We had the good fortune of connecting with Julia Tunstall and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Julia, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
For as long as I can remember, I always had a side project. Ever since College I had some other project or company “on the side”. When I inevitably started my own business (alongside my husband), it started as a side project too, then became our full time work. Unfortunately, the work filled my “day” job and my “side” job time as well, and I quickly fell into the trap of endless work! As a young company, I’ll admit the “hustle” was sometimes required, but it was anything but balanced. At the time it didn’t really bother me – it was a price we were willing to pay to launch our life’s work!
Two key moments changed that mindset completely.
The first was when we had our first son (and even more so when we had our second). There is no such thing as a 16 hour work day with a baby in the house! Suddenly I HAD to work efficiently, and I WANTED to, too. My priorities changed, but I was still trying to fit work into every last second I could – filling the “cracks” of my day with quick emails, phone calls, etc.
The second key moment was when we started to grow our team. By now we’d been parents for a few years and we realized that we were burned out and unhappy. Hiring a team was supposed to help us grow and regain balance – but what kind of leaders would we be if we pushed our burnout onto our team?
We instituted a 30 hour work week before hiring our first full time employee, and still stick to it today for our whole company. Not only does this help us recruit great people, but it prevents burnout and I genuinely think it helps our people do their best work! It also forces us, as leaders, to think hard about priorities and staffing decisions too.
Don’t get me wrong – I definitely don’t have “balance” figured out! But I do think we’ve come a long way and I’m proud of the balance we’ve created for our team. Now my goal is to get my own week down to 30 hours too!
What should our readers know about your business?
Way back in 2005, my now-cofounder (and husband) Chris Tunstall was working as a bartender in northern California and dreamed of learning advanced mixology techniques that he saw in high end bars. But he really struggled with finding training and mentorship. He had an idea for an online training website to support new bartenders and teach Mixology and registered the website abarabove.com.
Fast forward to 2013: now Chris had more than a decade of bar, mixology and management experience, and he had married me! We decided it was time to create the company he’d dreamed of. That year Chris cleared out our dining room and built a full size bar and filming studio and I dove in to learning to code websites. In June we launched our first video on YouTube.
We were a blog and training company for several years. We started on YouTube but quickly expanded to a blog and podcast. And over the years we kept getting emails and messages from our audience asking us what barware we recommended. The short answer? None of them! Chris was frustrated at the poor quality equipment available on the market and wasn’t thrilled to recommend any of it.
In 2016 we finally took a hint and decided to launch our own premium line of barware. We started with a cocktail shaker that sold out in just 45 days – and we knew we were on to something! The rest – as they say – is history! The barware sales have allowed us to further support our mission of supporting the bartender and home cocktail community.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We are relatively new to the area so we have a lot to learn about the best local spots! Here are our favorite craft cocktail spots that we’ve found so far:
Great bar programs in North County: Jeune et Jolie, Campfire, Frankies
Great shop for glassware & bar tools: Collins & Coupe
Our favorite cocktail spots in downtown SD: Craft & Commerce, Raised by Wolves
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to my parents! From a young age they showed me what it meant to create a company from the ground up, and they’ve been our sounding board since the beginning.