Trey Azar | Crain's San Antonio

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Trey Azar

Background:  

Trey Azar is the founder of Azar Family Brands, established in 2010. Azar Family Brands is a San Antonio–based distillery that produces craft spirits and has a portfolio that features the award-winning Cinco Vodka, as well as Seersucker Southern Style Gin.

The Mistake:

My mistake was not having enough patience. We didn’t spend enough time taking a hard look at the vodka category before we brought Cinco Vodka — our initial brand — to market. We had done some studies and found a clear point of differentiation from other vodka brands, but we hadn’t considered where the market was going and what it was truly missing. Rather, we were more concerned with what we thought it was missing, where we could be different and what we wanted our price point to be.

Because of that, our brand positioning and our price point were on the back end of the trend. As a higher-end domestic vodka, we were positioned very well from a point of differentiation against foreign competitors such as Grey Goose and Ketel One, but we came in right as they were at their peak; we were positioned very poorly against less expensive, craft-associated brands like Tito’s, which happened to be on an aggressive, hockey-stick rise. Our timing wasn’t great.

We would have been much better positioned as a Texas product or a domestic product that was less expensive, but we didn’t wait long enough to figure that out. It hurt.

Patience pays off.

The Lesson:

Patience pays off. I think some of that learning comes with age. When you’re a young entrepreneur and you’ve got your brand and your label, for example, you just feel primed and ready to go; you have this itch to get going because every day you aren’t operating or selling something feels like a missed opportunity. But it takes more than a clear point of differentiation to reach consumers. We didn’t spend enough time figuring out what that was.

I got into this business as a vodka manufacturer and brand developer, but our gin — Seersucker Southern Style Gin — is completely outperforming our vodka now because we tested its name, formula, font, colors, consumer reaction and price point before we brought it to market.

Getting the company focused and testing the Seersucker brand was an 18-month project — and it was worth it. The brand has completely revitalized and redirected the company.

Cinco Vodka is on Twitter at @CincoVodka.

Photo courtesy of Azar Family Brands