Tequila With Friends: How a Lifelong Bond led to the Creation of a Market Leading Brand
By Lynn Pearcey
There’s something about the number three, both in bars, and stories. That combination has captured the general public’s attention for eons with seemingly no end in sight. With each passing year, another tale featuring three of something and a bar gets added to the story mix, and if history is any indication, no one or nothing is beyond its reach.
There’s the one about the three horses walking into a bar and facing a deluge of questions about their, you guessed it, long faces. Then there’s the one about the three health-conscious vampires who, instead of ordering three pints of blood, order three pints of blood plasma, more commonly known as — Blood Lights. The ones about three bald guys walking in, there isn’t enough time or space to list all of those. Here’s the beauty of it all: everyone has heard one or more, regardless of age or nationality, whether you’re an avid drinker or teetotaler, we’ve all heard one.
The number three, bar, and story “thing” is going quite well, so let’s change the game a bit. Ready? Here goes. What happens when four young brothers from Oak Cliff walk into a bar?
Well, I’m so glad you asked.
Brandon Scott, Curnelius Arnick, Devin Woodson and Roddrick West grew up in the streets of South Dallas, doing all the things that turn friends into family. They bonded over sports, first crushes, house parties, and later on, the love of a good spirit or two. More connoisseurs than hardened drinkers, the friends came to appreciate the effort and artistry behind the creations. Wines, bourbons and beers, in and through them, their love for a quality drink grew, but they became especially fond of one drink in particular: Tequila.
As the years went by, Tequila became a staple on their esteemed bottle roster, and why wouldn’t it be? Tequila is cool, complex, smooth and stands out in the crowded liquor space – all characteristics commonly associated with the founding members. Their fascination eventually led to them launching a blog entitled, no surprise here, Tequila with Friends. “The blog’s goal was to educate visitors on the different Tequila bars, variants and introduce them to what we feel is just an incredible juice,” said CEO Brandon Scott.
Things were going well, and the blog was attracting visitors and aligning perfectly with their passion. Then genetics stepped in, changing the trajectory of their lives, and that’s when the juice really started flowing.
Everything Happens for a Reason
Spend a day in any Black community and it’s a safe bet that you’ll hear several phrases that are near and dear to the populous. Chances are, ‘Everything happens for a reason’ will be at the top of the list. In 2017, “everything” showed up in the form of Diabetes as Brandon Scott learned of his diagnosis. But as fate would have it, his medical revelation was the “reason” behind the friends taking their love of Tequila to another level.
He broke the news to his three friends, and the group approached his condition like they had done everything since the day they met: as one.
“Brandon’s medical situation wasn’t dire, but we knew to keep it from reaching that state, we’d have to make some changes,” shared Operations Manager Roddrick West.
Alcohol adversely affects blood sugar levels, representing a dangerous proposition for a Diabetic that can turn fatal. “Brandon being Brandon, he researched and found that Tequila metabolizes well within Diabetics and doesn’t result in dangerous sugar spikes seen in other alcohols. With that, we understood we could still go out and drink, but we no longer had a free run of whatever was on tap or behind the bar. For his sake, we had to be even more responsible.”
From that moment forward, they made sure a bottle of Tequila was on-hand whenever it came to chill and relax. No matter where the road took them, at home or abroad, a bottle of what had become their signature drink was always nearby. Little did they know that as they moved about, they were planting seeds. Those seeds eventually blossomed, and when the time came to harvest, they rolled up their sleeves, and Tequila With Friends, the spirit brand, was born.
Brave New World
The US Tequila market was valued at an astounding $9 billion at the conclusion of 2022. As demand continues to rise, insiders project the market will be worth $15 billion by 2030. With the influx of celebrity brands, experts view this segment as one of the most difficult to penetrate. Not to be deterred, the friends approached this venture in a manner that has become the hallmark of their collective brand – all-out.
“We knew nothing about the inner workings of the industry, but we knew we had the talent to make a go of it,” commented COO Curnelius Arnick. Arnick has a procurement and project management background, two skills that have been invaluable throughout the various phases of growth the brand has experienced thus far, especially during COVID. “When the pandemic hit, we faced the same supply chain issues as everyone else; only we faced them as a startup. As the post-pandemic dust continues settling, we’re still here; we’re still standing tall, armed with lessons learned during that season, ready to keep moving toward our goal of market leadership.”
Barriers and Stigmas
When you think about Tequila, a young Black man is the last image that comes to mind. Affectionately known as the national drink of Mexico, the drink primarily identifies with Hispanics. Overcoming this stigma meant the right message would need to be in play, and that task fell into the capable hands of CMO Devin Woodson.
“We saw the looks and eye rolls when we walked into a distributor’s office or booked an appointment with a bar owner. It was clear they doubted we had what it took to compete. But here’s the thing, our message never relied solely on us touting our product. Sure, we believed and still believe in it, but more than anything, our marketing is rooted in the universal message of friendship. Each day, that principle, that brand ethos, so to speak, guides us,” said Woodson. “The fact that we have an excellent product just makes things a little easier.”
None of the men speak fluent Spanish, but that hasn’t stopped them from appealing to and gaining access to the lucrative Hispanic segment. Black and Brown blood flows heavily through the streets of Oak Cliff, and ensuring their customers knew they came from those same streets has been a critical component of their success.
“Community is a language everyone speaks, so no matter the language barriers we’ve faced along the way when we’re out and about at local festivals and events, people are drawn to our authenticity and the love we have for Oak Cliff. Once they come over and begin tasting our product, they quickly realize they’ve latched on to something special.”
With a new flavor in the works and many more coming down the line, the future is bright for what was once a fledgling but now a seasoned brand.
“Our focus is on being the Tequila for every man,” said West. “If you want something to sip on, we want to become your go-to. If you’re sitting out by the fire having a great time with good friends, our goal is to be the bottle you and your friends are reaching for. Whatever mood you’re trying to set, we’re building a product that helps get you there.”
Just Getting Started
In 2018 when four young brothers from Oak Cliff walked into a bar, they walked out holding a dream. They knew it wouldn’t be easy but then, anything in life worth having isn’t. They’ve overcome challenges that would cause a lesser team to fold, scaled heights, and received recognitions that often take decades to achieve. It hasn’t always been good, and they don’t always agree. But one thing they always agree on is that they wouldn’t trade the world for the man standing next to them.
So, what happens when four young brothers from Oak Cliff walk into a bar? They walk out holding a dream. Today that dream has become a reality driven by the fact that most things in life, including Tequila, are just better with friends.