.
Sarah: That’s a great point. So can you touch more about what you were feeling with that? Because I understand that, I’ve said that to my husband too.
Jen’s behind the camera, and I said, I have not expected the stress level from something growing faster and bigger than you thought it was going to grow is incredibly difficult. Can you expand on your feelings about that?
Kelsey: When I, when we started this, it was like, we’ll just do this here and there for weddings, extra income, you know, but it kind of like snowballed and it’s just getting bigger and bigger.
Now we have to like take on more staff and get a second one. And I think, you know, when you do something, this was supposed to be for fun and just like, here and there, but now it’s work. So it took something fun and now it’s work and trying to find a balance between those two worlds, still fun. Yeah.
But also, making money is hard.
Sarah: Well, and the responsibility too, and taking on staff and having payroll . Making money, making sure that what you do is profitable.
Kelsey: Trying to figure out how to do that all legally is also a whole other
Well, having a family too, and trying to balance your career and your family.
Chris: They got really good at counting money though. They’re going to be expert tellers someday. They’re going to be like hired instantly.
Sarah: I know that in my family too, growing up, there was a lot of responsibility that felt like, I do feel like Warehouse Auto kind of was built on our shoulders a little bit.
I was the oldest of three kids. But then it taught me responsibility and stuff. And I grew up in Solon, which is very much entrepreneurship, more farming families. And so I was around peers that were similar, in that we grew up in that atmosphere and I’m really appreciative of it. I really feel like it needs to be farming, sports or business.
Maybe there’s something else too. But those three things really teach children a lot of responsibility and help prepare them well for adulthood.
Chris: But now Kelsey’s like, Oh, we’re not doing this event because the margins aren’t off. And I’m like, this is awesome. You know, just went from this like super creative person to like this business, like crunching numbers and yeah, it’s great.
Sarah: Great job, Kelsey.
Sarah: I’ve had to do the same thing cause I’m a creative too. And balancing that administrative financial part with the, with the creative is, it’s been a growing experience, but even this morning I was thinking, man, I really have grown a lot in the last few years. And it’s good.
Sarah: It’s hard.
Chris: It’s crazy, we have like our own like fan group at markets. Like they, they come to see us.
Sarah: That doesn’t surprise me at all. Everyone listening needs to check out their Instagram profile. Yeah, so they do great. Jen is the one that booked you guys to come on the podcast. And she was telling me this week, she’s like, you gotta check them out, you gotta check them out.
And your website looks great too, and explains things. Cause I did have a question like right away. I was like, well, what about the liquor license? And you address it several times on your website.
Kelsey: We still get asked all the time, wait, so you don’t provide alcohol? Nope.
Sarah: Well, I was wondering, cause I assumed that you did, and then I was wondering how do you get a traveling liquor license? And then your website addressed that you’ll get it if you need it and, and stuff like that. You were even telling us before we started rolling it.
So what is the process to get a liquor license? If a company needs one?
Kelsey: Well, if we are working for the company, we’ll take care of that for them. Kind of a mess. It can be. Yeah. Yes. But now we kind of have it down, but you have to have a dram trap insurance.
Chris: You have to provide like three types of insurances and then the city or county has to go in and approve it.
So if it’s a smaller town, they have to have a board meeting, and then it has to be approved through the ABD. And then they come back to the county and some sketches. It’s difficult, but now we’ve done it. Like I said, this is our fourth year. So they kind of know us now. And they’re like, oh, the same event as last year.
Kelsey: So the corporation, or whoever’s running the event, will just need to provide something that says we can serve alcohol on their property.
And then usually they’ll ask for a sketch of the area that we’re going to be serving. And that’s all they have to do.
Chris: We do all the work.
Sarah: Very cool. Make it super easy on busy businesses.
Chris: At first, it was like, sit down with a bottle of vodka and then it’s going to be a long day trying to get this approved. But now, now they know us.
Kelsey: Now we’re on a first name basis with ABD and they’re on our Christmas card list. So we’re buds.
Sarah: Very cool. Very cool. Very cool. Well, before we leave, the last thing I like to do with our podcasts is see if you guys have any pain points in your marketing or any questions that you may have that I could help answer?
Chris: I mean, we predominantly just use the Instagram. I mean, I don’t know, there’s a lot of this out there. I mean, I guess that’s predominantly what we use. Some Facebook, but for the most part, just that, I guess, what else are we missing?
Sarah: One of the things that we really care about here at Banowetz Marketing is branding.
And I think one reason I could see your success, besides the fact that you’re in the entertainment industry essentially, is that your branding is really strong. And I think that, I mean, your Instagram profile is very like, you know what to expect when you’re looking through those images. You have a great Instagram account and your website is great.
And then the product itself is super adorable. And I think all that branding has probably been, and just your personalities too. And your work ethic is what’s probably helped you guys grow a lot.
Chris: Yeah. We just did a rebrand last year. We worked with a gal in town, Prince by Lowe is her name.
And she put, put together an image on a shirt here and we kind of went through that and read it, all of our stuff. So it was kind of like, okay, this is year four. Let’s get really serious about this and make sure that it is appealing and people know what it is. So thank you for that because we put a lot of work into that.
Sarah: Yeah, very cool. So that’s awesome that you guys have focused on your branding because that is really important and it helps people take you seriously. That it’s not just a fly by night business, but it’s something that’s here and here to stay and everything like that.
Chris: We did like a behind the scenes too.
That was kind of cool on Instagram, like we showed them like, you know, cause it’s all glam on there, but like what actually happens with some of the events, you know. One time it flew off and you know, so we had pictures of that just to kind of show like, hey, we’re normal people too. So we got a lot of good reviews off of that.
And people were like, Oh my gosh, are you okay?
Sarah: Well, and your Instagram profile is mostly about the product. You’ll show like pictures of beverages and then also the camper and everything. But you’re not showing very much of the two of you, right? Have you thought about doing more of that so that people feel like they get to know you a little more.
Chris: Yeah. We went to a mobile bar conference in Tennessee. So we went to that. It was the first one ever, it was pretty cool. They had a branding lady there and she was saying, you know, it’s kind of to get to know the people. But I think we do a lot of, like for weddings, we meet the couple, we go out and talk to them.
So yeah. So I think they know us by the time we’re there. So yeah.
Kelsey: We don’t want to become the brand either.
Chris: It’s nice to separate the two.
Sarah: Yeah, no, I completely understand. Over a year ago when we talked about starting a podcast, it was originally a podcast with another marketing lady named Sarah. So we called it the Sarah squared podcast. And then, she’s a freelancer and got really busy, so she had a hard time continuing to do it.
So we started a second podcast, which is this podcast with my team, which is the Banowetz Marketing podcast. But I will say that, I think it was like November of 2018 when Sarah and I were talking about starting our own podcast, which essentially puts you in front of the business.
It was scary. We were in this office and she goes, let’s do it. And I excused myself. And I’m an extrovert. I am like, I love talking to people, but I’m not about like being on social media a lot. And I excused myself and went to the restroom and just like took a deep breath and it was like, well, I told you earlier, before we started recording that I struggled with anxiety and I was just like, okay. Because I could just imagine all of the negative comments and everything like that too.
There’s a lot of bullying that happens online and I know, as a marketing person, the importance of personal branding, but to actually put yourself out there and do it. But I will say it has been really good and yeah. The way our culture is going, people are trusting people. I mean, the name Bev, like I was confused when I got, I was like Kelsey Olson? I thought we were having Bev come in and, and Jen was like, no, Kelsey, it’s Bev for beverage instead of Beverley. But that’s probably working in your favor too, that it kind of is like a personal brand and that the Bev stands for beverage, but it kind of seems like it stands for Beverly.
Kelsey: Well, actually, when we bought the camper, everyone said, when you buy a canned ham, you have to name it because that’s what they did in the fifties.
Kelsey: And then when we were dating, every time we would go to Starbucks or anywhere coffee, they say, what’s your name? And he would say Bev. And so when we bought it, I did name it Beverly like, just because of that.
But then I was like, Oh, it kind of works for beverage. So it kind of evolved into that, but I get Bev all the time.
Chris: Who’s asking?
Kelsey: I might just legally change my name.
Sarah: There you go. Your personal brand is Bev. Very cool. Well, thank you for being on the podcast. Is there anything that I haven’t mentioned that you would want?
How would people get in touch with you? So businesses, it tends to be, like the marketing director or an administrator who reaches out to you to contact you about, helping with an event of theirs, being part of the event.
How else would they get in touch with you? What’s the best way to reach out to you and how do they find you online?
Kelsey: Any social media platform, our website, or just email.
Chris: Or at Bev the Barbarian across the board. Yeah, I mean message us. And now that we’re expanding, we have a lot of availability to help.
And then #whereisbev
Sarah: #whereisbev, that’s great. And so, let me spell out your website. We’ll link it below, but just in case someone’s seeing this without the link. It’s Bev is B E V the barbarian, B A R B A R I A N no, no parenthesis or anything like that. Just BevTheBarbarian.com.
Sarah: Well, thank you for being on the podcast, I really appreciate it.
Chris: Thank you, it was fun.
Sarah: And thank you for watching the Banowetz Marketing podcast. If you have any need for marketing, please reach out to us. And if you’re a business owner in the area and would like to be on the podcast, reach out to us about that as well. Have a great day.