A mental health network for the hospitality industry in Canada, created by Alex Black and Makenzie Chilton from Vancouver, Canada, has been announced as the winning concept at the first ever The Tahona Society Collective Spirit hosted by Altos Tequila in Mexico this week. The start-up competition challenged 15 bartender finalists to present new project ideas that benefit their bar staff, customers, the community or the environment in a bid to win a $50,000 grant to bring the concept to life.
Black and Chilton’s winning project, Mind the Bar, aims to improve mental health in the bartending industry by providing resources, information and support to people dealing with thoughts of suicide, depression, anxiety, and workplace harassment. The grant will be immediately used to hire counselling staff who will be able to help and give advice to people suffering, and to scale up and expand the platform http://mindthebar.com/ to other cities across Canada.
Black and Chilton impressed the judging line-up for their strong focus on bartender welfare, one of the five different Collective Spirit categories evaluated in the contest along with; social engagement, upcycling and recycling, waste reduction and sustaining the environment. Makenzie Chilton commented: “I am thrilled to have won the first ever The Tahona Society Collective Spirit competition – I can’t wait to return home to work on this amazing project, and to ensure that anybody who needs help, gets help – it’s going to be transformational for the bartending community in Canada.”
Alex Black added: “We are going to help so many people thanks to the prize fund by The Tahona Society, we can’t wait to put into practice all the inspirational ideas and sustainability practices we have learnt during this week’s accelerated training in Mexico. I couldn’t be prouder of the bartending industry and I am sure all the finalists at the Tahona Society Collective Spirit finale are going to do great things in their homeland.”
The competition began with two days of immersive training for bartenders led by Altos Tequila in 22 countries around the world, including the UK, USA and Mexico. Attendees at each event then submitted their sustainable bar ideas to The Tahona Society Collective Spirit jury, made up of leading global Tequila experts, who selected 15 projects to compete in Mexico.
To assist their preparation for the final round of presentations, finalists received specialised Tequila training as well as hands-on workshops from business, marketing and start-up experts such as; Christophe Prat, Vice President of House of Tequila; Kirén Miret, Executive Producer of Mexico and Colombia´s Shark Tank reality television series; Dré Masso, co-founder of Altos Tequila and spirits consultant, Valerie Kramis, co-founder of design studio Agenda 28 and social entrepreneurship expert, amongst others.
In addition to the $50,000 grant, House of Tequila and the businesses of Miret, Kramis and Masso will sponsor a fundraising event for US finalist’s Support the Staff initiative in Chicago, to help them raise funds to kickstart their project – a platform for professionals that aims to create dialogue and raise awareness of the issues surrounding mental health in the hospitality industry.
As part of the awards ceremony, Adrián Lopez from Hanky Panky bar in Mexico City, was awarded the first ever Henry Besant Scholarship, named after the late Altos Tequila co-founder and valued at $10,000, to fund an international exchange to London where he will take English lessons and bartending at the cocktail capital of the world for his career advancement.
Dré Masso, Altos Tequila and The Tahona Society co-founder, said: “There is a growing movement around the world towards sustainability, with consumers actively seeking out cleaner and greener bar practices and leading bartenders are creating new and innovative ways of giving back to their communities. So for the first time in its history, we have reimagined The Tahona Society to ensure it continues to lead the way in cocktail trends and reinforces Altos Tequila’s core values of family, integrity and authenticity and its ongoing care for the environment and the community. We are incredibly excited by Black and Chilton’s Mind The Bar project as it resonates with Altos’ care for people – and we look forward to seeing it being brought to life in Canada.”
Carlos Andrés Ramírez, Global Advocacy Manager at Pernod Ricard House of Tequila, added: “At Altos Tequila, we have long demonstrated the importance of being at the forefront of bartender education through The Tahona Society and promoting sustainable practices in the bar industry. We are proud of the level of high quality entries we have received from all over the world, and while there can only be one winner we do hope that many of them become realities over the next few years. We hope many more bartenders will join our familia of tequileros who want to get serious about protecting the environment and improving the lives in their local communities – so look out for The Tahona Society Collective Spirit 2019 competition launching in the New Year!”