January 2019 marks our 10th full year of selling Tanteo in New York City. While at first, we were self-distributed, hand delivering bottles to our early accounts, we quickly proved the concept, partnered with New York’s premier distributor, and grew across the United States. As we gear up to do bigger and bolder things in our next 10 years, I wanted to reflect on where we have been over these last 10 years, with plenty of ups and downs.
I have written several times at this time of year about Jonathan Rojewski - Tanteo’s former CEO and co-founder who tragically passed away in 2013. This will be no different - Jonathan was a mentor, friend, and business partner to me. Jonathan and David Cambell founded the company a year and a half before bringing the product to market, leaving lucrative careers in finance with the belief that bartenders from around the world should be able to consistently spice up their margaritas with ease.
Once getting our first distributor in June 2010 with Empire Merchants in New York City, we started to grow very fast, though at a escalating cost. Movements in the spirits business move slow, and while cocktail bars in New York and San Francisco were ready for a spicy margarita in 2010, many other accounts were not ready, and we chased into all 50 states faster than we could afford. We pushed too hard, grew too fast, and spent too much money promoting Tanteo to consumers that were not yet ready to spice up their cocktails.
And then tragedy struck on August 9th, 2013 with the passing of our first CEO Jonathan Rojewski. It was a very tough time and one of the biggest challenges we had to overcome as a company. Jonathan’s death prompted a large restructuring of the company where we needed to tighten our belts, focus on our home markets, and not get distracted by anything besides making the best spicy tequila in the world.
This is also the time that I stepped into the CEO role. At the time I was 29 years old, and while I had been in charge of the Tanteo production for the previous 3 years, I was by no means a proven leader. Our number one goal was to continue Jonathan's legacy and with few resources, including Jacob Scott, and of course Ernesto, we focused on leading by example, working with our distributors to grow our key account business.
The next few years were tough but very rewarding. We grew the business each day and did it in a efficient way by doing everything ourselves. The year over year growth was slow, from 2% in 2014, 8% in 2015, and 15% in 2016, but we were doing it efficiently. Slowly we added a new team member Mena, and started to grown our online presence in proportion.
In late 2017 we decided that we were ready to push growth in a bigger way outside of our home markets on the east coast, making a big commitment in California and Texas with new sales hires, and letting more people know about Tanteo as the perfect way to spice up a margarita. Adding Sean and Anita in New York, Matt in California and Steven in Houston elevated our business and got us back to thinking about a 50 state strategy as we take the brand to the next level.
We had our biggest year ever in 2018 - growing our business 25% and selling over 2,250,000 cocktails. Two weeks ago we also hired full-time employee number 10 in Michael Robertson in Los Angeles as we gear up to make and sell more best-in-class spicy tequila for the next 10 years.
I hope Jonathan is proud of what we have done, an where we are going.
Para la Buena Vida,