When life gets a little flat, you have to bring your own bubbly to the party! And for self-professed mixology-obsessed sisterpreneurs Jennifer and Nicole Disotell, the Bubble Tap Trailer seemed like just the elixir they needed to bring a little fizz into their world.
In 2018, the duo excitedly packed up their apartments in L.A. and moved back in with their parents in San Diego to help fund their dream of serving up a new kind of event experience: a first-in-the-U.S. mobile bubbly bar serving prosecco, rosé, a mimosa bar and more on tap — all from a fully remodeled vintage canned ham trailer.
But just three weeks after moving back home and launching Tap Trailer Co. (which operates Bubble Tap Trailer), life took a less than celebratory turn when their mom was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian and uterine cancer. While the concept launched to immediate fanfare, Jenn and Nicole were trying to stay positive in the midst of taking care of their mom, driving her to chemo appointments and commuting daily between San Diego and Los Angeles for events and meetings.
Today, mom Crystal is now in remission and Tap Trailer Co. is a bubbling family affair with several generations of Disotell women working at the company. While Jenn and Nicole are at the helm catering to L.A.’s buzziest events, their mom dedicates her talent as a long-time master seamstress for some of SoCal’s premier interior designers to help craft the insta-worthy interiors of the trailers’ photo booths while sister-in-law Andrea Disotell serves as the company’s chief financial officer.
From its first celebratory launch, the Bubble Tap Trailer has not only popped the cork on a traditionally male-dominated industry, but garnered the attention of L.A.’s most notable names, including producer, entertainer and former NSYNC member Lance Bass who fell drunk in love with the company and its vision. It didn’t take long before Bass became an active partner at Tap Trailer Co.
“Being in the entertainment industry, I’ve seen a lot of event concepts, but Bubble Tap Trailer was a game changer. I couldn’t believe no one had thought to do this before” said Bass. “Jenn and Nicole have a big vision for the future of the company that I wanted to part of, and I was excited to support women in business.”
Today the company brings its effervescent style to celebrations, events and festivals with its flagship L.A.-area trailers as well as operating five national franchises, including Orange County, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Kansas City. Montage Magazine asked the sisters to talk about what it really took to get the business off the ground — and the things partygoers do in the trailer when they think no one is watching!
Montage Magazine: Seemingly from the moment Bubble Tap popped its cork and opened for business the bookings started, dare we say, pouring in. Did this surprise you, and what do you think made it so popular so quickly?
Nicole Disotell: I think the aesthetic and novelty of the trailer really appealed to people. It was very “Instagrammable” and different than anything that had been done before. Because of this, we got a lot of Instagram love right off the bat which really helped. It still helps to this day, spurring both sales and franchise inquiries.
MM: Everybody loves the idea of an overnight success, but as we know there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into any successful business. Tell us what your early days of the business looked like behind the scenes while you were doing A-list parties …
Jennifer Disotell: Our days are still grueling. And they will continue to be for a while with the growth track we are on. But the first year was brutal. We had moved in with my parents in San Diego to eliminate our personal expenses. The tradeoff was driving on an almost daily basis back and forth between L.A. and San Diego. Most days we were up around 6 a.m. so we could get work done before hitting the road. During our commute, Nicole and I would trade off driving so the other one could work. Nicole handled all of the client management and prepping events while I would visit our trailer shop to oversee the production of the trailers. Then we would head to our event, which would typically wrap up in the evening — unless it was a wedding, which meant we weren’t loading out until 2 a.m. Looking back, I can’t believe we did it for as long as we did.
MM: What do you think was the tipping point for the business? Was it a specific event, was it press or a celeb client?
JD: In the first year of business, we landed a six-week winter festival. The revenue we made during that time frame enabled us to cover our overhead for about six months, which not only allowed us to breathe easier, but to take a step back, strategize and put a lot of things into place that were necessary for us to grow the business.
MM: What’s your favorite event that Bubble Tap has done and why?
JD: Choosing our favorite event is like choosing a favorite child! Our event for Gwyneth Paltrow and GOOP was definitely an exciting moment for everyone involved. Kate Hudson’s holiday party was pretty cool too. It was a “who’s who” of Hollywood. But the event that is cemented in our mind is a wedding that was held at the bride and groom’s home in San Diego. They told us that they allocated a big chunk of their budget into having the Bubble Tap Trailer there because it was their one “must have.” We felt so honored to be part of their celebration!
MM: What made you decide to franchise the business?
JD: We began receiving franchise inquiries pretty early on. A single press mention or Instagram post would result in a flood of interest. We realized quickly that we needed to expand into other markets to secure market share. To date, we’ve received about 3,000 inquiries. We recently brought on franchise partners who have taken a stake in our company and are helping us aggressively grow our franchise business.
MM: Shortly after launching, your mom was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer. How did that shape how you both approached the business?
ND: It sounds cliché, but we truly have learned to celebrate each day. We have always had the attitude that everything happens for a reason, but we did not fully embrace it until we went through the experience of our mom’s cancer diagnosis. We also now approach business with a more fearless attitude—taking chances we might have normally taken before. Tomorrow is not promised, so why not make the most of every opportunity presented?
MM: You’re a woman-owned, family business with many Disotell women contributing, and most of your franchise owners are women. Is it part of your mission to support women business owners?
JD: As part of the global effort for an equitable economy, we are committed to ensuring that at least 80% of all Bubble Tap Trailer franchises are women owned. Using a significant portion of our time, support and resources, we have pledged to help other women realize their entrepreneurial dreams.
MM: Look, you had us a bubbly bar. But what really makes Bubble Tap a good business opportunity for women who want to open a franchise?
JD: From a financial standpoint, in developing this concept it was an absolute necessity to be able to generate and substantially grow profits without having to continually raise capital. In this manner, The Bubble Tap Trailer was designed with almost total variable costs and little fixed costs. Our plan for the company incorporates many different streams of revenue with high margins so there is a lot of potential and upside for our franchisees. Plus, it’s a fun business to be involved in! We always tell people that out of all the business we’ve had, it’s the only one we’ve never had to do the hard sell.
MM: How did Lance Bass get involved in the business?
ND: I’ve been friends with Lance for probably eight years or so. When we decided that we were ready to bring on a partner, he was a natural fit because he genuinely loved the business. Having known him personally for so long, I knew he would be supportive and easy to work with.
MM: The trailers may look adorable and insta-ready, but what people may not realize is how physical this business is, particularly the first year of the launch when you were doing everything. Tell us about that …
JD: Oh, it’s an extremely physically demanding job—and we have the injuries to prove it! From lifting 50-pound kegs to loading in hundreds of cases of alcohol into a 60,000-person festival in 90-degree weather during the fires, we’ve done it all! For the first year or so, we didn’t have the money to hire people to help us, so we had no choice but to do everything ourselves.
MM: Any notable/funny/interesting moments from one of your events that you can share with us?
JD: Our Dallas licensee, Dawn, had quite a memorable one. She did Leanne Locken’s wedding from “Real Housewives of Dallas” and the trailer was featured on Leanne’s wedding special on Bravo. It was situated right in front of the reception venue as the welcome drink for guests when they arrived.
We’ve also had guests do some, uh, interesting things inside the photo booth [located inside the trailer]. People forget that the images and video captured on the photo booth software downloads to our account where we can view everything! We’ve had some pretty good laughs to say the least.
MM: What’s on tap for the company to toast to in 2020?
JD: We are working on a brick-and-mortar concept that we hope to have up and running by the end of the year. It’s an indoor tap version of the Bubble Tap Trailer. Also we’re launching a cocktail tap trailer [ready in April] — and naturally, our own bubbly line! (taptrailerco.com).
By Michelle Dalton Tyree