Some creator brands put the celebrities at the forefront of their branding strategy, but the team behind Calirosa wants the product — rosa tequila to take center stage. Calirosa Tequila, the brainchild of couple Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo, is a blend of both.
“What we've tried to do differently is let Calirosa be the celebrity,” Calirosa Tequila's president David Gimpelson said.
Read on to check out our chat about creator brands, hiring, and launching a brand that has staying power.
Alexis Benveniste: Would you define Calirosa as a creator brand?
David Gimpelson: Behati Prinsloo and Adam Levine are our founders and the owners of the company.
What separates us apart from a lot of celebrity brands is that they are actually putting their money where their mouth is. So they've funded 50% of the capital to fuel the business. We've created a mentality here with Adam. It was his idea with his wife and they were willing to fund the idea – not just say ‘we're celebrities, we have an idea, let's go find someone else's money to do it,’ which is, I think, a very unique situation for us. I think it shows the belief in the product and puts him in a different category than most celebrities that are involved in brands.
We obviously benefit from all the press and associations with Adam and Behati. But what we've tried to do differently is let Calirosa be the celebrity. We don't want our product to be called Adam Levine's tequila.
You'll see us doing little or none of the bottle signings at retailers and the surprise and delight things that maybe some other celebrities are doing, which works for them. Maybe it yields a quick, immediate return on sales. But we’re focused on the long-term, for the brand to have staying power. We really want to have a brand that stands on its own and can be associated with Adam and Behati. But it's not just about Adam and Behati.
AB: Tell me about how Calirosa took off from an idea to a product on the shelves.
DG: The story of the creation is made up of a lot of by-chance moments. Adam and Behati love Mexico. They were married in Mexico. They stumbled upon Rosa Blanca tequilas in Mexico and realized it was not a very prevalent product. Rosa tequila is basically tequila aged in red wine barrels.
I connected with them in 2019 and then they were connected with this family – the Real family – which owned the distillery that we currently work with, and by chance, they discovered aging tequila in red wine barrels. They were the first distillery in Mexico to do so in the 50s. Their grandfather was delivered six red wine barrels from California instead of six bourbon and whiskey barrels from Kentucky when he placed an order to get barrels. So he took those six barrels and put tequila in them. He realized he could create a really beautiful color and flavor profile with the product. They’re the pioneers of aging tequila in red wine barrels, so we partnered with them to bring Calirosa to life. That’s really the origin and ideation story of the product.
AB: Who did you hire first?
DG: When it came to developing the company, there was a thought process. Do you go find a major new import partner to help build the brand? They take a large percentage of equity, but they have the team. Or do we go small grassroots, do it ourselves and build the brand? And we chose the build the brand ourselves route.
The first two roles we were looking to bring on were a commercial role to help with production – sourcing bottles, corks, labels, shippers, warehousing. Making the product and bringing it into the U.S. It’s obviously an important role. Then the second role is obviously marketing, right? Creating and bringing that story to life and how it shows up and resonates with consumers is ultimately the most important part.
If you have a great story but you can’t figure out how to tell that story, then you don’t really have a great story.
For any consumer packaged good products, you have to have that story that is always told when you’re not around. That’s what I always tell our sales team. How is our product going to be sold when you’re not standing next to the shelf, telling people the story and getting them to romanticize the product and buy it? That’s done through storytelling. That’s done through marketing.
We initially started the company with those two roles and then built out a team from there, and now it’s an 18-person company.
AB: What number hire were you?
DG: Zero. One. I’m an equity partner in the company. When Adam and Behati had the idea is when I was connected with them. I’ve been there since inception and really helped put the pieces together. Obviously, they both have careers of their own, so I came on board before the name even existed. Adam pitched a lot of different names, and Calirosa is the one we landed on because it resonated. They’re from California and it’s a Rosa tequila. I’ve been involved since the idea started.
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Alexis Benveniste is a New York-based writer and editor whose work has been featured in The New York Times, Bloomberg, Vanity Fair, and other outlets.