Without a background in business, but a love and passion for retail and cocktails, Kristen Voisey St. John’s, Newfoundland native, opened her first store in Toronto in 2011 and has since been dubbed Toronto’s “Cocktail Queen” . She is the founder and owner of Cocktail Emporium that currently has two stores with a new location opening early 2020 in Union Station, and international e-commerce site cocktailemporium.com. Cocktail Emporium is a specialty cocktail store that sells everything to do with imbibing (minus the booze). Kristen is regarded by the hospitality industry as an innovator and industry leader, she has travelled the world visiting distilleries, wineries, breweries, and cocktail bars.
My first job ever was… When I was 18 I ran the ticket booth for a whale watching tour in Newfoundland.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to be creative on my own terms and build something I could be proud of led me to start Cocktail Emporium (I opened my first store in Toronto in 2011). Plus my love of well made, chic-looking cocktails, of course. I started the Potion House line because I wanted to design and curate a collection of beautiful products that people would love as much as I did. Making your passion a career is the dream, right?!
My proudest accomplishment is… Having stores that people love being in. I feel so proud when I tell someone what I do and they say “Oh I love that store!”
My boldest move to date was… Starting Potion House – my own line of bar tools and glassware. That was a big investment and a leap of faith. I went to China and met with the manufacturers — that was a wild experience. Now Potion House has over 150 products in the catalogue, and we have customers from all over the world.
I surprise people when I tell them… I’ve never worked behind the bar.
My best advice to people starting out in business is…You don’t need to know everything…you will be forced to figure it out! Better to make mistakes and learn from them, rather than not doing something because you don’t think you know enough. I knew nothing about operating a retail business when I opened my first store but I figured things out along the way.
I would tell my 20-year old self… Don’t be so hard on yourself. I would also tell my 30-year-old self, and my soon to be 40-year-old self, the same thing!
“Better to make mistakes and learn from them, rather than not doing something because you don’t think you know enough.”
The best thing about being an entrepreneur is… Being able to employ a group of smart, hardworking people, and getting to work and grow my business with them. We are all learning together which has been both fun and rewarding.
If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… Work on my future hotel business plan….or become an adobe illustrator/photoshop master.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… One day I want to open a hotel, where I can my love for interior design and hospitality. The in-room minibars will be incredible.
The one thing I wish I knew when starting Cocktail Emporium is… Logistics (the shipping kind)
I stay inspired by… Travelling! I find it so inspiring to visit small independent bars, hotels and stores around the world – there are so many gems out there. My stores would not be half as successful as they are without my travels and the inspiration from these experiences.
The future excites me because… Now that I have already created something from scratch (and something that is successful), I know that I can do it again – with whatever I decide to do. And with 8 years of business knowledge under my belt, so I will be much better equipped for future ventures.
My next step is… Continue growing the Cocktail Emporium and Potion House brands. The third location is opening in Toronto’s Union Station in early 2020, so that will be a huge and exciting step for the Cocktail Emporium expansion.