As an introvert, Chris Jordahl relies on his years of improv training to better communicate with others. He also uses his theater training to help run Black Tie Beverages, the bartending business he co-owns with his wife, Melodie Jordahl.
“Running the business and having to be a bartender, it definitely takes me out of my comfort zone,” he said. “But having the skills I’ve learned and honed through years of doing improv, it helps me get past all of that and really be able to entertain and serve people.”
Jordahl was born in California but moved to Colorado Springs with his family when he was 8 years old.
“This really is a great place to grow up,” he said. “I consider myself pretty lucky to have been raised here.”
After graduating from Sand Creek High School, Jordahl moved to Chicago to attend The Second City school of improvisation.
“I went out there with a few thousand dollars and by the time I signed a lease and bought a mattress and all the necessary stuff to live, I only had a couple hundred left,” he said. “I ended up moving back to the Springs about a year later, but I still think of Chicago as a second home and learned a lot while I was there.”
The 26-year-old is currently studying English rhetoric at UCCS and expects to graduate this December with his bachelor’s degree.
“The plan is to keep going with school after that and get my master’s in screenwriting,” he said. “My dream is to have my own sitcom someday.”
Jordahl spoke with the Business Journal this week about running a business with a spouse and his pursuit of a role on “Saturday Night Live.”
Why did you and your wife decide to start Black Tie Beverages?
We started the business in 2014. It was something that we kind of did on the side at first. My wife, Mel, is the real brains behind it. … She knows everything about mixology, and she wanted to take that skill and do something more with it. When we got married, everything was so expensive. We were 22 and 25 and I was in school. Mel had a pretty good job managing a restaurant, but it’s getting very expensive to live anywhere. We thought there’s an opportunity here to do something that we like and not rip people off like a lot of companies that offer on-site bartending tend to do. We started out doing it at The Loft [Music Venue]. That’s actually where we met, got engaged and got married. We do stuff at other venues now too, but we have a really strong relationship with The Loft — they’re just wonderful over there. We’ve done some corporate events and office parties, but we mostly do weddings.
What is it like to run a business with your spouse?
My one co-worker is someone who I like. We all know that at any job, there are people who are great and some who are not so great to work with. I have to say, working with my wife is just wonderful. Not to say that there aren’t times where we’re like, ‘We need to get this right’ and it gets a little frustrating. But we have gotten into a good rhythm where we know what we are doing. It’s really great just working with one wonderful person.
What are some challenges with running your own business?
There’s something nice about going to work and then coming home and that part of your day being done — that’s something I miss sometimes. We work from home and [the business’ stuff] is all over our house. So it’s a challenge sometimes to find time to just slow down and stop and relax. It’s also just a challenge trying to balance everything that comes with running a business and then going to school at the same time. Then there is the off-season or slow part of the year when there aren’t a bunch of weddings going on and trying to get through that.
How do you get the business through the off-season?
The wedding season — at least here — is actually longer than a lot of people think. We’re already going to be kicking off wedding season in the next few weeks. So starting mid-March and going all the way through October — it stays pretty busy. In November and December we normally book a few office parties, and then come January, we’re starting to book for the next season already. It’s like, when that clock strikes midnight on New Year’s, people say, ‘We’re getting married this year, and we need to start planning right now,’ and so the first week of January we will start getting a lot of calls to book for the spring, summer or early fall.
What does the future have in store for Black Tie Beverages?
We would love to see it grow. We now have partnerships with a number of venues here, and what we really want to do is get to a point where we can hire more bartenders. Right now, there are a couple people who help us out, but we would really like to be able to hire a couple of bartenders, so [my wife and I] aren’t the ones going to all the events we book.
What about your pursuit of becoming a stand-up comedian?
During high school I did the whole theater thing and was like, ‘I want to be a serious actor. I want to win an Oscar and a Tony.’ Then toward the end of the high school, when I was a senior, I got really into watching ‘Saturday Night Live.’ I was reading so much about it and I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ I literally Googled, ‘How do you get onto SNL?’ That’s when I found The Second City in Chicago, and that it is kind of a breeding ground for the show. Chris Farley came from there and Dan Aykroyd, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler — all those big names in comedy and writing and improv, including Steve Carell. But after moving out there, unfortunately, I never had enough money to do the classes at The Second City, which is a bummer. … After I came back to the Springs, I found the improv troupe, Stick Horses in Pants. They were a well-established troupe here that started in 2005. We have our regular show at the Lon Chaney Theatre in the City Auditorium that is monthly. And then we do private shows for Christmas parties or whatever. We also do classes and corporate trainings, which is so much fun.
How does the corporate training work?
We go in and we teach some improv basics and explain how those relate to business communication. It’s something that The Second City and many other improv troupes and theaters do, where they take those basics and they put them into a business setting. It’s about how they can help create a better environment, better communication, in a business setting. I did one back in December and it was so much fun because you go in and there’s a mix of people. Some people are way into it and some people are too shy, but at the end, they’re all playing together and communicating.
How does doing improv help with running the business?
Growing up, I was kind of a shy kid. I still kind of am an introvert. And so it’s not my comfort zone to be talking to a new person every 30 seconds. But I’ve learned to use my improv skills to better communicate with people at work and in general. I can use them when I’m getting someone a drink, and it makes it easier to talk with them and provide a little bit of entertainment while I’m serving them.
How do you spend your free time?
I also write — sometimes comedy and sometimes not — stories or poems. This is really nerdy but I also love to play Dungeons & Dragons. It’s so much fun. I play with my best friend in the whole world who I’ve known since I was like 10 years old. I like it so much I brought it into my comedy world where I did an entire show about Dungeons & Dragons. … I really think it’s the funniest show I’ve ever done in my life.
What advice do you have for other young professionals?
I really haven’t thought about this because I don’t think of myself as someone who can give advice yet, but I guess I would say, if you have an idea, that idea is valid. It may need some tweaking, but still go for it. Get your idea out there and share it with people who won’t negate it and then work on it. Not all ideas will or need to be the next Facebook. If it’s a small idea that you think has potential, go for it.