Hello friendly faces! It’s that time of the week! We’re back with a new CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom spotlight brought to you in part by Mary Gifford of Gifford Law. This week we’re introducing a Northbrook mom of three kids, former powerhouse attorney turned entrepreneur, and the founder of the local tequila brand, Inspiro Tequila, Mara Smith! Mara spoke with us about why she left the field of law, what forced her out of a business development position at McDonald’s Corporation during a high risk pregnancy, and, ultimately why and how she developed Inspiro Tequila. Trust me when I tell you that this tequila is divine, and so is Mara! Welcome, Mara.
photo credit: Nicola Levine Photography
Please introduce yourself. Where are you from originally? What city do you live in now? What brought you here? What do you love about where you live?
Hi, I’m Mara Smith. I grew up in Northbrook and I currently live in Northbrook with my family. Northbrook is a great place to raise our family since we have small neighborhood schools and a great community.
You’re a mama! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they? Feel free to brag about them!
I have three children – boy/girl twins that are 19 years old and a son that is 10. My oldest son is a sophomore at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and my daughter is a sophomore global health/pre-med major at Washington University in St. Louis. My 10 year old son is going into fifth grade and he is a sports fanatic. He plays basketball and baseball, so most of our weekends are filled with tournaments.
What are one or two things people would be surprised to know about you?
I really like rap music and I love to play poker!
What are your favorite local stomping grounds to hang with the family?
Everyone is so busy running around that we really appreciate time together at home. We like to watch movies and I’m always up for a family game night which gets pretty competitive in our house. We enjoy concerts at Ravinia Festival, and we attend many University of Michigan football games. We love to try any new restaurants that open up. We are also frequent diners at BluFish Glenview, Di Pescara Northbrook, Spirit Elephant in Winnetka, Greenwood in Highwood, Depot Nuevo in Wilmette and Carsons Ribs in Deerfield, and our celebratory dinners are always at Tsukasa in Vernon Hills.
What are your favorite local “date-night” restaurants?
Now for the good stuff! We are so excited about your women owned and developed Tequila brand, Inspiro Tequila. How did your career path take you here?
After studying accounting in undergrad and then attending Northwestern University School of Law, I began my legal career at Mayer, Brown & Platt in Chicago. I really enjoyed my work at the law firm, and I was learning so much really quickly. I had great mentors there, but once I was ready to start a family, I didn’t see a way I could balance having children with the intensity of a large law firm and the big, exciting deals I loved. I decided to switch gears and apply my business degree as part of the corporate strategy and business development team at McDonald’s Corporation. My entrepreneurial spirit was sparked at my time at McDonald’s. I was studying trends and consumer insights and we were ideating new concepts for the company. My corporate career came to a screeching halt when I was put on emergency bedrest while pregnant with my twins. When they were born prematurely, I decided to leave the corporate world to focus on family. This was a big trajectory for me. I really never predicted I would make the decision to stay home.
I became CEO of my household, but I never stopped thinking about what was next. I always envisioned running my own company and in February of 2020 I set out on my journey to create a new tequila brand, Inspiro Tequila.
I started drinking tequila when I was looking for a clean, gluten-free spirit that fit into my active lifestyle. I searched for a tequila brand that was additive-free with a look, taste and aroma that appealed to thoughtful consumers like me. That perfect tequila did not exist, so I decided to create one!
The goal was not just to create a one-of-a-kind tequila, it was also to help make women feel seen and relevant in the spirits industry. Women are involved in every aspect of Inspiro Tequila’s process from creating the taste profiles to getting bottles on the shelves. As a female founder, my mission is to also inspire and support other women on their entrepreneurial journeys through financial support and mentoring.
How did you come up with the name, Inspiro Tequila?
I named my company after the two women who inspired me most in my life – my mother and grandmother. So I chose “Inspiro,” the Spanish word for “inspire.” They are both amazing women who always supported me and made me believe I could do anything I put my mind to if I was willing to put in the hard work.
What makes your tequila different from all others?
Most tequila brands that we know and enjoy actually contain additives – things like coloring, flavoring and glycerine. Inspiro Tequila is confirmed additive-free by Tequila Matchmaker in Mexico. In addition, our Luna Blanco tequila is rested in oak barrels for a short period of time to create a smooth, sippable blanco tequila with sweet notes of vanilla and caramel and hints of citrus and mint. Our newly released Rosa Reposado is the first reposado to be aged in rosé wine barrels and finished in pinot noir barrels creating a truly unique tasting experience and a gorgeous rose gold color.
Where can we find Inspiro Tequila?
Inspiro Tequila is available at Binny’s Beverage Depot, Sunset Foods or online at inspirotequila.com.
What is your favorite cocktail?
Inspiro Tequila and soda, of course.
Who are your influencers and/or mentors that have helped you get to where you are today and/or continue to inspire you?
My friends really gave me the confidence to get to where I am today. I have great girlfriends who supported me right from the beginning when I had a crazy idea to start a tequila company. Their belief in me made me believe in myself. Many of them are great taste testers for me also!
In addition, I have surrounded myself with fantastic mentors. When I started Inspiro Tequila, I knew that I needed subject matter experts in areas that I was not proficient in, so right from the beginning I built an advisory board. My advisory board is comprised of powerhouse women from different parts of the country and with different skill sets. These women have been incredible mentors for me.
What are the 2 most common questions that people reach out to ask you?
Q: How did you reenter the workforce after being out for many years?
A: My answer is… lots of research. I had to learn an entirely new industry so I just dove in and studied everything I could. To understand the tequila industry, I listened to webinars, binged podcasts, reached out to industry experts and read books, and I event took a course offered by the CRT (the governing body in Mexico for tequila) to become certified in the production and history of tequila. I also had to learn so many different aspects of running a business from logistics and operations to digital marketing. It takes a lot of due diligence but there are so many resources out there to get up to speed quickly. It is not easy to enter a new industry or pivot in a career, but it is not impossible if you put in the hard work.
Q: How do you balance work and a family?
A: I would say not very well. I’m not sure I’m good at balance but I am good at being very focused on the task at hand. I am learning to accept that each day I’ll probably get a couple things done well but I will drop the ball on many other tasks. I’m trying to give myself some grace. Like so many mothers, I feel guilty if I can’t make it to an activity or forget to pack a lunch. I’m trying to accept that I can’t do everything, and I definitely can’t do everything perfectly. Then there are days where I’m at my son’s sporting events and I’m not responding to emails, so I’m just trying to be present and focus on what is most important at the time.
What’s on the horizon for you both personally and professionally?
Personally, I’m planning on some short trips this summer. Much of my personal and professional life is intertwined right now. I have a number of exciting upcoming events for Inspiro Tequila so they sort of become my social life as well. My short-term focus professionally is to build the brand in Illinois and get into retailers and restaurants. I want to visit my favorite restaurants and be able to order Inspiro Tequila!
Thanks, Mara! Love this story and your tequila! Where can we find Inspiro Tequila?
You can find Inspiro Tequila at your local Binny’s Beverage Depot and Sunset Foods or purchase from the website at inspirotequila.com. I hope you’ll connect with me on LinkedIn or on Instagram @beinspiredbymara and @inspirotequila.
About Our Meet a Mom Sponsor
A very heartfelt thank you to CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom sponsor, Lake Forest mom of three and owner of Gifford Law, a solo Estate Planning Firm (wills and trusts). Mary, we appreciate your support of local moms in our North Shore communities! Learn more about Mary by visiting her Meet a Mom spotlight here!