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How Success Happened for Emilia Fazzalari, Co-Founder and CEO of Cincoro Tequila How a brand co-founded by four NBA owners (including Michael Jordan) got traction in the exploding tequila market.

By Robert Tuchman Edited by Dan Bova

Cincoro Tequila

When asked about the initial success of Cincoro Tequila, co-founder and CEO Emilia Fazzalari says, "I credit my four teammates, my co-founders. Together it feels like we can accomplish so much, and we are."

Calling them "teammates" makes perfect sense because they are four NBA owners, including all-time basketball great Michael Jordan of the Charlotte Hornets, Jeanie Buss of the LA Lakers, Wes Edens of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Wyc Grousbeck of the Boston Celtics. "Our group brings friendship, competitiveness, and commitment to everything we do. We love doing things for the sheer satisfaction of it. And that is how we created Cincoro."

Related: 20 Celebrities Who Started Alcohol Companies

In just three years from its market introduction, Cincoro Tequila has sold 1.5 million bottles and won 23 awards in accredited spirits competitions, including multiple double gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The brand is now available in all 50 states, Canada, the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, and Duty-Free throughout the Americas.

Origin story

"We were in New York City for NBA Owners meetings in the summer of 2016 and got together for dinner," says Fazzalari, a veteran of the financial services industry. "Michael really taught us how to appreciate sipping high-end tequila. Right then, we realized that we loved tequila and we should make our own — hopefully the best anyone had ever tasted. That was the birth of Cincoro."

"We realized there was an opportunity in the market to create a new tequila, a delicious approachable tequila, one more akin to a fine cognac or bourbon," Fazzalari continued. "The five of us love doing things the right way, so we took that commitment when we created a family of amazingly smooth and delicious tequilas. It took us a while, as we weren't willing to settle until we got the taste profile just right. We created about 1,000 different tequilas before we landed on what became our four award-winning Cincoro expressions."

For nearly 30 years, Fazzalari worked in financial services, starting at Moody's Investor Services and then, at Bloomberg L.P. She had several jobs of increasing responsibility, including overseeing the development of information platforms for the energy sector. That fast-paced work environment served as a terrific training ground for her responsibilities as CEO of Cincoro.

"While my previous jobs could be summarized as intense, they underscored the importance of a laser focus on execution and the need to promote teamwork. I reflect on both as I constantly strive to do better and really aspire to lead," said Fazzalari. "Developing and marketing a brand is so much more than just filling a beautiful bottle with liquid. It's considerably more nuanced. I have a real appreciation for the hard work that goes into every stage of bringing a tequila brand to market."

Fazzalari says that all of the founders play an important role in the success of the brand. The founding group weighs in on the innovation, design, and liquid. To this day, the founders taste-test every batch created to ensure total quality and extraordinary flavor.

"The founders are fierce competitors who don't like to lose. We are authentic, sharing a passion for creating and enjoying the world's most delicious tequila," said Fazzalari. "The five of us take the brand very seriously, especially given the brand's potential and the category's appeal."

Related: Latest news and trend in the tequila market

Growing sales and products

The company recently announced the launch of its fifth expression, Cincoro Gold. This barrel-aged blend of Cincoro Blanco, Reposado, Añejo, and a generous proportion of Extra Añejo, a rare addition to the award-winning portfolio. The new product reflects the signature hallmark of all four Cincoro tequilas, namely richer blends with delicious, toasted oak profiles and incredibly long, complex finishes.

Cincoro Gold joins only a handful of 100% de Agave Gold tequilas. All Cincoro expressions are uniquely made with 100% Weber Blue agave from private farms in both the highland and lowland regions of Jalisco, Mexico. The agave is hand-selected and slow-cooked in a small batch process, distilling the highland and lowland tequilas separately before blending them together to create the Cincoro signature taste profile. The distilling process is also consistent for all Cincoro expressions, with each of the brand's tequilas beginning as Cincoro Blanco and then aging in American whiskey barrels.

An exploding category

According to IWSR, total volume grew by almost 17% and value grew by more than 27% in 2021. Super premium-and-above tequila brands, like Cincoro, are experiencing even larger growth, with volume growing by 36.5% last year and by almost 40% in value. By the end of next year, tequila is poised to become the largest spirits category in the U.S. in terms of value. Further, the overall tequila category is predicted to grow to $15 billion by 2025.

"The tequila market is on fire and there's a tremendous opportunity for Cincoro, especially given our commitment to innovation. We want Cincoro to lead the ultra-premium segment globally and our amazing ownership group should help us break through and go global in a big way," added Fazzalari.

Robert Tuchman

Entrepreneur Staff

Host of How Success Happens

Robert Tuchman is the host of Entrepreneur's How Success Happens podcast and founder of Amaze Media Labs the largest business creating podcasts for companies and brands. He built and sold two Inc. 500 companies: TSE Sports and Entertainment and Goviva acquired by Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

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