Exactly a year ago, I nervously, and frantically, texted everyone I knew hoping I could fill a room for our first ever class. I went down my contacts list pitching "A fun night of learning and drinks" to my friends and family and people I'd come to know from my many years in the wedding photography industry and working in Butchertown.
As familiar faces started to arrive and excitedly congratulated me, I somehow knew even if it all failed, Level Up was gonna be a fun ride. The fear melted, the excitement set in, and I buckled up for the ride.
That first class was a Thursday afternoon and my friend Jen from Copper & Kings had taken a chance on me and agreed to host a Mixology class. I didn't have a teacher in mind, but when the idea first came to me – In the shower I may add! – I to emailed Chef Bobby at Butchertown Grocery. We had met in passing at a neighborhood association meeting earlier in the year. We were familiar with each other, but he didn't know me from Adam.
I told him about the Level Up concept and asked if he'd be willing to let me borrow one of his bartenders for a couple of hours halfway thinking he'd completely dismiss my request. But here is the beautiful thing about the creative community in Louisville, he didn't just send A bartender, he sent THA Bartender: Beverage Director Nic Christiansen who manages the bar for both Butchertown Grocery and Lola. Nic completely shattered my expectations and paved the way for the rest of our teachers. Chef Bobby personally came to wish me luck, hand deliver and set up a few charcuterie trays for our students.
From that day on, the process became less about the classes themselves and all about the people. In the last year, I've watched in awe as we've brought together over 450 students, 34 of the most talented makers and creatives in the city and hosted classes in some of the most amazing spaces around town.
We've grown from a one-man-show to a three member team, and a with the help of a handful of amazing freelancers, we've gone from five classes a month to a July 2017 roster of almost five times as many classes – And we're not stopping there! We've narrowed our focus even further and re-defined our mission. We want to "connect, educate and Inspire women" through our pop-up classes, our website, blog content and expansion into a new city – We're doing our first pop-ups in Lexington later this month (Join us!).
In this first year, I've had the privilege of witnessing people sharing their passion, connecting in meaningful ways over a new skill and exploring their own sense of curiosity. But it doesn't end there.
This sense of accomplishment, this happiness, it spreads like wildfire and rushes into every other aspect of our lives. Our students are having a blast learning new things and being together, but we're the lucky ones who get to be involved in this movement, the community they bring and the inspiration that flourishes in them. As we start year two, my only hope is that we can continue nourishing these relationships, highlighting our local makers, creatives and businesses and spread the joy.
With love and appreciation always,