Bloody Marys might be just an occasional treat for some, but Millersville University alumni Collin and Annie Dawkins have worked hard to perfect the art of the tomato-based drink.
The couple founded and own Sunday’s Best LLC, where they sell their special Bloody Mary mixes and garnishes, along with other merchandise for their brand. Since 2021, the Dawkins’ Bloody Mary mix recipe has consecutively been awarded the platinum metal at the Drunken Tomato Awards, the highest award the international competition bestows. Along with being internationally recognized, Sunday’s is currently the most-followed Blood Mary mix on Twitter.
Collin and Annie attended the University together, with Collin graduating with a degree in business administration in 2017, while Annie graduated in 2018 with a degree in psychology. Despite holding different jobs before their entrepreneurial efforts began, the two founded Sunday’s with the desire to keep some of their family traditions alive.
“Annie’s dad, Pat, introduced us to Bloody Marys when we were in college,” Collin explains. “His Bloody Mary was the first one either of us had ever tried. It took me a while to get used to the taste of Bloody Marys, but I fell in love with them.”
“After we had Pat’s Bloody, we would try to find one that could compare to his in Lancaster or any other cities we traveled to. We never could. So, in 2020 we wanted to start an ecommerce business of some kind, and we decided that we could be the ones to show people what an amazing Bloody Mary tastes like.”
The two agree that they knew they had something special with their recipe, but the journey from starting the business to being awarded and praised has been exciting. “We have really taken our time building Sunday’s,” says Collin. “It feels like everything has happened like it was supposed to. We knew that we had a great mix, and that people love it, but getting validation from the judges was really cool and humbling.”
“It feels really exciting to have this little tradition that my dad started shared with everyone who gets our mix,” Annie adds.
Furthering their entrepreneurial experience, the couple recently opened the Lancaster Beignet Company, a local café located on N Prince Street in Lancaster. The two were again inspired by family traditions.
“My Dad’s side of the family is from Picayune, Mississippi. My whole family would drive down every Summer, and when we were there, we would go to New Orleans,” says Collin. “Café Du Monde was always a stop while we were there.”
“We would order dozens of beignets and eat every single one, and we would also make beignets at home for special occasions. It was something that I grew up with but could never find outside of home. So, kind of like the Bloody Mary Mix, we wanted to bring something new to Lancaster.”
Lancaster Beignet has been open for about nine months, and during that time, the two have been developing their business model and working on growing and expanding their team. As they grow, the couple is looking to potentially franchise the company throughout the northeast. “We would love to hear from possible MU alumni who can help us out there!” Collin says.
The best aspect for the two has been forming real relationships with their customers and their employees. “The most rewarding part has been creating a space in our community where every person who walks through the doors instantly feels welcomed and that they belong here,” Annie says. “And, of course, feeding them delicious food. It’s always exciting to see the reactions to a plate of six hot beignets or a beignet sandwich coming out.”
As for Sunday’s, the two are looking to expand that venture as well. Currently, all their mixes and orders are processed and packaged by hand, but they explain that they’re looking to keep up with the demand they’ve created. Working with third-party logistics and a co-packer are the first steps.
“With all those things coming together we can really focus on finding new wholesale partners– restaurants, bars, breweries, shops, and now grocery stores,” Collin says. “Until now, we have done everything ourselves and we just weren’t able to create enough inventory to scale the business. All of that is changing and it’s super exciting.”
The couple attributes their time at Millersville to helping with the skills they’ve needed in founding and maintaining their businesses.
“I took a lot of great entrepreneurship classes at MU. I was always interested in entrepreneurship, but the classes I took with Dr. (Michael) Douglas specifically really helped me dive deeper into that world,” says Collin. “I also played football my freshman year, and learned what hard work looked and felt like.”
Collin also participated in the 30-second pitch competition during his time at the University and moved on to the PASSHE level. “That was the first business that I created, and incorporated, and tried to grow. It wasn’t successful by any means, but it was a fun learning experience.”
“Millersville helped me learn and grow in many ways,” says Annie. “I would say my time in the psych department deepened my understanding of how different and unique people are, it gave me tools to help when I’m training, managing and interacting with employees and guests.”
Annie also notes that Millersville allowed her the opportunity to develop lifelong friendships. “The friends that are in my life the most are relationships that developed during my time at Millersville.”
The two note that entrepreneurship can be intimidating but rewarding. Collin acknowledges the importance of learning from others and listening to feedback. “We’re still at the very beginning of our entrepreneurial journey. As we continue to build and grow, we’d love to talk with people who have done this before and learn from them.”
“Taking chances by putting yourself and your business out there for the world to see can come with a scary feeling,” concludes Annie. “Trusting in yourself and remaining authentic are really important pieces to hold on to. That scary feeling might always be there, but it turns more into excitement, and the feeling of being received positively by the community is indescribable.”