25 Oct My #realfreelancelife True Story: LaToya Jackson
“When you live a life where your days are so long, you have to have something positive coming into you. You have to keep filling yourself up.”
The first time I met LaToya was…well on Instagram! I think one of the first things she ever said to me was “I’m LaToya Jackson…not that one,” haha. She joined MANMAN Studio’s very first “official” S O C I A L where we featured only black-owned businesses. I fell in love with her immediately (and her whole crew at Toast to the Good Life Bartending). Down-to-earth, easy-to-laugh and perfectly mixed drinks, so good you have to remind yourself there’s alcohol in them! It was the start of something big for both of us and the beginning of a friendship I highly value! Read on to find out why you also need to get to know this badass businesswoman on the rise!
Mandy: Hey girrrrl! Even tho I already know, ha…tell us all how you got started in bartending…
LaToya: We had a family friend who owned a bar, so I got my start bartending there in college. I also worked for my aunt, who is an event planner and had a lounge on Tuesdays. I worked ALL the time and took classes on bartending and stuff, all while going to school.
M: Oh, I don’t think I did know all that…no wonder you’re so good at making drinks! You started so young!
L: I’ve been doing it for a while, ha! About 5 years ago, I was working a wedding—I’ll never forget it—and people kept coming up to me and asking for my business card. I was like, “If you need me, you can get in contact with my aunt.” And they said, “No, we just want your business card. Like for bartending.” I didn’t really understand, I thought they had to hire the event planner first and I had to work under them. But I gave them my contact information.
After the event, I started doing my research and I found out there’s this whole world of mobile bar. I just did research on it for a while because there are so many ways you can get involved and I had to figure out what was right for me. Did I need a vehicle? What drinks do I want to make? Do I just get a portable bar? Where do I even start?
M: Oh wow! I had no idea there were so many options!
L: Yes! So I decided to get a portable bar, and I started practicing drinks before getting any clients or even reaching out to anyone. And taking pictures of my drinks.
M: Do you make up your own drink recipes?
L: Yes, I make my own. I also do research on drinks that are already out there and then put my own little spin on them. I also started making simple syrups and learning about bitters, and just testing them out on my own.
Everywhere I went, I had a bag with some bar equipment in it, and I would make drinks for people so we could do tastings. I wanted them to tell me what worked, what didn’t. I would take nice pictures and try and figure it out. I was new to social media, so I was trying to learn that too.
There was a girl I met an event, her Instagram is @cincy.cocoabloggers, and she helped me get on social media. And I just kept meeting more and more people—entrepreneurs, influencers, bloggers—at different events, and everyone was so encouraging, I felt like I could really do this.
M: That’s awesome! I love that too about the small biz world. We all support each other!
L: It wasn’t long after I launched my business that Covid hit. That’s when we first started doing live videos on Instagram. And then I saw a post you made about the S O C I A L with all the black-owned businesses, and I reached out.
M: And I’m so glad you did! Now we’ve done a few S O C I A L S together, I love anytime you join us!
L: I was so nervous at the first event because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t want the drinks to run out. I wanted everyone to be happy.
M: Oh, everyone was def happy! You guys were amazing!
L: And I also signed up to model at that one. It was just so much fun! It was like a whole other world for me again. Like what is this? How do I do this? And then it just clicked. Like a genuine click, like “Oh, this works, ok!”
We continued doing our videos, we did a couple more S O C I A L S, and then I connected with a gentleman who actually has a space downtown. I was looking for a place to do some live videos with Poti9n, so I asked him about the space, and it ended up turning into a whole event—The Poti9n Experience.
M: I saw that on your Instagram! It looked super cool.
L: It was a big hit! It was a 2-week event…from Thursday through Sunday, we basically staffed the bar and gave everyone samples and stuff. People had to sign up on Eventbrite because of Covid, and when they came in, there were different activities, like making a lava lamp. We had the bar set up like a lab and we wore lab coats, the drinks were in test tubes. So much fun!
M: Wow, that does sound so fun and the photos were amazing. You also just went through the Mortar program, right?
L: Yes, it took me a year to get into it…but it’s been soooooo beneficial for me to go through that. They give you a mentor from the Score program, and my mentor (shoutout to Kim!) had to be ordained by God. When I first met her, she said, “I am the kind of person that when it’s time to handle business, it’s boom, boom, boom. Someone hand me a list, this is what we’re going to do.” And I was like, “Oh, I like you. Ok, let’s go!”
She’s even able to talk to me about personal stuff. As we continued our relationship, we would get to a point where I would say to her, “I don’t know if this is for me,” and she was like, “Let me tell you, the dishes can sit. The laundry can wait. You’re not going to get everything done. And just from working with you, I can tell that you’re a little bit of a perfectionist, so you need to relax.” And that was just what I needed to hear.
M: Oh man, sounds like she was a God-send. Ok, so switching gears a little…what have you found to be the most challenging about owning your own business?
L: I think it’s the time. People want to go out to dinner and stuff, and it’s not that I won’t do it, but it is harder to pull away from that time because I’m on a mission to do certain things and put pieces together. I’m in the infancy stage right now.
Another big learning for me has been about trusting my instincts and not budging on what I know is needed.
M: What has been most rewarding about your job or owning your own business?
L: One is that I can be as creative as I want to be and I can pivot as much as I want. So, if I go down one direction, I can stick to it as much as I want to stick to that. If I ever get to a point where I think maybe that’s not the best direction, I can pivot and go here.
The other part is I’ve built genuine relationships with people and being able to bring happiness and joy to people is just wonderful!
M: I love that about owning my own biz too and about connecting with people on Instagram—all the people that you wouldn’t have met otherwise. I would never have known half the people that I meet at S O C I A L S and now a lot of them, like you, are great friends!
L: Yes, I love getting to meet new people! I’m crazy collaborative, I don’t want to be in competition with anyone, even other mobile bartenders. Everyone has something different that they bring to the table and if I have someone reach out for an event that I can’t do, why would I just say I can’t do that? Why wouldn’t I say, “I can’t do that, but here are some contacts,” or “Let me reach out to some contacts for you.”
M: Love that! I’m exactly the same way! Ok…tell me, what does a typical day look like for you?
L: If it’s a good day, I’m at the gym at 6am. I may go to the store and get something we need for the house and then I shower and get ready and then go to work at my full-time job. I work from home, and I usually work from like 7-7:30 am – 6:30-7:30 pm.
It’s long hours. After that I might take a quick break and put something in for dinner. I try to do my prep on Sunday for the week for dinner, so I can just pull it out and cook and warm it up. After dinner, I’m doing Taste of the Good Life stuff, emails, social media. I try to make myself be done by 12:30 – 1am so I can get a few hours of sleep in. If I stay up too long, then that’s when I miss the gym.
I’m also still working with my mentor, so I’m working on my mission and stuff. After Mortar, you still have a membership. And even aside from the mentorship, I think I’ll forever be talking to my mentor. We just have such a great relationship.
M: Sounds like a very full day! What are some things you are passionate about outside of work right now?
L: Food! Lol. Food and family. I don’t like to cook. People like to ask me if I like to cook. But no. I cook enough to keep my family fed, but if I could go out to eat at the best restaurants every day, I would. I’m super excited about food.
I also like reading and listening to motivational stuff. I listen to a lot of that, like I was just listening to Zig Zigler earlier. I listen to Hip Hop Preacher, Queen Afua. I listen to a lot of people. When you live a life where your days are so long, you have to have something positive coming into you. You have to keep filling yourself up. Something uplifting is always blasting – something is always on the TV in the living room that is positive.
M: Just answer with the first thing that comes to mind. What is your favorite song right now?
L: “Essence” by WizKid. I love it.
M: What’s your favorite TV show? Do you even watch TV?
L: This is going to sound horrible, but if I do watch something, it might be like Facebook TV just to browse.
M: What’s your favorite emoji?
L: I use the heart a lot.
M: What’s your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to?
L: Jamaica is my favorite that we have traveled to. And I want to go to Aruba.
M: What would you say is your worst habit?
L: Uh, my phone. I’m working a lot and I call it research. Social media research.
M: Ha! What is your best quality?
L: I would say my openness, my approachability.
M: I agree! You are amazing, my friend. So glad to talk to you today and always. Thanks for sharing your story with us!
To learn more about LaToya and follow her journey, check out:
- Instagram: @toasttothegoodlife_bartending
And watch @socialsbymanman on Instagram for a giveaway from LaToya! You could win a free cocktail-mixing session for 2 people…in person or virtual!
Photography by @manmanstudios, @bree_business_design