PATRICE Wilson-McHugh could not whip up a meal to save her life, but there is no denying the fact that she is an expert when it comes to running a business and preparing a top-notch cocktail.
The 29-year-old is a certified mixologist, and operates the five-year-old Bars-To-Go Group of Companies with her husband Robert. The company offers full bar, consignment services, catering services and operates a school to train bartenders.
"Let us say that you are having an event, we would come in and set up everything. So we will bring in the bartenders, the equipment, infrastructure, disposables, liquor - everything you need to have that will give you an outside bar," she explained.
With the success of Bars-To-Go, the couple then started Gourmet-To-Go in 2006 to satisfy their clients' need to have a one-stop party service supplier. So in addition to providing lunch during the week for their corporate clients, they also provide catering services for weddings, office gatherings, parties, school activities and a whole range of other social events.
"When we started out, we started out with just the bar service, but then I realised that I would have clients calling me asking me if I know anybody that does food, or rental etcetera. I realised that you have people out there who wanted a one stop shop, so we started it," Wilson-McHugh said.
Becoming a successful entrepreneur had never crossed her mind while growing up. Instead, the mixologist recalls days dreaming of becoming an air hostess on the national airline while attending Merl Grove High School.
But after finishing school, she enrolled in business college where she pursued her certification in accounting. Soon after, she started working at McDonalds and later joined the staff at Kingston Hub as an accountant.
Her job meant going to exclusive parties and gave her the chance to network with corporate executives.
But when her now five-year-old daughter Makayla was born, she knew it was time to move on.
"After the birth of my daughter, I realised that I needed to have something that was stable. I wasn't only now providing for myself, I now had a family. So I started thinking outside of the box and the direction that I was thinking was not in the direction that the company was going. They weren't thinking about the party service side, so I decided to branch out on my own. Shortly after doing so, I managed to purchase the majority of their equipment," she said.
So while her husband stayed home to take care of their daughter, Wilson-McHugh started working on drafting the business and getting it off the ground. Her networking at Kingston Hub paid off big time, as she was able to secure her clients from her previous job. She also secured and re-trained bartenders to reach the standard she wanted, and got herself certified in making cocktails.
"Prior to going into the business I didn't have any training except the training I had at Kingston Hub. The training that I realise is available in Jamaica is basic bartender training. I don't regard myself as a bartender; I regard myself as a mixologist. Bartenders are people who just mix drinks, while a mixologist is someone who creates cocktails," she explained.
"She is very outspoken and firm when it comes to running her business. Where her business is concerned, she has to be aggressive to make it work," Powell said.
Wilson-McHugh is currently a member of the United States Bartenders Guild. She is also certified to practice mixology anywhere in New York and England, and has also received her bar certification. She is currently working on becoming a master mixologist and will be doing an exam in Atlanta next month to bring her closer to this goal.
"Learning about spirits is something I love. I realised that there was more to just mixing a cocktail. Gone were the days when my time of enjoyment would be like taking up and reading a novel. If you come to my office and go to my house, all of the books are cocktail books. I just have a real passion for it," she beamed.
Although business is important, family is top priority for Wilson-McHugh.
More on Bar to Go.
FACEBOOK: Bars to Go Party Service LimitedWebsite: http://www.barstogojamaica.com/
Office:5 Central Road, Shop #2, Kingston 10
SOURCE : JAMAICA OBSEVER