East County entrepreneur launches Original Jel Shot Company.
Known by her friends as “the Jell-O Shot Fairy,” Myakka City’s Ashley Zalkin had just finished making 400 Jell-O Shots for her 25th birthday party in 2015 when she received a request.
“My friend called and said that she was having her own party the next day, and asked me to make her another 100 Jell-O Shots,” Zalkin said.
Zalkin did not feel like making 100 more.
She thought it would be nice just to be able to buy the Jell-O Shots in a store. “Why was that not a thing (in the area),” she said. “I got a notebook out and started writing stuff down. It was like a lightbulb moment for me.”
Zalkin, who has a degree in event management from the University of Central Florida and owns her own event management company, REV Productions, thought it was a good time to go in another business direction.
“I grew up in an entrepreneurial family,” Zalkin said.
Her grandparents owned a scrapyard and her father, Bruce Zalkin, has owned his own business appraising antique toys.
She called her parents, Laura and Bruce Zalkin, and they began writing a business plan and contacting people about selling a prepackaged a form of Jell-O shots.
“When I came up with this idea, my other business (event management) kind of got pushed to the back burner,” Zalkin said.
On Nov. 1, two-and-a-half years after her lightbulb moment, Zalkin launched the Original Jel Shot Co. Jell-O is a trademark, so Zalkin had to change the spelling. Her product can be found in six flavors at three liquor stores in Bradenton and Sarasota.
It was a victory considering Ashley Zalkin sold her 1965 Ford Mustang to help finance her new business.
“It was my dream car,” Zalkin said of the Mustang.
She hopes that one day she can buy it back.
“Hopefully I can build an empire with this business,” she said.
The Jel Shot business has become a family endeavor.
Bruce, Laura, Alex and Ashley Zalkin own a percentage of the business along with Bruce Zalkin’s best friend, Joel Magee.
“Some people can’t work with their family, but it has brought us even closer,” Ashley Zalkin said. “I’ve been living at home for a year — I had to move back, which I never thought would happen — and they have been really supportive.”
Zalkin’s 81-year-old grandmother, Sandra Ainbinder, has even been along for the ride.
Living across the street from the Zalkin family, Ainbinder has watched as her granddaughter’s business idea came to fruition over the years, and she enjoys the final product as well.
“I think they are amazing, and they are really good with ice cream,” Ainbinder said. “I don’t have a favorite flavor, just like I don’t have a favorite child, but if I had to choose I would choose root beer.”
Shots by the Original Jel Shot Co. are sold in packs of four and a case of 30.