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Using Crowdfunding to Expand a 154-Year-Old Family Brand: Q&A with Mezcal El Tinieblo’s CEO

Alfredo “Ferruko” Perez-Salinas Tijerina
CEO Mezcal El Tinieblo

July 23. 2019 The Perez-Salinas family has managed their 9,000 acre ranch in Northern Mexico by staying true to traditions that have been passed down over generations. Working with 11 local families, the company cultivates over a million agave plants to produce mezcal, a distilled agave-based liquor, under the El Tinieblo brand that dates back to 1865.

The family decided to break from tradition and shun conventional routes of funding to power their planned international expansion. Instead, the Perez-Salinas have elected to launch an online public offering for El Tinieblo International, Inc. (ETI) through equity crowdfunding portal StartEngine.com. The ongoing online campaign has already raised $121,000 and is expected to close by mid-October of this year.

Mezcal exports to the United States have grown 651% in 13 years, according to data published by Consejo Regulador del Tequila. Meanwhile, new regulations introduced in recent years, including Reg D 560c, Reg A+ and Reg CF, have made crowdfunding more popular across the U.S. More than 265 different companies have raised more than $90 million via StartEngine.

The confluence of these factors has helped the Perez-Salinas break new ground in their effort to take their deeply regional family brand to the world. We spoke with Alfredo “Ferruko” Perez-Salinas Tijerina, the company’s chief executive officer and a third generation member of the Perez-Salinas family, about the brand’s rich history and its ambitious future.

What is the secret to sustaining a brand and keeping it in the family for so long?
The main thing that keeps our family so strongly involved with mezcal production and El Tinieblo is the love for mezcal and its tradition. Mezcal is so deeply rooted in our culture here in Mexico that it lives in us and keeps you excited to be a part of it and the artisanal process. Our team on the ranch works hard together to collect, cook and distill the agave into mezcal. Cooking agave is a social tradition that brings everyone from the ranch together to share stories as the night falls. It makes you feel good to drink it and share it.

Second is that there is passion in what we do. Our family is full of entrepreneurship. My mother has her own museum in San Miguel de Allende where she presents her private collection of Mexican Popular Toys that she has had for many years and loves, while I have several bars and restaurants where I get to share our mezcal. We also take pride in our ability to provide jobs to local families in our town, an area with few opportunities.

Lastly, in every drop of Mezcal we make there is a part of my family story. Even before we bought Rancho El Tinieblo, my great grandmother had been making mezcal and it is her recipe that we used so it is a family tradition.

Why did the family select equity crowdfunding portal StartEngine.com for this offer over traditional forms of financing?
To grow our brand outside of Mexico, we decided to set up a new U.S.-based company, El Tinieblo International, and together we decided this is the best step to help us expand. The StartEngine platform gives a larger audience the chance to be part of our family and that way we can have our mezcal family all over the world. Mezcal is all about sharing and we are no different.

What is driving the demand for mezcal and where do you see the market heading in the future?
People today are more concerned with the brands they support, especially what they eat and drink. Demand for artisanal and natural products has been growing in the past years and I see consumers generating more empathy with craft spirit brands that represent tradition and have a sustainable future. Our artisanal mezcal is 100% agave, with no additives, preservatives or pesticides. Since we control our entire process in-house, we can ensure that quality in every bottle.

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