Julia Tunstall

Co-Founder of A Bar Above

Julia Tunstall, Co-Founder of A Bar Above, brings more than a decade of business experience to the “dry” side of the bar tool and mixology content company. Having spent years as a consultant in IT project management, as well as in data management for a global biotech company, she and her husband Chris founded A Bar Above in 2013. What started as a resource for bartenders and mixologists grew–first into a mixology course and certification program respected widely in the bar industry, and then expanded to the company it is today. Now, A Bar Above is well known as having “the best damn bar tools” available for anyone from the professionals, to the home cocktail enthusiast, to the drink novice.

Julia runs operations and marketing for A Bar Above, where she manages manufacturing, inventory, product development, and technology. Outside of work, Julia enjoys hiking and going to the beach with Chris and their two children.

Where did the idea for A Bar Above come from?

It actually came from my husband! He was a bartender feeling frustrated about the lack of community and free education for bartenders. Once we met and married, I knew we’d be the perfect partnership to create something great.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I’m an earlybird! I usually wake up around 5, shower, get coffee, and then hustle until 11am. At 11am I have lunch with my family (including Chris and two kiddos) and then get back to work until 4pm when my day is done. I find that I am most strategic in the morning, so I try to front-load the higher level strategic work before the rest of the family wakes up. It’s just a bit harder to concentrate with the background “music” of toddler chaos!

How do you bring ideas to life?

I am a planner! For me, an idea is not actionable – a plan is. I’ll take an idea, slice it up into logical steps, meet with the appropriate people for buy-in, then get the next steps loaded into Asana and get it done!

What’s one trend that excites you?

This is specific to our space, but I love the huge trend towards non-alcoholic cocktails. Why should delicious high-end beverages have to be alcoholic? I love that we’re branching out as an industry and we can make great drink experiences available to everyone – not just those who drink!

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Starting my day with a defined personal care routine has helped tremendously. I’ve been working from home for many years now and it’s easy to roll out of bed and get to work. But taking the effort to get your body ready for your day has made a big difference in my productivity and mindset!

What advice would you give your younger self?

See above! Get up, get ready, THEN work. Nothing is more urgent than a shower.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

There is no such thing as a “bad” cocktail, a “girl” drink, etc.! If it’s safe to drink, go ahead! Everyone should feel happy and comfortable drinking what they like, whatever that is!

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

At the risk of repeating myself, probably see above once again! Making a habit of personal care.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I’m not sure this is a “strategy” but I think it fits here. We serve an audience of people. Our “mission” is “We serve the people who serve great drinks.” Once you know WHO you serve, then it’s just a matter of figuring out what they need and how you can meet that need. Start with who you serve and the rest will fall into place.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

We have had tons of failures! We’ve tried a lot of things, and we just kept trying things until we found something that worked well. I think overcoming the fear of failure is what gave us the freedom to try more crazier ideas, step outside our comfort zone and eventually find the “thing” that was the perfect product-market-fit for us.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Oh my gosh, I have so many! Here’s one… Back when I had my kids I wished a service existed to ask a bunch of 7-12 year old kids about your potential kids’ name choices and see how they’d make fun of it. Ha!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I just bought a really high-quality office chair used on Craigslist. I hadn’t been thinking about my chair at all but the new one is so much more comfortable and my neck feels better already!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

My entire brain exists in a combination of Asana and our internal gSite. Without these two I would remember nothing and get nothing done.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Absolutely love Daniel Pink’s “DRIVE.” It’s formed the basis of everything we do in terms of running a mission-focused business alongside our team.

What is your favorite quote?

Oof that’s a tough one. Maybe this one which summarizes a lot of Daniel Pink’s book:
“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.”― Daniel H. Pink

Key Learnings:

  • Figure out WHO you serve and actually care about them. The rest will fall into place!
  • Be willing to try new, crazy things. But keep track of how it goes and stop doing the stuff that doesn’t work.
  • Take care of your body first!