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Exploring Life & Business with Nayana Ferguson of Anteel Tequila

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nayana Ferguson.

Hi Nayana, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I am the first black woman in the world to co-own/own a tequila brand. My husband Don and I were tired of the same old corporate routine of not being in control of our future. I was losing my job at the time and my husband kept getting moved around in his position as a senior leader of one of the biggest financial companies in America. We were looking for something to invest in for our future, that could potentially be something that could become a part-time job upon retirement, but nothing truly stood out. Finally, when I asked my husband, “if you could do anything in the world, what would it be?” His reply was, “to own a tequila company,” but he thought there was no way that it was possible. I asked, “why not?”. At the time, we were active tequila enthusiasts. We were trying different brands that were not well-known and educating ourselves as much as we could about tequila. What truly enticed me about tequila early on is its low sugar content. I am a 15-year pancreatic cancer and 8-year breast cancer survivor. With overcoming those cancers, I am pre-diabetic for the rest of my life. I found that with tequila, I do not have the same after effects consuming it that I typically do with other spirits because of the low sugar content in tequila. A tequila company seemed like a perfect fit for us and we looked at the possibilities of creating a small-batch tequila brand to see if it was truly something that we could do. I put together a plan, crunched the numbers and within a few days, I found a distillery in Mexico that we could potentially work with. This was the beginning of something that would change our lives forever. Within 11 months, Anteel Tequila was on the market and on the shelves.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Neither my husband or I had any previous experience in the spirits industry, so we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We had to learn on the fly and quickly. Luckily, we had both owned companies in the past and we had skills to be able to understand the basic principles of building a company. We have faced just about every obstacle or challenge possible building our business and nothing has come easily. Logistics, selling out of product, lack of funding and capital, hiring challenges and more. It seemed that every time we turned around, there was another problem to account for and solve. Early 2020 we had plans to expand to additional states, however, Covid thwarted those plans, so we had to shift our game plan within 24 hours. We had product sitting in several warehouses that was not moving, as the country was in a bit of a panic and uncertainty. Slowly but surely, we began to get placement in stores in California and Florida, solely by word of mouth and social media marketing. This led to Total Wine & More stores picking up the brand and then more locations followed. California became our biggest state for sales and it continues to grow. At the beginning of March 2020, we were available in just one state. One year later, we’re available in seven states with online ordering available nationwide. Obstacles and challenges will always arise, but how you handle them can make or break your business. You have to take a minute to step back, analyze the situation, adjust and take action.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Anteel Tequila?
Anteel Tequila is a multiple award-winning premium tequila brands that was launched in August 2018. In our portfolio, we have three expressions including the world’s only Coconut Lime Blanco Tequila infused with the all-natural flavorings from the meat of the coconut and lime. We also offer a Reposado Tequila aged for eight months in Tennessee whiskey barrels and an ultra-smooth sipping Blanco Tequila. Anteel Tequila has won awards at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirts Competition and International SIP Awards. Anteel Coconut Lime Blanco Tequila has been rated 92 points by the very well-known spirits magazine Tasting Panel and was also named one of the Best Tequilas for Summer 2020 by Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
When owning a business, you have to be comfortable with uncomfortable situations. Challenges will always present themselves and nothing ever goes as planned. We learned what we are truly capable of during Covid. We learned how to make quick but well thought out decisions that can help continue to grow the company without losing momentum. Social media has become our main mode of marketing, as we were able to utilize marketing on these platforms to the fullest. In the worst months of the pandemic, we saw record sales and at the end of 2020, we saw an almost 40% increase in sales from 2019. We learned to utilize technology to interact with our consumers by using social media live platforms as well as Zoom and Skype for interviews with publications. Since we could not get out into the field (stores, restaurants and bars), we placed a heavier focus on public relations. It took some time, but it has paid off with some major national media publications catching wind of our story, the brand and writing about it, which had an immediate ROI with our social media following and sales. We appeared on tv several times during the year with some of those segments being picked up by national news sources. We stayed busy and active promoting the brand and even though there were long days, we pushed through and learned a lot about what we’re truly capable of and how resilient we can be.

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Image Credits:

Maddi Ibanez

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