Cathie Anderson

Human hamster wheels meet PechaKucha Nights at Sacramento’s Uptown Studios

Sacramento marketing guru Tina Reynolds makes it hard to conclude an interview on the relocation and growth of her Uptown Studios firm. It’s impossible to not ask more questions when she volunteers, “We have PechaKucha Nights,” or “I have a human hamster wheel.”

Reynolds recently moved her team of 13 into a 4,000-square-foot warehouse that she acquired in 2014 for roughly a million dollars. Although she’s been there for just a few months, she’s already hired four new employees. The building housed Bob’s Glass at 2415 23rd St., between X Street and Broadway, in Sacramento.

“It’s everything I wanted,” she told me. “I wanted to have a studio in a warehouse, and because I do so much community stuff, I wanted to have everything on wheels. And everything is on wheels. I can roll all the desks off into these little rooms and then I’ll have a space that can hold 200 people.”

As for the exotic-sounding PechaKucha Nights, the Japanese term identifies a presentation style where a speaker shows 20 slides for 20 seconds and shares their thoughts. The next one will be Jan. 19, Reynolds said, and will revolve around the topic of breaking the glass ceiling.

Reynolds founded the marketing and design firm in 1992, and she said she has designed the office to spark brainstorming and sharing ideas. The human hamster wheel comes in handy for that work. …

Upping the Ficks: Jesuit High School graduate Ron Alvarado and his business partner Mike Williamson felt retail sales would take off for their Ficks cocktail fortifier after smashing through their $40,000 crowdfunding goal in less than 30 days on the IndieGoGo website.

That was three years ago. Last week, Alvarado told me that he and Williamson moved earlier this year to change direction with their product. They have ditched the concept of a cocktail fortifier, a flavorless liquid packed with vitamins and electrolytes aimed at helping to stave off a hangover, and instead are producing cocktail mixers infused with the same healthy ingredients.

“We thought people were really excited about the idea of healthier infused cocktails,” Alvarado said. “But what we heard from the retailers was … although customers enjoyed the product once they knew what it was, it was really hard for them to understand the concept of it when they were looking at it on the shelf. It was a tiny bottle. They had never heard of a cocktail fortifier before.”

The product made it onto shelves at stores such as Nordstrom, HomeGoods, and the United Kingdom’s Harvey Nichols, Alvarado said, but grocers and other retailers that traditionally sell alcohol didn’t order the fortifiers. He said the new product is meeting a better reception with grocers and other small retailers in the Bay Area. So far, they have 50 retail outlets, including many HomeGoods stores.

Alvarado said the HomeGoods buyers have told him and Williamson that the new mixers, sold in 32-ounce bottles, are selling at higher volume than anticipated. Because the 32-ounce bottles are not cost-effective for shipping, the Ficks co-founders are offering a holiday pack of three smaller bottles at Kickstarter.com. Each bottles features one of the three Ficks flavors: Moscow Mule, margarita and lemon drop.

So far, Alvarado said, the Moscow Mule mixer is their strongest performer. The vodka cocktail has soared from obscurity to a sensation in the last few years. The data analytics firm GuestMetrics found that it appeared on drink menus 60 percent more often in 2015 than in 2014. The cocktail mixers are produced in Gilroy, and the two men are self-distributing them from Oakland.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee

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