Adrienne Walker always had a love for entertaining her girlfriends and making great cocktails. But when she started to get serious about turning her passion into a business, Blue Henry Spirits, she was forced to make a hard decision. “I quit my full-time job at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in August of 2017 because ethically I could not work simultaneously for the FDA, an organization responsible for regulating food production facilities, and at the same time own and operate such a facility,” said Walker.
Now, Walker juggles the full time demands of being a wife and mom, while running her beverage brand from her very own manufacturing facility in Maryland. While producing all-natural, handcrafted candied fruit and syrups, Blue Henry Spirits takes the guesswork out of how to craft the perfect drink while making cocktails a fun social experience.
Credit: Blue Henry Spirits
BE: Tell us about your process for producing your syrups and making your business unique.
When blending multiple ingredients, it can be hard for the average person to consistently make quality rounds of cocktails. So I came up with Divvys. I could infuse multiple subtle but elevating ingredients into the cotton candy and it dissolves immediately when it comes in contact with a base liquor. Plus, it’s just plain fun. The smiles I get when people use this product in a cocktail, mocktail, or just on its own continue to inspire me.
We are elevating cocktails but also keeping things fun and easy. That’s difficult to do and difficult to convince people, that yes, it’s really that easy, yes, the ingredients are simple and natural, and yes its fun too—everything in life does not need to be pretentious and serious.
We believe our concept resonates with people ages 21-45. Folks who like to entertain and like to be entertained.
Because I was a former FDA, employee, I believe in its mission and strengthened my beliefs about natural foods while there. I’m also a mom responsible for what my children ingest. So from the beginning, I have wanted this operation to be clean, natural, responsible, and accountable to my local community, and sustainable.
BE: When did you know you could survive financially off of your business without the comfort of a paycheck from your employer?
Given the hard decision I had to make, this had to be well-planned in advance. My husband and I had to increase savings, pay down bills, reduce expenses all so that I could afford the leap. We had a plan on how much I would be able to draw down from savings monthly until the business could be viable to sustain itself. Regularly we review those assumptions.
I spent the next few months in ideation, product testing, and conducting industry research. I also completed a mixology certification. Got certified in food production facility management in September, procured the production facility in October and made our first sale online in December.
BE: What’s your first three pieces of advice for someone trying to transition from employee to entrepreneur?
- Do it for the love—not the money—the money does not come immediately. So the love of the work has to carry you through.
- Everyone says they want to help you succeed but you are your brand so no one is ever going to have more dedication and pride for you than you
- Only hire people for their proven talent—not for any other reason
BE: What self-limiting belief did you have to change to become an entrepreneur?
My ability to adapt and learn new things. I was an expert in my craft in the federal government and it took me years to get there and gain that reputation. I was very afraid of taking the leap into this vastly different industry and rebuilding that in the craft cocktail industry. But I’m using the same steps to get there, and I now know it will happen.
Considering it’s summer season, share some recipes for cocktails or mocktails, which highlight your syrups and candied fruit?
With our Rich Simple Syrup:
Fill glass with crushed ice
In a shaker filled with ice add
2 oz. Honey flavored Whiskey
1 oz. Cranberry juice
squirt BlueHenry Lime Rich Simple Syrup
a couple of mint leaves
Strain over prepared glasses, top with tonic water
With our Cotton Candy, Rich Simple Syrup & Candied Fruit:
First, rim glass with lime sugar