What goes into making a great product line? If it were a drink recipe, perhaps the formula would read something like, “Add attention to detail, intimate knowledge of a market’s needs, and just a dash of the proprietor’s personality to taste. Mix well.”
According to the product’s website, Perfectly Cordial is a premium craft mixer “made from a variety of fresh squeezed juices, a unique global spice blend, and pure cane sugar.”
Owner of Perfectly Cordial Rhonda Cammon is both a full-time registered nurse and an experienced hospitality professional. Rhonda’s website states, “Rhonda has worked with a number of brands like Diageo, Style Blueprint, Tito’s Vodka, Pepsi, Patron, Minerva Cocktail Bar, Skrewball Whiskey, Business Insider and Thirsty Magazine to name a few.”
Originally from Miami, she moved to Nashville to start a family. She explains to Launch Engine that both Perfectly Cordial and her work as a nurse are two full jobs, with the latter being so much more than just a vehicle to make extra money.
“I put too much work into it to be called a side hustle,” she says. “It’s almost like calling Perfectly Cordial juice! Nope! I don’t sell juice!!”
Rhonda considers herself “the queen of multitasking,” stating that a combination of prayer, muscling through moments of discombobulation, and an ever-vigilant eye for moments of free time get her through her extra-busy schedule. She confesses that she waited until her two sons were older to start the Perfectly Cordial business, which has allowed her to dedicate the time and energy the business needed.
Rhonda’s move to Nashville in 2000 came at a time in which she says “the cocktail culture was lacking.”
“I’m a big advocate of ‘When you know better, you do better,’ so I tried to turn that into ‘When you know better, you drink better,’” she says. In 2015, she created the company Barseat, which was a combination of education, consulting, and sundry hospitality services. Rhonda’s business plan was to educate consumers about the beauty and intricacies of each kind of beverage, including the spirits themselves used to make alcoholic drinks. “Nashville has always been a bourbon/whiskey city,” she explains, “and there really was not a lot of outside spirits at the time.”
The guiding principles of Barseat seem to touch everything Rhonda does, as she still offers events such as Bourbon Tasting and Classes, Tequila Tastings and Classes, Cocktail Consulting and Curation, as well as services related to product development and consulting, and her knowledge as an experimental bartending expert.
Rhonda wanted to create her own line of drink mixes that gave those enjoying a cocktail in Music City new flavors not available anywhere else. Rhonda sought to make fresh fruit non-alcoholic mixers with layered flavors from warm global spices and proprietary herbal blends crafted for “the best cocktail or mocktail that you’ve ever had.” And thus, Perfectly Cordial was born.
Concoctions like Pear and Rose with Pink Peppercorn Simple Syrup, Caramelized Pineapple and Coconut Water, and Basil Lemonaid—whose proceeds in the pandemic went to benefit healthcare workers and first responders battling COVID-19—are purchased by online consumers so that they can play bartender at home. Primarily available through e-commerce to private individuals, Perfectly Cordial’s line is also sold to select wholesale accounts, so that it can be used to make in-house drinks for certain dining spots.
Rhonda explains how the mixes have been received, saying, “Nashville has been great in welcoming Perfectly Cordial, and [consumers have] really been champions of the brand. So, right now, I’m really focusing on increasing that here in Nashville, and also other major markets like New York, Chicago, California, and Texas.”
Rhonda is a big advocate for other small businesses, and tries to collaborate with different businesses when she can. During COVID, Rhonda did this virtually via partnerships with Postmates or Salesforce, doing “Perfectly Cordial Virtual Happy Hours” events. She’s also done some charitable work for a charter school network, which entailed remote team-building events that teach workers how to make some of her signature drink recipes.
“It’s been a blessing,” she says. “Of course, the word for 2020 was ‘pivot,’ and I’ve been lucky and fortunate enough as a small brand that I was able to pivot… That I had everything set in place to make that transition quickly and smoothly.”
For 2021, the word for Rhonda is “growth.” “This is the year for Perfectly Cordial to grow,” she says. “Perfectly Cordial needs to become the leading brand in the Southeast. That’s how far we need to grow, and that is the plan.” Through the pandemic, Rhonda has stayed busy with creating different brand partnerships, which gave her the idea of “social pop-up” events. One such event was offered in partnership with coffee, cocktail, and CBD retailer Anzie Blue and included products made by veteran pastry chef and proprietor of Saturated Ice Cream Lokelani Alabanza. These events were well-received by attendees since they were so intimate. Their success has sparked additional interest from other local vendors with whom Rhonda plans on working in the near future.
Rhonda’s mixology skills aren’t her only sales trick. She tells Launch Engine that being fearless and authentic has been rewarded time and again. The joy she derives in selling the Perfectly Cordial line and making mixed drinks with her brand is easily seen. She explains that that’s what resonates with consumers who make an in-person purchase.
“The Rhonda that you see is the Rhonda that you get,” she explains. “And maybe it’s because I also have 21 years in healthcare… that I’ve seen people at their greatest, and I’ve seen people at their worst. And at the end of the day, we’re all just people.”
Rhonda offers advice to other startups who are hoping for success, telling entrepreneurs not to be impressed with someone’s use of elevated words or shiny sales pitches. Individuals trying to paint themselves in a light of perfection are likely trying to bluff their way through fears and ignorance. This problem of not being authentic and trying to pretend to be something one isn’t doesn’t stop with entrepreneurs, as Rhonda says this extends to those who fund startups. The antidote she prescribes to those worried about coming off as lacking knowledge is to “Listen more, and talk less.”
“There’s a lot of just people out here who are just ‘Faking it ‘til you make it.’ That’s one thing I don’t do. If I don’t know, I’m going to ask. If I’ve never heard of a [specific] terminology, [I ask,] ‘What does that mean?’”
For further information about Perfectly Cordial, be sure to visit its website and social media.