Mara Smith is a former attorney, corporate strategist and stay-at-home mom who is now the founder of Inspiro Tequila. She set out on a career in law, corporate strategy, and business development, but was then put on emergency bedrest while pregnant. Mara’s twins were born prematurely, and she soon decided to leave the corporate world to focus on her family. Nevertheless, she always envisioned running her own company, and in February 2020 she set out on her journey to create a new tequila brand.
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How did you get to where you are today?
I always knew I was going to start my own company and I thought there was an opportunity to speak to an overlooked female consumer in the tequila industry. It was when I was looking for a clean, gluten-free spirit that fit into my active lifestyle that I became a tequila drinker. I searched for a tequila brand that was additive-free with a look, taste and aroma that appealed to thoughtful consumers like me, who care about what they eat and drink and the brands that they support. That perfect tequila did not exist, so I decided to create one. The goal was not just to create a one-of-a-kind tequila, it was also to bring another female voice to the spirits industry where women are generally underrepresented. Women are involved in every aspect of Inspiro Tequila’s process from creating the taste profiles to getting bottles on the shelves. That was the motivation behind launching Inspiro Tequila.
What do you think has helped you the most with your success?
The community of supportive women that I have built has been integral to my success. I am part of so many networks of incredible female founders and leaders. They provide guidance and feedback and I learn something new from every conversation. As a solo entrepreneur having a collaborative community of other women to lean on has been essential. I am forever grateful to the women who share their time and resources to help me.
What has been the biggest challenge you have overcome in order to achieve your goals?
The biggest challenge I faced was an internal one and that was overcoming my own mindset that I was not qualified to start a company. It is really hard for women who have a gap in the resume because they were home for a period of time to appreciate their potential. When I was on the partnership tack at a law firm or climbing the corporate ladder at a Fortune 100 Company I didn’t doubt my abilities or skills, but after being home for years I did. Not only was I reentering the workforce after so many years away but I was going into a totally new industry.
To earn credibility, I put myself to task and dove in. I read books about the tequila industry, I reached out to experts, and I listened to podcasts. And I took a course offered by the CRT, the governing body for tequila in Mexico, to become certified in the history and production of tequila. I took this approach with every aspect of the business. Doing all of this due diligence reminded me that I honed incredible research skills in law school that could apply to any industry and that even at home I was constantly researching things even if it was camps or the best non-toxic cleaning supplies.
Like many stay-at-home parents, I forget that I still have all of the skills I acquired prior to shifting to being home and that I developed so many additional skills while home. I had preemie twins, I can multi-task like nobody’s business, and balancing three children’s schedules and a household requires extreme efficiency. I learned flexibility with children since no day ever goes according to plan! And this is the same with a startup company where you are constantly thinking of Plan B and then Plan C. It really took me a while to believe in myself and understand that I have the requisite skills to start a new venture.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the Inspiro Purple Bicycle Project. With the Inspiro Purple Bicycle Project I hope to inspire and empower women who have been told things like, “You don’t have any industry experience. You’ve been out of the workforce for too long. Starting your own company is risky and very few startups make it.” The Inspiro Purple Bicycle Project is here to financially support and mentor female founders enabling them to get started, manage the bumps along the way, and move forward to follow their dreams. I am so excited that we had 172 applicants for our first professional development grant that we are sponsoring. I can’t wait for the opportunity to award the grant to the winner along with one-on-one mentoring sessions.
What are three pieces of advice you could give to our readers?
It is not too late to enter a new industry or pivot in your career if you are willing to put in the work to get up to speed. Be a “learn-it-all” and not a “know-it-all.” Intellectual curiosity is necessary for innovation. You don’t need to come in with all the answers. The huge learning curve associated with starting your own company or setting out in a new career is the exciting part. Building a supportive community is essential. Take a risk and reach out to people you want to connect with, but always go in prepared. People are much more responsive when you have done your research and you know about them and have a specific ask for them.
You inspire us, but what/who are YOU inspired by?
My company is named “Inspiro Tequila” since “inspiro” is the Spanish word for “inspire.” The company is named after two women who inspired me most in my life – my mother and grandmother. They are both amazing women who always believed in me and made me realize I could do anything I put my mind to.
What is one sassy saying or quote that inspires you? Why?
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made” Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I dreamt of being a Supreme Court Justice. And I had the opportunity to study Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s decisions in law school. This quote resonates with me since I would like to see women having equal representation in so many industries where they are underrepresented.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
There are so many resources out there to learn about new topics. Don’t go in thinking you need to be an expert in order to work in a whole new industry. You can learn so much from podcasts, webinars, books, newsletters, LinkedIn posts and other founders. People enjoy sharing their learnings so definitely reach out to people you would like guidance from. I am always happy to give feedback and insights to people that connect with me.