Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mara Smith, Founder of Inspiro Tequila LLC, located in Chicago, IL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Inspiro Tequila was born with a vision to redefine what it means to enjoy tequila by crafting a clean, smooth, and sippable 100% Blue Weber Agave tequila without any additives. The goal was not just to create a one-of-a-kind tequila; it was also to bring another female perspective to the spirits industry. Inspiro Tequila is proudly created, owned, and led by women. Women are involved in every part of the process, from creating taste profiles to getting bottles on the shelves. Inspiro Tequila was founded by Mara Smith, a former Chicago attorney, and it is meticulously handcrafted by legendary maestra tequilera Ana Maria Romero Mena. Half of the tequila consumers are women, and women make over 80% of the purchasing decisions for the home. Yet, they are generally overlooked as consumers in the spirits industry. We are focused on this thoughtful female consumer who cares about what she eats and drinks and the brands that she supports.
Tell us about yourself
I am a former attorney, corporate strategist, and stay-at-home mom who is now the founder of Inspiro Tequila. After law school, I began my legal career at a large law firm in Chicago. I then decided to switch gears and apply for my business degree as part of the corporate strategy team at a Fortune 500 Company. I was put on emergency bedrest while pregnant with my twins, and when they were born prematurely, I made the difficult decision to leave the corporate world to be home with my children. I never stopped thinking about what was next. I always envisioned running my own company, and in February 2020, I set out on my journey to create a new tequila brand.
I started drinking tequila when I was looking for a clean, gluten-free spirit that fit into my active lifestyle. I searched for a tequila brand that was additive-free with a look, taste, and aroma that appealed to other thoughtful female consumers and me. That perfect tequila did not exist, so I decided to create one. I saw an opportunity to make an impact in an industry where women are underrepresented, and I hope I can bring more female voices into the spirits industry.
Meeting other female founders to collaborate and support each other is the best part of my entrepreneurial journey. I hope that I can inspire other women that it's not too late to make a career pivot or enter into a new industry. I'm proud that Inspiro Tequila gives back by providing grants and mentoring to other female founders.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment is the quality of the tequila. I set out with the goal to create an additive-free tequila that had a light, sweet taste profile and was really easy to drink. It took time to perfect our tequila and the bottle, but my patience and determination paid off. I light up every time I watch someone taste the product and love it.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
It is very hard to manage so many different areas, from marketing to operations and legal filings. As a business owner, you have to wear a lot of hats, and sometimes it's hard to hand off tasks to other people. I'm learning how to prioritize tasks better and how to let go of certain areas that someone else can handle.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
First, do a lot of research before you get started. Study the category and the different aspects of running a business. There are a lot of resources out there - books, podcasts, newsletters, webinars, and industry experts ... If you conduct a lot of due diligence, you will be better prepared. You will also have a better understanding of whether there's really a need for your business idea and if you're passionate about the category.
Secondly, there is no getting around doing the hard work. You don't need to be an expert in every area, but as the founder, you need to have some basic knowledge of every aspect of the business in order to make informed decisions. The journey of starting your own business is exciting, but it is also very time-consuming. You just have to make sure you are ready for the commitment.
Lastly, no matter how prepared you are and how many hours you dedicate, you really can't do it alone. I think it's critical to build a community to support you. I have found so many amazing communities of female founders and leaders that are collaborative and supportive. It's so helpful to have people to go to for feedback and guidance.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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