Cheers to a Power Lady Bringing ‘Stay at Home’ Creatively Customised Cocktails: The Story of Amanda Chen and Salty Paloma
March is all about celebrating women and their innovation and drive for entrepreneurship, especially in what has been a challenging year for businesses! Whilst many essential businesses may not have taken as big a hit during the pandemic, several companies in the recreational, luxury and hospitality industry have had difficulty transitioning and finding their niche during this difficult time. It is important to laud innovative and creative businesses that bring their customers more of an ‘experience’ in their products and service delivery.
In the last year, so many of us have wanted to lie back, cocktail in hand, and watch beautiful shore–side vistas, so many of us have wanted to go out for margarita-filled girls’ night while many of us miss being pampered by our trusty bartender. Although little can be done about beach vistas and bar-hopping nights, the cocktail party of the night can be taken care of even from the comfort of your homes, and the best part is, you no prior experience or fancy ingredients!
Salty Paloma, founded in 2018, brings you DIY cocktail kits – it takes care of the ingredients, the recipe, the proportions, and even the booze! So next time you want to be pampered luxuriously for a virtual girls’ night, send your girlfriends these kits. The next time you want date night to seem and look different, take out that fancy cocktail dress, slip into it, and have fun with your partner making cocktails through the wee hours of the night! You and those you love and care for deserve to be spoilt with every ingredient at hand and a cocktail to end the night.
Salty Paloma is the brainchild of Amanda Chen, a BIPOC woman, born to Taiwanese parents when they moved to Canada and make it home. Chen was born and raised in Scarborough and is a marketeer and branding specialist by profession, but she’s always had a knack for starting her own business with handmade products. Her love for Margaritas brought her to notice that there was a gap in the market for good quality custom salts integral to make the cocktail; while she made custom salts at home while entertaining her friends, her tribe always pushed her to turn it into a business.
Hence, Salty Paloma was born! They currently have seven different types of customized flavoured salts and sugars, with their most famous being the OG Fiesta margarita salt made with Himalayan sea salt, lime, and grapefruit zest. When Amanda launched Salty Paloma pre-pandemic, along with producing a range of flavoured salts and sugars, she would give in person cocktail classes, and it was so popular that it very soon became a top spot on Airbnb experiences and the first experience of its kind to be sold through Indigo’s experiential platform, Thoughtful.
Amanda is a hands-on business owner, who did everything to build the Salty Paloma brand; being a genie with branding, she learned a host of additional business skills as she single handedly developed the brand identity, logo, branding collaterals, website, products, and packaging, all the Salty Paloma flavored sugar and salts. In her first year of business, she partnered with various Tequila brands through branded social media content, after which the brand started to offer in-person cocktail classes at several venues in Toronto.
The Salty Paloma brand is now known as a destination for creative cocktail recipes and continues to push for more women and diversity in the hospitality space – a much-needed change! Amanda herself is the epitome of support and fun as along with the Salty brand, she takes great pride in being a personal coach, and podcaster promoting female empowerment.
Through her experiences to teach communication, networking, and interpersonal skills – her grit, perseverance, and hard work are a testament to the fact that she has leaned on her tribe and continues to be a massive support to women looking to venture into starting their own businesses and lack confidence.
When the pandemic hit, it affected most businesses right away, specifically ones considered as being non-essential, and suddenly Salty Paloma had to shut down its in-person classes and all future bookings for the same during the lockdown. Amanda was quick to transition, refunding all future customers for their class bookings and cancelling them for the rest of the year.
They initiated online and digital presence with increasing Instagram TV lives. Therefore, Amanda decided that it would be a great time to transition to online classes, virtual DIY cocktail-making videos, only to realise that most people who wanted to make cocktails did not necessarily have all the necessary ingredients at home.
They started to think out of the box and created individually portioned cocktail kits, with a bottle of alcohol. The business started to partner with local food vendors to add small meal items with the kits. In no time, Salty Paloma became dinner date, dinner, and cocktail ready! Their kits did exceptionally well during the holiday season as they became an adorable, customized and desirable gift for corporations, colleagues, friends, and family. While the ingredients were sorted and delivery could be done, there was a deep sense of loss of connection with the loneliness and isolation of staying at home – a gap that Amanda’s natural connection-loving persona wanted to fill.
This resulted in her partnering with Evelyn Chick to launch and operate virtual cocktail classes, curated cocktail kits and cocktail subscription boxes with a venture launched in January called the ‘Stay at Home Cocktail Club’.
“Stay at home Cocktail Club is a monthly subscription-based service with a virtual social hour to encourage a sense of community, connection and networking amongst friends, family, former colleagues, and cocktail enthusiasts. Through ‘Stay at Home Cocktail Club’, both of them had the opportunity to be featured across various media outlets, bringing original, unique, and appealing branded social media content through social media campaigns, video content, and speciality appearances. There is even a new product in the works coming out this year, an orange lime salt made exclusively for Grand Marnier.
Whilst strict lockdown measures seem to be in force in Ontario, both Evelyn and Amanda aim to be the go-to digital space for at-home experiences through the Salty Paloma and Stay at Home Cocktail Club. They envision doing this by implementing creative themed monthly subscription box services with a monthly virtual social hour – to bring back social networking and a sense of community, albeit virtually. The lockdown and social isolation have made people lonely and disconnected, and they term this initiative as bringing positivity during this time.
Forecasting staying at home for a while, they are keen to adjust their business to meet today’s consumer market’s new demands. Together they are a power team – with Amanda’s digital marketing background and Evelyn’s experience in cocktail making and operations.
In the current landscape where the entire restaurant experience has completely changed to become a lot more about convenience and virtual accessibility, Salty Paloma is already advantageous because it has transitioned innovatively to be digital quite seamlessly, which is not the norm in the rest of the industry right now. They believe it is so important to keep in touch with people in the same sector to support and learn from each other. Thankfully they feel it to be a collaborative space, but with that comes much competition. The key for them has been to recognize the unique product and innovative service they bring to the market and flourish better with solid partnerships.
Before signing off, Salty Paloma has words of wisdom for new small business and anxious entrepreneurs during this challenging time, “The best thing is to find your tribe. Picking the right opportunities and saying no to the wrong ones. Choose the right partnerships, and your business will flourish. We are so thankful to find each other and partner together with the spirit partners and retailers we work with, as they are a huge means of support for Salty Paloma and the vision it has for the future”.
For more information on the Salty Paloma and the Stay at Home Cocktail Club, check out the following social media handles and websites: