We had the good fortune of connecting with Emily Tan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Emily, what matters most to you?
AUTHENTICITY. To me, this means that every action that I make for myself and/or my business is congruent with who I am and what I want to accomplish. I really don’t think it matters what you decide to do in life, as long as you have your passion and integrity backing you up. I started my business a year ago, and I definitely had a lot of people telling me how I should run it and what I should do to be “successful, so I constantly checked in with myself along the way to see if I was being congruent and building it with authenticity. My goal for my business was to create a flexible and approachable bartending service built on the values of connection and inclusivity, so from the bartenders I decide to hire to the way I market my business and interact with clients, it intentionally aligns with my original mission. After a few months in, the feedback we received from clients also matched that, and that was even further encouragement that I was living my truth through my business. Authenticity matters most to me because it makes everything I do a reflection of myself, so at the end of the day, I am incredibly proud because my business is an extension of my values!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Bar Kept is a local bartending service that enhances any party through bringing a professional bar experience straight to your home, business, or event! All of our bartenders work professionally in local bars and nightclubs in the city of San Diego, and they bring that neighborhood bar feel (along with their sparkling personalities) right to your birthday, wedding, etc. As a sober bartender, this industry has always been about something more than the partying and nightlife for me. I love bartending because it fosters connection and there is so much humanity in making people feel heard and valued whenever I step behind a bar. I went to many weddings/events where the bartender just kept their heads down and pumped out drinks, and it definitely inspired my idea to open Bar Kept because I saw a need for personable bartenders. The bartender is one of the few people at an event that is likely to have an interaction with every single person there, and that is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly! If a bartender is friendly and kind and actually makes an effort to connect with you and your guests, it can change the whole vibe of a party and make people more comfortable. THAT is why Bar Kept is here, to not just pour good drinks, but to enhance the sense of community at an event. As with any new business, we definitely experienced our hurdles figuring out how we were going to organize everything and make it make sense financially. I honestly think I tried too hard at the beginning to make it perfect. I had every single thing for each bar package laid out and organized, but I soon realized that did not really fit what we are about. If we are a bartending service all about the people, we need to leave the room for them to use their voice! Now, we stay super flexible and just figure out what the client needs, whether that is a super fancy party with craft cocktails or a laid back backyard banger that we just show up to with our bottle openers, we just listen and adjust accordingly. The biggest lesson I have learned in opening this small business is to always remind myself of the “why”? At the beginning, I was so caught up in finances and perfect marketing, but once I released the idea of trying to fit a perfect image of a bartending service and just took the time to listen to what people wanted, we flourished. I think it is also super important to have people working for you that share the same vision. My lead bartender, Josette, is someone that always takes the time to really talk to people and understand their needs as a bartender, so I 100% trust her to represent my business and our values every time she steps into an event. As a small business owner, she has been the most incredible asset! Once Bar Kept got its groove going, we were completely debt free in a few months, and we were booked almost every weekend for the summer wedding season until Corona Virus came and shut us down for a bit. We definitely have been trying to stay creative and inspired throughout our down time though. We started a cocktail blog called Tending Natural where we test original recipes and practice our drink photography, and it is also a pilot for another potential bartending service we were thinking about bringing to life when our industry opens back up again revolving around health conscious cocktails and using sustainable, natural ingredients. I have learned so much about myself and life through taking the leap and opening my first business, and it really just reinforced the idea that success comes with authenticity and offering something that you are proud of and represents you!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Such a hard question, San Diego is a dream! My definite can’t miss spots though: Meraki Cafe in University Heights for quiet coffee time and açaí bowls, exploring the Japanese Friendship Garden at Balboa Park, catching the colorful sunset at Sunset Cliffs, driving down to Adams and 30th for dinner at Nood Bar, gelato at An’s Dry Cleaning, and drinks/dancing at Air Conditioned Lounge!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am definitely a reflection of the people around me, and I have had THE most amazing people around me the last few years. My mentor and boss at The Air Conditioned Lounge, Gary, took me in to his bar as a shy 21 year old and helped me come in to my own as a confident leader and fresh entrepreneur, and he and the staff there have absolutely changed the course of my life (and make me laugh every day)! Bar Kept’s lead bartender, Josette, made my small business happen, and I am constantly inspired by her creative energy and grateful for her friendship through it all. My boyfriend, Domonic, for being the most graceful, perceptive, patient, and supportive partner, and always reminding me to slow down and enjoy the quiet moments in life too! My parents, for being the most selfless and hardest working humans I know, and I will always strive to emulate the quiet confidence, compassion, and work ethic they instilled in me. Lastly, Crash, Madison, Elley, and Emily, for being friends that truly inspire me with their confidence, individuality, and authenticity in their passions!
Instagram: @barkept @tendingnatural
ET Photos Carina Fleckner Photography