INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Eric Brass Tells Us How Tequila Tromba is Changing the Way Consumers understand the World of Tequila
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Eric Brass: Like most of us, we are trying our best to remain positive and find ways in which to thrive during this time, not only as individuals but as a tight family unit, as part of our larger family circles, and as members of our community overall.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Tequila Tromba.
Eric Brass: The story of Tromba reads like a bit of an entrepreneur’s urban legend – but it really happened when 3 strangers met over sips of Tequila in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico, on a University exchange trip. We were lucky enough to become friends with Rodrigo Cedano, whose father was the original Master Distiller of Don Julio. We somehow convinced them both to become founding partners and, of course, our distilling team. We started selling out our backpacks after our first production run and built Tromba to the #2 in Canada, #2 in Australia, and one of the fastest-growing craft brands in the United States.
How does Tequila Tromba innovate?
Eric Brass: Tequila Tromba innovates by never forgetting that we don’t necessarily belong here. We entered this industry with a goal to change the way consumers understand the world of Tequila – and that mindset pushes us to approach our industry and our challenges from the perspective of an outsider. We ask a lot of questions. That has allowed us to identify white spaces that other brands either didn’t see or didn’t identify as viable opportunities. Importantly, we also aren’t afraid to make mistakes – but we remain diligent in our desire to learn from them. Perhaps the most important thing is that we hire people from outside the industry, so they think outside the box. One of the most dangerous phrases you can hear is “well, it’s always been done this way.”
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Eric Brass: COVID-19 has profoundly affected the businesses that we are most intimately connected with. The Bar and Restaurant Industry is our greatest ally for success. We built the Tromba brand predominantly around the experts from within some of the best eating and drinking establishments across North America. We continue to do our best to support our partners, working with them to revise in-house experiences, delivery, and take-out options to help facilitate their businesses and provide customers with as many services as we can.
We have created off-the-shelf Margarita to-go kits, which include everything a patron will need to make expertly crafted margaritas from home – right down the sustainable straws! We continue to partner with a variety of accounts to provide custom cocktails and menu pairings to elevate their take-out or delivery options – trying to bring a bit of the restaurant experience to the home-front. And for the holiday season, we have created a virtual cocktail party! This holiday season will have so many new challenges, but we realize how important it is to create a sense of unity and corporate culture despite potentially not being able to congregate in live groups. The Tromba virtual Cocktail Party allows teams or groups of all sizes to participate in a fun, festive activity – with great music, lively energy, and the opportunity to re-capture some of that holiday joy!
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Eric Brass: Any form of corporate retraction can be difficult. We were fortunate in that we could find immediate efficiencies, which allowed our re-structuring to impact as few people as possible, and our team truly consists of pro-active, thoughtful, like-minded people who have our united best interests at heart. I think the greatest lesson learned is something you get told as a kid growing up – surround yourself with good people (who are smarter than you are) and run a decentralized structure giving them the power and trust to execute with their wonderful abilities.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Eric Brass: With a Tromba Anejo on the rocks and a swatch of orange.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Eric Brass: We focus on ourselves as much as possible and innovate within. Our competition lines the walls, shelves, and aisles of every liquor store across the country. They will always be there. Usually, it’s big multinational companies that present the largest competitive barriers, but because we are smaller, we can be agile and, on a lot of occasions, get closer to our customers. We try to zig while the others zag.
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