Interview with Top Shelf Mixology Founder, Brooke Fritz, as she shares her take.
Note to Viewers: Brooke Fritz rebranded her business, Bashes by Brooke Brown, and is now known as Top Shelf Mixology, Bar & Mixology Consulting. When we mention Bashes in the interview, we’re referring to her newly rebranded business– so you can still reach out to Brooke for all of the incredible services she offers! Links to contact Brooke are at the end of this post.
Blaire Brown: Hi there! I have Brooke Fritz with me today to talk about brand partnerships. Now, you might recognize the last name and maybe our similar looks because this is my sister who is also an entrepreneur! Brooke first founded Bashes by Brooke Brown in 2018, and recently rebranded her business into what it is known today as Top Shelf Mixology, Bar & Mixology Consulting. A little bit about Brooke: she turns bars into establishments that create a buzz. When Brooke saw that bar & restaurant owners needed help taking their businesses to the next level, she knew that this was her calling. She took her passion for the hospitality industry and designed a business that enabled her to capture both the creative and profit-building activities she loves the most: cocktails!
So Brooke, why don’t you start out by telling us a little bit about your background?
Brooke Fritz: Okay. Well of course my name is Brooke Fritz, so hi everybody! I am a bar & mixology consultant. I go in, teach hospitality service, and design craft cocktails for restaurants. I do everything that is involved in creating craft cocktails– from start to finish [costing, development, naming, etc.] So obviously, I had to have one today with Blaire. So cheers!
[Clinks cocktail glasses 🥂]
Blaire Brown: Cheers to you!
Brooke Fritz: I also go in and I will do brand marketing for people. So I can create customized cocktails for special events and occasions or create special drinks that create a seasonal buzz to drive traffic to their business. Basically, I do a little bit of everything.
Blaire Brown: I love a good theme! Why not throw cocktails into the mix while you’re at it? If you’re looking to jazz up an event in this way, Brooke’s your girl. Tell me about how you got started as a business and was there a defining ‘aha’ moment? What’s your background?
Brooke Fritz: As you know, we were raised in the restaurant and hospitality industry. But what really hit me was: I had all the skills, I knew all the ins and outs of service, but when our parents owned the speakeasy bar [which was awesome,] dad gave me the creativity to help make the craft cocktail menus, and so I built them from scratch and I found that I really loved it.
When mom and dad ended up selling the place, I had an opportunity. I could either stay with the new owners or I could branch out on my own. I kind of figured that this was my moment to sink or swim, baby! I took it and ran with it. Dad and I used to create and host mixology classes. It would be the two of us basically teaching anybody (you didn’t have to be a certified bartender,) how to make a craft cocktail from scratch. It was a three cocktail minimum. People would come in, they’d make the drinks, and they loved them! They were a hit, the classes always sold out. So, I figured I would take that course and run with it. Luckily it has worked out for me!
Blaire Brown: And now you’re your own boss! So what more could you want than that? That’s pretty awesome.
So what was your first brand partnership? Tell us a little bit about that.
Brooke Fritz: My first brand partnership was No Thyme to Cook in Solomons Island, Maryland. It’s a cooking school and I walked in there one day to inquire if they needed alcohol certification classes, because that’s another part of my business. I talked to the owner and said, “Hey, do you or your staff need alcohol certification classes?” She actually came back and said the county had just paid for it, so she didn’t need it.
Luckily, I had my business card on me! I whipped it out, because I always have it on hand, and I said, “Hey, just letting you know, I see that you have a lot of culinary things here. I teach mixology classes.” I handed her my card and she looked at me, and ended up calling me a few weeks later! And she was like, “You know what? Let’s get you on the schedule!” I made that connection with her and now we have a wine vlog that we do with our other friends, Nikki, and I teach mixology classes at her business once a month.
Blaire Brown: See look at how it all spirals just from one business connection! That’s pretty awesome.
How do you determine if a brand partnership is worth it or not? And is there, are there specific deciding factors you look at?
Brooke Fritz: Okay. So I think when you first begin, throw yourself into everything. That’s how you learn exactly how you want to move forward with your brand. So when I first branded myself, when I started Bashes by Brooke Brown, it was for event coordination and wedding coordination. It really wasn’t necessarily a bar consulting business, but I had the skills of mixology and things like that so I figured I’d put it in there as well.
Well, you know, about a year into doing it, I realized that I profit really well off consulting, and I’m good at it and I love it. I can go in and build a craft cocktail menu and people [restaurant owners and customers] come in and love it and enjoy their time. I teach people how to give good service, specific things that aren’t really taught as much these days. So I realized that through trial and error, and throwing myself in everything, I realized what I love to do, how I can make money off it, where my profit margins stood. And also, you realize what is worth picking and what is worth saying, “I don’t need that anymore because I’ve established a name for myself.” So you can get a little bit more picky once you hit quite a few clients.
Blaire Brown: How many would you say is quite a few? Is there a number [of clients], a timeline, or maybe a confidence level about your services?
Brooke Fritz: I think confidence level because I don’t want to put a number on it, everybody’s business is different. I’ve opened about seven restaurants now and I teach at multiple venues. I would say you just start to learn what’s worth your time and what’s not worth your time [through trial and error, and confidence level.] So if there’s a lower ticket item, it might not be worth your time if it’s going to take hours on end, versus another project that’s going to make a lot bigger profit margin, you might want to pick that up instead [the more profitable project]. Also, you’re going to meet clients that you pair well with, and you’re going to meet clients that have opposite ideas of how to do business. At that point, you’re allowed to be getting picky.
Blaire Brown: It’s nice whenever you get to the level of being able to choose your clients, isn’t it?
Brooke Fritz: That’s when you win! The dream.
Blaire Brown: That is when you win.
Brooke Fritz: That’s when you have hit a home run!
Blaire Brown: Exactly. It takes time, but yes, you’ll get there. Just put in the work and you will find yourself in that position one day. So, Brooke, this is something I get asked all the time.
Do you draw up a contract or a proposal whenever you go into these partnerships and how do you typically handle this piece of things? Do you have any pro tips for us?
Brooke Fritz: Yes. Okay. So obviously I’m going to go back to when you first start your business. It’s a little bit of a trial and error timeframe, right? When I got my first consulting gig for a restaurant, recipes and all, I honestly didn’t have a contract, but I knew I needed one. So that way it saves me, I’m making sure I’m getting paid, I’m not getting screwed over. I Googled it, I’m not gonna lie. I just went on Google and I looked up wedding contracts, looked up restaurant contracts, I looked up employees and I kind of meshed it together. And I thought, what skills do I have that they can pay me for? How many hours is it going to take me? So at that point, you do your first one. Your first contract is not going to be perfect. But from then on, journal everything you do and every hour you put in so that you don’t forget. By the time you get your second client, you can take that contract and edit it.
Blaire Brown: That’s a really good point that you brought up, in regards to the time being taken into thought whenever you’re building out this contract or proposal because your time is so valuable. You really do need to make sure you think about that and don’t discount yourself. If it takes you several hours, then price it accordingly. I think that’s really important to remember.
Brooke Fritz: Yeah. And I want to make a note that the longer you do what you are doing for your business, the more experience you have, the more clients you have over time, those prices can go up a little bit because your area of expertise has increased in value. So just monitor that!
Blaire Brown: Yeah! I’m going to piggyback on this for a second. As you have this increased experience and expertise, it might be quicker for you to complete these tasks, but that doesn’t mean you should charge less. People are paying for your expertise and that’s a value that you’re giving to them. So make sure you keep that in mind and don’t discount yourself because you’re like, “oh, it’s really quick for me to do that.” Yeah… But it took you several years to get to that level. So just make sure you value yourself and your time.
Brooke Fritz: Amen.
Blaire Brown: So let me find it, the next question I have written out for you..
Brooke Fritz: I’ll just have my martini then! 🙂
Blaire Brown: Perfect. So, tell me about some learning moments you’ve had when you’re partnering with other businesses. It could go either way, good or bad!
Brooke Fritz: I would be lying to you if I said everything was perfect. I’ve had some great connections. Once again, my biggest advice to all of you out there is if you are in a situation, if you’re in a bar, if you’re at a restaurant, always listen to conversations around you.
I am notorious for showing up at people’s doorsteps and saying, “Hey” to the people that work there. Not aggressively! Politely and professionally, of course. I will email businesses to try to get them to work with me if I see an opportunity– and if the email outreach doesn’t work, I have shown up at businesses’ doorsteps because it’s easy to open an email, read it, or leave it unread, and forget about it. So if they don’t necessarily follow up with me and I’m passionate about that project, and I think that I’m worth their time, I will show up and introduce myself.
That being said, being in a bar setting, listening…. you might have clients surrounding you at all times. So once again, I recommend that you always have that business card on you. You never know who you can network with, and networking is key to success. Somebody always needs your service, whatever you’re doing in your life, there’s always going to be someone around you that needs it. So make sure you keep your ears peeled at all times!
Blaire Brown: Exactly. And so many people think that networking can be a little salesy or maybe they feel awkward about it, but don’t ever feel awkward about it. Most people want the services that you have and your personality, and there’s just a lot of factors there. Make sure you really value yourself and go in confidently because you never know what it’s going to turn out to be. Because as Brooke said, she’s knocked on so many doors and it’s turned into amazing projects and long-term business relationships that’s grown her business. So that’s really important to remember. Whenever you’re building your own business, you set your own table. And as an entrepreneur, you have to go out there and make the opportunities happen for yourself sometimes. It’s not just going to fall into your lap, so you do have to put yourself out there to a certain degree.
Brooke Fritz: I think one of my best stories is when I was consulting for a business that I was hired for, and a local distillery came in. I said, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know…I make cocktail recipes. I would love to take your product and make you some recipes, just do a few, and if you’re interested and like the turnout, maybe I can do more for you in the future.” So while I was doing business, I was making a new business opportunity. They ended up coming back and gave me a few of their bottles for free. I made a few recipes for free, at no charge. They loved the product! Now I make all of their recipes for every single bottle they make, and they make 20 plus bottles.
Blaire Brown: That’s incredible. Yeah. So you really just have to seize the opportunities and put yourself out there because the worst thing that’s going to happen is they’re like, “Nahh…we’re good right now…” At least you know you tried! If you don’t try, the answer’s always going to be no. If you try, you could have a yes!
Brooke Fritz: Or if you don’t try, someone else is going to be trying instead.
Blaire Brown: So that being said, how has partnering with other businesses grown your business?
Brooke Fritz: Oh my gosh, unbelievably because I feel like every class I do, anytime I do a mixology class, I put myself in the mindset that anybody in this class might need my service. I teach them three cocktails and then I engage while they’re drinking and having a good time. I make sure I have a stack of business cards. I’m not overwhelming– I only give it to them if they ask. I’ve gotten private parties, private bartending gigs, and huge events that I probably wouldn’t have landed if I didn’t discuss my business after my class. So it’s very on point to make sure…. and we’re going to keep saying this…. To always have a business card on hand! Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers. I know that sounds a little crazy, and we were probably taught not to talk to strangers, but those are my best clients, baby! [laughs] So don’t be afraid to talk to strangers.
Blaire Brown: It’s true. You just don’t know who’s going to be there and who wants your services or products. So it’s key to always be thinking about that.
For our entrepreneurs watching and go-getters, on a scale of 1-10 in regards to partnerships, what do you think the importance level is?
Brooke Fritz: 10. 11. Up! That’s easy. I just think, on those partnerships–I know we’ve talked about this before– but there are certain events that are worth taking for free, and then there’s some that are worth being paid for. Just know the difference. I recently did a charity event that was free. But they told me, “we’re going to market your business on all platforms of social media. We are going to send your info out to 5,000+ emails via constant contact.” And I’m like, you know, that in itself is giving me an entire new diverse group of people that may need my services. That particular event was virtual, it was done in my kitchen. So I was literally at the convenience of my home, I didn’t have to go anywhere. Didn’t have to pay much other than make three cocktails. See what the value is to you and decide on that. I definitely think giving some things for charity and opportunities like that pay off in the long run– and of course, it’s also for a good cause. But hey, it pays off too!
Blaire Brown: Yeah. I mean, definitely, any exposure is going to be beneficial to you as a brand because it’s kind of like serendipity: you just never know who’s going to stumble upon your amazing business and want to hire you. Even if it’s similar to a ton of other businesses, they might really love your personality and choose you. So you just never know who’s going to be clicking on that video or tuning into your program or trying your product. You just never know.
On to our next question! Have you found any particular venture surprising in the way it worked out, good or bad?
Brooke Fritz: Good or bad? I’ll give you a harsher story just because I don’t want it to all look easy. I’ve had amazing consulting jobs and I’ve had bad ones. I’ve had ones where they love and appreciate my work and then I’ve had people test me. So I think it’s very important to stay true to yourself. Don’t ever lie about something you can’t give to someone. I luckily have never done that, but I’ve known people to lie. Don’t do it. Don’t Google a skill overnight if you don’t have it; be very honest with the person hiring you. At one point, if that relationship with that contract is toxic for you or your health, just know you’re allowed to step away. The money isn’t always worth it. So if somebody is coming at you and being rude or talking down to you or making you feel less… you work for yourself at the end of the day, so you choose where your money comes in from and if you’re going to be surrounded by such negative energy. Sometimes it’s okay to say the money isn’t worth it. I can step away from this project. There are going to be other clients that appreciate my business and you can move forward and you can leave. And that being said, if you do leave a contract, make sure to always leave on a positive note because you never know who they might know. And you just want your reputation always to be clean… clean, cut, clear. Yeah. Always leave on a good note. Don’t ever trash people.
Blaire Brown: Yeah, never. Exactly. So do you have any dos or don’ts tips for small business owners that you’d like to share in regards to partnering?
Brooke Fritz: Yeah. I mean, I think do’s would be: just always stay true to yourself. Journal everything. Take accountability for everything you do, because there might be skills that you’re not realizing you’re projecting for these clients. So that way, you know how to charge for them. Always keep an eye on your pricing. Keep an eye on market research around you. See if you need to be competitive in your pricing. Don’ts: I think when it comes to don’ts as I said, don’t lie about skills you have. That is a no-no.
Blaire Brown; They will always find out that you don’t have that skill if you embellish a little bit. Don’t embellish! Keep it real.
Brooke Fritz: Exactly. Another Do: always treat people how you want to be treated, because Karma’s real. What goes around, comes around so be nice to each other. Don’t settle for less, and don’t undersell yourself.
Blaire Brown: That’s really good advice. So what would you say your dream partnership would be?
Brooke Fritz: My dream partnership would be to work for Jon Taffer, of Bar Rescue, one hundred percent! That would be awesome. Would love to be his go-to bartender! Woo– I’d love it! Setting the goal high! Maybe one day! 🙂
Blaire Brown: Tell us what is on deck for Bashes by Brooke Brown’s future? What is on the horizon?
Brooke Fritz: Big plans! I just started working with the local community college. I’ve been working with their alumni group for a year, and now I’m working with their students. We’ve got plenty of other things on deck. I’m currently writing a cocktail book! I’m probably going to rebrand Bashes completely and make it more of a mixology menu consulting business.
But Bashes [now known as Top Shelf Mixology] is growing and I am excited about it! It is moving forward. And you know, to anyone reading or listening to this, feel free to call me anytime if you need me!
Blaire Brown: That being said, if my audience would like to connect with you, what’s the best way to contact you?
Brooke Fritz: There are so many ways you can contact me, and I am quick to respond to everyone that reaches out!
Blaire Brown: If you have any upcoming opportunities that you want to promote your services or any products that you’re launching, Brooke has really great services and has built cocktail recipes around a variety of themes her clients have requested. It’s just a really fun opportunity to look into. Let’s say you invite editors to a virtual mixology class to promote your business launch, for example. It’s a great marketing tool to think about because Brooke has an incredible business!
Brooke, I want to thank you for coming out today for talking with us, sharing your insider pro tips on brand partnerships. Honestly, she is incredible at it, impressive knocking on people’s doors, and making fabulous cocktails like this one [raises glass]. So thank you again for coming out today!
Brooke Fritz: Thank you so much for having me! On that note… [raises cocktail glass]
Brooke & Blaire: Cheers to you and your business!! Thanks for tuning in!
Cocktail: Smoked Maple Old Fashioned 🥃
Color: Blue 💙
Dream Vacation Spot: Greece 🗺
Food: Mac & Cheese 🧀
Fun Fact: She owns quails! Along with her 2 sweet dogs, Cooper & Scout.🐶
Best way to unwind: Playing with her puppies🦴
hi there, I'm blaire!
I’m an expert at marketing & entrepreneurship, and completely obsessed with helping business owners transform their dreams into booming success stories. Sometimes it just takes an extra set of hands and another person’s perspective to make the business magic happen. Contact me today and let's talk shop!