What a pleasure it is to feature Jay Perkins of Tended Bar in this installment of the Shared Spirits Industry Influencer Interview Series. Jay is currently a Nashville resident and I met Jay via mutual friends. I was immediately intrigued with Jay’s story. You’ll understand why very soon!
Sherman: Jay, thanks for sitting down for this time together. Your story is incredibly cool and to me, inspirational for several reasons. Tell the readers something about your background. You don’t often associate people with engineering backgrounds, you as the engineer and as the son of an engineer as entrepreneurial types.
Jay: Yes, I am an electrical engineer, and being the son of another EE, that fate was sealed when I was about 6 years old. I always told myself that I was going to go to Purdue, be an engineer, and eventually become a sales engineer. While I was in school, I had no intention of ever becoming an entrepreneur, but as my idea turned into a real opportunity, I jumped in with two feet and learned very quickly that being an entrepreneur isn’t a job, it is a mindset and a lifestyle. Engineering taught me a lot in the way of teaching yourself things to get them to work, while meeting specific requirements and deadlines…which has a lot in common with entrepreneurship.
Sherman: You were doing or building a business model for an automated bartender as a college project. Tell us about that and what grade did you ultimately get? I’m envisioning lots of nights over a beer “researching” the project.
Jay: When I first got the email back from Cuban, I was in the middle of my senior year, and thus in the middle of the project. (Jay had emailed Mark Cuban cold. Yes, a cold call email.) The moment I had a commitment for an investment, I decided that I was going to finish school online, and move to Nashville to get a Broadway bar using one of my bars. By moving to Nashville, I missed a lot of “check offs” for my project and my grade on my project suffered (and rightfully so). Everyone was very supportive of my venture…but I am pretty sure I got a C- or a D.
Sherman: Entrepreneurship is tough. Tell us, what are some of the things the naysayers have said?
Jay: There has been an endless supply of supporters and people that have stood behind us every step of the way, so before I focus on the other side I want to thank those people…but you know as well as I do, that not everyone falls in that category. The biggest thing we have had these negative people tell us that there will never a replacement for people in the world. And we always say to them “we are not trying to replace the interaction between the bartender and the patron, we are trying to enhance the experience that the patron experiences when they are trying to get a drink.”
Sherman: Share some of the cool applications you’re seeing start to come to fruition for the Tended Bar technology.
Jay: We are constantly looking to innovate and venture into different applications. We have built our system to allow it to be expanded or contracted to any size or application. One of the coolest things that we have done include the addition of Beer and Wine into our systems. We have some other features that we have added for unique applications, however, we have yet to release these to the public.
Sherman: You and I both sell to venues and brands. I see a pretty conservative industry out there. Innovation seems to be taking place faster on the venue side than the alcohol brand side. Would you agree with that thought?
Jay: I completely agree. I think it’s because some venues are able to more easily pilot or test something for a single event or game and can change their identity depending on the night, whereas most of these brands have their identity set in stone.
Sherman: No chat with you could be had without the Mark Cuban connection. You reached out via email and I’m linking to the Inc Magazine article that features part of that story but share with those that don’t know, what you were thinking when you wrote that first email and clicked “send”.
Jay: If I am being 100% honest, I don’t really think that I expected anything to come from it. When I reached out, I was not asking for an investment…I wanted advice. I wanted the person that I saw on TV helping entrepreneurs, to help me. He was the first of over 80 people that I emailed…I think if I expected a reply, I would have stopped after him. Side note: his reply was the only one I received.
Sherman: What’s been the most beneficial part of being a “Mark Cuban” company?
Jay: By becoming a Mark Cuban Company, we have some name recognition that allows a lot more doors to be open. This was especially beneficial at the beginning when we were still trying to figure out how to make everything work. Not to mention the fact that we have one of the most respected people in the business world advising our direction.
Sherman: Is there an industry segment that you’re currently seeing as the biggest opportunity for Tended Bar?
Jay: We see opportunity throughout many industry segments. Our best applications include high volume areas where patrons are waiting on drinks (venues, restaurants, bars, etc.) and in areas where there is not revenue being generated and there could be (best example is in various areas of hotels).
Sherman: If there was a preferred inquiry, a perfect fit so to speak from each city where a reader happens to be sitting where they read this interview, what referral would you most want? (People. Read his answer and shoot him the referral. This guy and his tool is legit.)
Jay: I think the best referrals are for places where the ownership understands the true value of eliminating their loss, increasing their speed or service, and helping their customers’ have the best experience possible.
Sherman: Jay, this has been a blast. I’m kinda hating you for one day eliminating over pours from my favorite bartenders. Ha! Seriously though, what might I have forgotten to ask? Anything you’d like to share with the readers that I didn’t cover?
Customers: Get the right drinks, when you want them, and where you want them.
Bartenders: Focus on giving your customers the best customer experience and maximize your earning potential (tips)
Owners: Eliminate loss, while increasing revenue.
Brands: Know who your customers are!
Sherman: What are the best ways for the audience to get in touch or stay in touch with you and Tended Bar?
Jay:The best way to get in touch with us is to send me an email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or through our website at tendedbar.com.
Sherman: Thanks again Jay! We’re excited at Shared Spirits about your incredible progress and incredible systems. There is more potential that we can even share is this interview!