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FINO is a minority Women Owned brand, co-founded by Chicago-based entrepreneurs and best friends, Jana and Sonali. They began importing their tequila from Jalisco, Mexico in April 2018 and have organically expanded distribution to 5 states by October 2019. FINO Tequila is now available in IL, DC, MD, TN, and FL at several premium bars, restaurants and liquor stores.

While the tequila stands true to its name FINO, which in Spanish means, “fine” or “smooth”, FINO is also an acronym for Failure Is Not an Option, harkening back to the same words reportedly spoken during the 1970 Apollo 13 mission.

Within Chicago, FINO can be found at several premium locations such as GT Prime, Dance Studio, RPM Italian, Bounce Sporting Club, Hub51, Maple and Ash, VU Rooftop, Coco Pazzo, as well as many other on-premise and off-premise locations in both the city and suburbs!

FINO proudly won the 2019 SIP award at the platinum level for consumer’s choice! FINO has also been published in Modern Luxury Magazine in their Fall 2018 Men’s Book The Editor has mentioned that FINO Tequila’s blanco is the ‘best blanco I have had in a long while.’

SCENE Chicago Jana tell us a little bit about you and why you two chose tequilla?

Jana Iyer:
I came to this country 20 years ago as an immigrant, to do my Masters…wanted to live the American dream. I used to be a PT, did my Masters in Health Administration from Rush University and went to work in the hospital world. I wanted to become the CEO of a hospital and go up the corporate ladder; until my husband decided to start his own business, which demanded a lot more of my time. So I quit my job and started helping the family business. But there was a void….and I always wanted to do something on my own, that I can call as my business, my baby.

SCENE Chicago Sonia, can you share with the SCENE Chicago audience a little more about you and FINO?

Sonali Patel:

I was born and raised in chicago! I never left the city. Went to Loyola university and studied Information Systems and Health IT…completely different from what I’m actually doing right now! I grew up in a pretty traditional family – where all the male members in my family worked in the family business. When I graduated from college and was ready to start working, I decided to join my dad in his business, which is unheard of – for an Indian woman in my family to get into the business world…I wanted to be different and had the drive to start something on my own.”

SCENE Chicago Ladies, why Tequilla?

When we were invited one night for a casual tequila dinner, we both politely declined :-). 

Jana: “I was a scotch drinker…tequila would give me a hangover”

Sonali: “I drink anything BUT tequila!”

But when we tasted pure agave and an amazing tequila, it was love at first sip! We decided to go on a mission to change all the pre-conceived notion of tequila. We had a vision to create a very smooth, sophisticated, elegant, classy tequila drink – and that is how FINO was created; 

Sonali: “FINO a traditional tequila for modern people.

Jana: “We fell in love with the family history; it is a small batch, hand crafted tequila. The mexican culture, the tropical weather, fruits, spices – reminded me so much of my home.”

FINO literally in Spanish means fine, smooth – which was the vision for our tequila – a fine, sophisticated drink. But what is even more meaningful is that it is also an acronym for Failure Is Not an Option – goes back to Apollo 13 days.

Since Chicago is home for both of us, we created this brand in IL first. Our vision for our brand is ultimately to create a FINO mindset, a FINO lifestyle that all of us can relate to. FINO can be a celebratory drink – getting engaged/married, a promotion at work – celebrate with FINO ‘cos Failure Is Not an Option! Or you are simply having a hard day at work – don’t give up; Failure is Not an option – have FINO and get back to work!

So what makes men and women choose FINO over other brands? There are several reasons but the real deal is what the brand stands for – FINO mindset – 2 minority women in America with no liquor industry experience or backing taking on the highly competitive family owned/celebrity male dominated business with a “won’t give up” attitude and organically growing it.

“When an average person..man or woman..sees regular people like us take on an initiative that is daunting and typically male dominated yet go at it and do well, it is charming and empowering at the same time. They want to see us succeed and they support.” Jana said of their decision to get into the liquor business and the reason for their growth. “Because of the amazing brand reception and our growth, we are able to so quickly give back to the community. We have employed several women already and have been working with multiple charities since we started. We recently tied up with an organization that helps uplift and empower victims of domestic abuse or rape.” Sonali said of how contagious and uplifting FINO’s company philosophy can be.

Traction: Women-owned businesses are growing much faster than all businesses. From 2007 to 2018, women-owned businesses grew by 58% in terms of the number of firms and 46% in terms of revenue,” according to American Express research advisor Geri Stengel.

All the data shows that women-led startups, on average, have better ROI when invested in. Due to the paltry amount of investments currently going to women-led startups, investors now have an enormous market opportunity to invest in many of the most innovative ventures, which just happen to be led by women.

“The agility and innovative way of thinking has been a huge factor for expansion. FINO tequila will be certified Kosher soon and will be entering NY, NJ and CA in 2020.


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