Written by Tyler Deeb, Owner/Designer of Misc. Goods Co.
and Brand Director at Celaya Tequila
For me, learning is the key motivator to why I work. When we learn, we're forced to persevere. When we do both those actions we become better leaders, friends, partners, parents, etc. The best education for me is jumping head-first into the experience and (oftentimes) submerging myself in chaos.
So, when I was asked by Matt and Ryan Kalil to help them build a tequila brand (something I've never done before), I couldn't resist. What an amazing opportunity to learn. Of course, two years ago I had no idea that we were on the cusp of a pandemic and global supply chain crisis — Chaos ensued, as it does in entrepreneurship. But today I am happy! After much hard work, countless hours of planning, pivoting ... struggling, we are ready to put Celaya Tequila into the world. A job worth doing, and worth doing well.
My introduction to the Kalil brothers and this opportunity with Celaya Tequila started small. It was mid-afternoon and I was standing in line at the coffee shop, hungry, over-caffeinated ... and yet ready to order another cup when I got a phone call from my friend, another designer, Matt Stevens. His request was simple. He was designing a bottle for a client and needed help getting it made.
Over the last 10 years, I have moved across a unique path within creative work. I started as an art-focused graphic designer, then moved into branding, then I developed into a product designer which forced me to learn manufacturing and production. It also forced me to be an entrepreneur. So, when Matt Stevens reached out to me for help on production, it made sense but I doubted if it would be a good fit for me ... the opportunity didn't seem exciting. I wasn't interested in monetizing my skills with production because that skill was a means to an end for my design work. It wasn't my passion. But I did agree to help because Matt Stevens is my friend and I wanted to support him and the project he was a part of. I'm very happy I did and little did I know that my role would go from Production Manager to Brand Director within a year. Pushing me into a crash-course education in the Bev/Alc industry ... with some hard learning along the way.
"How do you eat an elephant? — One bite at a time"
Matt and Ryan Kalil grew the vision of their tequila company from a small, friends-and-family-only brand to what it is today: a shared experience for everyone.
The origins of this brand start with their Abuela Frecia Celaya and the stories she would tell of her grandfather, Jose Celaya who would craft his own homemade tequila on his modest Sonora Ranch in the late 1800s. Matt and Ryan wondered, “What did that tequila taste like?”, and they set off to design their own recipe based on the legend that was their great-great-grandfather Jose. Once the brothers developed the recipe and had their vision for the brand clarified, it was my responsibility to help them bring it to market. This meant that I had a lot of work to do. What should branding look like? What story are we trying to tell? Where should we get the bottles made? The corks? Labels? What does distribution look like? What are the COGs? How do we stand out in the market? What's our team look like? How do we find/hire them? Sales projections? Budgets? Etc., etc. etc. We were building a brand from the ground up and the amount of learning was endless. Throughout my life, I've remembered this expression that my dad shared with me during a particularly hard time "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time".
Some bites have been bigger than others and hard to chew. Nobody in the world was truly ready for the pandemic and the havoc it brought to production teams across the world. We, at Celaya, have spent the last 18 months in limbo ... watching as vendors break their promises over and over. It was infuriating but also humbling because there was nobody to blame. Our partners were good people and good businesses. Their burden was heavy and we watched as their assembly lines went from a person working 2 feet apart from another to having to be 6 feet apart, cutting their production efficiency by 60%. Then of course people were getting sick and then the supply chain of sand for our glass was also under stress. All we could do was hold on and stay busy. Finding ways to get better. And we did!
We took this unplanned delay to better our story-telling, visual assets, photography, video and team dynamic. We visited our farm and distillation team in Jalisco and deepened our respect for the spirit - splitting agave, walking the fields, and harvesting piñas. We all went back to our homes and better developed the story we wanted to tell. It’s a story that we believe everyone wants to tell, one steeped in real history with a focus on the celebration of heritage and memory, crafted alongside an amazing tasting spirit.
Today, well over a century after Jose’s makeshift distillery produced its first few drops, is a good day because today we get to finally look up after two years of working hard, pushing and persevering and see how far we've come and where we want to go.
From our family to yours ... ¡Salud! - Tyler and the Celaya fam
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