Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ramon Perez Ramos, Distillery Manager/Owner of Preez Distillery, located in Largo, FL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Our business is Preez Distillery. We are in the field of manufacturing high-quality, hand-crafted spirits and liqueurs. Our customers are those who enjoy a well-developed alcoholic beverage prepared with the utmost care to deliver a unique experience by enhancing every aspect of our spirits. Upscale bars, restaurants, specialty bars, and speakeasies are some of our most popular clients. Our walk-in customers are generally very happy, upbeat, and positive and have a really good vibe. They usually look for something different and special, like the gem in the middle of the desert.
Tell us about yourself
This venture began in 2015 while I was stationed in Fort Wainwright, AK. It was my last service term with the US Army prior to my retirement. During this time, I was drinking on a daily basis, and I quickly noticed how expensive it had become. I was spending about $500-$600 each month on cheap alcohol. That's when I decided to research how alcohol was made. I visited distilleries and breweries, read books, interviews, and internet searches, and used any other reliable source to expand the little knowledge I had. After 3-4 months, I gathered the courage to get my first equipment and basic materials, and I started following the process of alcohol making. It goes without saying that I failed multiple times, about 5-6 times, before I got something drinkable. Every time the process failed, I learned something new and started again. With every failure, there was also a victory, as I never made the same mistake twice. At about my 6th attempt, I managed to get a decent spirit which I shared with friends. From that point on, my spirits were getting better, and were sought after by those who knew me. Although I could not sell it, I was pleased to know that people liked and enjoyed the spirits I was making. A year after I retired from the military service Preez Distillery LLC was born and established in Largo, FL.
There are two things that truly motivate me in this business:
- The facial expression of people when they try our spirits for the first time. It displays such enjoyment, and that, to me, is very rewarding.
- My daughter as a business owner and father, I want to give her the best example possible, and that is never to quit. Finish what you start and reach the goal you set for yourself. I try to teach her that failures will happen and sometimes more than once, but you have to keep getting up, try a different approach, and overcome your failure. So far, she has done that very well.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
It is very challenging to run a business, especially a distillery, where we have to keep track of everything. My biggest accomplishment is that our growth has been through word of mouth. We don't run commercials, high-end marketing, publications, etc... and although we are not in a visible/high-traffic area, people still manage to find us because of what they've heard from someone else.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Sacrifice! Sacrifice! Sacrifice! When I started this business, I knew I was going to lose some freedoms, such as time. I was giving up family time, personal time, father-daughter time, weekends, and some holidays. I am a very family-oriented man and enjoy every moment with my loved ones, but in order to grow a business, you have to sacrifice that time. But I will say that I'm not sacrificing that much since we only run our distillery three days a week. Had to find a special balance!!!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
If you have unlimited funds, there's not much I can tell you. But if you are like me, who started a business with a limited budget, first, be patient and gather as much information as you can. Run yourself through the process from beginning to end and continuously ask yourself questions. Place barriers in your planning and come up with solutions before they happen in real-time. This will help you to overcome business problems even before you start quickly. We plan to succeed, but if we fail to plan, we also plan to fail.
Second, business is not a race; it's a marathon. Pace yourself to reach each goal without feeling burnt out. At the time, you will feel like just quitting because it's easy, and this happens when you are overwhelmed. In this case, retreat to a quiet place like a lake or on top of the mountain just by yourself and refocus. This will give you a clear path on how to proceed. Quitting is not an option; others are watching you.
Third, do it with love and passion. If there is no passion, others will know, and it will be that much harder to grow. Being a business owner should be fun and fulfilling, not an 8-5 job you do for someone else. Enjoy it, love it, show it, and always appreciate those willing to help you. It is not their business, and they still have a good heart to help you grow. Please, thank you, sorry, and excuse me goes a very long way when establishing business relationships. Use them often, and you will be more accepted by many more often than not.
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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