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Meet the Creator of the GrubHub for Golden Hops

Published on 10th April 2018

Abbi Erkes just offered me a spoonful of hollandaise sauce. We’re sitting on the tan sectional sofa in her apartment, and I’m watching her pick at some eggs and French toast she had delivered this morning. She slept in and didn’t feel like leaving bed, so naturally, like any other hungover young adult would, she jumped on GrubHub. Ah, the glory of having food delivered right to your door from the tap of an iPhone app.

I decline the saucy offer and listen to her story about last night’s party, a party with college friends. Pictures of gal pals smiling together, a table of half-empty bottles of wine, and a flowery, sparkly list of chores and to-do’s decorate my surroundings.

Abbi and I move to her bedroom, where I go to sit down on her bed, and she stops me frantically. I can’t sit on her bed in “outside clothes” because it’ll ruin her clean space, she says.

Abbi’s past housemates, Teresa Morin and Lauren Vaknin, had previously mentioned her quirks to me. Beyond the “outside clothes” prohibition, Abbi also has “inside shoes” and “outside shoes” and “clean pants” that can’t touch the floor. She even sometimes cleans her feet with Clorox wipes before getting into bed. Teresa lovingly said these strange habits reflect Abbi’s “great attention to detail and her mindset to make sure anything in her life is done flawlessly.”

I take off my shoes and stay standing.

I ask her about what she likes to drink at parties like last night’s, and she answered with one simple word: beer. I was surprised to hear this, since a lot of girls I know usually don’t exactly go for an ice-cold brew instead of the ever-classy vodka soda. But Abbi loves her beer, and even more importantly, Abbi loves a good kegger.

“I think one of the world’s most amazing things is, in fact, a keg party,” she proclaims.

Abbi’s love for beer and kegs is what inspired her most recent work: creating an app called Frat Tap, which she says is the first-ever keg delivery and pick-up service. With just the click of a button, she says, you’ll have a keg delivered to your doorstep. Think GrubHub, but for huge vats of hoppy goodness.

“My app [makes] it easy for [people] to have the keg parties they want, but without the struggle,” Abbi tells me.

I’m skeptical at first, but her passion intrigues me. Her determined, calm demeanor tells me she’s not taking this as a light-hearted project, but as a serious business venture. I’m already half-convinced before even hearing details.

Frat Tap, she tells me, operates on three interfaces—one for customers, one for deliverers, and one for liquor stores. The three work together to create one easy, user-friendly experience for receiving and returning a bulky, heavy, pain-in-the-butt keg.

“I want this app to make kegs accessible to adults and people that don’t have five pledges who can go pick up a really heavy thing and bring it back,” Abbi explains. 

She says while her target demographic for now is fraternities—hence the name Frat Tap—she wants to eventually expand her client base. 

“My app’s going to make it so that any adult … can easily have a keg at their party and not worry about how they’re going to get it there or give it back or if it’s going to strain them physically,” she says.

Basically, she says, when a customer orders a keg, they have the choice of about 60 beer options, depending on what liquor store they’re ordering from. The store gets a notification about what keg is needed and when it needs to be delivered. Similar to Uber, the app updates the deliverer’s trip as they’re en route.

The app is free to download, with the customer having to only pay for the keg itself and the delivery. A deposit fee is also required, but will be refunded upon the return of the keg.

The app’s creation began last summer, Abbi says, and has just recently been completed. The venture, a huge time commitment, has also required great financial investments and crucial meetings with lawyers, all things extremely ambitious for a recent college graduate to take on. But Abbi’s varied career experience has given her confidence. A finance-turned-philosophy major, she interned with wealth management firm Merrill Lynch, where she began to hone her skills as a working businesswoman. Here, through work done and time spent, she earned the knowledge and the savings to fund this crazy idea.

“Abbi is unafraid of new ideas and taking risks,” Teresa said. “She paves the way for new ideas and growth both professionally and personally … and inspires others around her to embody that drive as well.”

Beyond creating an app, Abbi is also working toward preventing underage drinking. She tells me that in order to get her app approved and licensed by the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, she had to help promote good and not promote binge drinking. She explains her argument to me with ease.

“Any kid can go buy a keg, bring it back, and give it to a bunch of underage kids,” she starts. “The reason my company is going to help fix binge drinking with underage kids is because when we deliver the keg, we don’t just check the ID of the person that bought the keg, we check the ID of everyone in visual eyesight. This is a huge step toward fixing an underage drinking problem as opposed to someone just bringing a keg to who knows who.”

Abbi tells me her employees are well-versed in how to properly inspect IDs to assure that the process is efficient and accurate. Otherwise, there would be huge liabilities that are obviously a no-no for anyone running a business. To make sure everything with the app runs smoothly, Abbi tells me, she’s constantly running to the Seaport district to meet with her lawyers. She also tells me that she’s hungry, and wants some fried pickles.

We pause the conversation and walk over to Waxy’s in Brookline, an Irish pub that’s dark and overpriced for the bar food they’re serving. Abbi orders a large Stella, and starts busting the waiter’s balls when he says they don’t serve that here. She settles for an Allagash White, I get a Blue Moon, and we order the ever-coveted pickles.

After some brief conversation about how she looks like a boy in the sweatpants she’s wearing—she said it, not me—and about how I have a cold—to which she offered me “herb,” a concoction of homeopathic pills she swears by to “heal me”—we get back to talking about the shitstorms that are her legal meetings.

But to my surprise, they’re not shitstorms. She loves them, loves chatting with her lawyer, and maybe even hopes to one day become one.

Abbi tells me that in the beginning she was completely lost and looked to a BU law professor for advice. Turns out, that law professor has her own firm, which specializes in small businesses and provides intimate, one-on-one guidance. Abbi now works with that firm, happier than ever with her lawyer, Kevin Jarvis, for whom she’s the first client. She said working with Kevin sparks her passion for law even more.

“I’ve been able to ask a lot of questions and interrogate [Kevin] a little bit,” Abbi says. “Seeing the way he functions as a lawyer inspires me because I would love to be doing what he’s doing for me, for someone else.”

The fried pickles get to our table, and Abbi makes a face because they’re spears instead of chips. She takes a bite and seems satisfied, then continues to tell me about her adventures in law. Even though she loves the field and was once studying for the LSAT, she says, she’s still unsure of what path she’ll take in the future. But she tells me exactly what she wants from Frat Tap, allowing her drive to shine bright through her pickle-muffled words.

“I hope this is something that [people] use, and that they think, ‘Oh, if I want to have a keg party, I should use Frat Tap,’ not, ‘Oh, I should walk on over to [the liquor store] and drag this thing back,’” she says. “It’s just like if you want food delivered in your bed. What’s the first thing you do if you don’t want to move? If you want a keg and you don’t want to move, you think Frat Tap.” She chases her pickle with some of her Allagash, gulps, and pauses. “I want [Frat Tap] to be a well-known name, a well-known app that people know … This is what brought this keg here. Frat Tap did.”

At this point I’ve forgotten Abbi is a recent college graduate who studied philosophy, and it feels like I’m speaking with an experienced entrepreneur. Abbi’s done the work, done the research, done the clichéd “nitty-gritty” to really get this thing done. I praise her, and ask how the hell she can manage it all. She credits her friends for creating a solid support system. But she also has no idea how she balances everything, and I watch her think to herself, trying to figure it out.

“I don’t know,” Abbi finally says with a laugh, “but it’s all been working out. I’m not as stressed as it may seem like I would be.”

This is the first time throughout our conversation that Abbi’s been unsure of something. Just like Teresa had told me, Abbi knows what she wants and goes for it. And what Abbi wants is to make people happy and filled with beer.

“If I woke up every day saying what I’m working for is to help bring people a party and help bring people alcohol, that’s incredible motivation for me to get out of bed every day and work really, really hard,” she tells me with excitement. “I want [Frat Tap] to work so I can personally say to myself, ‘I’m bringing people happiness and bringing people a good time by bringing them beer.’ That would make me very fulfilled.”

Cheers.



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