SB meets… Mike Dolan, Mijenta Tequila
Ex-Bacardi CEO Mike Dolan, co-founder of Mijenta, expands on the brand’s feat in becoming the first Tequila to be B Corp-certified.
Mijenta was co-founded by former Barcardi CEO Mike Dolan, Juan Coroado and Elise Som in 2020. The company became B Corp-certified in August this year, and is the first Tequila to achieve this status.
What does B Corp-certified mean, and why do you think this is an important step for your company?
It’s a very, very rigorous process for companies. And it looks at not only the environmental footprint of the company, but also the governance structure in the company, the ethos of the company, the treatment of employees, the treatment suppliers. So it’s incredibly wide ranging.
It’s very difficult to [get] it, which is why I think so few companies really qualify for it.
For us, it was important because it is part of the ethos of the company, a part of why we started the company. And it was really an effort on our part to push the envelope in terms of what is good corporate behaviour.
The argument being that, hey, if we can do it, and we’re kind of a small startup, why can’t the other companies do it? And why can’t they be committed to the same level of performance?
We cut no corners – we’re going to make the right decision, not the cheapest decision.
How is Mijenta’s packaging sustainable?
[The label] looks like paper but it’s not paper. Used leaves are taken to a paper pulp mill, and rolled into what looks like paper. But it really has that grainy feel of the plant itself.
And we use no cork in the bottle. That little piece of plastic around the top of the bottle is a biodegradable plastic that is about four times more expensive than the other plastics that most people use.
The box doesn’t have glue in it – it’s not corrugated cardboard, which means it’s not strengthened with chemicals to give it more shape. The box is a little flimsier, because of that, but also more biodegradable.
The ink, by the way, is not ink… it’s made from food colouring. So I could go on and on and on.
Mijenta is the first B Corp-certified Tequila company. Do you think other Tequila companies are going to follow suit?
We hope so – if not our intent is to lead the way and really encourage people to follow. We thought they’d be a positive reaction to it. But I think we were taken aback by just the degree of it, and the encouragement that we’ve gotten from the retailers, and from the distributors. I think the net effect of that will be that others will be encouraged to do the same and will be challenged as to why they aren’t.
Have you seen demand change at all?
The day we were notified of the certification, our general manager here was on the phone with a very prominent retailer in the US. And [the retailer] said, ‘I’ve just seen this come in on my email.’ He was just blown away by the reaction.
It’s great for our customer base, who are people who really are concerned about the environment, and the ethical behaviour of companies.
We’ve since gotten similar kinds of feedback from Europe – I can’t tell you the names of them yet, but at the higher end of retail.
I wouldn’t say it resulted in immediate sales. I think that’s too bold. There’s now an understanding that this brand has a purpose. It’s not just some Tik Tok star or some Hollywood person who’s put their name on [the bottle], and is using their celebrity status to ask people to experiment with a product. That’s not what this is about at all. We have a different agenda. So, and I think very importantly, this B Corp certification is part of that agenda, and a confirmation that we’re on the right track.
Do you believe celebrities being involved in Tequila is a help or a hindrance to the category?
I think it’s actually a positive. I think what it does is bring people into the category. So Kendall Jenner, Michael Jordan, or George Clooney. They bring in their fans, who maybe drank rum before but now want to try Tequila because Kendall drinks Tequila or whatever.
Some portion of that group will eventually migrate up, and say, ‘I want to try something better, more refined, something that has more legitimacy, or has a better story to it.’
People migrate up the curve and become more refined consumers. And I think that’s where we catch them. We’re not playing in that broader pool of people who are early experimenters.
What other certifications has Mijenta earned?
One of the other certifications we got about a month ago was a certification by Tequila Aficionado, which was that we don’t use additives. In Mijenta Tequila you’re looking at mineral water, yeast, agave juice, and nothing else. This certification is a rigorous process where they come into the distillery, they go through every aspect of the distilling process. We don’t use sugar, we don’t use glycerin. We don’t use caramel colouring.
Tell us more about Mijenta’s range of Tequilas.
We have a blanco, reposado and añejo bottling. The añejo was aged for 18 or 19 months, and every drop of that started out as a drop of blanco. We didn’t go outside the chain to buy somebody else’s liquid. So, I think when you look at some of these other celebrity-driven brands, and what always amuses me is when they come out – day one – with a blanco, reposado and añejo. How is that possible? It’s like saying ‘I got married and the next day I had a full family.’ Where did these five kids come from? Well, they were purchased from somebody else. Nobody knows the traceability.
We know where the agave came from, and we know who the growers are, and we know the whole long lineage of that liquid going back from when you drink it, back to when it was picked in a field in Jalisco. Very few of the others can say that.
What experience would you say you’ve brought to your current role at Mijenta from Bacardi?
I was on the Bacardi board for probably 10 years, and then was CEO for four years, and left at the end of 2016. It was an education in the category. There’s that incredible commitment to quality, and that’s what really creates a lasting brand.
If you’re CEO of Bacardi, and one of your brands has been around for 170 years, your degree of freedom to tinker around with that brand is very, very small.
If Mijenta started out on a clean sheet of paper, there would be absolutely no restrictions at all.