Meet Eric Brass. Backer of the underdog. Believer that passion, determination and hard work can overcome almost any conventional obstacle.
Tell us about Tromba
Tequila Tromba is named after the intense rainstorms that feed the legendary Mexican highlands where the world’s finest tequila is made. We made Tromba for those adventurous in spirit, for those who wish to take life by storm.
There has always been a “spark” when entrepreneurs decide to move forward with an idea, how-what-where-when did this go down and why?
I went down to Mexico on exchange with school and fell in love with Tequila. I always had the misconception of Tequila being that terrible shot at that horrible bar at the seedy hour of the night. I tried good tequila for the first time and was amazed.
When I returned to Toronto I’d preach my new love for Tequila but found no products that spoke to me and my demographic. Most brands were either “cheap and low quality” or were too expensive and personified a bottle service, chest beating, look how much money I’m spending type attitude. There was nothing that spoke to my demographic and me. Nothing that was authentic and craft with a real story and pedigree behind it that had both substance and style. Thus the idea of Tromba was born. A product that is authentic, ultra premium and inclusive.
I had “no business” starting Tromba. I had zero experience in the nightlife, bar or alcohol world, no valuable relationships and no money. I started Tromba on a dream: against all odds, with a couple bottles, $10,000 and a backpack. Everyone told me it was impossible. Everyone told me it couldn’t be done. Well, we did it and are still doing it. We’ve become the #2 premium Tequila in the country and one of the fastest growing in the USA. I’m fortunate enough to work with the best Master Distiller in the world – Marco Cedano. Marco was the Master Distiller of Don Julio for 17 years and he and his son Rodrigo oversee every single step of our production process. It’s kind of like having Wayne Gretzky playing on your men’s league team. His attention to detail is beyond belief.
You were once quoted, “Tequila is the most misunderstood spirit in the world – There’s a misrepresentation. There’s opportunity as well” – can you elaborate for us?
Everyone has a bad Tequila story. Most of that comes from the 51% agave Tequila which is 51% Tequila 49% sugar distillate, corn syrup and caramel. It’s like mixing a really bad quality tequila with a really bad quality rum. There is no greater disparity in quality of any spirits than there is with Tequila. Thus when people try good Tequila for the first time, they are amazed.
On Tromba we’ve built the brand with liquid on lips, education and training. I believe there is a strong loyalty developed as a brand when you get someone to fall in love with a spirit. Every day we are converting people not only to Tromba but to Tequila.
Tequila is the only liquor that’s an upper, it’s lowest in calories and 100% agave Tequilas have no added sugar. Tromba is so pure that when I drink it all night and hydrate well, I don’t get a hangover.
Any Notable venues that serve Tromba we should know about around the world?
What I’m most proud about with Tromba is the variety and diversity of venues we’re in.
We’re the rail at Eleven Madison Park – the #1 restaurant in the United States, the cocktail pour in the Drifter in Chicago, house pour at the Felix – voted the top new restaurant in the United States in Los Angeles, the go to at the hidden bar in Melbourne or the Parkdale dive bar in Toronto. We like to align with people that appreciate craft, want to do something different and give their customers new experiences. People that don’t want to serve conventional, big boy mass brands.
What’s your secret to attracting new customers to purchase your product?
1. Telling our story: Every case of Tromba sold without our story told is not a case sold. Not only do we have a great story but it’s authentic and not manufactured like most of our competitors. Bartenders are the world’s best bullshit detectors.
2. Go the Extra Mile: Doing more than expected and you’re obligated to do. Not worrying about if someone is going to appreciate it but doing it because you love it and want to strive for excellence.
3. Persistence and mindset: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told to “fuck off” and I can’t tell you how many of those folks are now some of our best customers.
What was one of the biggest hurdles to overcome with your business during the earlier stages of growth?
When we started Tromba, we had a great product and a great story. Other than that, we had nothing: No capital, no relationships and no experience. You have to understand our competitors are billion dollar companies with tens of millions in marketing budgets. How the heck were we going to beat these guys?
We did it with true grit and by out loving and out thinking our competitors. We did it because we knew we were onto something. I took no salary for 2 years, my parent’s garage was our storage office and Tequila bookworm on Queen is where we held meetings. I had to tell the bank our offices were being renovated in order to get our first bank line. The one advantage with starting with no money is it instills a culture of ROI within your organization. Every business decision we make – focuses on a brand and financial ROI 3-5 years down the road.
“If you build it, they will come” – How have you built a community around Tromba?
Organic and authentic. Every single bottle we have sold has been grass roots and word of mouth. It started in the bars of Toronto where the bartenders are our best unofficial brand ambassadors. They educate and sell Tromba because they love it. Customers can feel it, they try Tromba and become fans and evangelicals themselves. We have not spent a cent on conventional advertising. Anyone who says grass roots doesn’t work, we are proof that it does.
We also hired right. We hire passion. Tromba is a way of life for everyone that got involved. Our first employee was Peter Filimonov, a guy who had no experience in the liquor industry but just loved the product. Peter treated the brand as if it was his own and now it is. Michelle who is our newest employee is doing the same.
My New York Ambassador says that everyone that works for Tromba has a bit of crazy in them, she’s absolutely correct.
Anything we should keep an eye out for from Tromba coming soon?
We’re about to close a major strategic partnership in the USA. Don’t worry, we’re not selling out.
Craziest Tromba story, GO!
Doing business in Mexico yields many crazy stories: We once had Narcos hold up a shipment of our goods due to a shoot-out outside our factory. The shoot-out lasted 3 days! If you go into the office of our factory manager he has a cache of fire-arms.
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