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When Second Really is the Best

Sometimes it pays to follow a good act.

This story appears in the June 2009 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »
When Second Really is the Best

When Donna DeCunzo-Taddeo set out to launch a new high-end tequila in 2000, her plans were decidedly ambitious: take on market leader The Patrón Spirits Company of Las Vegas, which had dominated the ultra-premium tequila niche since creating it more than a decade earlier. Liquor retailers and distributors doubted she could lure consumers away from Patrón, but DeCunzo-Taddeo pressed ahead anyway, co-founding Voodoo Tiki Tequila in Lighthouse Point, Florida, with her husband, John Taddeo.

From DeCunzo-Taddeo's perspective, entering the market late actually allowed for some advantages. For instance, she felt she could improve upon Patrón's traditional Mexican-themed packaging. To counter that, Voodoo Tiki would be sold in hand-blown, numbered bottles featuring a glass-blown tiki inside. Patrón had also spent millions of dollars on marketing to convince people to shell out big bucks for a beverage generally associated with low pricing and spring-break parties. "Patrón had already educated consumers and even convinced vodka drinkers to try tequila, which was very difficult," says DeCunzo-Taddeo, 40.

Did the risk pay off? After hitting the market in 2006, DeCunzo-Taddeo's tequila has done better than expected, projecting $1.2 million in sales this year in 23 states and six foreign countries. She's still happy to let Patrón do the heavy lifting in market education; that means a fatter bottom line for her. As DeCunzo-Taddeo explains, "We'll make a bigger profit because our costs are a lot lower."

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