How April Wachtel Mixed the Right Ingredients to Create a New Business
April has been working in the hospitality and restaurant industry since she was thirteen years old. She fell in love with food and beverage because she saw it as a way for people to connect, and she was fascinated that every culture has meaningful traditions around food and beverage.
When April transitioned her career into being a cocktail instructor, she found cocktail-making to run much deeper than just making a drink. Her students came to these classes because they saw mixology as an extension of their hospitality and personalities. She loved that she could help people become better hosts, but she also saw that people could be overwhelmed by the complexity of the cocktail-making experience.
HER FIRST COMPANY
Originally, April created a company called Swig + Swallow. She knew she wanted to do something on her own, and she jumped into the experience. As a new business she had limited financing options, and she heard about Ascendus from friends who won the Brewing the American Dream pitch contest – a collaborative event with Sam Adams and Ascendus. Her Ascendus loan enabled her to purchase equipment and raw materials and produce in a commercial kitchen.
Swig + Swallow was a line of fully mixed refrigerated mixers for Margaritas, Moscow Mules, and other drinks. However, April soon realized that this wasn’t the product people needed. She realized that although people wanted simple cocktails in the home, they wanted to mix them to their liking, adjusting the levels of citrus and sweet to their personal tastes.
LEARNING FROM HER EXPERIENCES
With this insight, April decided to rebrand to Cheeky and created a line of shelf-stable, bar quality syrups and juices that people could mix easily at home. She was planning on a summer 2020 launch, but when the pandemic hit, she knew that there would never be a better time. She wanted her product to be a spark of joy and to help people connect. The early days of the pandemic showed that people needed to feel connected whether in person or in virtual parties and happy hours.
At this point April needed additional working capital to grow the business, and she applied for another loan from Ascendus and received $12,000 to help purchase raw materials, build inventory, and grow to meet demand.
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
From founding a business, rebranding, and relaunching an entirely new product, April says she learned that the future is bright. She says that she would never regret her first experience because it taught her everything she needed to know about running a business today, and it helped her forge lifelong friendships with other entrepreneurs and allies across the food & beverage landscape. She has big goals for Cheeky and plans to grow rapidly over the next several years.
April’s work doesn’t stop with Cheeky. She hosts a podcast called “Movers and Shakers” where she interviews luminaries in the beverage world. She is also a mentor at the Enthuse Foundation, an organization that focuses on understanding the problems facing female and minority entrepreneurs. Through every aspect of her work, she hopes to empower, support, and inspire others to follow their dreams.
To learn more about April, visit https://www.cheekycocktails.co/