What makes an aspiring entrepreneur enter an established industry with no prior experience, do something totally different and succeed?
It's a question the founders of Desert Door Texas Sotol, a distillery that recently opened its doors in Driftwood, Texas, are striving to answer. Although they'd never met prior to 2014, co-founders Brent Looby, Judson Kauffman, and Ryan Campbell came together to build a brand in a hotly competitive industry.
Desert Door claims the distinction of being the only U.S. distiller of sotol, a plant-based liquor that's popular south of the border. Recently, Kauffman told Forbes Magazine that one of Desert Door's aspirations is to make sotol into "what boubon is to Kentucky."
It's certainly a good time to be in the market for distilled spirits, which grew by 4.5 percent last year to over $25 billion, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Premium brands — like the one Desert Door is trying to break into — are flying off the shelves, and accounted for more than 30 percent of all spirit sales in 2016.
In 2016, Desert Door's founders drafted a charter, and quickly identified key components of the brand personality, even down to the bottle's design. Its deep azure blue and golden logo are meant to evoke the sunset of the Texas desert.
The name "Desert Door" came to them when they tasted their initial batch of homemade sotol, which is often confused with tequila. Sotol is unfamiliar to most Americans, and that's something Looby, Kauffman, and Campbell aim to change. The spirit is a distilled from Dasylirion texanum, a flowering plant often called a "desert spoon" because of the distinctive shape of its leaves.
"When you drink Desert Door Texas Sotol, you're stepping through a doorway into a place with a rich and rugged history, and we thought it was important to express that in the name," Looby told CNBC in a recent interview. "We were struck by how much it actually tasted like the Texas desert. … It was a transportive experience."