Home Interviews Nayana Ferguson of Teeq Spirits: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

Nayana Ferguson of Teeq Spirits: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

by Christina Gvaliant
Nayana Ferguson of Teeq Spirits: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur  we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Nayana Ferguson.

Nayana Ferguson is the Co-Founder and COO of Teeq Spirits, INC, the parent company behind multiple award-winning tequila brands, Anteel Tequila.

Nayana is the first black woman in the world to co-own a tequila brand, which has received international attention in print and digital media publications. Nayana is also Co-Founder of Curious Inception, a small business start-up consulting firm.

Nayana is a 15-year pancreatic cancer and 8-year breast cancer survivor and is also an active advocate with PanCAN, an organization that helps spread awareness for pancreatic cancer.

Nayana, along with her husband Don, built Anteel Tequila from the ground up, with no previous experience in the spirits industry. Anteel Tequila has three expressions in its portfolio, a Blanco, Reposado aged in Tennessee whiskey barrels, and the world’s only Coconut Lime Blanco Tequila. All have won awards in some of the most prestigious spirits competitions in the world.

Nayana is a Detroit native and a graduate of the well-known Cass Technological School in Detroit. Nayana holds an MBA and has an extensive entrepreneurial background as well as a corporate background in senior leadership and in finance.

Curious Inception has provided many beginner entrepreneurs with the basic fundamentals to turn their dreams into a reality.

Beyond her accomplishments in the business world, Nayana is a wife, mother of two girls, and a proud grandmother who enjoys reading and helping others create their legacy.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Nayana Ferguson: My husband Don and I wanted more in life than the same old corporate, 9-to-5, weekends off, lifestyle. We looked at investment opportunities, but nothing stood out, as it just wasn’t exciting. We discussed businesses often, but nothing really stuck against the wall until one day I asked him if there was anything in life he could do, if money was not a concern, what would you do? He replied he would want to own a tequila company.

After multiple discussions, I found a distillery in two days that we could work with and the process, a lengthy one, began there.

We knew early on that our logo on the bottle would be a hummingbird and the words “Create Your Legacy” would be printed on the back as well. I am a 15-year pancreatic cancer survivor and an 8-year breast cancer survivor and I have always felt that I beat these two cancers because I am here to create a legacy, not only for myself but for my daughters as well. My husband has always felt the same way, so we were a perfect match to begin this journey into the very tough, competitive spirits industry.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Nayana Ferguson: My husband and I were tired of the typical corporate culture. I was getting laid off from the company I was working for and my husband kept getting moved around at his job. There was no stability or safety in our positions, we knew that we could be moved, demoted, or let go at any time, which is always stressful. We wanted to take our futures into our own hands, where we could dictate, to an extent, our own path and future. When I was training my “replacement” and my husband was being moved for the third time in 2 years, we decided it was time to make a change.

In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?

Nayana Ferguson: It was always natural for me to have a side business, at an early age. When I was younger, I would model locally to make extra money, which turned into a short-lived modeling career in New York City for a well-known agency. Upon my return to Michigan, I started a catering company, which lasted for 2 years. I then went on to form a business with a friend, where we put together talent completions, film competitions, and other e-commerce businesses, that lasted well over 6 years. I had these businesses, while also maintaining a corporate position. I have always looked for something more in life, but never had the consistent support needed to grow the businesses to the next level, until I met my husband Don. We both have the same mindset, work ethic, drive, and determination. We are both comfortable with being uncomfortable and we are risk-takers, which is typically one aspect of the entrepreneurial mindset.

Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?

Nayana Ferguson: Unfortunately, I did not have someone in my life who inspired me in business. Without going in-depth, I was not raised in the best environment, so I constantly found myself busy with school, after-school clubs, sports, and other things that would occupy my time. I believe that this is where I discovered my ability to be a self-starter, to be independent, and pursue things that allowed me to grow, challenge myself and be a better version of myself.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Nayana Ferguson: Our company stands out in several ways. First, I am the first black woman in the world to own or co-own a tequila brand. We actually did not know this when we first started the company, the information was discovered about a year after entering the marketplace. Once it was discovered, the narrative has received a lot of attention, with support from people around the world.

Next, we created the world’s only Coconut Lime Blanco Tequila. Infused with all-natural flavorings from the coconut and lime, with no added sugars or sweeteners, we wanted to create an expression of tequila that was different for the industry. We wanted to entice people that abandoned tequila years ago after a “bad Spring Break,” experience, to enjoy a premium tequila, unlike what they most likely had in the past. We also wanted to insert ourselves in the very popular flavored vodka sector to attract consumers to switch to something new. With the margarita being one of the most popular cocktails in the world, we also wanted to create a smooth, sipping tequila that had a natural flavor, without the sugars, that can be enjoyed on ice or with a splash of fresh juice. We took a chance and so far, it’s paying off.

Our Reposado Tequila is also somewhat unique to the industry as well, as we age it for 8 months, which is at least 2 months longer than most Reposado Tequilas on the market. We also use Tennessee whiskey barrels for the aging process, which provides a smooth, flavorful profile, with a subtle whiskey finish. The majority of brands use American white oak barrels, mostly unused, to age their tequila, which makes us stand out a bit from other brands.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Nayana Ferguson: I do not stress…for the most part. I problem-solve, looking at every challenge and obstacle as an opportunity to figure out a plan to overcome. It’s important to remain calm to be able to think clearly and find a solution.

I am a positive person and I believe it’s a mindset that you have to have not only in business but in life. This mindset, I believe, helped me to overcome cancer, twice. When my husband said there was no way we could create a tequila company, I instinctively said “why not?”. There was no real or good reason for us to believe that we could not start our tequila company. When I challenged his way of thinking, it changed his perspective. We can all accomplish just about anything in this world, but we have to have a positive mindset to do so.

I am comfortable with being uncomfortable. I am comfortable with the unknown, as well as challenging myself. When we began this journey, we knew nothing about the spirits industry, but we researched, asked questions when we needed to, and spent the time to put together a plan. There truly wasn’t a lot of guidance on starting a tequila company, so we had to figure out a lot on our own, however, it allowed us to grow in ways we never anticipated. It helped us evolve as business leaders with skills we didn’t know we possessed. We’re both fully comfortable being placed in situations that are completely new to us. To succeed, you have to be able to allow yourself to be open, to be uncomfortable, and to challenge yourself.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

Nayana Ferguson: We were told, very early on, to fund the business ourselves which put us in a tough position at one time. To grow any business, you need capital for marketing, promotions, publicity, etc. At a crucial time, we figured out a way to gain a credit line to help fund a shipment, as we were running out of inventory, a problem that could create dire circumstances for any business. This actually helped us learn a lot more about the importance of establishing business credit, which all businesses absolutely need to learn more about.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?

Nayana Ferguson: It’s very hard to not get overwhelmed or “burned out”, especially when it’s something that you love. You have to create a balance for yourself, as no two people are the same. I would recommend anyone in the industry create a culture that allows themselves and their employees to take time away from work. Taking a walk, getting outside, meditating, or taking time to exercise can make a very impactful difference and help to not get overwhelmed or burned out.

What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?

Nayana Ferguson: Be yourself, be honest and be genuine. Learn all you can about the industry you are in and be open to mentoring or consulting others who may be coming into the industry. These things will build trust, credibility, and authority in the industry. Within their companies, business leaders need to keep an open line of communication with their employees, as well. Being able to communicate effectively in the industry will build great relationships with partners and employees.

Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?

Nayana Ferguson: A business cannot survive without communication and a team. A team that trusts you relies on your guidance, and supports your decisions. You have to have a team that holds each other accountable and without any of those traits, the team can implode, putting the business in a difficult situation to exist or grow. Open lines of communication build trust, which is extremely important to have.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Nayana Ferguson: The most common mistake that I have seen is waiting for everything to be perfect to start your company. There will never be a perfect time to start a business. You will never have the exact amount of money you need and you will never have all the information needed. Do your research, make a plan and take action. You can and will learn as you go along. Problems, challenges, and obstacles will always arise, but having a good solid group around you will provide support. If you do not have anyone, look for resources like free business counseling from retired industry professionals or find other mentors that may be in the industry. Constantly place yourself in a position to learn to avoid making errors that others may be able to warn you of.

Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?

Nayana Ferguson: At a regular job, for the most part, you are accountable for your job and nothing more. You clock in, perform your task or role and when you clock out, you are usually done for the day. There are not too many highs and lows with a regular job. That is not how it is in the entrepreneurial world. You do not clock out; you sometimes do not have days off. You usually have to take a role in every aspect of the business; marketing, promotion, logistics, financials, content creation and so much more.

Everything about the business relies on you and you are responsible for your success and the success of the business. When something doesn’t go as planned, the lows are extremely low, however, when something in the business comes together, it is a feeling like none other. You have a sense of pride, in seeing what you have built come to life. If you do not have the lows to balance the highs in business, the highs would not taste as sweet.

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

Nayana Ferguson: When my story was published in Forbes, that was an incredible high for me. I had never thought that one day, I, along with my husband, would create something that people would be talking about. I never thought I would be a first in anything, so for Forbes to write an amazing article about my past and the brand, was exhilarating.

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

Nayana Ferguson: There was an opportunity, at one time, for a major television network to create a business-based reality show structured around our business and the dynamic of being a husband/wife-owned business that never came to fruition. It definitely impacted me, however, I do not continue to dwell on things I have no control over. I truly believe that the more you continue to push, other opportunities will arise and they have.

Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?

Nayana Ferguson: I allowed the moment to come and go. I allowed myself to feel deflated for a moment but reminded myself that it wasn’t meant to be and that other opportunities would come, with hard dedicated work. It would have been an incredible opportunity for us both and the brand however, I have learned that you cannot let anything get you so upset, that you lose focus. There will be many disappointments in life and business, but, the quicker you bounce back, the quicker more opportunities can come your way.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Nayana Ferguson: 

Mindset — You have to have a strong mindset to ride the highs and lows. There will be friends and family that will not understand or agree with what you are trying to accomplish with your business or choices in your life. This is okay, as it is your journey, so you have to have a strong mindset to stay focused and not allow any noise to distract you from your goals.

Support — You have to have the support of at least one person. Hopefully, this can be your significant other, like my husband that owns the business with me. If not, it can be a business mentor or consultant. You will need someone to lean on from time to time, as nothing will ever be perfect, go as planned, or take shape in the timeframe you want it to. Support of someone is crucial.

Take a break — Do not forget about yourself. Even in an entrepreneurial endeavor, you cannot work 24 hours a day, you will definitely burn out. You will lose the enthusiasm for what you are trying to accomplish and it will falter. Take breaks, have family time, and designate an area where work DOES NOT creep its way into. If you work from home, it’s important to have a dedicated workspace, so when something goes awry, you can walk away and recalibrate.

Hire — When you get to a certain level, hire projects out to part-time/virtual assistants or use services that can automate things that make your life easier.

Keep it fun — Do not put too much stress on yourself or your business. Have fun with it. Get excited about your growth and accomplishments and never lose sight of the prize, which is usually a long-term goal. When it stops being fun, your business can start to feel like a job. Look at things from a different perspective, to allow your goals to continue to be fun to keep you energized.

We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Nayana Ferguson: Resilience is the ability to overcome tough times, where you possibly stumble but never fall.

When the pandemic hit, we were just about to launch Anteel Tequila in 2 more states however, our plans were quickly changed due to Covid-19.

On the fly, we had to adjust our strategy and revert to solely marketing online, in a greater capacity, to potentially gain visibility for the brand and get the attention of stores in those states. We started an email marketing campaign to retailers in those states to gain their attention. We sought out a retailer that fulfilled online orders and within a couple of months, we saw sales increase by 40%.

We had to be open to scrapping our original plan and quickly adjust to a new one. We had to be calm under pressure and think collectively of a different way to market effectively to continue our momentum that we were seeing pre-pandemic.

I also think a big trait to have, is to have strong problem-solving capabilities. When something goes wrong you can panic, or you can plan. In my opinion, planning allows you to be resilient.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?

I share my story of being thirty-two and beating pancreatic cancer often. The doctors had never seen someone so young affected by this cancer at the time. They did not know how and why I got pancreatic cancer, but I did. There was always a chance that the Whipple surgery I was going to have, would not be successful, but I kept a positive mindset throughout this experience. Before the anesthesia took effect, I kept saying to myself “Nayana, wake up. Whatever you do, wake up”. I had to be here for my daughter. I refused to let her grow up without me by her side. When my eyes opened, I cried. I knew I had a long way to go with recovery, but I survived the surgery.

I am now a 15-year survivor of pancreatic cancer and an 8-year survivor of breast cancer. Overcoming both of those experiences gave me the strength to have the mindset that I can accomplish anything that I set my mind to and I can overcome any obstacle life throws my way.

In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?

To overcome all that I have in life, I have had to keep a positive attitude and mindset. With all the attention the brand and I are receiving at this time, it keeps me humble and I am grateful and appreciative of everything in life. Had I not gone through all the hardships in life, I do not think I would have had the positive attitude that I have every day.

Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.

In the past, we have had people, part of our team that did not have the confidence in their abilities, with what they were doing within the company. They were extremely hard on themselves and often, needed a quick pep talk to encourage them. I feel that keeping a positive attitude has allowed me to be able to speak to those on our team when they need a confidence boost. Being able to do so helps our team to be able to accomplish whatever tasks or goals that they have set for themselves. I truly believe a positive attitude will always have a positive impact on clients and the teams in the business.

Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?

My husband shared this quote with me when we first met, which has become a favorite of mine.

“When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.”

I feel that we were all meant to live an extraordinary life. One that we can share with others to inspire and motivate them. This quote is partly the reason why we have “Create Your Legacy” on every bottle of Anteel tequila, as we want to inspire and motivate others to pursue their greatness. If people see us going after our dreams and we have a little part in the motivation for them to pursue theirs, we have truly succeeded.

We share our journey with the world in every interview we are lucky to be part of. We also have LIVE sessions on social media to interact with our followers and provide updates on our business growth and accomplishments. We feel that it is important to share as much as we can on our way to achieving greatness.

How can our readers further follow you online?



This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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