Based high in the Northwest corner of Washington state, The Penny Whip Mobile Bar, a converted trailer that once transported horses in the 1970s and whose name derives from an 18th century Scottish poem, is a pretty unique combination of geography and history.
Now equipped to serve beer, wine and signature cocktails, The Penny Whip is wowing guests at events close to the Canadian border.
We were fortunate enough to sit down with founder, Kelsey Lott, and discuss various aspects of mobile bar ownership, many of which will strike a chord with the Roll To community.
She describes an eagerness to leave the 9-5 grind and become her own boss, a yearning for more flexibility and time with family, the stresses of bootstrapping a business and recounts learning to become a builder, carpenter, painter and welder whilst quite literally on the job.
Sound familiar? It does to us too.
Whether you’re just about to embark on your mobile bar journey, or you’ve spent years in the industry, we’re sure that you’ll find many similarities between Kelsey's experience and your own, plus plenty of inspiration moving forward.
Check out the full conversation below!
Hey Kelsey, thank you for taking the time to speak with us here at Roll To! Firstly, what’s your background and what inspired you to start your own mobile bar business?
I moved to the Skagit Valley in 2015 and quickly became involved in the local brewery scene.
I spent the following 6 and a half years serving beer at a local brewery and fell in love with the industry, the people, and of course, the beer.
Things changed in the Summer of 2020 when I had my first child, Willy.
I wanted to be at home with my baby and have the freedom to determine my own work schedule.
I began dreaming of becoming my own boss!
The following spring, I took the plunge and bought myself an old horse trailer with the hope of turning it into a mobile bar.
Now, here I am, so excited to serve people and to help make events fun and unique!
"Every day was a learning experience...But, I'm proud to say that we did everything on our own!"
Awesome! Once you had decided to move into the industry, what was the process like buying and building your mobile bar?
I spent a lot of time looking for old trailers, trying to find one that was a reasonable price but not too rusted out.
We found the perfect, vintage style trailer in our area and then we got to work!
My husband and I had zero experience with most of the steps it took to renovate the trailer, so every day was a learning experience.
I'm very lucky to have had the support from him since we had just had a new baby and this was a big task!
We had to go slow with the process as we paid for everything as we went.
This meant being very impatient for more than a year until I could get all of the pieces together, looking and working the way I had envisioned.
But, I'm proud to say that we did everything on our own!
What have you enjoyed most about running the business? Any favorite milestones or steps of the journey so far?
My favorite part so far has been at events, after all the set-up is finished, and you finally get to start serving people!
All of my clients and their guests so far have been so happy and fun!
Of course, I love to hear people tell me how cute the trailer is too.
That’s always a nice little pick me up after a lot of hard work!
I also really enjoyed building our website.
Organizing things is a stress reliever for me and the process of making a simple yet informative website made me really happy!
"I now feel empowered to run my business the way I want and to not fall into doing things just because I think that's what people will expect"
What has been your biggest challenge in launching and running your mobile bar business?
The biggest challenge of launching and running this business was me initially doubting myself and comparing my business to others.
It is really easy to think that you're not good enough or not doing the right things.
I’m lucky though, and a group of local bar owners have gotten together online to help support each other.
This has truly been a life saver.
Talking with and meeting them has really been inspiring and educational, and helped me realize it's not a competition.
I now feel empowered to run my business the way I want and to not fall into doing things just because I think that's what people will expect.
That’s great, and definitely speaks to the power of the mobile bar community! What are your upcoming plans for the business and what are you most looking forward to this year?
This was my first summer season and I had my second baby in mid-April so I didn't want to put too much on my plate this first year.
I am excited to take things slow, enjoy the process, and learn from the fun wedding events I have booked!
Then, I'll be ready to go full steam into next year's busy season!
I am also hoping to get into kegging cocktails.
I’m enjoying tasting drinks, getting creative and finding fun new things to offer my clients!
Finally, what’s your 2023/24 availability?
We’re now accepting bookings for 2024!
There are lots of open dates, so any prospective clients, please reach out with any questions or to get a quote for your event!
Amazing! Thanks Kelsey, wishing you all the best with 2024 and beyond!
A huge thank you to Kelsey for her time in answering our questions, and we hope you took as much inspiration from her story as we did!
Planning an event in Washington state? You can find The Penny Whip on Roll To and send over your event details in a matter of seconds.
Easily communicate via the internal messaging system and, when you’re ready, secure this beautiful mobile bar for your big day!