Starting a Business

Five Businesses Born at a Bar

The back-of-the-napkin business plan is not just a myth. Here are just a few examples of business ideas that took shape over drinks.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the July 2011 issue of . Subscribe »

Once in a while, the drinks let loose a sparkler of an idea and a cocktail napkin takes a turn as notebook. We went looking for entrepreneurial ideas conceived at bars. Here's what we found.

1. When the green chiles they'd ordered from their native New Mexico didn't arrive at their home in Tampa, Fla., Allison Rugen and Carlo Marchiondo made a logical next move. "We walked across the street to a local bar to drown our sorrows," Rugen says. "Up on our semi-drunken high horses, we ranted about the superior job we would do as chile distributors." Then--on a cocktail napkin they still have--the duo jotted down the plan for Southwest Chile Supply, a company that now includes restaurants, wholesale accounts and chile merchandise. 

2. Three martinis and 10 cocktail napkins from Chicago's Boka. That's what it took, in 2007, for Daniel Adamany and Aaron Nack to come up with the business plan for their IT company, Ahead. Last year's revenues? $130 million. Definitely enough cash for Adamany--a Grey Goose man--and Nack--who prefers Belvedere--to order a few celebratory martinis.

3. Publicist Lisa Jeffries was always in the know about the best to-dos around Raleigh, N.C. When friend Evan Roberts asked for a New Year's Eve 2009 recommendation, she "realized there wasn't one source to sort all of these offerings," Jeffries says. She met Roberts for drinks at Sauced Pizza and came up with the idea for RaleighNYE.com, a one-stop guide to the city's NYE parties. Up next: an app to clue people in on events year-round.

4. Jason Stenseth and Mazen Dauleh drafted a plan for their medical equipment rental company, 123DME, in just 30 minutes while sipping Crown and Cokes at a Denver bar. "We bought the domain, put the website up and registered with the state on the spot," Stenseth says. Their idea to sell and rent equipment not usually covered by insurance may have started as a lark, but their client base now includes hospitals, schools, doctors' offices and medical supply companies--and they're considering franchising.

5. Kimberly Fowler says her epiphany came mid-mojito at James Beach in Venice, Calif. Though her Yoga for Athletes classes were popular, many of her members had to maintain a second gym membership for weight training. When she overheard a waiter at James Beach say "just add mint," she realized she could just add weights to YAS. Yoga for Athletes Ripped was born.

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