Surving the Most Influential Craft Cocktails, Meet 18.21 Bitters & The James Room Founders, Missy & Kristin Koefod

f677acfcf0ca834ebc7f864bbb951a81.jpgQ: Let’s start at the beginning, share with us where life took you after high school graduation.
MK: Well I took off for a year to race mountain bikes and ski and then I moved to Atlanta!

Q: Can you share with our audience at what time in your life did think about law as a career?
MK: My dad was a lawyer, so I think ever since I saw him studying for the bar exam when I was a little kid. It always was a fanatic career choice to me.

Q: What was your first job? And how did it shape or impact you?
MK: My first job was a golf caddy. It was the job you could have as a 14 y.o. so it was the job I got! It cemented in me the concept that the harder I worked the better I did in my career. After that, I was a barista at a local coffee shop in my hometown and that started my love of the hospitality industry.  

Q: In 2014 there was a snowstorm and 18.21 Bitters was born. I know we have a lot of women in our audience, that are thinking about starting their own business … can you share your story with them?
MK:
Of course! In 2011, I was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive form of cancer. After I beat that and survived, I decided instead of just making my way through life that I would really thrive and pursue my dreams. Kristin and I were working on a business idea and the snowstorm gave us time to pursue this dream!

Q: 18.21 has done extremely well with a tremendous reach in the market. Do you have future plans you can share with us?
MK:
We do! Our full carbonated canned line is launching late this year and we just launched a Cannabis company called CNBS which will produce a line of carbonated cannabis and hemp-based beverages.

Our restaurant group also is very 18.21 centric serving 18.21 cocktails at both Drafts & Dogs and The James Room.

Q: What’s the greatest fear you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today?  
MK: Fear of failure. So many businesses fail. So many applicants don’t pass the bar exam. There are so many opportunities to not succeed the way you had imagined but I had to get over that and realize that everything in life can be turned into a learning and growth experience.

Q: Can you tell our audience one of your most memorable moments your career?
MK:
Flying up to Wisconsin for work and seeing our product behind the bar at the Hilton Garden Inn in Wasau Wisconsin! That was pretty cool!

Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
MK:
Never Quit. That’s it! Just keep on moving forward.

Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
MK:
My mother because she put up with me! No…ha-ha…in all seriousness, she is a kind and compassionate woman who is also tough and driven and to this day I still hope I grow up to be like her.

Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
MK:
I think a lot of women are not taught to ask for and aggressively go after what they want for fear of looking “pushy”. I have never really cared how I look…pushy, brash, I have heard even worse, but I would love to see more women go after exactly what they want openly and with a dogged determination.

Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
MK:
Ask for what you want. Want a raise? Ask for it. Want a promotion? Ask for it.

Five Things About Missy Koefod

1. If you could talk to one famous person past or present, who would it be and why?
This is a tough question. I think there are so many interesting people that I would be lucky to share a conversation with but I think Vivaldi because he has always been my favorite composer and I would love to play a duet with him (I am a classical violinist).

2. Who had the most influence on you growing up?
My family. I come for a very tight knit family and their love, support and encouragement got me to where I am today and shaped me into the person that I am today.

3. If you were a superhero, what would your special powers be?
Taking a nap on a plane! I cannot sleep on flights and we travel for work so much! I am always so jealous of people that can fall asleep before takeoff!

4. What app can’t you live without?
My calculator! I run our forecasting models and that is a lifesaver!

5. What place you always dreamed about visiting?
Oh wow so many places! I would love to go to Botswana and New Zealand. Those two are on my bucket list for sure.

The James Room Co-Owner, Kristin Koefod

Q: Can you share with our audience, a little history on yourself? Let’s start where life took you after high school.
KK:
I moved to DC, then Savannah, then Richmond and then Atlanta which is where my life really started. I was working in furniture sales and design, which I’m still very passionate about.

Q: When did you know your passion would be in the restaurant/lounge business?
KK:
I think having 18.21 bitters and traveling for that business made me appreciate the hospitality industry. When people are spending their money and very limited time in your establishment, whatever that establishment is, that’s special. It should be treated that way.

Q: How did you decide on the combo concept of part-café and part cocktail bar?
KK:
Honestly, that came from our travels as well. Missy and I love traveling all over Europe and we took bits and pieces from all of our travels and combined them. Parisian cafes, venetian Aperitivo bars, London library lounges ... we love them all. 

Q: Tell us about some of your popular dishes your customers come back for?
KK:
Our brunch is pretty fantastic. We have an orange blossom brioche French toast on the menu that is baked in a cast iron skillet till browned and topped with a house made raspberry coulis and fresh berries. 

Q: I see you were the architect of the drink list. How many drinks to you initially start with and how many ended up on the list?
KK:
I definitely needed to be reeled in! LOL ... I started with close to 80 cocktails and I think we have around 45 on the list right now.

Q: What's the greatest fear you've had to overcome to get where you are today?  
KK:
That people won’t take me seriously, especially with 18.21. The liquor industry is male dominated and as most industries are and it’s hard to heard because when you’re assertive and smart, you’re considered pushy or bossy.

Q: Can you tell our audience one of your most memorable moments your career
KK:
Honestly, anytime I see a bottle of our bitters or a can of our ginger beer in a bar outside of Georgia, I feel very proud. It feels like all of Missy and I’s hard work is worth it.

Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
KK:
That’s hard to narrow down to one. I think work ethic is the most important thing you can bring with you to any career. You will get nowhere without it. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, people are not mind readers, you have to ask for it.

Q: Which woman inspires you and why? 
KK:
Is it cliché to say Michelle Obama? If so, then I pick my wife, Missy. She works harder than any person I know. If it needs to be done, she figures it out. She’s brilliant and determined and an absolute pillar of strength in business and in life.

Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
KK:
Being heard without being called nasty names. Being equal. Being considered. Being respected.

Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
KK:
Don’t think because you are young or inexperienced that you deserve to be treated a certain way. Hold your head up, do your work, don’t complain and people will take notice. You have to put in the work though. 

Q: What's your advice for women in male-dominated fields?
KK:
Work hard. One thing that’s really hard about owning businesses is seeing everyone around me feel entitled to something. I couldn’t hate anything more. If you want something, work for it. Especially in a male dominated industry, you have to work even harder.

Q: Is there something else you would like to accomplish?
KK:
Absolutely! I have a bucket list that includes about 5 more businesses I’d like to start before I die.

I might even be that crazy lady that goes to med school at age 50

Five Things About Kristin Koefod

1. If you could talk to one famous person past or present, who would it be and why? 
Nelson Mandela. To me, he’s the most influential person of my generation

2. If they made a movie of your life, who’d play you?
Jennifer Beals, maybe, I don’t know

3. What simple pleasure makes you happy? 
Watching movies with my dogs 

4. Do you have a hidden talent?
Hmmm ... painting and cooking, I’m a really good cook!

5. Which city is your favorite and why? 
In the U.S., it’s a toss between Los Angeles and New Orleans. Outside the U.S. is Cannes

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