Nayana Ferguson is regarded as the first Black woman to own a tequila brand in America. In 2018, she co-founded Teeq Tequila, a premium tequila based in Detroit. It all started when she and her husband were looking for a retirement opportunity to invest in.
Ferguson was passionate about the tequila industry although she had no prior experience. And so she started her journey researching into everything she needed to know about setting up a tequila business.
After satisfying herself, she partnered with a distilling company in Mexico known as Casa Maestri (Destiladora del Valle de Tequila Distillery). “Once we found a distillery, several contracts had to be negotiated and approved by both the Mexican and US governments. After that approval process, we started sampling the tequila, picking out bottle designs, corks, tops, labels, etc. all with various approval processes,” she told Forbes.
She now has three tequila brands in her portfolio, including the world’s only Coconut Lime Blanco Tequila. She told Forbes she created the Lime Blanco because she wanted something new and unique that pushes conventional boundaries. “We wanted to create a tequila that broke the stereotypes of tequila being harsh and not palatable,” she said. According to her, the feedback she has had after releasing the Coconut Lime Blanco into the market has been overwhelming.
Asked in an interview why she likes tequila, Ferguson cited health benefits adding that it is made from the agave plant, so it is naturally gluten-free and low in carbohydrates, sugar and calories than other spirits. She told Cuisine Noir that “If I’m going to drink, I would drink what is cleaner for me. Obviously, you need to drink tequila neat and not add extra sugars typically found in mixed drinks.”
Like many other Black businesses, Ferguson’s business was affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Bars and restaurants were not ordering, thereby affecting her sales target. But, instead of watching her investment go down the drain, she took to social media to market her brands.
Aside from the pandemic, as an African-American tequila investor, it has always been challenging to do business, Ferguson told Cuisine Noir. “When I walk into a store, initially some people don’t think I know what I am talking about. But once they see that I have done my homework, they begin to accept me,” she said.
Ferguson is a mother of two and an MBA holder. She is hoping to pave the way for other Black women to also venture into the tequila industry. “You don’t need to know everything, but you can start somewhere and learn along the way,” she said.
For now, her product is available only in Michigan but she is hoping to expand to other states in the next three years. In the meantime, she is targeting Florida and California for many reasons.
“The main reason being that we already had distribution in place through our importer, MHW, LTD. We are excited about the expansion into these states and news of our growth has resulted in more distribution companies contacting us to discuss opportunities in additional markets,” she told Forbes.