Seneca graduates Alex Lacroix and Monica Sanita co-founded Siempre, an award-winning tequila brand. They have been living and working in their tequila truck, travelling across Canada and the United States. (Photo: submitted)
Seneca sweethearts spike success with tequila
“Every single time we encounter a difficult situation, we recall the work ethic taught to us at Seneca. The program taught us more than advertising. It taught us that absolutely anything is possible if you really work hard to get to the goal.”
Dec. 12, 2019
Alex Lacroix and Monica Sanita have a tequila truck. The Seneca sweethearts use the passenger seat as their office and the back of the truck as their home. They take turns driving to promote Siempre, their award-winning spirit, on the road.
“It’s building business, one bottle at a time,” said Mr. Lacroix, co-founder of Siempre. “We travel to wherever Siempre is available and help spread the word.”
Mr. Lacroix and Ms. Sanita graduated from Seneca’s Creative Advertising diploma program where they met. Since Siempre launched five years ago with 150 cases, the Canadian-owned, made-in-Mexico tequila brand has made it to 20 markets around the world and more than 500 independent retailers crossing 11 states in the United States. In Canada, Siempre is on the shelves of major liquor stores such as LCBO and Quebec’s SAQ.
“Ours is a project driven by passion and we attach value to it not only in terms of its success but also the experience,” Mr. Lacroix said.
And the journey, so far, has been nothing but interesting.
The Siempre story took root at Seneca where Mr. Lacroix, an Ottawa native, came to get away from a chequered past that included felony charges involving possession of an unregistered gun. Seneca, he said, rescued him from a free fall into ignominy.
“I removed myself from the negative influences around me and drove to Toronto to write a test at Markham Campus,” Mr. Lacroix recalled. “It was my first chance at higher education and I appreciated it so much. When I started school, I realized there are a lot of great people in the world who are there to help you. It was life-changing.”
In fact, while he was at Seneca, Mr. Lacroix was on bail. But that did not deter him from working hard. He received the Peter Weiss Bursary and graduated with an internship that led him to his first job at one of Canada’s leading creative agencies. He won several professional awards and went on to become an art director.
Ms. Sanita was equally successful as an advertising strategist following graduation. Together, the couple soon lost interest in building other people’s brands and wanted to create something of their own that mirrored them and their beliefs. The inspiration came from Ms. Sanita’s Mexican background.
“My mom is Mexican-born and though I grew up in Toronto, it was always back and forth to Mexico,” she said. “Tequila runs in my blood. My grandmother and great-grandmother used to make mezcal from agave and my family sipped tequila after every meal. So we decided to create the perfect tequila, a product we’d be passionate about.”
The duo rolled up their sleeves and got to work. They left their jobs, scanned more than 100 distilleries and found their master distiller in the small town of Tequila, Mexico. They named their liquor Siempre, a Spanish word for “always.”
“People in the industry said we were crazy and that it would take more than $1 million to launch an alcohol brand,” Ms. Sanita said. “All we had was $9,000 and a couple of credit cards. We took our small budget and decided to do everything ourselves.”
The venture got off to a rocky start as they launched Siempre in Ontario with the help of a childhood friend who supervised the sales. The market was tough at the time and while the tequila was getting great reviews, the team had to go from door to door to sell it to restaurants and pubs. They then shifted their operation to Alberta where competition was fierce but business was good. The couple threw all they had into their work and succeeded in putting Siempre on the map of luxury alcoholic beverages.
Through it all, including eight international awards for their first product, Siempre Tequila Plata, Seneca has never been far from their minds.
“Every single time we encounter a difficult situation, we recall the work ethic taught to us at Seneca,” Ms. Sanita said. “We ask ourselves how a particular professor would have handled this type of situation. The program taught us more than advertising. It taught us that absolutely anything is possible if you really work hard to get to the goal.”
While Ms. Sanita and Mr. Lacroix are doing “100 times better” than what they had anticipated — having sold close to 6,000 cases this year — they think they still have a long way to go before considering themselves a success.
“It feels like we are a rock band that’s on tour and we haven’t got that record label deal just yet,” Ms. Sanita said.