Jenny Larsen, Catered Cocktails LLC
IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Jenny Larsen, founder, Catered Cocktails LLC.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?
The most challenging is attracting a team of qualified candidates that meet the high standard of service I’ve set for Catered Cocktails, which is a mobile bar service and beverage caterer for special events. Our motto is “We’ll Mix, You Mingle.” The service industry in general is facing a staffing shortage so we're all sort of competing with each other for the right people. Each individual’s skill set, disposition, and customer interactions are particularly important in my business. These qualities reflect greatly on the reputation of Catered Cocktails, as we’re all about customer service. I place a high value on the key attributes of personality, skill, attitude, and professional image.
The most rewarding is when my team and I help pull off a well-orchestrated event, sometimes with very little lead time. I’ve contracted directly with local food caterers and event venues to assist with the bar service needs of their clients. They come to me requesting licensed and insured professionals to serve their customers and I coordinate with them to provide expert hospitality. I also work one on one with large and small businesses, nonprofits, brides/grooms, and other hosts for their special event. We do everything from grand opening parties, business open houses, client/customer appreciation receptions, holiday parties, fundraisers, and more. Consultation services are a big part of what I offer, as well, because planning a party can be very overwhelming. It feels very satisfying when I receive a heartfelt thank you from a client who benefited from my planning and catering assistance or a guest who compliments us on knowledgeable, attentive service.
Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?
One person I have always admired is Oprah Winfrey. She’s had to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles — sexism, racism, poverty, abuse, and trauma — yet despite those setbacks she developed high aspirations for herself at an early age. She’s built a media empire and amassed tremendous wealth and success along the way. Oprah is also a champion of women, girls, and a big supporter of education. Her journey is really quite remarkable and I’m amazed at what she’s been able to accomplish. As a woman, I see her as a shining example of what’s possible in America.
What has been the high point of your career so far?
Being able to staff and manage three simultaneous events occurring at different locations during a recent busy season. When your business is in demand and parties run smoothly, it is a very exciting feeling and I enjoy the faith that people put in us to get it right. Early this fall, Catered Cocktails was hired by a large insurance company for its very first in-house function involving alcohol. Their prior events had always been off site to limit risk exposure. My bartenders are certified, licensed, and trained in responsible alcohol service and Catered Cocktails is further insured for liquor liability. I was honored that we were selected to both cater and staff this inaugural reception.
Another local company contracted with us recently for its holiday-themed open house-style party at its new downtown office space. I work with many businesses that want to have their event on site, which affords them the freedom in hiring vendors of their choosing.
Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
That you don’t need to follow the traditional corporate career grind to be successful. Realize also that everything evolves over the years, including you as a person, the industry, the business/economic climate, etc. These shifts may create unique business opportunities by capitalizing on various marketplace needs. It never occurred to me when I was in college that being an entrepreneur was in my future, or even an option.
What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?
There is a very supportive and progressive entrepreneurial culture here. Madison in particular offers many opportunities to connect with other business owners or participate in mentoring programs. We are fortunate to be part of a vibrant, diverse community with an abundance of activities, events, and locally owned businesses.
Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?
I have a background in graphic design and communications, so I’ve done all the design work and copywriting for my business. I created my own logo, business cards, website copy and layout, as well as other promotional pieces. I also enjoy using photo-editing software to enhance photos for social media and web.
What are your guilty pleasures?
I am a serious foodie and I have a sweet tooth. One of the awesome perks of working in event services is all the delicious (and complimentary!) food we get to enjoy at our hired events. I’ve met so many amazing, talented caterers and have been fortunate to partake in some pretty spectacular meals. More than once I’ve been offered several days’ worth of food from caterers or clients eager to unload their abundant leftovers. I’m not so big into cooking, so this is a fantastic benefit I really appreciate!
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