The Entrepreneur Podcast
The Entrepreneur Podcast

Episode · 1 year ago

Changing careers and changing perceptions with Eric Brass of Tequila Tromba

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

The mention of Tequila often induces a strong reaction, and Eric Brass was no exception.

 

“I had the same misconception that most people have about tequila — that disgusting shot in a seedy bar at a horrible hour of the night. It’s the most misunderstood and misrepresented spirit in the world.”

But something happened on a study trip to Mexico that changed Brass’ career trajectory, leading him to co-found a premium tequila brand with just a backpack and $10,000. Today, Tequila Tromba is one of the fastest growing premium tequilas in North America.

Together with his entrepreneurship professor, Eric Morse, Brass walks through his entrepreneurial journey: from discovering real tequila, and leaving the world of finance, to creating a modern brand with traditional techniques.

...you're listening to the Ivy Entrepreneurship podcast from the PRL Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship at the business school. My name is Eric Morris, and I'll be your host for this episode. Eric and I have known each other for quite a while. He came through our program here, and I've been really fortunate to be able to keep in touch with him over the years. And I do. I do mean that to follow his journey and where he's been has been just fantastic. And to see the success that they've gained over the years is, uh is really rewarding for me. So I love it, and, uh, the opportunity to share that with everybody tonight is something that I'm really excited about. So, Eric, I don't know if you want to just say a couple words about yourself before we really get into things, maybe a little bit more about your history, and then we'll just jump right in. Sure. Well, it's a pleasure to be here. I wish we could all be together in person. Obviously, it's, uh, interesting and difficult year in many ways for many people, and I feel for you know, all of all of you, you folks at Western that this is this is the year of school that's were taken. But it does bring some opportunities and unique perspectives which probably talk about later. My story is I you know, I graduated from from Ivy and in 2000 and five, it seems like it seems like yesterday, but a long time ago. And, you know, one of the things that I did is I went down to Mexico on exchange with school. Most of my smart friends went to Hong Kong and France and Switzerland, and I went to Guadalajara, Mexico, to learn some Spanish, get my butt, kicked a little bit and have a new, interesting experience. And down there I fell in love with tequila. So I thought tequila was originally my many days at Western and Seeps, and a bunch of the bars thought to kill was that terrible shot of that horrible bar that city hour of the night, and ended up trying to feel for the first time and was amazed. My husband, tequila, actually is came back to Canada, worked a day job for about six years now, asset management and then one day, much to my mother's dismay, Quit my job, went for the dream and started tequila. Brand called trauma and didn't know anything about the world of tequila. Didn't know anything about boost business. Didn't have any distribution. You know, Eric, before you go too far down that road. So you were You were working in asset management, right? So how was it that one day you decided? Okay, now's the right time. Yeah. If I said it was one day and you know which went off, I'd be I'd be obviously lying. But it was, you know, it was just a passion that I had. It was a bug inside of me. And a lot of people ask me, you must have not liked your job. And I love my job. I mean, I was you know, I wasn't I was effectively co managing a portfolio of stocks. My boss was terrific. My peers were awesome. But there was something inside of me when it came to doing something for myself and entrepreneurship Bug that you probably helped build in my last my last year of Western when I was in your class in the first year of the entrepreneurship group and it just didn't die down. And when it came to, I would travel back and forth to Mexico and and bring back tequila. First people would say, You know, I don't want to try that. I've had a bad tequila story And then they tried to kill, were blown away, and I started to get invited to parties, for example. And people would say, You can come bring her tequila, you can bring it to school. And I saw the you know the opportunity there, and I saw that gap in the marketplace where there wasn't a, you know, an ultra premium tequila, an accessible price. Tequila was very top, and bottom heavy was either about pounding your chest. Look how much money I'm spending or about Close your eyes, plug your nose, hope for the best, take down a shot. And that would be lucky than smart. A friend of mine on exchange was a guy named Marco Sedano, or it was Rodrigo Sedano. Marco Sedano. His father was the original master distiller of Tequila Brand called Don Julio, so we pitched him. We thought he'd tell us to bugger off. It's like asking uh, Wayne Gretzky to play your men's team. And how did you meet the How did you meet the sun? So Rodrigo was in my class. He was a He was a drinking buddy. He was somebody that you know. One of the smart things I did on exchange was I hung out with the Mexican students, not the exchange students. And he was one of the people that introduced me to tequila. And, you know, it didn't really mean too much then that his dad was the master. You know, the original Masters still have a great tequila brand. I couldn't even spell done who you let him know. I don't know what done who it was, but I'm a big believer that things kind of compile in your in your favor. And the opportunity presents itself. And for better for worse, I can go out for better that that opportunity presented itself and the stars kind of lined up, and we effectively, you know, we started trauma from there, and it's just another way that kind of stars lined up. I don't think about this too often, but when I went on exchange my first day of the exchange program, I walked into the into the lobby of the...

...exchange school in Guadalajara, Mexico, and a tall, lanky Australian fellow comes up to me first. God spoken to Really? And he says, How you doing, mate? I'm doing okay. And he said, uh, you know, we live in And I said, I don't know. I want to find a find a place. Um, I didn't want to live in the residents there and he said, Well, how about we We live together and this is the Yeah, that's pretty preposterous thing. And I said, Okay, no problem. And so he actually became my business partner in trauma. So I'm not really. I didn't know that story from that from that chance. You know that chance thing and be saying yes and be open to it. And he became one of my best friends and my business partner in trauma, and he ran the Australian market. Wow. So, Eric, when you went, you went back home, you got your job, and obviously you must have kept in touch with these guys. And was this something that have you guys talked about it way back then? Or was it really an evolution over time that led to this? No, we never even joked about it. I mean, if you'd have told me back when I went in exchange, I would effectively be running a tequila brand. I would have said, You're absolutely You're absolutely your mind. It just, you know, certain stars just kept the lining and opportunity presented itself and putting yourself in an uncomfortable position like me going down on exchange was a game changer for me in a lot of ways, That still impacts me today. And I'm a big believer of doing that both personally and professionally, because I had a lot of friends that went to place business have to be obviously exchange related, but went to I had the opportunity to Sweden, for example, where two of my best friends were going. And, you know, I would have had my family there, and I would have had effectively my social life lined up. But instead I picked Guadalajara, Mexico, and I opened up that exchange for Ivy, and I think it closed straight after I was there. But I don't think it was your fault, but I think that is true. I didn't know any Spanish. I didn't know anything about Mexico. Um, and I just decided to have a go and do something different and and challenge myself. And from that challenge, it's, you know, all of this. All of this arose where, if I would have picked quote unquote the safe route, then who knows? Who knows? Who knows? Yeah. Okay, so let's get to the, uh you guys, I guess Start talking again about, you know, just catching up. Where did the idea come from? And how was it your idea? Was it one of the others? You know, how did it come up and what? We're kind of the first steps. I mean, it was I think we all you know, I went back to Toronto. My roommate, business partner, Nick went down, went back down to to Melbourne, Australia, and we both saw the epiphanies that we could bring when we brought good tequila back to them after we either bought it, bought stuff in store, brought it back from Mexico. And, you know, we both just absolutely loved the spirit. And there was such a great misconception. Still is today about sure what tequila actually is that it can actually be sipped. Enjoyed saver. Now it's obviously a much more of an evolved market, and it was really about following something we loved. We were an alcoholic spending stretch of the imagination despite my background, but But we really did, you know, love that opportunity. And again we saw that gap in the marketplace that the big players just we're not addressing. And for us, I mean I mean, so many people said, You're you're completely out of your mind. I remember my boss's face when when I told her that I was to do this. I mean, it was, you know, she could see it. Are you Are you crazy? Because it was not the safe bet. It was not a quote unquote the smart, the smart bet. And, you know, when I graduated from from school in 2005, you know, and and even even 56 years later, entrepreneurship wasn't nearly as sexy as developed as it is today. I think in my there was there was one guy that just to the entrepreneurship route, and people said, Are you is he out of his mind? He's kind of a little start up, start a wind farm, and he was he was wildly successful, but I think it's, you know, it was an incredible thing in terms of it was, it was obviously the right thing to do is to leave a very cushy job in fantastic management. And do you do this? And it wasn't it wasn't a one day thing. It was a progression of ideas, and I can't quite point to one epiphany moment, but it took. It took me a good amount of time to work up the courage to actually actually do it and take no salary for for two years and work, you know, you know, work out of my parent's basement and storage unit in their garage and all that stuff. It was I remember you telling the story of, uh, kind of going down and convincing the master distiller to join you and make you know, make the jump here. Could you share some of that with everybody? Yeah, I mean, so again, like Marco Sedano, the guy that we were effectively looking to bring on as our master story again, it is literally like asking Wayne Gretzky to play in your men's team. You're expecting him to tell you to go. You know, we go to a bugger off and effectively, you know, with him. He's We gave him an opportunity that he never had before. So we didn't want him to be able to store who wanted to be our partner. He...

...said, you know, he was the original Master Stiller for for a priest to kill for 17 years. And when he left, all he got was a watch for his efforts. Which a nice watch, which was which ended up being robbed at gunpoint, which is another story all together. Um, but you gotta watch. And he felt rightly or wrongly, that he was instrumental in building that brand, which is worth in the billions today. And he didn't want to make that mistake again. And he's not a money hungry guy, but his legacy is nowhere attached. That brand he wanted his legacy attached this brand, he said, Make me a partner. Make me part of this of this brand may be part of this tequila and rule number two. No gringos in the kitchen. Give me control to do what I want to do. I'm going to bring my son Rodrigo in your drinking buddy. from school. And what's really nice is, you know, usually it's not a legacy business in the sense where it's passed on from grandfather to father to son. It's father and son building it together. So it's their family legacy as much as it's mine. And, you know, those were the two main conditions that he asked for, and we had about 10 grand and we raised, You know, I caught pity money from friends and family. We had about 10 grand left over and effective after after our first production run and went with our backpacks, bar by bar, bottle by bottle and built trauma to number two in Canada number two in Australia. Uh, that's amazing. And I don't know, you know, this isn't an overnight success. I I know you had bottles of Trump A and your backpack going bar to bar, trying to get people to carry it. And can you just tell us a little bit about how you got? You know, it's a tough business to break into. How did you start to get it out there and and start to see some of the acceptance? Because I'm like most people and I'm guessing most people on the call, right? They've had tequila. But it was either, as you said late night before the bar closed or it was in a margarita or you know something else. So not kind of sure is a fine tequila. And, you know, yours was actually a revelation to me. I hadn't really had a great tequila, and I think you were the one just pretended Scotch. Drink it the same way and you'll be fine and you know, it's wonderful, but it's sure not what I kind of knew. So how did you convince people that hey, you need a high quality tequila here in North America? I mean, it was, I think, being it's it's funny. A couple couple advantages don't realize where advantages back then, that there are certain advantages today when when I noticed the number one is we started with and this is a little bit of attention, we started with no money, right? We started with effectively 10 grand in marketing, so we had to be really out of the box and think differently. Quote unquote outside of the industry standards as to how to effectively penetrate the market place because if somebody would have given me 23 million bucks to start off. To be quite honest, I probably would've wasted two or $3 million would have a heck of a time doing it. But that's not what building shareholder value is for for your peers and for yourself. So that discipline, because I think outside the box and effectively build a culture within trauma, that is, are we base that effectively is there today. I think one of the one of the things that we had in our favor is being a small company, and it's probably testament to anybody that wants to start their own companies. Competitive advantage we have is we're agile, you know, we have that agility where we can go and turn on a dime and effectively cater our the locator against what the industry says we should do. And I remember giving our business plan to a industry expert and he took it and then he gave it back to me a week later, and I think it had more red ink on it than black income. And words like Impossible can happen need at least a million dollars to launch the Toronto market he wasn't wrong, but we didn't know that he was right. And that allowed us to effectively open up our eyes to do things in a different way. So while the big boys would go and they would, you know, beeline for the bar manager, for example, to sell their product, we would be line for the bartender and their thought process. Where the bartender doesn't have to say it's a bar. Manjula is a product, but our thought processes where things are changing. The bartender. If you get the bartender on your side, any bar worth their salt is going to convince the bar manager they need to buy this product. And who's pushing the product to the customers? It's the garbage, and we literally went bar by bar, bottle by bottle and continue to do that And what you know. If we would have over analyze things and went with industry experts, we would have gotten nowhere, would have done the same thing that the big boys do, gotten a pissing match, capitalized and would have lasted no time with them at all. So thinking outside the box, being agile and really for us, it's it's out. It's out working our competition, that loving our customer base. I mean, we just showed so much goodwill and so much love to, you know, to the hospitality community. And, you know, without with and every time you get paid back. But you know, seven or 10 times review and that when somebody when somebody discovers, for...

...example, about tequila from your product is first educated about tequila, your product or any sort of you know any sort of products, they build that inherent loyalty to your brains. Right where I fell in love with tequila with trauma. I you know, I fell in love with this juice with X X company and education training out loving our customers, not thinking our competitors were the They didn't quite pay very much attention to us until we started to get some scale. And then they Yeah, we were quite an instance. Yeah, you know, I know it took a while. And but as you said, uh, both in Canada and Australia, fastest growing tequila brand in the market. I don't know how many years, and that's led to getting picked up in the US I know it was public announced that you just signed a really a great agreement with a distribution company out of the U. S. Can you tell us a little bit about how that came about and how you were able to secure, You know, a really great distributor? Yeah. So? So we're now aligned with We will be a line, actually, with to about a week and a half. February 1st with Sazerac, United States. Those aren't as familiar with Sazerac. They are the largest urban seller in the in the world. I believe they're the number two and number two or number three player in terms of flicker in the United States. And some states are number one. So there are massive and, you know, for us we you know, for us, it was a tremendous shift when it came to covid, where you know, we come March of last year. We were very bar restaurant focused brand, right. 70% of our sales are in the what's called the on premise bars and restaurants. And it doesn't take a genius to figure out that when covid hit, that's a very bad place to be. And so our sales didn't go down, You know, 30 40% in the on premises What they went they went to zero over a period of, you know, like like that. And then some provinces and states. They still are pretty pretty close to zero in the world of on premise. So we made a lot of changes during during covid. And one of the changes was partnering with a larger player. And we have been approached quite a bit over the last year and a half. We didn't what we wanted to remain independence. We wanted to effectively Carver on way. We know that there is no such thing as a free lunch. But what we realized when it came to covid is is the impact. The current impact of covid is one thing, but the after impact of covid is structurally going to make it very difficult for brands like ourselves, which are strong independence to grow that fast. And I don't want to bore you with with exactly why. But the U. S distribution structure set up where large suppliers have a lot more close with the straight years, and it's always been the case, and it's going to be more and more and more focused on the larger, larger suppliers after covid because they have a lot of ground to make up. And so something that probably wasn't that we would have said, Heck, no to a year ago. We said Heck, yes to effectively because the rules of the game have shifted. What became strategically unappealing to us 12 months ago became strategically appealing to us and not from the point of desperation or anything like that, because those guys, they could have picked 1000 other products. But it came from the point of structural shifts within the industry that we had to recognize, and we couldn't bury our heads in the sand and say, We don't want to do this because of an ideology and what we've seen. I mean, it kicks off, kicks off again very shortly, and we've seen already. They've already pre sold a heck of a lot of products. Um, and they are picking up. We've actually launching, are ready to drink portfolio as well that they're. But they're also picking up across the United States. So it also checks another box for us to move more into retail or two grocery warrants to large scale liquor stores. What you can do is an independent. But if you have big brother Sazerac behind you, it makes life a heck of a lot easier. Texas. Was that part of the decision behind going with some additional products? As you said, I know the tequila based, but you have more skews out there now. Was that partly because of the distributor, or was that a decision you made before that? No, it was. It was a decision we made before that. And better to be lucky than smart. We ended up watching. One of our are ready to drink are trump and soda and the l C B l actually, with the bat so different, different partners, Um, in in effect in June of this year. So obviously ready to drink has been a good place to be in the summertime of the pandemic. But you know, one of the things as soon as we're always thinking about our TVs, but as soon as the pandemic, you know, kind of kicked off, we really thought about ready to drink this another way to effectively continue to move the brand towards. You know what is going...

...to be a medium term new reality. And so, in addition to the trauma and soda, we launched a margarita. We launched a We're launching Margreiter launching diploma, All US based and Sazerac effectively put put a gun to her head and they said, If you're going to launch it, we want it all. So, to your question, we didn't think about launching it. Well, that was kind of seated before. But having a partner like that in a space that's getting more and more crowded makes us a lot more confident to launch it and gives us again the distribution that we need, both retail and with the distributors to effectively move products. And one of the things I've learned is having a Sazerac. They're not a distributor. They're an important for their suppliers. So having having distributor a big distributor, take your product now, care if it's if it's liquor. If it's food, if it's whatever it is, whatever widget you're making, that can sometimes be the kiss of death. Because distributors are not in business, generally speaking, to detail your product that belongs to a brand owner. And so having Sazerac with us to push things through the distributor gives us a chance for success. We have to execute on it. Where if we're doing that ourselves, that's a lot. A lot of manpower to distributor work for you. And I've seen it so many times. It's the kiss of death. Sometimes you get a big distribution deal, and then the product sits in the warehouse with the distributor. Yeah, I think you know, it's funny. You say that because I see the same thing. I think too many entrepreneurs think that. Okay, we're done. We've succeeded. We got it into the distributor, right? Your works. Really? Just starting. At that point, you've got to make sure it's pulling through the distributors to be successful. You talked a little bit about covid, um, and really had to pivot the business. Are there other kind of changes you've made during covid Or, you know, kind of lessons learned through this period that you could share? Yeah. I mean, have been quite a quite a few. So obviously a tactical shift from retail to or from from on premise to retails one. Obviously, the Sazerac deal is another new rescues. We actually are right now toying with another toy. And we do have the product but we actually started creating from our the waste of our our agave plant started to make single use disposable, environmentally friendly products. So straws, cups, cutlery, all that type of stuff instead of the fiber. The fiber is that that's a sister company actually working to continue to expand that hiring. But that's been really, really interesting because there's a massive waste problem that happens with tequila. And there's a massive call to action right now when it comes to providing sustainable solutions. And so we effectively began better be looking and smart. A friend of a friend made straws out of corn and sugar, and he said, Can I try it with your with your waist? And you know, sustainability is really important to us and we gave them our waste, and he made a straw that absolutely blew my mind. I mean, it doesn't take a genius to figure out there's a straw problem in the world, the double fused plastic or the double newspaper, and so the straw doesn't get soggy. It's using hot and cold beverages, and from that effectively we invested in a factory down there, and because we have to control our own destiny, and we partnered with Cisco in the United States and effectively now have a whole sustainable disposable line. Is a sister company in combination with Trump? So and we probably wouldn't have done that if it wasn't for wasn't for Covid Because, you know, I never thought I'd say the word wrapped cutlery in the same sentence sentence. But not everything now has to be, You know, that sustain that sustainability theme is not going away. It's getting more and more Covid has not won. And now the customization ability to adapt, to be agile island make products that people want. And that's that's what with the fact that we've done. So we've we've, you know, it's been a really, really interesting part of our business. That's very cool. And I'm assuming all the same partners still involved with the business at this point, amazingly enough all the same, all the same partners. And that's I think, really, really interesting for us, where we do disagree on a lot of things. But we all tend to agree on the larger goal and how we want to operate the business and, you know, and our personalities, and I know so many peers that have effectively had partnerships breakdown and things happen here. You probably know a lot more than I do, but we've, you know, we've been able to have the same founders involved in that level of trust with between each. Each one of us has been a recipe for success. I could leave any one of them with my bank account. Details come back in a year, and every every cent will be there. With this small amount of interest. The banks are not. Yeah, well, it's clearly what happens when you meet over tequila late nights at a bar. It's always it's works perfect. Hey, uh, I've got a couple more questions for it, But if...

...you're in the audience and you have do have some questions yourself, go ahead and type them in and we'll try and get to as many as we can here in just a minute. You know, I know you're gonna tell me you've made a lot. But if you think back at some of the pivotal mistakes, perhaps that you made in this journey and, um, maybe if you could share one or two of the mistakes and kind of what you learned and how you were able to recover and move forward. Yeah, and yes, I've certainly made a ton of mistakes and make mistakes every day. Thank, Thankfully, I'm I'm a big believer in of just trying to be instead of trying to be very, very intelligent, trying to just be not not stupid. There's a There's an old saying. I think it's a Charlie Munger one where you know it's a strong swimmers who drown, right? So if you try to be too clever sometimes and I know a lot of a lot of the companies that blow up is because people take uncalculated risks that farm on things, and sometimes it works out. But a lot of times, a lot of times doesn't they're not. They're not stupid by any stretch of imagination, just, you know, wrong risk at the wrong time. So thankful I haven't made one big mistake that cost the company, you know, millions of dollars. But I think a big mistake I've made that I can think about quite clearly is the way I used to hire. And you know, it might be a bit early for, for from some aspiring entrepreneurs, but maybe not. But I used to think that if I get somebody super experience with the great contact list or rolling actions as big as we used to say, I can kind of ignore the down side of things. And one of the things that I can't overemphasize is always higher, whether it's whether it's somebody running your sales or even someone down someone down the line. Make sure that cultural aspect is a line, because I've I have been higher for. You know, I I knew that the person didn't believe in what we were doing to an extent or wouldn't buy in and very talented. But I said, You know what? The short term impacts of getting those contacts, getting those sales up and the impact it's going to have on our brand is going to weigh over way that and there is a short term sugar high you get from from that from having that person involved. But in my experience, it always doesn't work out because that person has had the experience of doing X really, really well for 20 years. They've done X really, really well and you're doing why, Because things have changed good luck in that person to go from X. Why and you know there's an old military action where education is easier than reeducation or simplistic terms, trying to teach an old dog new tricks. And I haven't been successful in doing that in every single time. It's it's cost me a lot. I'd also say on the on the hiring side, I made the same mistake hiring, hiring what I call grumblers So because and and it's it seems pretty simple. But you know, you say that you know that a person can be a bit of a pain or can bring the stuff in or be pessimistic, but they're so talented, they do so much for sales. All that stuff that's going to that's going to mitigate that. It's like a cancer. It eats on the culture of everybody else, and it's always really, really important to us is making sure that our team comes in. They love what they're doing. They have a passion for work, and our turnover rate when it comes to our brand team is extraordinarily well. I mean, we we don't have people. In a lot of cases, we leave the brand on the brand side of things, the same side of things, because we always try to make the environment work really nationally strong. So I mean I made I mean, I can point to a bunch of other mistakes I've made on the hiring side of things. I think that's probably one of the most important things that an entrepreneur CEO can do is inspire really, really good people that align with your culture. And that makes it enjoyable to come to work. Yeah, attitude and culture really important. And I love the idea of trying to stay away from the grumblers because they pull everybody down with you, right? They really do is it's almost a death by paper. Cut it. Really? Every day just knocks on, all right, so we're kind of covering some lessons learned as well as we go through that, which is the sign of any good entrepreneur. We learned from our mistakes, right? If you were to say there were two or three things, maybe to pass along, I don't want to put a number on it, But But any kind of lessons learned that that you wanted to share with the group. I mean, I would say that, Um um and there's there's so many money There's so there's so many I would say just just to aspiring entrepreneurs. And it's not supposed to be easy. Anybody that says it's easy is is effectively is lying to you or as alternative motives. It's hard no matter what field you go into. And you know, passion and persistence really does conquer so much, conquer so many obstacles a big, big part of our success. And I try to hire people that also embody this is folks that you know, get told No, I've been told now more times than I can. I can count and...

...usually not in such a point point way. But it's going from that sale to the next sale, with the exact same amount of enthusiasm drive that makes you successful. And you know it's all about believing in your product, believing in your brand and continue to work harder than than the next person. And also, I would say it's really, really important to, you know, if you talk to any, you know, forget about business person, but musician, actor, author, comedian, be different. Bring something unique to the marketplace, mimicking things is just a regression to the mean. You have to effectively get out of your comfort zone and be different and challenge yourself. And that's another thing that has always been to help me. And I think it started with me going down to Mexico, putting myself in uncomfortable positions, challenging myself to effect we do. Things I didn't want to do has effectively made me a better not only not only better professional but a better person and giving me a wider perspective as to what's going on in the marketplace. Yeah, fantastic. I think it's a great lesson. Um, we have a number of questions. If you don't mind, I'll read something out here for you. And so Aaron Lee wants to thank you for taking the time to speak with them tonight. You know, would you say that your corporate work experienced helped with running the business? Or would you suggest students in similar spots? You know, if you knew, would you have pursued it earlier? That's a really good question. I was in a unique position where I was managing a portfolio of stocks of equities so I would go and I would dig into the to the companies and figure out the internal drivers of them. I realize now how much the CEOs were effectively, you know, feeding me b s all the time. You know, for me, it really worked out. I got to I got to kind of quote unquote word on somebody else's dying. I think it depends on what you want to do in who your boss is. I had a tremendous boss. I learned a lot from you know, she she was. She's a female in the finance world, which, you know, it was there for 30 30 plus years. And that's the That's an amazing accomplishment, given how difficult it was for her female 30 years ago to rise up in the world of finance. And that's because she had to be better than her male counterparts to effectively to succeed. And she she gave me so many life lessons and so many things that effectively help me. One of the things she told me was, which has helped me today, and it certainly helps with some of the cultural aspects I deal with in some countries. But she said, you know what is what do you think is the greatest, you know. Why do most companies fail? What's the greatest destroyer of value? And I said, I'm a lack of lack of cash flow. Yeah, textbook answer probably weren't for life and this and she said no. And I said Profitability. She said No. And I said, What is it? She said, Ego. She's seen more businesses and more money being burned based on geological, irrational and ego based decisions. Lessons like that, you know, you can take that lesson and take it out of the text book and put it into any business environment you want have been tremendously valuable invaluable to me. And I think about that conversation to this day when I'm having a difficult conversation with folks that I know rely a little bit too much ego for their decision making process. So what I would say is, do something. You enjoy Number one. I mean, it sounds pretty, pretty intuitive, but don't follow the money. And if you do have a path, if you're smart enough to sort of, and I was having path as to what you want to do, try to link link that up because that passion will effectively effectively bleed bleed through. But I would also say that today there's, you know there's so much more resources for entrepreneurs to go out of school and and have a crack at it. And there's, you know, there's there's funds available and all that stuff that didn't exist nearly as much back one back in 2000 and five. I mean, nobody. Nobody would give me a nickel off trying to start something. But I think I think it's wonderful. Yeah, thanks. You know, I think that idea of humility is really important for entrepreneurs because that means you're open to learning. And I really do believe to be successful as an entrepreneur, it's it's Can you learn quick enough to keep up with the business? And, uh, clearly you've got that kudos to you for that really interesting question from Justin Duff. At the moment, the waste from Mugabe from your tequila products is feeling your sustainable straw venture. What happens if the straw Venter material outpaces the tequila production? A very good question, fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on what So I do want to take it. That's not really a short term issue, because it's not our waste there's there's a whole lot of waste going on the world of tequila so that raw material is not, not really, unfortunately, going anywhere. And it creates a lot of environmental problems in Mexico. Mexico. I've probably ever heard about it because Mexico Sustainability not really at the forefront of of some of the things that goes on down there, but that's not, you know, it's a very logical assumption to think it's a risk, but that is not a...

...short medium and probably not a long term risk. Yeah, yeah, Okay, this is anonymous. So I'm not sure why. Question seems pretty fair. Was there every time you didn't think the company was gonna make it. And, you know, if so, how did you overcome that? Oh, yeah, a really good question. I remember we There's one story where we effectively gave a wound a slushie machine to a to a bar and restaurant in Toronto, and the slushy guy was there and he was installing it. And he said he before he left before he actually plugged him, he had to get paid, and we looked at our I told my account to pay him, and he said you don't have any money. So what do you mean, he goes? You don't You don't have any any money in the bank. And I said, What do I do? I mean, this is he's there, he's going to take the machine out. I mean, the guy like this doesn't give terms, and it's going to be, you know, it's going to be a terrible impact on the fact that not only am I going to meet the word's gonna spread all that stuff, and I actually had to basically borrow the money from my accountant to It's nice, Not now. I mean, Oh, yeah, you know, all the time was, you know, there was an uncomfortable excitement early on when, when, you know when we didn't know what was gonna happen the next day. And there was a lot of times were just like our competitors are multibillion dollar corporations with hundreds of not thousands of people on the ground around the world. Hundreds of millions of dollars of marketing budgets. How how the hell are we going to compete with them? With me on the street? My partner in Australia, Two backpacks and a couple of bottles. I mean on paper, we had no chance. And how do we persevere from it? I guess I guess we just basically, you know, someone once told me to always kind of be childlike when it comes to when it comes to business. That doesn't mean throwing, throwing, temper tantrums. But that means effectively throwing away, you know, you know, taking your past problems, hopefully learning from it, but moving on very, very quickly and having that mentality to adapt and adjust and saying Okay. Not holding any grudges or worrying about what happened the past, which has continued to move on to the to the future. But yeah, no, there was. I mean, there was all kinds of times or you wonder what X What? That's going to happen with this brand. Yeah, but But also it was it was kind of was it was really nice as well, because when you started a business, those first initial wins the first bars you get first. You know, first listening, you get in the liquor store. I mean, those are huge. You are ecstatic. You can life get any better than that. In some ways, you do. You do miss that just that a little bit because it's just just It's incredible. An incredible feeling. Some of those. Each one is a big win at that stage. Huge. Remember, we got into the L C B L. I sat out on some of my parents, but I sat up that their deck and I just basically stared into the sky for a good 40 45 minutes. But yeah, it's it's it's, uh, interesting times for sure. Cool. I have a question here from Deborah Kennedy on the on the product, actually, So you know, what's the point difference of your tequila that makes the consumer want to buy it over the competition? Why is yours good? Sure. So I mean, I think it's effectively, you know, in a lot of cases, the brands in the bottom. So who's making it? You know you have, you know, it's still around tequila, which is very rare, if not non existent in the world of of Tequila. He's making it with his son, handcrafted batch by batch and effectively, it's, you know, not only is it the product, but how we message it. So we're very, very big in terms of education, training telling that story in big in terms of word of mouth as well. So you know, having we find that even today, with all the elements in terms of digital and social telling that story, whether it be again actually through social or through board of milk and recommendation has been a huge success. And one of the things that's been very successful for us, which we think will be very successful again, is that is that bartender alliance. That bartender storytelling and hospitality right now is is in the dumps. But we're seeing and really, really interesting recovery going on in some states in the US and in Australia, for example, they came out of their lockdown and, you know, it shouldn't be any big surprise that the Australians went, went bananas and started, started, started drinking like like there's no tomorrow going out meeting. And we didn't just see it with, you know, the 20 year olds we sought with kind of every demographic was going out. Sales went from You know what? We would sell it in a month and a half in the last year and selling a week we're selling in a week now in Australia, and it hasn't so damn. And you know, in some ways the world will change. In some ways, the world will go back to normal, and I think the world...

...of hospitality is going to be impaired for the next 6 to 8 months. But after that, it's It's going to be a really, really exciting place to be again. Cool, cool. That's exciting. Neeraj Gandhi wants to know. What advice would you give yourself if you were starting over? Mm, I think again, there's so many mistakes that I've made. I think that that hiring pieces is just would have saved me a hell of a lot of headaches and forget about the money. It's, you know, when you hire poorly. Not only is there is there a monetary cost, but there's that intangible costs that some people can never recover them because you spend the time. The effort that person builds a brand that person brings their relationships and forge new relationships which may or may will probably not be around after that person's after that person is gone. I think it's effectively, you know, it's again, it's it's a state, of course as well, because starting a business is extremely difficult, especially in this environment. And but there's just there's so much I could I could tell myself. I think I think that hiring piece is probably the the biggest mistake that may cause I didn't just make it once. I'm not that smart. I made it two or three times because that intention that the temptation is just so so incredibly so incredibly well, a couple questions kind of related to that. Um, you know, we're in the COVID lockdown. You have parts of the company in Mexico, parts of the company here. I'm probably in the States or soon. I'm not sure. How do you foster a culture in a remote environment like that? It's obviously very difficult because it is such a, you know, face to face interaction. Relationship based business, like most businesses are, you know, you effectively do the best you can. You schedule. You have as much communication through zoom or even through the phone with your with your team as possible. You do a lot more check ins with some and, you know, and effectively you try to share as many wins as possible going through, and it's a really interesting time to effectively build, build culture and get on this main plan with with your team. But we've actually been able to do quite well with the team, and thankfully, we have a team of professionals and folks that effectively that have been around the block a few times and can adapt to all kinds of crazy things. But I just think that good people as well are generally speaking resilience. And they'll find a way to get to get things done and weeding out those ground boards and weeding out the bad apples. If I would have had them involved in the organization now, it would have made that that culture building and fostering that stuff heck of a lot more difficult because I I usually am down at the factory at least once a quarter, and I haven't been down there since since March, uh, before that, But it's been over a year and I have such a wonderful team down in Mexico and such a great office down there, and that's my business partners are that we haven't missed. We haven't missed a beat in a lot of respects and it's also me getting more involved in the in the process, not micromanaging, because I'm a big believer of decentralized management as well. People effectively hiring great people, letting them have their own way to do things and not not over be overbearing on control. So I think that's an old school in a poor way to manage. But I think it stems from having the right people on board from from Day one, when this pandemic hit were, luckily to effectively gotten rid of some bad apples beforehand. You know, just as an outside observer, I think you know, your business grew up in some ways doing really good job telling stories, whether it was to the bartender and and making sure that those stories were, you know, told again and again and again and and And that can go so far and helping you build that culture when when everybody knows those stories and can pass them on to the new kid as they joined the business, you know, I think I think you've done a great job with that as well. Do you think I appreciate that storytelling and a reason for being as to why you're here is a very important factor because the world probably doesn't need another tequila. Uh, did clearly did a question for you. Uh, this is again anonymous. It's a really interesting question. What are some of the ways you stayed organized or kept your thinking clear? Even when maybe it wasn't clear what the next step should be. Wow, that is a It is a very, very good question. How are the ways that kept? I think I think a few things. So number one, I always try to reserve some time during the day to think, which means close my computer, grab a pen and paper, or actually, one of the pencil guy and effectively write, write, write things down and turn on Turn off the noise because you know you can get inundated with day to day distractions. And so having that time to think and reflect and plan is big...

...set goals set long term goals as to where you want to go and try to figure the map is how you want to get there. The map will never work out. I promise you that. But a lot of those times, those goals, if you want the bad enough will just have to take an interesting time and find yourself. You find yourself a mentor, find yourself somebody who, if you have problems, to effectively bounce ideas off of unfortunate that my father was a It was an entrepreneur and built his business out of selling, you know, 70 selling extension cords out of out of the trunk of his car and built it up to, you know, medium sized business and ended up ended up exiting, exiting the business for, you know, Tim is what is, you know, great exit. But you know, he's a guy that's been there and done that. And so having somebody to give you that advice that effectively is it's been there is really, really helpful. So I always encourage young entrepreneurs to find themselves a mentor and somebody they can effectively share things with and give them that path. And whether it's encouragement or advice, it's super super helpful. Well, I have a kind of a comment. I think you answered this question, but I'm going to tell you the comment anyways. It's from Crystal Ball Deploy. Congratulations. Eric is a Mexican is super interesting to see tequila flourishing in other parts of the world and how a new strategy helped you position the brand in countries like Canada and Australia. So congratulations on that. His question was, What? What would you have done differently back then? You know, knowing what you know now, anything you might add to that. It's a really difficult question. And, you know, I think that it's hard. It's hard for me to answer because we didn't make a big calculated mistake and I would have I would have liked to say that we would have liked to, you know, go out and been more aggressive in funding the company, getting this more capital to effectively start. But I think that that could have effectively been a kiss of death for us as well. Because again, as I said before, if we would have had all that capital of the business, R. L y culture would have never really would have probably never materialized. I'm a big believer again of life, you know, if you want something and you plan for it life giving you those opportunities and setting you up and I don't think we would be here today if we didn't you know if we did things drastically different than we did then we did, you know, just kind of starting out. Yeah. Okay, I have a question here from Bruce Lamb, and I have to ask you because you wouldn't let me forget if I didn't, uh, word about advertising this huge. Obviously, Uh, do you also do a lot of social media or or digital marketing for the brand? We do, We have. We have a team that that effectively does that. We you know, we probably should have been doing a better job pre covid because when we were having our main pillar was on the bars and restaurants seen where that storytelling was happening. But obviously, Covid is accelerating from Gare restaurant to digital into social. It's something that we're certainly looking at continually improving. We have We have improved it. I don't think it's where we want it to be yet. And also e commerce is obviously doesn't take it too. Mr. Parodi commerce is has changed the landscape for not only not only liquor, but pretty much every product now, and that's been an area where we're putting a lot of budget as well as to improve our e commerce, improve our our social and partnering with Sazerac is one of the reasons as well as doing that is, they do have effectively those very small platforms, most more so on the commerce side, where if you want to order a bottle of trauma in Los Angeles, you effectively put the order through in 30 minutes. It's at your doorstep, hopefully with some delicious margarita mix. But yeah, no, it's It's obviously the world's. The world shifted, and that's and that's and I think it will probably shit back a little bit more towards hospitality and stuff like that. And I think that will be a strong place. But I don't think it will. I don't think, uh, e commerce and social will give up, give up that much ground. Okay, what do you think is different in today's world? Somebody wants to start a craft spirit company than perhaps when you started. Wow, it's it's completely different. I mean, we tried to pitch some institutions starting trauma, and we were effectively laughed, laughed out of the room. I mean, investment banks and venture capitals and capital companies and stuff like that. They wouldn't touch spirits with a 10 ft pole and I think now that the amount of exits that have gone on in the development of craft spirits and the growth has attracted a lot of investors, institutional investors and obviously individual investors. And it used to be folks that wanted to get into the business because it's, you know, it's a sexy, fun business to be involved with, say, I own a piece of vodka and a piece of particular. Now there's folks that do that still, but there's a lot more folks that say, Hey, this is a really, really great investment we can make. Not only can you have fun and be proud of this investment, but also also you can effectively make good money off it. And one of my main things is I'm a big,...

...big believer of making as much money for your shareholders as possible. If you make money for your shareholders, you never have to worry about anything again in your life because you make money for them once they'll come back and they'll continue to effectively give you capital whenever you need it and give you support. Having a great shareholder base is super super important. And looking back on it. You know, we did pitch some VCs. They did tell us that, but it off. But thank God they because, generally speaking, they be effectively in our face, making us do ridiculous quarterly due diligence and would try to tell us how to run the company based on quote unquote with the industry. That's thank goodness that we built a shareholder base of really remarkable, supportive folks. And again, my job is not to make as much money for me personally. My job is to make as much money for our shareholders. So anything I ever want to do again, if I want to do something again, I have a wonderful base of supporters of shareholders. Cool market that leads right into the next question. I was going to ask you from Ask the model to If you were going to go for another venture. What would it be? What's next? Maybe your partner shouldn't be listening to this one. I don't know. I mean, we'll see. Probably, you know, probably not in the liquor space. But it's, uh, you know, maybe maybe something on the on the sustainable so space, because I think it's something that I'm passionate about and it's a And I think it's, you know, people are looking for solutions right now when it comes to effectively sustainable and environmentally friendly products. So I think that those two boxes definitely check for me. But I don't know. I mean, it's it's, too. It's too early to tell because I'm still in love with drama and still still my baby. And, you know, I have no plan to exit over the over the short term. So maybe maybe ask me that question. Two or three years of something changes. Uh, we just have time. Maybe for two more questions. I have, uh, one I think is interesting. You know, Hendrix, Thanks for being here today. They're a little bit lost as to what happened in the middle part of your story. So you're running around bar to bar with your backpacks, and now you've got this great partner and supply What? You know, When did you start to scale? And maybe what were some of the things that tip to that for you? It was really slow. The bills, I mean, I mean, it was I I believe you build you build your brand. It was really borrowed by by a bottle by bottle. And when you do that, you build it right. The foundation is really, really strong. We would never really compete on price because if you do, then you're effectively commodities your brand. People always pay more for a bottle of trauma than our competitors, you know, When did when did it scale? I mean, it's really difficult because we never got one Big. Probably Sazerac is probably well, it is our biggest we've ever had, but you know, it just effectively. It grew and it grew and it grew slowly and so and so And I can't tell you what it was. But there is a tipping point where we did hit where I think, I think, kind of what I knew it was I was sitting at at a bar and having a drink. I'm obviously having a trauma, and they know who I am. And the person next to me sits down. Who I would you know then and says, can I have yeah, two tequila traumas on the rocks and I look over at the person I said, Well, it's not it's not my friend. It's not my cousin I don't know which is which is which is exceptional. And so you know, how do we build? And then effectively my my belief is to go be regionally strong versus national mediocre. So we launched Ontario launched in Melbourne. We really just launched in Toronto. Melbourne built up those cities, built up a groundswell there. If you're not successful in your own backyard, you're not going to be successful anywhere else. Then affected. We took our product to Chicago, built it up there and took it to New York because we took in Chicago first. Because if you tell somebody in Chicago you launched and there before New York, they care if you tell somebody. New York He launched their before Chicago and say, I don't give a shit And so you know And so it's so it was effectively just going around telling the story bar by bar, bottle by bottle. And you know, a lot of people say we grew really fast, but it was really, you know, hard work, doing the blocking and tackling and not getting tempted by shortcuts and then effectively building that base. And people do talk in that word of mouth. Does produce a groundswell, and from there we expanded to Florida and Los Angeles and Texas and until the Sazerac deal effectively came along and now we're you know, we're going to be available nationally with triple skews that we had last year. But it's yeah, that middle. Part of the story is there's not one specific thing. We didn't get one deal that effectively transformed the company. It was just a lot of hard work. A lot of people putting their blood, sweat and tears into the business to build it up, bar by bar, bottle by bottle, keeping that passion and and and really lovely what they were doing. Cool arc. I think it's a great answer and I think a great...

...lesson for everybody. It's, you know, there's never a magic pill. It's it's a lot of hard work and keep after it and you know, you're you're able to step back a little bit now and watch the guy next. You order your product. That's really cool. You know, I love that. Alright, we're kind of out of time. Any any last words that you wanted to share with everybody or I mean, it's closed on. I think it's well. First off, thank you very much for having me in the Forum and the really, really good questions, some of the very thought provoking they'll probably still be thinking about later tonight. But I think it's you know, as much as it pains me to do this via computer versus doing it in person, I think it's a really interesting time and in some ways a wonderful time to be an aspiring entrepreneur. I think that you know what I've seen. The last year has been whole lot of disruption, with the world being shaken up more so than I've seen, probably the last 10 years. And Eric, you're probably probably the same boat as I am and I've seen effectively, you know, What I always found was when I started, you know, I started Trump, and probably when you entrepreneurs go and start your own business, you're generally speaking, talking to a buyer that effectively has a misalignment of needs. Where you're an entrepreneur, you need to effectively provided wonderful solution to them. That's groundbreaking, and they need to effectively their measure. They're incentivized to grow 5 10 15% mind their manners put their head down and make sure their margins are okay. And if as an entrepreneur, if you grow 5 10 15% you're dead, you're not. You're not in business anymore. So you're trying. So you're trying to effectively shove a solution to somebody that is pretty risk averse once just not hit wire. What's happened in the last year has just been the eye opening of. And I think every industry people looking for new solutions, looking for ways to effectively improve their business. And they're looking to both young and old to find those solutions. And so I want to, you know, for entrepreneurs, think about what the world needs to know what you're passionate and look at providing those solutions to the world. And, as I said before, the game has changed. And for a wonderful way, Where again, when I when I left school, one guy in my class who we thought was a lunatic became an entrepreneur because there was no there was no infrastructure for it. Now there's a tremendous amount of infrastructure is a tremendous amount of firms that you know that our entrepreneurial, based in terms of giving capital buyers are a lot more accepting to new and innovative things right now. Effectively, the Pause button has been hit with a lot of industries where they can go and they can take the time and look at new solutions. So as one hand where it's really crappy that we're doing this through the computer screen. The other hand, what a really, really, really interesting time. And I would argue, hopefully once a generational time to have the opportunity to be disruptive in a world of entrepreneurship. And if it doesn't work, you know what you learn A heck of a lot. Figure out what mistakes are. Words move on from there, Eric. Thanks. Uh, you know, I think we're really lucky to have you with us tonight. I really appreciate everything you've said. Words of wisdom for everybody. I think that was really important. Love the closing. I want to thank everybody that joined us this evening. And those of you in the business plan competition. I want to wish you the best of luck tomorrow and what you're doing. And it is an exciting time. And, uh, yeah, the world's, you know, going through a lot of pain and a lot of suffering But there's a lot of opportunity as we start to turn the corner and come out of this, and it's time to be looking, and it can be an exciting time. So let's run. Let's run that one and keep it going. And Eric, you know, thanks again so much and continued success. Uh, everybody, get out there and try a real tequila trauma tequila, and we'll take it from there. You've been listening to the Ivy entrepreneur podcast to ensure that you never miss an episode. Subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player or visit ivy dot c a forward slash entrepreneurship. Thank you so much for listening until next time. Mhm. Yeah, okay.

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