How Female-Owned Tequila Start-up 21 Seeds Found White Space in the Spirits Category

What started out as a response to doctor’s orders turned into full-fledged, tequila-making powerhouse 21 Seeds. The recipe for success? A focus on quality, compelling storytelling and breaking every rule in the book according to founder and CEO Kat Hantas. And despite her lack of experience in the spirits industry, “girls call the shots” in this female-owned company that focuses on their consumers’ passion and pain points. From partnering with a female-owned distillery in Mexico to recently signing a national distribution deal with one of the largest spirits distributor in the country, Kat Hantas is challenging an entire spirits category traditionally dominated by men. Find out what Kat said she’d never waiver on when starting her own business, how 21 Seeds supports females throughout the entire production process, and where we can expect to see 21 Seeds post-Pandemic.

Where did the idea for 21 Seeds come from? 

About nine years ago, I started experiencing night sweats and general health issues, so I went to my doctor. He suggested we take a look at my diet, which included a couple of glasses of wine each night. He smiled like the cat that swallowed the canary and proceeded to explain that as we get older, our bodies have more difficulty metabolizing fermented spirits, and proposed a switch to distilled spirits (thank goodness he didn’t ask me to stop drinking entirely!). He suggested I switch to Blanco tequila since its plant-based and one of the cleanest spirits and sent me home. As soon as I stopped drinking wine, I felt 100% better, but I wasn’t sure what to do with this harsh Blanco tequila to make it…light and easy to drink like my wine. I like to cook so I thought heck I’ll infuse it and see what happens. It completely changed it for the better, from how it smelled, to what it tasted like: smooth, not sweet, and refreshing…not the usual adjectives that come to mind when you think about tequila.

As the years rolled by, I noticed a lot of my girlfriends were also moving over to tequila specifically from wine and champagne because they too wanted to drink cleaner and have fewer carbs and lower sugar. They began asking me to make bottles of my infused Blanco for their home use. One bottle turned into many over the years and finally, I thought perhaps there was a business in this.

How did you manage to disrupt such a crowded and highly-regulated industry? 

The trickiest part is that the spirits industry has historically been very male-dominated. So, in most meetings, we were the only women in the room talking to a group of men about how there is nothing in this category on the market for women. It’s not always an easy proposition for the decision-makers, but we knew our stuff. We had the data and information and intuition to back up our product. … The fact that we stayed in our lane and held our ground with respect to really focusing on that female consumer and all her pain points is ultimately what made us stand out and find white space in a very crowded category.

What have you been up to lately and what’s in the works for you? 

We just signed a national distribution deal with Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits. … We hear from fans all the time who want to support our brand because its female-founded and have heard such great things about the liquid, and we are so excited that we can share it with everyone in the country. SGWS is going to help us do that in a big way. Look out 2021, here comes 21 Seeds!

Luz Corona is the community content manager at Adweek, curating trends, tips and advice from top brand leaders to help marketers grow.