We first met Rhonda Cammon at a pop-up market in East Nashville, where she was selling her Perfectly Cordial products. As she handed us a sample of “Tropical Sour,” she said, “This will make the best margarita you’ve never had!”
Rhonda’s warmth was inviting, and her excitement contagious, as she told us all about Perfectly Cordial, which she named after a beloved children’s show from her youth. Her products have mass appeal as they are enjoyed by both alcohol drinkers and non-drinkers alike. Learn more about this local brand and the vibrant woman behind it. Meet Rhonda Cammon of Perfectly Cordial, our newest FACE of Nashville!
Are you from Nashville? If not, what brought you to Music City?
A man, plain and simple. I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. I met my husband in college in Florida. He asked me to marry him, and the rest is history. Twenty years and two kids later, I feel like a true Nashvillian.
You’ve worked in the hospitality industry for a while now. Tell us how you got into hospitality, where you began, and how your path led to Barseat and Perfectly Cordial.
I started my hospitality career at Bennigan’s Bar and Grill. This was way before the word “mixology” became famous. “Top-shelf” was adding orange juice to your margarita with a Grand Mariner floater, and we shook everything.
I then became a waitress at the Original Pancake House. This is where I learned and saw that fresher was always better. The Original Pancake House was famous for its fresh-squeezed orange juice, fresh toppings, syrups and real whipped cream. The waitstaff had to come in early to prep all of that stuff. So I was beating cream, slicing and juicing oranges, and making the tropical syrup. Customers could taste the difference and didn’t mind paying a higher price for quality.
I loved interacting with customers, getting to know them. It’s only in the hospitality field that a complete stranger can become a close friend. We call them “regulars.” You learn their likes, dislikes, family, special occasions and sad days. I was good at it. Heck, I was great at it! The hospitality field became a true passion for me.
Family and children became my focus, and I shifted into nursing. Healthcare paid the bills, and it was similar to hospitality as I was now responsible for the entire person and not just their stomachs. I have been in nursing just as long as I have been in hospitality. However, my oldest is 20, and my youngest is 13. I have more free time, and it led me back to bartending. Bartending showed me a gap in the marketplace, a craft beverage that catered to drinkers and non-drinkers alike. And so Perfectly Cordial was developed and born.
You started Barseat in 2015. What was the biggest challenge in launching that? What has been the biggest reward?
The biggest challenge was getting people to come to my events and classes. I have a motto: “When you know better, you drink better.” So I was on a mission to educate … to show Nashville the world of Caribbean rum, tequila, Mezcal, cordials, liqueurs and other cultural spirits. Nashville was having none of that. It was rough. My first event was a five-course tasting menu with five different cocktails. Three people showed up.
However, Barseat has grown tremendously. I recently did a Bourbon 101 tasting for 400 people, and the November and December calendar is full. The biggest reward is having customers love the cocktails that I create and being able to do something that I truly love on a daily basis. Doing what you LOVE is freaking fabulous!
Tell us about Perfectly Cordial. What is it, and where did the idea originate?
Perfectly Cordial is an all-natural fruit-based cordial that allows one to make a craft beverage or cocktail easily, saving them time and money. As I was bartending more and more, I realized that 45% of the guests were not drinking alcohol. The host would only provide water and canned sodas full of artificial colors and high fructose corn syrup to non-drinking guests. I wanted to provide guests with a great non-alcoholic alternative, so I started making these small-batch syrups — literally seeing what was in season and adding the spices, herbs and flavors that I grew up with in Miami. Guests started to order the non-alcoholic choices more than the alcoholic options. I knew then I was on to something, and Perfectly Cordial was born.
One of my favorite shows growing up was “Anne of Green Gables.” I loved that show with all of my heart and couldn’t wait for PBS to air it. Anne’s aunt would make a blackberry cordial, and Anne and her friend became a little happy taking one too many sips. I added Perfect to it because it literally made the perfect beverage no matter what you mixed it with.
You did an iFundWomen campaign — describe that process. Was it easy? Difficult? Why do you think opportunities like that are so important for female entrepreneurs?
Crowdfunding is not for the faint of heart. I call it stripping with your clothes on. You are literally begging anyone and everyone for money, and you have no idea if you will be successful. It takes some front-end investment as you need video, photos and such. You must also be very organized, intentional, and develop a thick skin. Just because you’re in love with your product does not mean everyone else is. People who you think will support you don’t. And people you have never met will donate. It’s an emotional roller coaster, to say the least, but each milestone is an accomplishment. I could not have launched Perfectly Cordial without it and would do it again if I had to.
There are little to no resources for female manufacturers in the Nashville area. Trying to find mentorship, an incubator, or even a think tank was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Nashville is becoming a major market in the realm of hospitality and culinary, but there is still a large amount of work to do in regards to resources. The more resources that are available, the more success we will see when it comes to female entrepreneurs … women helping women.
Your businesses are family efforts — does that make it easier or more difficult, and why?
It makes it easier for sure. My husband is my “hole puncher.” With over 25 years of sales experience, he can punch a hole in a process faster than anyone I know. He is the one who originally encouraged me to start Perfectly Cordial. I bounce every idea off him, and he gives me a truly unbiased business answer. I never get mad at his critique or advice because I know he is telling the truth. And who can get mad at the truth?
My youngest son now helps me at markets and is learning people skills that he would never learn otherwise. We are spending more time together, and he is not just sitting in front of a TV, videogame or spacing out on his phone. Not to mention, he makes a pretty good hourly wage and is pushing for commission.
What exciting products or business developments do you have coming down the pike?
I recently launched the SWIG Culture Conference in partnership with Sarah Murphy, owner of Bar Magnolia. It’s a three-day educational conference with a primary focus on mobile bartending. There are two different educational tracks (professional and skill) and hands-on learning labs for those who may not have spent a great deal of time behind the bar or who are new to the industry.
What is your favorite hidden gem in Nashville?
The Nashville International Food Market and Bakery on Nolensville Road. It is an international gastronomical dream right here in Nashville. They have every spice you can think of, hard-to-find items like date honey and three different types of fresh feta cheese. They carry fresh meat, produce, teas and a variety of other things that you will not find in the grocery store. There is also a bakery in the back where women come in early to make fresh pita and flatbread. There is a pita topped with cheese that is so good, you will say to heck with your Keto diet. In the front, there’s also a space that sells fresh shawarma and uses the bread from the bakery to make wraps and fresh sandwiches. If you live in Nashville or are just visiting, it’s a must.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given and from whom?
Recently, I was speaking with a director at Dell Computers, and I asked him this same question. His response was, “Be nice to everyone and do the right thing.” I have to agree, as I would not be where I am today if others were not as generous with their time, knowledge, and unselfish assistance to me and my endeavors. Gratitude is on the top of my list for sure.
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Good food, great drinks and time to de-stress and reconnect
Thank you, Rhonda. And thank you to Leila Grossman for the beautiful photos. You can find Perfectly Cordial products at Perfectlycordial.com and SB Shop as well as Citizen Market, Hey Rooster, MAE Organic Beauty, Porter Flea pop-ups and 12South, Richland and Donelson farmers markets in Spring 2020.
She has a passion for pulmonary health and patient care, and she’s on the forefront of cutting edge lung health technological advances. Meet our newest FACE of TriStar, Dr. Susan Garwood of TriStar Centennial Medical Center. Click HERE.