While my expertise is in classical music and styling the performers, I’ve always been a huge fan of the “Lifestyle” section of any newspaper. What’s trending in food, fashion, and any aspect of relating to others? Well, right now, COVID19 is trending, and will continue to do so, for a while yet. In this series, posted on a Thursday, I’m speaking to people who are figuring out ways to prevail during the pandemic.
I met Vanessa Azzoli (Vazz to me) a few years ago at an IndieFest event, where we both judged competing bands. The other guy who was judging made it clear via body language that he was NOT up for socializing. I wasn’t sure if the young woman sitting on the other side of me would be friendly .. she had a cool rocker chick vibe and I assumed she’d find me dull as a classical music princess. She turned out to be very chatty and funny and open to my world. We struck up a friendship and stayed in touch since, I’m happy to say.
Vazz is the foundress of Jimmy Tony’s Cocktail Co. She designed a variety of fun syrups for cockatils, and the pandemic isn’t stopping her.
Ontario officially shut down on March 17, 2020. How was your business or career going before then? January and February were flat. I was worried. I had been confirmed in a number of markets and shows and was working hard on stock to sell at the shows. Then, in the blink of an eye, everything was cancelled and I had a ton of stock in my hands.
How has your business or career changed since March 17, 2020? I can’t believe how amazing it’s been. I’m up 400% year over year. People are home, they’re curious, they’re wanting to try new things. And cocktails are really fun. If you put a little effort into them, you can get a really great outcome.
What changes have you made to adapt to the “current normal”? I’m offering free contactless porch drop-off in Toronto and the GTA for orders over $30. I find the human element goes a long way. A lot of people that are purchasing my products have never met me in person. So, I’ve gotten some great feedback with these weekly deliveries.
What predictions are you making about your line of work for the next few months? I think this is becoming the new normal. My dollar goes a lot farther by investing in digital advertising rather than markets. I can reach more people who would be interested in my product. I won’t stop markets completely – there’s a massive advantage to participating. But I’m going to mix it up more now.
Let’s talk about how you’re doing. We’re all looking for coping mechanisms – what are yours? Is it cliche to say that I’m playing with cocktails? I’m not getting annihilated every night by any means, but I’m certainly getting more creative with my syrups. A fantastic cocktail or two in the evening calms any anxiety and helps me stay sharp and imaginative.
It’s hard to watch the news. Let’s focus on the positive … what positive thing(s) are you discovering about yourself during this time? More time has really helped me focus on growth. Growth of myself, my company, my family. I’m listening more when people talk to me, I’m finding more ways to communicate with loved ones, and I’m embracing the time to do more that I always wanted to do.
What’s your prediction for businesses or careers in general going forward? I was actually talking about this with my partner over the long weekend. I am absolutely enamoured with businesses who are embracing change and adapting. We don’t know how long this is going to last, so we can either choose to dwell on the horrible or adapt and move forward. I see companies like Evans Drum Heads now making faceshields for frontline works, and that just blows my mind. A friend of mine was working on building his own pizzeria locally in Scarborough. He was approved to open his doors the week of March 16th – the week our country was officially locked down. The timing couldn’t have been worse. So, he embraced it and dove straight into an appointment-only takeout model from Thursday to Saturday weekly – and he’s sold out every single week. There’s a way to get through this, we just have to find it.
Supposing we get the news it’s all over, and the whole world has been vaccinated. Do you predict your life will return to the way it was, or different somehow? I think I’ve changed, so my business will too. I’ve learned that the world can change overnight, so we have to too.
What advice to give others going through a hard time right now? Never get complacent – if something isn’t working, try something new. You’ll be surprised how much change can work for you.
Follow Jimmy Tony’s on Facebook and Instagram @jimmytonyscocktailco and Twitter @jtcockatilco.