In 2011, two sisters, Amy Lorber and Erin Ackley, armed with a passion for slow-cooked jam, handcrafted cocktails, organic ingredients and a fascination of the Prohibition Era, launched their food startup Bathtub Gin in Nashville, TN.
Their love for jam began when the sisters were young. They grew up making preserves with their mother using fresh ingredients from their family garden. Amy and Erin wanted to carry on the jam making tradition, but with their own twist. Now, their jam creations have evolved into locally sourced, cocktail-themed creations. They combined their love of the Prohibition era into jams by using fruit in the same way that speakeasies did—by mixing it with its perfect match in a spirit or liqueur to enhance the flavors.
Be sure to check out Bathtub Gin's Local Food Lab portfolio.
What shocked you most about the food startup process?
How many licenses and taxes and permits we had to have from so many different agencies. It was tough to navigate and we found there wasn’t one comprehensive resource for all the required pieces.
What did you learn from your customers that surprised you?
How creative our customers are! We have really enjoyed hearing their ideas for different recipes using Bathtub Gin. We are lucky to have some true cocktail aficionados! We have also gotten to hear some very interesting stories about our customers’ ties to Prohibition—one of our customers owns a barn that used to operate as a speakeasy!
What individuals did you lean on the most when growing from idea stage to pilot stage?
We are sisters and were able to make the big decisions together thanks to our similar visions for the business. We found our fellow food purveyors at local markets and festivals to be invaluable. We were warmly welcomed to the local food scene and people were very willing to share their experiences and words of wisdom. Kathleen Cotter from the Bloomy Rind Cheese Shop was especially helpful to us and went out of her way to promote our products and encourage us to grow.
What are your future plans for Bathtub Gin?
We want to continue to create new flavors as we meet more local organic farmers and gain access to different fruits. We are working on ways to make our business more eco-friendly and source all of our materials from sustainable farms or business purveyors. We also have made a foray into cocktail syrups based on our jam flavors. We are always looking to explain our Prohibition era knowledge base!
What advice do you have for food entrepreneurs who are just getting started?
Take the time to investigate all the legal requirements before you dive in. (They may seem daunting but it can definitely be done.) Stick to your guns on your product quality. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and tell people you are new to the business, you may be surprised to find that most people will understand and want to help. Most of all, you need to LOVE what you do because the food business can be stressful and will take determination to survive (and hopefully thrive!)