As we’ve all seen in the last year, there are always risks in business. No matter how successful your company may be, we can never predict the future – and there could always be unfortunate circumstances on the horizon that force your business into some very difficult times.
When Uduimoh Umolu and Belall Taher decided to go into business together, this was at the forefront of their plans. Together, they worked to create an idea that was, in their minds, recession-proof.
The answer? Launching their own range of premium tequila.
It’s an idea that has proved very successful, as the world’s desire to enjoy a drink or two has only increased during the pandemic – and Umolu and Taher have been only too happy to meet that demand with their brand, Jon Basil Tequila.
As a result, the pair have found themselves seeing the brand go from strength to strength – and have even earned themselves a place on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, where they were described as the world’s youngest creators of premium liquors.
At just 27 and 28 respectively, Taher and Umolu are beginning to take the brand to new heights in a venture that seems to promise success for decades to come. Incredibly, it all began less than three years ago, launching their brand in 2018.
“We had become close friends and always talked about creating a business together. We decided we wanted to have our own product, something we can experience and share with our friends and family,” Taher explains, reminiscing on the origins of Jon Basil Tequila.
“That’s when we decided that we wanted to look at the liquor industry – because we felt it was recession-proof. We decided to get into tequila because we felt the industry was lacking a brand that could represent quality, and be more than just an alcohol brand.”
It isn’t simply a gap in the market that informed their decision, though. The pair are passionate about the product as tequila is also their own favourite tipple – and they want to redefine the way that consumers believe the spirit can be enjoyed.
“It has always been my drink of choice. It can be drunk in so many ways,” Umolu says, “It’s the only spirit that is an ‘upper’, as well as being one of few spirits distilled from fruit. For me, it’s honestly the best, it’s the only way to go.”
While revenue potential and enjoyment of their own product informed what kind of spirit the pair looked to produce, the branding itself – specifically the brand name – has much more sentimental origins.
Having pondered over what to name their new venture and products, the pair settled on a tribute to Umolu’s father.
“My Grandfather on my father’s name was John. He was a great man in Nigerian history. If you know the story of their independence you may have come across his name,” Umolu explains, “Basil is the name of the man who was instrumental in getting my Father situated in the U.S.”
“Traditionally, you name your first son after your Dad in our culture, but Basil was so prominent to my dad that he combined the name for his first son – my oldest brother – Jon Basil. My father was my biggest role model in terms of being a genuine, and real human being.”
While the name comes from Umolu’s father, Taher is also keen to point out that his own father was a role model in instilling his business drive and knowledge of the liquor industry – factors which he believes have directly influenced their success – having taught him a great deal through running his own wine and spirits business while Taher was a child.
“I want to pay homage to my pops,” he states, “He really did teach me the right way to run a business. My dad has been there for me since I was a kid. I graduated from the university, with my bachelors in accounting, which helped with running my business, but if it wasn’t for my dad instilling all that knowledge in me, I don’t think I’d be where I am today.”
The pair’s heritage, as the children of Palestinian and African immigrants, has been a driving force in their desire to scale their business. Jon Basil is thought to be the only minority, millennial-owned and operated premium tequila brand in the world – a legacy that they are determined to do justice to.
Together, they plan to defy expectation and grow the influence of Jon Basil Tequila to great heights – and they believe that there is plenty of opportunity there for them to succeed in this goal. What’s more, they know exactly how they plan to do it.
“There is currently enough room in the world for the major brands to move over,” Umolu says, confidently, “This is the first time in history when brands can communicate with their core community directly, and we plan to do so authentically and real. Everyone won’t identify with it but for the ones who do it will be real and lasting.”
It’s worth mentioning that Uduimoh Umolu and Belall Taher aren’t the only young entrepreneurs looking to shake up the premium liquor industry these days – the belief that there is space for new luxury tequila brands is one that they share with several fellow young moguls.
Perhaps most famously, Kendall Jenner launched her own brand, 818 Tequila, in January. Upon announcing the launch of the drink, she shared with fans how 818 was the product of a three-and-a-half-year journey of blind taste tests, numerous distillery trips and even anonymously entering and winning tasting competitions to truly test the quality of 818 against other top brands.
“This is all we’ve been drinking for the last year,” she said, “And I can’t wait for everyone else to get their hands on it and enjoy it as much as we do!”
Elsewhere, Rita Ora and Nick Jonas have both entered the business with their own brands, too. Rita Ora is the creative director and main shareholder of Prospero Tequila, whilst Nick Jonas founded the Villa One tequila brand with John Varvatos in 2019.
To Umolu and Taher, however, competition is expected – and they are more than willing to take it on.
As for the audience of Jon Basil Tequila, both Umolu and Taher have their ideal consumer in mind – the young movers-and-shakers of the world, always looking to live in the moment and have a good time.
“It is for the ambitious ones,” Umolu says, “The ones who value moments with friends and family. The ones who continuously realize normal is not good enough.
“The ones who want to build a world that they are happy to live in.”
We’re sure you’ll agree that this is an idea that we can all say ‘Cheers’ to!