Several years ago, while building side-by-side vacation homes in Mexico, George Clooney and two friends were sipping tequila when they decided they wanted to, as Clooney put it, “create the best tasting, smoothest tequila as our own house tequila to drink and share with friends.”
Casamigos Tequila was born. The trio started selling their brand publicly in 2013, and four years later, Clooney & Company sold their stake to Diageo for $1,000,000,000.
It’s the same formula that Canadian Ryan Reynolds used to sell his Aviation American Gin in less than two years for $610,000,000; to the same company. While folks like Clooney clearly have many advantages and privileges in starting a business — capital, name recognition, connections, etc — they are the same advantages possessed by hundreds of movie stars, athletes, entertainers, and internet celebrities. So what made Clooney and Reynolds so different?
Here’s their recipe for success:
At its very core, Clooney wasn’t trying to make money or grow a business. He was scratching his own itch. He was fulfilling personal market demand. He was engaging his muse. His focus, his passion, was simply to create a great tequila for himself, that he could enjoy for decades to come.
The creator is always customer number one.
This is how I write all of my books. I write for an audience of one — me. My rationale is if I’m willing to give a year of my life to writing a book, surely there must other people who’ll spend a few dollars to read the best that I’ve discovered. It starts with personal passion.
Don’t just do what you love — do what obsesses you. If your passion is authentic, it will infect others.
Casamigos roughly translates from Spanish to the house of friends— and Clooney didn’t try to do it alone. He partnered with Rande Gerber (a nightclub/bar owner with two decades of experience) and Michael Meldman (a real estate mogul specializing in luxury developments.)
Evidently, the trio has awesome chemistry. Friendship can be a great foundation for a business relationship because the trust factor is already built-in. Equally as important, each of the three men brought their own wealth, experience, and connections to the table.
You can only reach so far on your own. Having partners helps you all reach further than any of you could reach alone.
Notice how they didn’t rush a shoddy product to market. They took two years and sampled more than 700 tequilas in order to perfect their recipe. George Clooney could market ice cubes to Alaskans, but if the quality of his tequila was sub-par, he’d quickly get called out by the high standards of the ultra-premium market.
Rande Gerber explains their quest for the perfect tequila:
“We wanted one that we could drink straight or on the rocks. One that we could drink all day and all night, and not be hungover in the morning.”
They took the time necessary to craft a drink with excellence.
Create products and services that are absolutely, quantifiably, undeniably excellent.
The world’s fastest-growing tequila brand set itself apart by being authentic and personal. Their marketing is candid and inclusive, and they don’t overly-exploit Clooney on billboards and TV commercials to hawk their wares. While there are obvious advantages to starting a company when you are a world-famous celebrity, they don’t flaunt him. Still, the message is clear: the owners are real people who actually drink their own product. (George, by the way, fully embodies the house of friends ethos: he once gave $1 million cash to each of his 14 closest friends.)
Don’t hide behind your brand name. Be real, be authentic, and personally put yourself on the line. Tell your story. Share your heart. Cast your vision.
5. Profit Reinvestment
Within three years of launching their tequila publicly, Casamigos was selling 120,000 cases per year. Clooney and his team could have started scooping cash into their pockets, but instead, they pumped it back into their product, their people, and their publicity. Rather than taking dividends, they pulled a Warren Buffett and re-invested with a long-term mindset.
Be patient. Seed save and replant your fields. If your idea is good enough to turn a small profit, it might be good enough to turn a large one.
Obviously, making money shouldn’t be the end goal of any business. Making a positive impact is.
Clooney and his friends upped the industry’s game by bringing an authentic, high-quality product to the market, and hopefully, they also use the profits to improve the world in even far more meaningful ways. Just imagine what the Clooney Foundation will do.