As you've been listening to the podcast (and if you haven't, you should ;) ), you may have noticed a trend with some of the small business owners. Both Nicole W. Clark and this week's guest, Dannon Hooks, started their businesses because they noticed a void in the market for something they wanted to incorporate in their own wedding.
To find out more about Dannon's journey to owning her own business, what Tap the Coast has in store, as well as how her and her husband Christopher met, give this episode a listen! Also, if you enjoy it, hit the subscribe button, give a review, and share it with someone you think might enjoy it just as well!
This Highlight Weddings & Events Podcast was edited and produced by DropHouse Voiceover Production Studio and Tony Tee Neto, Voiceover Artist & Audio Producer. For more info on branding elements, editing, and post-production services, visit http://drophouse.com.
The intro and outro used for this episode is Crush by https://audiohub.comLicense: CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
DJ Josh Woeckener: This is Episode 10 of Make Your Wedding a Highlight. My name is DJ Josh from Highlight Weddings and Events. My guest today is Dannon Hooks, owner of Tap The Coast.
Tony Tee Neto, from Drophouse: If you’re getting ready or are already in the process of planning your wedding, you’ve come to the right place. DJ Josh, owner of Highlight Weddings and Events, interviews other local-30A wedding pros to offer insight about how to make your wedding a highlight.
DJ Josh: Well, hello everyone. Thanks for stopping by and checking out the podcast. I have Dannon Hooks with me, and she is with Tap The Coast. How are you doing today, Dannon?
Dannon Hooks: Hey! I’m doing great. So happy to be with you!
DJ Josh: Aw. I’m happy to have you. Would you just mind introducing yourself to the guests.
Dannon: Oh, sure. Gosh. Where do I start? So, I’m Dannon Hooks. I’m the owner and founder of Tap The Coast. We are a full-service mobile bar and beverage service based in Pensacola. And we cover the entire Florida panhandle area over to about Panama City. And then we also are able to service events in Alabama and the Mobile area. I will tell you a little bit more about the business but we launched in November. And, prior to getting involved in starting what is my first business, I worked in the non-profit world and scheduled and oversaw events and fundraisers, helped with coordinating with all of our volunteers for events and things like that. So I’ve been involved in the events industry, not specifically weddings but Tap the Coast is certainly not necessarily just a wedding service, although it is primarily. The number of events that we’ve done so far have been weddings. So I’ve been involved in planning and coordinating events and just always had a passion for people and enjoy interacting with folks. And so this was a great sort of mix between those two. And I get to use my experience from my previous career to now create this business.
I’m a mom. I’m a wife. We have a daughter who just turned 10 years old. My husband and I have been married for about a year and a half.
DJ Josh: Congrats!
Dannon: Yeah. Um, thanks! We’re still newlyweds. But he owns a commercial cleaning business here in Pensacola and you know just seeing him take his business from the ground up and really building it to being a successful commercial cleaning business is what gave me the courage really to kind of take this leap and follow through. So, I’m a mom. I’m a volunteer. I’m a wife. I’m an entrepreneur now. I can proudly say that. I guess I just wear many hats. I’m pretty basic. I wouldn’t say basic. That’s not a good way to describe yourself but you know just a local girl. I’m from Pensacola. I grew up here. And I love our community.
DJ Josh: Aw, that’s cool! So how did you come up with Tap The Coast? What was the inspiration behind it?
Dannon: Well, you know, so as I mentioned, Chris and I got married a year and a half ago. And, as I was planning our wedding, I spent a ridiculous amount of time, to be honest with you, on Pinterest. You know, scrolling and liking and pinning and it was on Pinterest where I saw my first mobile bar. And they were out in California. It was this adorable little camper. And I thought “Well, gosh. How cute is that? I would love to have it at our wedding!” But there was nothing like it here. And I showed the picture to my husband and he said “Uh, I can build that!” And I joke now and say “Those are probably words that he regrets.” Because all the work that’s been put in building the bars we have now. But it’s so rewarding to get to see it all come together. So there was a mobile bar company that was actually a franchise, like I said, out in California. That’s how the whole thing started with us. We just spent some time looking for a very, we wanted a very specific shape and style for our camper and kind of deciding where we wanted to go with the business and low and behold we found the one that we have we found on Facebook Marketplace. So, yeah. It was actually up in Jay
DJ Josh: Ok. Yeah, yeah. I know where that is
Dannon: Yeah. A little town up north of the county. So we drove up and checked it out. It was this super cool retro teal color on the outside and like a mustard, you know like that 70s color yellow on the inside.
DJ Josh: Oh, no. Oh, Yes. Do you have pictures of that that you could share with me later?
Dannon: We do! Yeah. We have some on our website.
DJ Josh: Ah, man. I’m gonna have to check it out.
Dannon: It was truly a gem. And, like honestly, we kind of debated for a minute on whether we really wanted to just take everything out and totally renovate it or if we wanted to go camping in this thing because it was so cool. But it was original to1975. Everything was on the inside and outside. All original. It had been kept in a barn since the 80s so it was in pristine condition. It was great.
DJ Josh: Nice!
Dannon: Yeah. We just lucked out and got started renovating. That was our first bar. That was how we got our start.
DJ Josh: Ok. How many bars do you currently have?
Dannon: Well, we have, of course, the camper. And we just recently debuted our newest travel bar which is the horse trailer. And then we also have what we call the Tap Wall which is just you know two taps. More used for like indoor or smaller events. And then we have our whiskey barrels that have taps on them or that can be used as a table. That’s what we have currently. We definitely have plans to add a few more to the fleet and kind of round out some things later in 2020.
DJ Josh: So, how long did it take for your husband to renovate the first one.
Dannon: Well, we bought it in June. I’m looking at the calendar right now. It literally is like a year ago. Yeah. And it was finished, we launched November 1. So it was about five months to build it out. And that was quite a process. So five months on the first one, and it only took us on our horse trailer we got that in February this year. And it was kind of our COVID project. We completed that while everything was shut down. We actually completed that build in about three months.
DJ Josh: Well, I’d imagine it would be easier because it’s basically a shell, right?
Dannon: Yeah. Actually, I have to say, too, we’re really proud of the fact that we put in all the work into building these bars ourselves. There are a couple of places that you can have mobile bars built for you and that’s something that we would love to expand into in the future is being able to build bars or mobile whatever it is, mobile business, for other people. The fact that we did it ourselves we’re pretty proud about. And it also gave us an opportunity to support some local businesses in the process, too.
DJ Josh: No, that’s really cool. Were there any surprises as you’re developing not only the idea but also creating the bars.
Dannon: Surprises. You know, it really took a lot of time researching and understanding the laws. I’d have to say that. There’s a lot of legalities around selling and providing the alcohol. It’s a big flashing red light, so luckily I found a community of other mobile bar owners that I could connect with. And a few actually in Florida. Some over in Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando that were a great support for us and helping us navigate all of those things.
I think as far as the build goes, being a vintage camper, you are certainly bound to find some surprises like leaks and rotten wood. The challenges of having to find parts and pieces for something that’s 34 years old, so that was definitely a surprise and a challenge. Overall, I have to say it was pretty smooth.
DJ Josh: Yeah, I spent a period of my life doing real estate investment. And I worked with another contractor and my wife on flipping or doing a renovation for a house. Doing renovations, you do not know what you’re getting into until you’ve pulled everything out and you’re like “Oh, yeah. We gotta fix that thing too. And this needs to get replaced.” When you look at an older house, you think “Oh, there’s not much going on,” until you dig in and find that you have to replace the pipes or the flooring, there’s like a leak in the floor, or something like that. So the process of renovation is eye-opening not only in what you have to do but how much time you did not budget correctly for.
Dannon: That’s correct. Oh, totally. I call those Chip & Joanna moments. You know like the HGTV show. You always are bound to come into them. Oh, there’s asbestos. Oh, there’s something wrong with the foundation. And, they really are time consuming and suck your budget but we were very, very fortunate in that there weren’t too many unexpected hurdles that we had to face.
DJ Josh: That’s awesome. So, if a couple was to book you for their mobile bar, how would they be able to make their experience with you a highlight for their wedding?
Dannon: Oh! Good question. I love this one. Really, what we do is sort of a luxury service. We are not your standard bar by any means. There’s certainly nothing wrong with hiring a bartending service that comes and sets up a table and a table cloth with a cooler and you can sling drinks all night long and have a great time.
What we offer is a little bit different in that we provide a bar experience from start to finish really. And it starts with whenever we have that consultation with our clients. We really try to get to know them. We really want to know their personalities, and what it is that they want to have at their wedding. The menu that they want to have I think is a reflection of that couple. And it could be their own signature drinks of course are popular. But what we love really is helping to provide again supporting local. We’ve partnered with several local breweries. For example, if a couple loves to hang out downtown on a friday night and they go to, I’m just using Perfect Plane as an example, and they have a beer on the menu that they always love, that’s their go-to. Now you get to have that beer on tap at your wedding and serve it to all your family and friends and guests. And everybody gets to enjoy that.
So I think that really creating the bar experience is something that your guests are going to enjoy and are going to remember, that’s for sure. Like “Oh my gosh. So and so had this horse trailer bar at their wedding. It was super cool! There was a photo booth on the backside!” We really try to create an experience for the guests to enjoy. For me, I think it’s about getting to know that couple and then building their likes and personality into a bar menu into cocktails, mocktails, whatever it is that we’re serving that really is a reflection of them.
DJ Josh: Yeah, I have a similar philosophy when it comes to the song selection. What I really encourage couples to do. Instead of going straight to Google, because of how absolutely overwhelming the information is because you can Google like “Best First Dance Song” and you’ll come up with 300-400 different songs to choose from. I encourage couples to be like “Hey. What is one or a few songs that are really a big part of your relationships? What are some songs that make you think of each other? And what are just some songs that make you think ‘That would be great for a wedding.” And put those together and really build the songs that you can select out from that. Because it’s really cool. For instance, I am going to be a part of a wedding later this year and she has picked songs that I’ve never used at a wedding before. And I’m like, “This is AMAZING!”
Dannon: You love it!
DJ Josh: The cool thing is I can ask her “Why did you pick this specific song?” and I know there is going to be a story attached to it. And I just think that guests really appreciate when the wedding is that couple’s. It’s not as cookie cutter.
Dannon: Yeah. There’s a couple that I’m working with for a wedding coming up next spring. Again, it was sort of like a moment where someone challenges you to do something different where you have to sit back and go “Hmm. How do we make that happen?” She wants to serve Kombucha on tap at her wedding. And I thought, “How cool is that?” I’ve never been to a wedding where I’ve had Kombucha with an option to throw a little liquor topper on top on it to make it a little fun cocktail. But that’s something that we get to do. She calls herself a hippie. So how perfect is it that of course we get to do some Kombucha at her wedding and all of her guests to experience something cool and different?
Those are the things that we really try to pull out of each event, whether it’s a wedding or a corporate happy hour or a birthday party for a kid. To do something really fun and experiential and different.
DJ Josh: Yeah. And I think part of it is sometimes a couple’s not aware. They go into it thinking “Oh, these are the songs that are typical.” It’s almost like you need to be like, “Hey. We can do other things and explore who you are as a couple and incorporate that.” And for me, it just makes the wedding even more exciting because all the songs are new. It broadens my horizons to different songs that you can use.
Because you are a newlywed and based on the experience you’ve had in events, how have you been able to incorporate that into your business?
Dannon: Gosh, you ask so many good questions. Taking the experience in what I loved and planning my own wedding, what I loved and what also stressed me out. I try to keep that in mind and use that as a guide for whenever I’m going through the planning process with our clients and really finding ways that I can relieve the stress on them. I find that to be the way that we can really support them the most.
I liked what you were saying before when we were talking off line, saying something like being the most fun vendor at their wedding. That’s awesome. That’s what I strive to be. We pull up. We have the bar. Of course everybody’s going to have a great time but the whole process of going through the planning with the client and really helping them figure out how many beers do I need to have? Or how many cocktails do we need to have for this number of guests that we expect? The more I can take on for them to help relieve that stress and make sure that the process is smooth and fun. That’s what I pride myself in offering to each client.
DJ Josh: I have two goals. One, I want to make the event as stress-less as possible for everyone. And, that’s not just the couple and their guests but all of the other wedding professionals that I work with. And I also want the wedding to be an event team atmosphere. So actually, I’m very intentional, since I started my own company, about reaching out to the coordinator, the photographer. There was even a cake baker that was CC’d on an email from the coordinator to a couple that I’m going to be working with, and I put together a timeline and I included them in it. Because, yes they’re, I won’t say they’re ONLY the cakebaker but the timeline’s nott as important to them. But I want to make sure that everybody’s on the same page and we’re like a cohesive unit and not just “Oh, I’m the DJ working this event with you” kind of thing.
DJ Josh: So, since we are still in the throes of COVID-19, I figured we’d switch gears just a little bit and talk about what your experience has been with that not only professionally but personally. How has it impacted your life?
Dannon: Oh, COVID.
DJ Josh: Yeah. Yes.
Dannon: Where do we start?
DJ Josh: Wherever you want!
Dannon: Well, you know it’s interesting. So, on a personal level, my husband and I had been talking about when the right time for me to leave the 8 to 5. I was personally invested in the mission of the organization I was working for. I had been there for 7 years, and I truly loved the work that we were doing. However, I was the only staff person here locally, so there really wasn’t an opportunity for me to move up in that organization. We were already having conversations about possibly looking for something different.
I really wanted an opportunity to grow and get new skills and move up and all of those things. So, we decided once we started Tap The Coast that if it presented an opportunity for me to exit that we were certainly open to that. Well, we made that decision in late February, early March.
DJ Josh: Wow.
Dannon: That was certainly a different time. Wasn’t it?
DJ Josh: You. No. It was!
Dannon: I had given my notice to my boss in early march and, literally, like the next week things started shutting down. It was crazy. And so I was like immediately regretting and “Let me have my job back!” Because Tap The Coast, what we do, are so involved and revolved around events that were being shut down and postponed, so it was pretty stressful in the very beginning. Walking away from a full time, steady paycheck: a salary that was guaranteed to hit the direct deposit every two weeks. And, to step into something that revolved around events that were being shut down. Personally, it really affected us in that way.
Professionally, we had several events that had to be postponed. Whenever we launched in November, we thought we would just do a couple of Christmas parties or a couple of different holiday parties here and there to get our feet wet. And, our plan was to really hit the ground running in January. Once word got out about what we do, the response had been fantastic, so that was great. So, we were gearing up and getting ready for our first couple of events and weddings in the spring and then it all sort of came to a screeching halt.
We had to tough through it. We didn’t qualify for any of the federal aid, so we’ve had to find ways to keep our head above water. It’s affected a lot of people in the event industry especially, restaurants and all those things. But the bright side is I think we’ve come through it. I think we’re better for it, and we’re ready. We certainly are seeing more events booked now.
However, I will say we are also having to find ways to make sure that me and my staff, I say my staff but it’s my husband let’s be honest, but that we can stay healthy and still serve our clients and be at their events but make sure we are doing it in a way that does abide by guidelines. We are taking precautions to make sure that things are sanitized and cleaned really well, all of those things. Those are conversations that I never thought I would have to have with a bride. “Do you want us serving with gloves and a mask at your wedding?” It’s just affected it in so many ways. Coming through it I think we are better for it and I think we are able to provide an even higher level of service to really focus on what it is that we do.
DJ Josh: I think one of the things that’s going to come out of the pandemic is actually focus. It’s allowed people with businesses like ourselves to really look, sit back and think about “Ok. This is how I’m doing things. Is it how I should be doing it forward? What things can we change?” kind of thing. And just in general. I think it’s going to really force people to look at the priorities in their life and decide whether or not they’re really priorities as far as both budgeting time and finances.
DJ Josh: I was talking to a couple that I’ve been friends with for awhile and the guy that I’ve known since elementary school, he was like “Yeah, I was used to coming home from work like ‘Alright, kids. We gotta go to practice,’ or ‘We gotta got to this thing or that thing.’ Now it’s “Alright, what movie do we want to watch?’”
Dannon: That’s right!
DJ Josh: It’s allowed for us to almost reset and then decide if we want to keep doing what we’ve always done or do we want to change it and allowing the freedom to be able to see what the change looks like without having to do it mid-stride, if you will.
Dannon: Yeah. Absolutely. You are so right.
DJ Josh: So, now that we’ve discussed Dannon the business owner, do you mind talking a little about personal things about you?
Dannon: Personal things? Yeah. Sure. Ok.
DJ Josh: How did you and your husband meet?
Dannon: Oh, man. I love telling this story. Ok, so have you ever heard of the Dragon Boat Races?
DJ Josh: I think so, but some of the listeners may not have.
Dannon: Yeah! So Dragon Boat Races is actually a fundraiser that’s held the Sertoma group each year and it was the first year that they did it. It might have been 2014. I was there with a group of ladies that I volunteer with. I’m a member of the Junior League of Pensacola. Chris was there with App River where he worked at the time. And funny story. So the Junior League that year was the only all-female team. So we showed up and we were proud to be the only all-female team but we were beat by two boy scout troops. And they were ruthless.
They were pointing and laughing as we were crossing the finish line. Junior League didn’t make it past the first flight. I organized our team going that year, so I figured I should stick around for at least a participation trophy or a certificate or something. App River went on to actually win the big prize that year. And, so a girlfriend of mine who is a member of Junior League, worked at App River. She says, “Hey, come over and hang out at our tent. Come over and have a drink with us.”
And, that was where Chris and I were introduced. He was the hype man for their team. He got them all hyped up and excited for their races. And that kind of caught my eye. I’m not gonna lie. So we ended up going on a date together to a Junior League fundraiser event and got to know each other, and the rest is history. But it all started at the Dragon Boat Races.
DJ Josh: That’s so cool. It’s a great story! I understand why you like to tell it.
Dannon: So romantic, huh?
DJ Josh: No, it’s definitely unique to you guys, so that’s really cool. To kind of piggy back off of that question, what is it like working with your spouse?
Dannon: You know, I really love it. I have to say there are certainly challenges. I think we have had to figure out who is good at what and then stay in your lane. But at the same time it is so rewarding to, you know, this is a big project. A renovation like this is something that is not just done in a weekend. We really enjoyed working together and seeing the business come to life.
Chris is very very handy and it’s been a really cool experience for me to just kind of see what he’s really capable of. It blows my mind. I step back some times and ask “How do you know how to do this?” But he’s very handy. And I also have to say too that his experience in starting his business, I’ve really relied on a lot of his experience and knowledge and sort of walking me through what I need to be doing as a business owner and an entrepreneur. Checking the boxes and making sure we’re doing the things that need to be done. I’ve really enjoyed having that time with him. It’s something that we get to do together. I love it. But I can see where it wouldn’t be for everyone.
DJ Josh: Right. I am the primary part of the business but, Rhoda, she definitely plays an integral part in doing social media marketing. She’s very more visual than I am. I don’t even know if that’s really correct English but whatever. I know when things look good but I’m not very good at making things look very good.
There have been a couple of times where I put together an Instagram post. And Rhoda will pull it up on Canva and she’s like “Let me fix that.” So, it’s definitely an exercise in humility to be like, “Alright, you’re much better at this than I am. Let me allow you to do that.” But still being able to recognize the strengths that you have as well.
Dannon: That’s right.
DJ Josh: It’s also cool that you’ve been able to borrow from his experience setting up his own business because it’s allowed you to get around some pitfalls that you might have come across.
Dannon: Oh, 100%. And, I’m sure Chris wishes he had had some sort of mentor, somebody to walk him through this before. Countless hours and I’m sure tens of thousands of dollars that have been avoided just him being able to share that experience with me, his learned experiences, and what he’s been through trial and error. What’s worked and what hasn’t. I’m just grateful for that.
DJ Josh: It definitely helps to be able to. The saying goes, your learned lessons are the best ones. I don’t know if that’s a saying or not.
Dannon: Very true.
DJ Josh: If you go through something you’re going to learn it better but it’s sometimes just better to avoid them altogether.
Dannon: Chris is definitely a trial-and-error kind of person. He loves being that guy. He wants to figure it out on his own. I’m the person who, and again, this is where we are the yin and yang, I’ll spend all the time that’s necessary to research it and read about it and learn backwards and forwards. And, he’s just a hands on let’s just try it and see. If it doesn’t work we’ll do it a different way. Like you said, your learned experience is definitely that’s where you learn the most.
DJ Josh: So, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Dannon: I went to school to be a paralegal.
DJ Josh: Really?
Dannon: That is totally not in my field of what I’m doing. Bu,t I did work in law for about seven years back in Tallahassee, back in my old college days. It was a really great experience. I have to say that, again it’s something that I feel your journey takes you where you’re supposed to be now. Now, I still lean back on the legal experience that I have for the business that I’m in now. I’m grateful for that time. I worked for an attorney. We practiced administrative law. It was a pretty cool experience.
We represented anyone who had to have a professional license to practice, whether it was doctors, nurses, or engineers. We represented them before their state licensing board. I got to hear about all the wrong site surgeries and the wrong patients that they operated on. It was very neat work that we did. I really enjoyed it. And then I wanted to try something different. I was trying to decide if I wanted to go on and become an attorney, so I wanted to get some experience in a different area of law.
I started working for a county attorney and then we got turned into doing some foreclosure work. And that was like as the housing market crashed. There was certainly not a lack of work but for me it became a situation where it’s right at the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and you’re foreclosing on people’s houses.
I just remember having a conversation with a lady who was in a position where she was having to decide between paying her mortgage or spending time with her mother who was dying of cancer, and I thought “God, just put yourself in people’s shoes.” It just wasn’t the right fit for me. It’s all about people and it still is for me to this day. Of course, what we do now. It’s just all about the people and it wasn’t a good fit for me and I thought “Gosh, you know, these attorneys sure make a whole lot of money but they are so dedicated to their work and spend a lot of time at their desk.”
I had different priorities. I wanted to start a family and you know all of those things. It just wasn’t the right career path for me. But that’s what I thought I wanted to be.
DJ Josh: I definitely agree with your perspective on what you go through makes you who you are. I’ve personally had a very eclectic and diverse career background. I’ve bounced around. I enlisted in the air force. I was a barista. I was a screen printer. I was a realtor. I worked retail. I did real estate investment for a time and the reason I don’t do real estate investment anymore is because typically people that are in the position to sell at a price that you can afford they’re not in the best shape overall in life. And it was just kind of really soul sucking. It was just super depressing. I couldn’t stomach it so I had to pivot from that.
Alright, last question. What’s your favorite free time activity when you’re not doing events on a weekend? If you could do anything you want on a random saturday in November. You don’t have anything going on. What are you and Chris going to be up to?
Dannon: Well, if it’s during college football season, that’s what you will find me doing.
DJ Josh: Nice! So are you a Florida State fan?
Dannon: We are very much avid Florida State fans. If it’s during football season, that’s an easy one. During summer, we love just getting out and going to the beach. Going out camping. We are just sort of on the go. Not necessarily doing the same thing but we’re always on the go. Our 10 year old keeps us pretty as well.
DJ Josh: I can imagine.
Dannon: Sometimes, Saturdays are consumed by whatever your kid has going on, right?
DJ Josh: Right, right. I’m also an avid Florida State fan. I grew up in the area and I’ve always liked Florida State ever since I can remember. Go Noles!
Dannon: Yeah! Go Noles!
DJ Josh: So, I lied because this is actually the last question. How can people find you if they want to learn more about you or possibly talk to you about booking you for their wedding or private event?
Dannon: We are certainly on all the social platforms. Instagram handle is @tapthecoast. Facebook is @tapthecoast. They can find us on our website at tapthecoast.com. On our website is really probably the best source of information about all the different bars that we have, how our business model works. You can inquire right there about your date and get information sent to you right away about our availability. That would definitely be my best suggestion is to go straight to our website if you’re looking to connect with us. Or, just give me a call. My cell phone number is 850.322.8579.
DJ Josh: Alright. Well, Dannon, I greatly appreciate you stopping by and sharing with me and the listeners more about Tap The Coast.
Dannon: Oh I really enjoyed it.
DJ Josh: Here’s to the couples that are planning their wedding. And, here’s to making their wedding a highlight.
Tony: Thanks for stopping by and checking out the podcast. If you like what you’ve heard, please subscribe and leave a review. It will help other couples just like you find it. For more resources, including our helpful blog, check highlightweddingsandevents.com. And make your wedding a highlight!