Made in Fort Worth: Ego Tequila
Tequila is big business. There are hundreds of established brands of the spirit distilled from blue agave, and quite a few celebrity vanity brands pop up every year. Then there is Ego Tequila.
The brainchild of Rikki Kelly, Ego Tequila is a small brand, distilled in Mexico, based in Texas. Founded in 2019 with the first blanco and reposado tequilas launching in 2021, it is also the only Black woman-owned tequila in Texas. Madeworthy caught up with Rikki, the self-taught twenty-something tequila maven and self-described disruptor, to talk about starting a new business, breaking barriers, and changing the norm.
Madeworthy: Can you tell us a little about your background? Where are you from? Where did you go to school? What did you do before starting Ego Tequila?
Rikki Kelly: I’m originally from Texas, and I spent most of my childhood in Denver, Colorado. We moved back to Texas in August of 2006 because my mom got fed up with the snow. I graduated from Allen High School and spent a little time in college. Before starting Ego, I had a varied employment background working with children and doing administration work. Most of my experience is in accounting, which I really enjoyed, and it comes in handy when starting a tequila brand.
MW: Why did you choose tequila instead of another spirit?
RK: Tequila is the only spirit that I enjoy, and tequila is super-hot right now, which is a plus. But I really enjoy the quality and consistency of tequila. It’s a well-made spirit.
MW: With a plethora of established tequila brands and more and more celebrity brands, what makes Ego stand out from the crowd?
RK: You got that right! This industry is crowded with celebrity/vanity brands and is HEAVILY male-dominated. I consider myself a disruptor in this industry. I’m the first black woman in Texas and third in the US to own a brand. I’m bound to stand out from the rest when I’m breaking down barriers and changing up the norm.
MW: Your background is not in the spirit industry. Tell us a little about your experiences starting a new brand while teaching yourself a new industry.
RK: It has been a headache, honestly. Having no background in the spirits industry, in sales, and in entrepreneurship created multiple issues in starting my brand. My background in accounting helped, but there were other financial issues that arose, and that experience didn’t help in every situation. Top all of that off with the difficulty of finding funding. But I had a good network to lean on, I continued to do research and consult with industry experts, and I just pushed myself to keep going.
MW: How did you find the distillery in Mexico that distills Ego Tequila? Did you try a few different ones before landing on the one that you knew would work?
RK: I researched before I found my distillery. I went with them because of their capabilities. I didn’t try any other ones, which was a mistake. I’m actually leaving tomorrow [after our interview] to head back to Mexico to scout new distilleries and source new vendors for raw materials.
MW: We love your branding and bottle design. Can you explain the name Ego?
RK: Thank you! We get so many compliments on our branding. It definitely helps us stand out on the shelf and gets people interested. I named it Ego because I love the way drinking well-made Tequila makes you feel like a different person, a tequila alter ego.
MW: What’s your favorite way to drink your tequila?
RK: Margarita. I will never pass up a good marg.
MW: Have you found support in Fort Worth in the entrepreneurial space? If so, how?
RK: I definitely have! I’ve surrounded myself with other like-minded entrepreneurs based in Fort Worth. I believe that Fort Worth entrepreneurs tend to be overlooked. Some of the best entrepreneurs coming out of the DFW area, even out of Texas, are coming out of Fort Worth.
MW: What’s next for Ego Tequila?
RK: Growth and expansion. I have a good feeling about Ego in 2023. I’m hoping to gain 75% distribution in Texas and work on expanding into another major market.
After talking with Rikki, we have no doubt she will achieve whatever goal she sets for herself!
Great article, and Ms. Kelly is amazing! I’ll try Ego ASAP!