Dafna Mizrahi Of Curamia Tequila: 5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food or Beverage Brand
Success is as simple as hard work and dedication to bring your idea to life.
As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food or Beverage Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dafna Mizrahi.
Born in Guadalajara, Dafna, at an early age, spent her summers in NYC working under the tutelage of restauranteurs. Many scholarships and sponsorships later, Mizrahi joined the Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park NY and was poised for success at industry level starting her career with Gianni Scappin at Market Street in Rhinebeck NY. After launching Clarke Groups newest venture at the time, Clark Standard overseeing their 5 Manhattan locations, she opened Monte’s Local Kitchen & Tap Room in Amenia NY where she caught the eye of television producers and was asked to make several debuts on air winning the Harley Davidson National Burger Championship in South Dakota and becoming National Chopped Champion in 2015. In 2018 Dafna joined the team at the prestigious Silo Ridge Field Club where she began this specific journey to bring her heritage, authentic Mexican culture inspiring the inception of what is now Curamia Tequila.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I was born and raised in Guadalajara in Jalisco, Mexico. I’ve always been inspired by the strong women in my life who helped raise me. My grandmother was known as “La Mujer Mas Bella,” known for her physical beauty and generosity. She was always the person who’d have an extra seat at the table to feed someone in need or help in any way she could. She’s also the person who gave me my first sip of tequila. Some of my earliest memories are cooking with her for holiday meals. During summers, I’d work under the tutelage of restauranteurs in New York City, which developed my passion for the culinary world, which led me to the Culinary Institute of America and started my career in the food industry.
Can you share with us the story of the “ah-ha” moment that led to the creation of the food brand you are leading?
The Ah-Ha moment took place after working in the hospitality and tv industry for many years and striving to elevate my career. Everything was going great, and many opportunities kept coming my way to the point that I didn’t have time to focus on what I wanted to do. When Covid hit and the world came to a stop, I started revaluating my choices and what I wanted to do. During this contemplative period, I decided that it was the perfect time to focus on my dream of introducing an authentic tequila to the market.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It didn’t seem funny at the time, but now looking back, I must say that when developing Curamia tequila as a brand, we couldn’t wait to share the story. We were anxious to tell the world about my grandmother and her legacy. Without set distribution in Florida, we arranged for a warehouse to work with us so that we could have products available for a fundraising event in Orlando. The warehouse was in Fort Lauderdale, and their delivery date to ship to Orlando was after the timeframe we needed the product. To ensure we had product for this event, we flew to Orlando, got in the car, and drove 8 hours total to the warehouse to get our tequila. Although it was a very frustrating detour, we got rewarded as the event was for a wonderful cause. As a bonus, we met the Disney team, and Curamia is now available at their Epcot restaurants.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a food line? What can be done to avoid those errors?
The most common mistake people make when starting a new brand is thinking that they know everything. Not consulting with people in the industry and being impulsive can delay success. For us, we learned that listening twice as much as talking was the best way to deliver a successful product. If you talk to someone long enough, they will tell you what they know and want most of the time. We think we know it all when in reality, many people have done it before, and there is always something they can share from their experience so you can avoid it.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to produce. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
The first step would be creating a business plan, dissecting the product, and then work backward. This process will allow you to see all of the steps you need to take to launch the product. For instance, when the product is in your hand, ask yourself these questions.
- What is it?
- What is it for?
- How much would I pay for it?
- How is it made?
- How did it get here?
These questions might sound simple, but they will ultimately help you develop the idea and create a brand. It’ll also help you reevaluate ideas that need to be flushed out more.
Many people have good ideas all the time. But some people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How would you encourage someone to overcome this hurdle?
Overcoming this hurdle takes a lot of dedication, planning and work. Everyone comes up with many ideas daily, but how many get executed? It is the same thought when developing a product. One must possess full faith and passion for the concept and almost see it as something that has to happen for their mind to quiet. For me, Curamia was so strong that I couldn’t think of anything else. Ideas that once crossed my mind no longer did, and I developed tunnel vision on developing my Curamia brand.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
This is such a personal choice, so I can’t say one way or another. I personally didn’t have to hire a consultant because my vision for the brand was so strong. After years in the hospitality and beverage industry, I have seen a lot of what a consultant would likely share with me. That said, I did hire a team to help me execute my vision. In this case, my co-founder Melissa Del Savio had been in the beverage and liquor sales industry for about 12 years. She had seen all stages from being a part of the sales force, supplier, distribution, and launching a new brand. Each of us had very strong assets to bring to the table. For those with limited exposure, I would advise a consultant, and I would recommend interviewing a wide range to find the one that gets your idea and understands your concept. The process can be long and frustrating for those with limited experience in the field.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs. looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one? This is another very personal question because every venture and goal is different. Some people choose to go the venture capital way because they don’t want a team or opinions. For us, we didn’t just want capital. We wanted a select group of powerful women I respect and admire for their hard work and dedication who are also heavily involved in the community. For me having the right team was way more important than the capital. These ladies have all been very influential in the success of Curamia, and they are just as excited to spread the word and see it succeed.
Can you share thoughts from your experience about how to file a patent, how to source good raw ingredients, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer or distributor?
This takes a lot of conversations and trying to find the best partner. When talking about anything that requires legalities, I would advise hiring an expert who does this regularly. The time needed to do this on your own to save money could become long and frustrating. When it came to sourcing, finding a distillery and distributor, we had some already established partnerships, which was one of the reasons why our launch didn’t take as long as most. Finding the right partners is critical. The partner needs to have similar values and goals and understand how to achieve them.
Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food or Beverage Brand” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1- What is the product? Knowing what exactly you are hoping to create is critical. The idea can be there, but you need to know what it is, how it is made, how much it costs, and where you sell it.
2- How does it look? What is the aesthetic? What are the colors and logo symbolizing and why are they displayed?
3- What is the story? What are you trying to tell the consumer to make them want to purchase your product? How is it different from something exactly like it or so different?
4- Who is your market? Who is your buyer and Why?
5- What is your business plan? What does your company structure look like> Who is part of your team and what attributes are needed to be a valuable team player?
Can you share your ideas about how to create a product that people really love and are ‘crazy about?
Product development starts with intensive market research to have a wealth of knowledge on the competition within the desired brand category you wish to enter. Competition is healthy and it helps everyone by challenging them to strive to be different, unique and the “best “choice. I believe that the product needs to have a story, something that will appeal and intrigue the consumer. An authentic story will always have people wanting more because it helps engage a would-be consumer with the brand on a personal level. Then once they try, it’ll help them become loyal to the brand so that they not only purchase it once but become lifetime customers.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
We are a very young brand, but from the beginning, our mission was about more than just the product itself. We are a female own and operated brand in a predominantly male dominant industry. I find that through our story and focus on authenticity, we have been able to give hope and encouragement to many. Our goal is to influence and change the lives of many in multiple ways. We aim to educate the consumer on the beauty and nature of tequila, encourage women to reach for the stars no matter how hard it might seem and share that success however you choose to define it. For me, the recipe for success is as simple as hard work and dedication to bring your idea to life.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
You never know what your idea can trigger. I would say that my movement is a return of authenticity. Being authentic means the world and is the key to success and inspiration, ultimately sharing a piece of who we are to connect with our community. This, to me, indirectly achieves a larger goal than just material success. We all have something to offer, and by being authentic, we can offer that to our communities and beyond.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.