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Exploring Life & Business with Roxy Montalvan Angel Saenz of BebanMez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Roxy Montalvan Angel Saenz.

Hi Roxy Montalvan, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
It’s safe to say our business started in the summer of 2016 on a family trip to Mexico City where we were introduced to artisanal mezcal during a private tasting at the home of Angel’s uncle. To say we were blown away by the mezcal is an understatement, we couldn’t stop talking about the experience for weeks. Once we were back in LA, we realized that quality mezcal wasn’t readily available in the states so we started looking into how we could change that. Neither of us had any experience in the spirits import industry but after 2 years of research, we better understood the growing demand for small-batch, producer-owned, Mexican artisanal mezcal.

By 2018, our once far-fetched idea and meticulous research trned into an actual import business, BebanMez. The name BebanMez came from the Spanish word Beban which translates “to drink” and Mez short for Mezcal, Drink Mezcal.

The market was dominated by white label mezcal brands so we knew that our focus on the smaller family-owned mezcal producers would require a lot more time, planning, and organizing to successfully break into the industry. After a few missteps our first pallets of mezcal, El Samaritano, finally made it to California and we’ve been growing ever since. By 2021, we were certified as a minority-owned business and had established accounts throughout all of California and expanded into Texas as well. We’ve added four more brands to our catalog from family-owned producers in Oaxaca Mexico and even operate out of a warehouse in Glendale CA. We’re excited to see what comes next and are so proud to be ambassadors of the mezcal that we still love to drink!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Definitely not a smooth experience like most first time businesses. There were plenty of hiccups and bumps along the way. Like we said before, we had zero experience in this industry and it’s one that is very competitive and saturated so we had to be very strategic and creative with our approach. I think that one of our greatest challenges has been getting the attention from certain buyers that are looking for a fancy label and expect a huge marketing budget in order to get the product on their shelves or in their bars, instead of focusing on the quality of the product and the value of a producer owned mezcal brand.

Throw in a pandemic shortly after launching our business, that was our UH-OH moment when all bars and restaurants shut down. We had to do a lot of thinking outside the box but after the shutdown we realized not everything was lost. A lot of people were home drinking and zooming and actually talking about what they were drinking so the focus temporarily switched to craft spirits for those zoom parties or quarantine bubbles. It also felt like everyone wanted to help small businesses like us and our sales took off after that.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
BebanMez is a family-owned spirits import and wholesale business that primarily focuses on mezcal. We specialize in finding producer-owned brands from Mexico and agreed to only import spirits with established sustainability practices, high quality taste and an amazing story. We focus on small batch, producer-owned brands because we believe they are the ones that deserve the credit, recognition and spotlight for keeping the art of mezcal-making alive for so many generations.

We are not only proud to be ambassadors of mezcal but as a first generation Mexican son of immigrants & first generation daughter of Central American immigrants, we’re proud to represent our communities in an industry with limited diversity.

BebanMez has worked hard from the day the business was ready to import its first few pallets. From finding the product, logistics, sales, marketing & day to day operations, our business is all in-house and full of heart and passion.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
In a world where social media is everywhere, I believe networking has become more accessible too many. Networking for us can look like engaging with persons on social media who have a shared interest for mezcal and doing tasting events for mezcal afficionados. But finding a mentor has never been easy for us. We have yet to come across the person that can give us indispensable advice. The closest person we have to a mentor who we are forever grateful to is the person who introduced us to mezcal back in 2016.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Carlos “Rojo” Paredes

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