Alumni Advice: John M. Rushworth, Founder, BottlesTonight

Nov. 10, 2016

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Alumni

John M. Rushworth, a University of Arizona Interdisciplinary Studies major, launched his first venture while still in college studying marketing, businesses and entrepreneurship. He completed the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program in 2011, and took a sales job with Altria, but within a year, he was itching to get back to entrepreneurship. He revived BarSential, the McGuire Program venture he created to help bars leverage discounted menu items, and sold it to 40 bars and clubs in Tucson and Phoenix in a year and a half. However, the idea proved not to be scalable. 

"I learned a lot from BarSential," he said. "I learned that you can’t talk to customers enough."

After listening to customer feedback, he realized he needed to realign the concept with the main source of revenue for clubs, which is bottle service. He decided to move to San Francisco and spent six months networking and learning from entrepreneurs in the area before he was ready to launch his next venture. 

In 2013, Rushworth launched BottlesTonight, a mobile marketplace for booking bottle service and concierge experiences in the $35 billion nightclub event space. Today, BottlesTonight provides simplified bottle service reservation and VIP packages for more than 300 nightclubs in 12 major cities nationwide. This year, BottlesTonight graduated from the 500Startups Program, a leading global venture capital seed fund and startup accelerator. 

5 Tips from a McGuire Grad who Successfully Launched BottlesTonight

  1. Be a sponge. Graduating McGuire will result in confidence but it’s only a foundation on which to build. When I graduated, I didn’t immediately start my company, BottlesTonight. I learned from the biggest and best. I worked at Altria, absorbed a ton of foundational workplace knowledge, and gained insight into what I personally wanted to do as a professional. 
  2. Take risks. When you’re young, you have less responsibility. This is the time to take your newly acquired knowledge, passion and energy, and carry it forward. This is when you want to take a (reduced) risk and start a company. 
  3. Work harder. If you have savings or a paycheck, commit yourself to validating that your idea is worth leaving your current job for, or worth blowing through your savings. Timeline out how long your current savings will last you and always reduce it by 2 months; things always take longer and cost more than you think. Doing this also means you are committing to long hours and less social life. But it’s worth it, because in doing this, you will either find out you have a company or not.
  4. Be opportunistic, realistic and open to possibilities. Timing is really everything. By staying alert, you will spot opportunities. These opportunities can make or evolve your perspective around your company and generate new insights and ideas. The growth mindset is so important. Great entrepreneurs are aware and constantly digesting new knowledge as well as learning from missteps. This information will guide you and others that get involved.
  5. Go for it! Let me be clear. I would not have chosen a different path. Running BottlesTonight has been the most rewarding and learnt path I could have ever taken. The 500 Startups program that we attended earlier this year was absolutely incredible and just one amazing thing I have experienced as a result of this company. It takes risks to get rewards.  

UA Entrepreneurship Program graduates interested in writing an Alumni Advice column, please contact mcguiremedia@eller.arizona.edu