How did you meet?
Darren: Julian and I owned a restaurant a few years back. We hired Roxane to work for us and quickly knew she was the boss. She was managing the place in no time.
What were you looking for in your co-founder(s)?
Darren: I believe it’s important to work with people that are good at things that you are not. Julian and Roxane are good at many things I am not. You have to be able to focus on what you are good at and trust the others are doing the same. The three of us have the same just get it done/whatever it takes mentality, so we work well together.
Julian: Ditto. Also, I’d say an ability to communicate effectively is essential. An inability to communicate makes everything much harder, especially when the stakes are high and shit is hitting the fan.
Roxane: I agree, being complimentary is a huge part of choosing your partners. We are strong as a team and it helps us excel individually. I mean just look at us: a ginger from Colorado, a black English man, and a Corsican woman.
What was your inspiration behind Wandering Barman?
Darren: I would say my inspiration is the solution we can provide to the industry. Having owned bars and restaurants before, we saw the need for a quality and consistent product that was ready to come in and help right from the start.
I know first-hand how difficult it is to curate and control a beverage program. From our bar Yours Sincerely, we developed (over years of R&D) techniques and processes to create, preserve, and serve fresh quality cocktails in large format. So, why not put that into a bottle and bring it to the masses?
Roxane: Making high quality products accessible to all and pushing beyond the limitations; democratizing great, original flavors and fully dimensional cocktails. Also, enhancing the experience for more than just a small niche of people.
What were you doing before founding this company? What brought you here?
Darren: I was living in San Diego doing construction during the day and bartending in nightclubs at night. I lost my house to foreclosure and when the dust settled I escaped to NYC where my brother lived.
I came here with two bags of clothes and three bags of tools. After months of unsuccessfully looking for work, I was having a beer at a local bar near my brother’s apartment when a gentleman named Julian walked in to grab a drink.
I overheard him complaining to the bartender about how his contractor on the restaurant he was building screwed him over and left him high and dry. A friend that I was with leaned over and said, “this guy’s a contractor,” so we struck up a conversation. I was hoping to just score a bartending gig out of the whole thing. Long story even longer, I began helping build out the restaurant, eventually became a partner, and the rest is history!
Julian: I came to New York as a recruiter/head hunter transferred from a firm in London. That was in 2000. I quit that as soon as I could because working behind a desk for the man gives me a rash.
For a decade or so I went with the New York flow, soul-searching. I made some movies, joined a theatre group and traveled, all while earning my income working in the hospitality industry part-time. As soon as I hit my 30’s, I decided I needed to get serious.
I figured I was as capable at running a restaurant as any of my previous bosses. So, I opened a restaurant called Dear Bushwick with Darren. It was an English country kitchen, believe it or not. We were written up in the New York Times within the first month and then we won TimeOut’s Best New Neighborhood Restaurant. Off the back of that success, we opened Yours Sincerely, the world’s first all-draft cocktail bar. That then led to the Wandering Barman!
Roxane: I was a product manager in the fashion industry and worked on developing collections from conception to reality. I loved improving the supply chain and helping designers make their vision come to life. My true passion was finding new techniques and qualities.
I quickly realized I could apply what I had learned in production to other industries and knew I wanted to build my own brand. I grew up in the hospitality industry. I had worked in it since a young age and had always had a real interest in going back some day.
When I met Julian & Darren, who were at the time opening Yours Sincerely, it was fascinating to me. I knew this was something I could help develop into a brand. This was a real solution for the industry. I found the new technique and quality product I was passionate about.
What’s been the biggest surprise while founding your company?
Julian: It’s way easier to get up in the mornings working for yourself, then when you’re working for someone else.
Darren: How much better I’ve gotten at using a computer.
Roxane: Seeing the wins and accomplishments gets harder when you are always looking ahead.
Darren: Working and scaling up in the tiny space we are in. Our new 4600 sqft production house/ tasting room can’t come quick enough!
Julian: For me, it is shifting the status quo. We’re doing something different by changing an industry and debunking long held assumptions about craft cocktails.
Sometimes you just have to accept that not everyone is going to get it; even though to us, it’s obvious.
Roxane: Being taken seriously as a young female entrepreneur, especially while shifting the status quo in an industry with antiquated ideas.
What’s your team culture like?
Darren: We like to work hard and have a laugh while doing it.
Roxane: There is always a way.
If you could describe one another in one word, what would that be and why?
Julian: Darren is obsessive. When it comes to R&D, he’ll obsess until he figures it out. Roxane is a machine. She’s like the terminator or the energizer bunny, even when she’s sick and should be in bed recovering
Darren: Roxane is determined. She will find a way 100%. Julian is stress-free. I feel like he never stresses; he's always calm about things and doesn’t let much get to him.
Roxane: Darren is trusting. He always trusts that Julian and I will make the best possible decision for the company when it’s a department he has less experience in. Julian is a realist. He is probably the best out of all us at seeing things for what they are, despite emotions.
What is your superpower?
Julian: I don’t panic easily. I’ve faced and overcome enough obstacles in my life, especially in the entrepreneurial realm, so I know I’m/we’re going to get through this one way or another. With that perspective it’s easier to remain calm and navigate to a solution for any problem.
Darren: Sleep deprivation. Working and owning bars and restaurants makes for a lot of long and late nights. Coming home at 2, 3, 4 in the morning and having to go direct to changing diapers and consoling a crying baby only to have the sun come up and have to go right back to work can be challenging to say the least. I feel any parent is a superhero.
Roxane: Multi-tasking. Creating and managing a pioneering startup requires the ability to be everywhere at the same time. While we do our own production and I am literally bottling our cocktails, I am managing sales, pushing leads, getting our content done, scheduling our next month and ordering supplies.
What’s your kryptonite?
Julian: Any kind of pâté.
Roxane: Stinky cheese.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
Julian: I like to sing in the lab. Roxane hates it, but possibly because she’s jealous of my vocals.
Darren: I kind of need everything put back in its place before I can start working. If it’s not, it throws me off. Which is weird because I lose things myself.
Roxane: I never finish my coffee, even espressos. I’ll drink three, but never finish one.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do? What do you geek out about?
Darren: I would say I geek out most about fighting. MMA (UFC), boxing, etc. If I’m checking the news it’s usually about that. I also really love anything to do with building, woodworking and things like that. My Instagram feed is filled with craftsmanship, fighting and men's clothing.
Julian: My life is pretty much all Wandering Barman right now, so I’m a bit of a bore. I primarily like stuff that is relaxing or recharging, like documentaries, reading, the gym, and climbing.
Roxane: Food. Eating adventures, hiking, swimming and skiing are my favorite things. Although there isn't much time.
Why did you decide to raise from the crowd?
Roxane: We owe our success to our community. As pioneers, the support from our first accounts and customers was critical to our growth.
We are expanding fast and need funds to grow our team, production capability and facility. It only made sense to give a real opportunity to the community to join the brand and be part of our vision in an even bigger way!