Small Business

Brother, sister drive Xclusive Events bartending truck

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Cody Lathrop's first name.

Who knew that an innocent youth spent making buffalo burgers and slushees would lead to a life of booze?

Crystal McDonald and her brother, Cody Lathrop, own Xclusive Events, a contract bartending business packed into their green truck. They can be bartenders, a whole crew of bartenders, or bartenders with a full bar, non-alcoholic drinks and place settings.

They also have the Drink Local truck that supplies local beers, teas and coffees; and ICT Fried, a more typical food truck that cooks up fried food.

They grew up in the business. They worked in their parents’ concession truck that went from small-town festival to small-town festival.

But when they grew up, they both went to college and figured they’d get regular jobs. They did, but …

“It just didn’t stick,” Lathrop said.

They’ve been at it a while, and are now doing reasonably well, just adding a third truck.

So, you’ve been in a truck with each other for decades, now. You must have liked each other growing up?

“No,” Lathrop said, with a laugh. “We survived.

“We were forced to work with each other hand-in-hand, so we kind of grew.”

Best business advice you have received: “It’s funny,” McDonald said. “When we started this business, neither one of us knew how to bartend. So we said we were going to start a bartending company and everyone’s going to doubt us. The best motivation was to prove everybody wrong.”

Best business advice you have given: “Don’t reinvent the wheel,” McDonald said. “Find a service that no one else wants to do, that’s too dirty, and do it,” Lathrop said.

What sets your company apart? “Our service,” McDonald said. “You get more than you ask for. You hire us for one thing, we’re going to try to go above and beyond.”

What have you learned about your company by going through this process? “I think I learned that our staff cared more than I thought,” McDonald said. “They were really excited, really committed.”

Why do you prefer to run your own business as opposed to working for someone else? “I don’t know if I do,” McDonald said. “Some days it would be much easier to work for someone else, but I think it was ingrained in us. We were born in this.” “Our parents never worked 9 to 5,” Lathrop said.

How has your business changed in the digital age? “We used to do a lot of print,” Lathrop said. “We don’t do any newspaper ads, we’re not in Yellow Book, or anything that will be printed out.” “We have such a niche business that we can’t,” McDonald said. “You really have to get it out socially.”

What's your company's next goal? “We didn’t even have this goal,” McDonald said. “As long as we are continuing to grow, then we’ve made it. …We have a 1,000 ideas in our heads. We can do this, we can do that. It’s just what are we going to do next.”

Tier I

Name of business: Xclusive Events

Year founded: 2007

Owners: Crystal McDonald and Cody Lathrop

Address: 515 S. Wichita St.

Phone: 316-285-9227