By Matt Skrajner
The News-Herald, Willoughby, Ohio.
For many people, being hit by a drunken driver and suffering a broken femur could be an excuse to take on a negative, “woe is me” lifestyle.
But for Monique Rich of Lyndhurst, it served as the catalyst to becoming an entrepreneur 20 years later.
Rich still sports a metal rod and three screws in her leg as a result of the 1992 crash in Cleveland.
“That reminds me every day of my life,” Rich said.
The experience led her to start Mocktailz in October 2013. Calling on her time as a bartender, Rich created a variety of alcohol-free martinis, wine-tinis and mock-a-ritas.
“I would like to come up with something for people that don’t drink, but would still love to fit in with those that do drink in social atmospheres,” Rich said.
While she was catering for private events, a client requested both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
“I noticed that the non-alcohol went faster. So I tried it again at another event,” Rich said. “And it went fast again.”
Baby showers have become her most often served events, as expecting mothers who cannot drink alcohol obviously enjoy the beverages, which include flavors of amaretto, margarita and pomegranate. A few seasonal summer flavors such as watermelon and peach are also on the way, Rich said.
“I like to see people’s faces when they take the first drink and say, ‘Oh my goodness this is great,’ ” she said.
Her beverages are gluten free and kosher, with some varieties available in sugar-free forms. The flavors usually take about two and a half weeks to get just right.
“I’m in there every day after work,” she said. “I can’t rest until I perfect it.”
While Rich now makes the drinks in her spare time after her full-time job, she will soon be using space at the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen to help increase production.
The organization offers commercial kitchen space for rent to entrepreneurs to help them get their products off the ground. Instead of buying or leasing a commercial space on a multi-year commitment, small-business owners can rent space on a flexible schedule, said Michael Brand, facilities manager at Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen.
“It really cuts down on their start-up costs,” Brand said.
In its third year, the launch has dozens of members making a wide variety of products, including gingerbread houses, baked goods, applesauce, mustard, salsas and pickles.
Food truck owners also use the space, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Brand said.
In the coming years, Rich said she has a number of goals she would like to achieve.
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She is set to receive nutritional labels soon, after completing the Food and Drug Administration registration process, which hopefully will lead to Mocktailz being on local store shelves within a year.
Rich also has dreams of opening a restaurant and lounge and participating in the reality TV show “Shark Tank,” where entrepreneur pitch their business ideas to a panel of potential investors.
“This is my passion,” Rich said. “Hopefully some day soon this will be it.”
Anyone seeking more information about Mocktailz can visit www.mocktailz.com