Small Business

Wichitan who’s ‘always had a good relationship with tequila’ builds startup around it

Bryce Lob is a founding partner in One Life Spirits. The Wichita native has seen the start-up company go from conception to producing Una Vida tequila in just under a year. (October 3, 2018)
Bryce Lob is a founding partner in One Life Spirits. The Wichita native has seen the start-up company go from conception to producing Una Vida tequila in just under a year. (October 3, 2018) The Wichita Eagle

Heading to Mexico to drink tequila may not sound like much of a business plan, but it’s working out for Bryce Lob.

In May, Lob and two partners launched a tequila called Una Vida after several months of what he acknowledges was not unpleasant research in the Mexican state of Jalisco. It hit the shelves in local liquor stores, restaurants and bars two weeks ago.

“We quit our jobs to start a tequila company,” Lob said.

Lob, 27, grew up in Wichita and played a year of football at Coffeyville Community College before earning a degree in marketing and entrepreneurship from Kansas State University. He started a cocktail mix company during his senior year of college, eventually moving with it to Colorado. That’s where he met Zach Conley, one of his current partners, who was already working for a tequila company based there.

“He and I started doing events together, using his tequila with our mix,” Lob said. “He’s about my age and we had a good time together.”

By last October, both were ready to leave their jobs and start a new tequila company with a third partner, Pat Koons. But first, they headed to Jalisco, the only place in Mexico where tequila can be legally made. They met with distilleries, cork suppliers, label printers and other businesses involved in the tequila industry, eventually signing an agreement with a distiller in the town of Tequila to make their product.

The partners’ St. Louis-based company, One Life Spirits, markets three types of tequila under the Una Vida label, which means “one life” in Spanish: blanco, which is clear, unaged tequila; reposado, which is aged six months in old American whisky barrels; and anejo, which is aged in the same barrels for 18 months. They range in price from $37 to $50 a bottle.

“It’s definitely a premium tequila, but we’re still cheaper than Patron and Don Julio – the big guys,” Lob said.

Lob said the partners, working with the distiller, tweaked its basic tequila recipe to “remove the burn that most tequilas have on the back end. It’s a smooth tequila. It can be enjoyed like a scotch or what not.”

That may also help remove one stain on tequila’s reputation.

“Everyone always says ‘I’ve got a bad story about tequila,’” Lob said. “Most people don’t realize that it was poor quality tequila they were drinking.”

Not that he’s had that problem, he added.

“I’ve always had a good relationship with tequila. I love quality spirits – something I can sip on.”

Except for the Una Vida label, which features an agave plant and was done by a professional designer, the partners are handling most aspects of marketing the product themselves. In Mexico, Lob said, they visited stores to measure tequila bottles and see how they looked on shelves next to competing brands.

Una Vida was first released in Missouri, where Conley lives and is overseeing distribution. Koons is handling the Kansas City area market, while Lob is in charge of everything west of Lawrence. The partners hope to expand into Illinois and Texas next. In Wichita, the tequila is available at Jacobs Liquor, Central Market Wine & Spirits, Newport Grill, Dempsey’s, Mort’s and/ Fredo’s.

“We’ve had nothing but positive feedback,” Lob said.

Lob said his mother was initially “a little leery” about his Mexico sojourn but also realized he’d been an entrepreneur since he started a shoeshine business as a kid.

“I’ve just always gone that route.”

Now you know

ONE LIFE SPIRITS

Owners: Bryce Lob, Zach Conley and Pat Koons

Website: unavidatequila.com

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