Posted by United Goods on July 25, 2017
Following is the full interview we did with Wendi Winkler of Urban Chemist and Fast Mary's Bloody Mary Enhancer. Part of it ran in our monthly email, United Update, which is sent to subscribers around the 26th of each month. To join the mailing list, enter your email address in the field near the bottom of each page of our website.
We met Wendi Winkler, owner of Urban Chemist and creator of Fast Mary’s Bloody Mary Enhancer, last winter at an event. Both she and her products kick ass, and we think you should know about 'em.
Hey, Wendi! Tell us about you.
I grew up in Ellsworth, Wisconsin (Cheese Curd Capital!), and received my B.S. in Chemistry from Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I worked as a Chemist at 3M for 11 years and as a Chemistry Supervisor/Procedures Manager at Xcel Energy for seven years before “taking the leap” to concentrate full-time on Fast Mary’s in January 2017.
What would you like to share about yourself outside of work?
I've lived in Minneapolis since 1999 and currently reside in South Minneapolis. I’m a very young 43 years of age and enjoy golf, fishing, traveling, and anything that keeps me creative. I have two siblings: a sister who's getting married in one month and a brother who's in his fourth year of pharmacy school. Both of my parents still live in Wisconsin. I’m the proud mom to two ginger cats, who are my daily business partners when I’m “in the office.”
When did you start Fast Mary's, and how did you get started?
The idea behind Fast Mary’s came from my bartending days while I was in college. On a Saturday or Sunday, if someone came in and ordered a Bloody Mary, that was easily the next 10 minutes of my day. [To save myself time], I came up with this blend of seasonings that I would simply add to tomato juice, add vodka…and done. Ten minutes of mixing Bloody Marys turned into 30 seconds. This quickly became known to my bar patrons, and soon I was making bootleg batches for local bars and friends’ events. In 2013, with the encouragement of friends, I squirreled away enough money to try this mix commercially. And in 2015 Fast Mary’s Bloody Mary Enhancer, Mild Bangin’ Blend and Hot & Bothered Blend, were on the market.
How did you come up with the name of your businesses?
Our company name came from the fact that I’m a chemist by profession and food is chemistry, right? Fast Mary’s [came about because it’s] a fast way to make a Bloody Mary.
What do you offer?
We currently have two blends of Fast Mary’s Bloody Mary Enhancer: a mild and hot blend. Both are gluten-free, naturally vegan, shelf-stable, and contain no MSG.
What makes Fast Mary’s unique?
There are many options on the market for a full Bloody Mary mix, but few for a liquid-based seasoning blend. With a full mix, the consumer has little control of the overall flavor and consistency of their Bloody Mary. Fast Mary’s allows the consumer to choose their tomato base (i.e. tomato juice, V8, Clamato, etc.) and the level of seasoning they enjoy in a Bloody Mary.
Have you always had an interest in cocktails or mixers?
I’ve always been a fan of Bloody Marys, but was often disappointed when I ordered one from a bar or restaurant. They lacked flavor or were too thick or too thin. I believe that the best creations/inventions come from things that annoy you personally, and you find a way to fix them. I got lucky with Fast Mary’s because I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed it.
What's the best part about what you do?
Interacting with new customers and other local makers. I’m constantly learning and partnering with people on things, whether that be how to do things better or new product ideas. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I absolutely love it.
What's the most challenging?
Starting a new business is expensive. You have to be OK taking on some debt and believing that you have a good product and it will all work out.
How can United nation help you with that challenge?
Spread the word! Try Fast Mary’s and/or ask your local liquor stores/bars/restaurants if they carry it or have tried it.
What are your plans/goals for the next couple years?
My goal is to secure two large retail accounts this year. Next year, I’d like to launch one or two more flavors. Long-term, I’d like to bring all packaging/manufacturing into one place, instead of outsourcing.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a kid, I had a telescope and a microscope. I always enjoyed the sciences but didn’t know what that really looked like as a career. I got into creative writing in high school and early college, but found the field difficult to make a living in. I sort of fell back into science when I started working at 3M, and was fortunate enough to get my degree while working there.
What do you think we'd be surprised to learn about you?
1. I have 25-plus patents with 3M Company.
2. I’m a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan.
3. I occasionally do chemistry experiments for children’s birthday parties.
4. I have a tattoo sleeve of the periodic table.
5. Fast Mary’s Bloody Mary Enhancer has been selected for the Business Connect resource guide for the upcoming Super Bowl.
I’m a shoe fanatic. So, what's a favorite pair you’ve owned?
Anything made by The Frye Company. I’m obsessed. I just bought the cutest pair of oxfords. [My least favorite thing] is breaking in new Fryes. Leather shoes are tough to break in—and my heels would say the same.
(Photo of Wendi, above, by Lars Kommienezuspadt)