Humberto Ibarra grew up with a great appreciation for the tradition behind Mexico’s favorite spirit. Now, along with Arturo Lomeli Ibarra and Jose Joel Garcia Barreto, he’s bringing a unique, premium sipping experience to the US.
Tequila Mandala is crafted in small batches with 100% agave azul to yield balance and refined flavor in every sip. From their herbaceous Blanco to their fruit-forward Añejo, Tequila Mandala’s handcrafted bottles are made in ceramic at high temperature in a very traditional way and painted by hand with colors that represent the delicacy of the Mexican culture and technique shared from generation to generation.
Recently, we caught up with Humberto to learn more about his journey and hear his advice for fellow entrepreneurs.
1. Why did you start Tequila Mandala?
It came in kind of a roundabout way. I come from a proud Mexican family with members on both sides of the border even today. I grew up spending all of my summers in Jalisco and was always mesmerized by the growing agave farmlands.
My cousin Arturo Lomeli Ibarra and I began in the industry in 2012, by importing tequila and mezcal for other brands wanting to penetrate the U.S. market via California. After about four years of doing the work for others, we realized there was a big shift in the tequila market towards emerging brands with premium sipping tequilas.
During that time, our partner and producer Jose Joel Garcia Barreto approached me with some amazing tequila samples he had developed. Today, those samples are the very ones bottled by Tequila Mandala in our beautifully hand-crafted ceramic line.
2. What obstacles did you face along the way?
By far, our biggest obstacle in the beginning was getting major retailers to buy a no-name premium tequila. Our existing customers were used to buying less expensive brands from us. We had built a good relationship with many of them, but they were not used to buying at Tequila Mandala’s more premium price point.
At that time, it was entirely new for both us and for our retailers. But, before long, our partners recognized the value of our brand.
3. What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?
You have to know that success doesn’t happen overnight, especially if you’re in an over-saturated industry like ours.
Also, if you truly believe in your brand, it’s important to accept that it’s going to require long hours, persistence and complete dedication to the cause. Without the firepower of a celebrity brand, you’ll have to put in extra effort to get your label into the public eye. And, of course, it’s critical to build and maintain strong relationships with your retail partners.
4. What’s on the horizon for Tequila Mandala?
We are continuing to focus on expanded distribution across the US. We are currently available in 13 states but we hope to be in at least 25 states by the summer of 2024.
Every November, we come out with a new limited edition Día De Los Muertos bottle, and that has to be finalized at least 10 months in advance. We take that as a personal goal. Every new bottle needs to be better than the year before. I think our customers have come to expect that from us and we will continue to deliver.
5. How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?
Work/life balance is something I have always battled with. We are still a small brand so we don’t have a large team. All our partners are very hands on and dedicated to the brand.
Still, when I go home, I try to spend quality time with my wife and daughter. We periodically plan weekend getaways and they usually accompany me when I have to visit our team in Jalisco, Mexico. It’s great to spend quality time together as a family. All the founding partners at Tequila Mandala are married with children, and we all make a point to stay involved with our families.
As for what drives me personally? Our consumers! I’m inspired by their love of Tequila Mandala and our handcrafted bottles. This is what drives me to continue to bring a quality tequila to our fans.
I’m further driven by engaging with those who are not quite tequila fans yet. I get to watch them fall in love with tequila, solely because of Tequila Mandala. I give so much of the credit to our partner and producer Joel Garcia for crafting a well-balanced tequila that has become easier and easier to sell here in the United States.
- Meet the Founder