The Secret to My Success: How Bertha González Nieves Became the First Female Maestra Tequilera

The tequila maven behind Casa Dragones has some sage advice.

Bertha Gonzalez Nieves
Photo: Courtesy of Casa Dragones

Bertha González Nieves stepped inside some of Mexico's top tequila distilleries for the first time as a young 20-something. And it was, as they say, love at first sight. "When I saw my first agave field," González Nieves tells Food & Wine, "I fell in love with the tequila industry."

So, after she completed her master's degree at Northwestern University, González Nieves went to work at Grupo Cuervo—the largest tequila company in the world—for 10 years, working her way up the Grupo Cuervo's ladder to its North American commercial director.

Notably, González Nieves—who soon became a certified tequila expert—was also the first woman to be named Maestra Tequilera by the Academia Mexicana de Catadores de Tequila.

In 2007, González Nieves met Bob Pittman, the founder of MTV and tequila aficionado who had a vision to build a tequila brand as a part of his private investment firm's portfolio. His plans piqued González Nieves' business-driven interest. "When I look back," she says now, "I realize I was always passionate about being an entrepreneur. I started small businesses when I was younger—during high school and college—and was always eager to learn how to develop new ideas and execute with excellence. Plus, I was—and still am—passionate about tequila, and creating an iconic Mexican luxury company. In fact, when I think about where I started, it's that passion for work that has been the consistent factor in my career."

Together, they built Casa Dragones Tequila and launched the brand in 2008. Of starting the brand—and becoming a business owner, González Nieves says, "being an entrepreneur means things change—very fast—and I have to roll with it. No day is ever quite the same."

She splits her time between New York and Mexico; travel throughout both countries is a big part of her job. "That includes the distillery in Tequila, our offices in Mexico City, Casa Dragons house in San Miguel de Allende, or other cities in the U.S., such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, and Miami," González Nieves says.

"As a CEO, I'm highly involved in every aspect of the company," she explains. "But I enjoy it tremendously and to relax, I work out, eat well, and spend time with family and friends."

It hasn't always been easy being a woman in what has traditionally been a man's world. But González Nieves wouldn't trade it—and she's got some advice to help you get there, too.

1. Never lose your passion. González Nieves recognizes that her talents might not mean as much if they weren't accompanied by an intense passion. "It doesn't matter if you're a man going into a woman's industry or a woman going into a man's industry," she says. "If you have passion about your idea or brand, you will inspire other people to have passion for it."

She continues, "When I began my career, I never wasted much time thinking about being a woman in a traditionally male dominated business." Instead, González Nieves focused on her passion for tequila and excellence. "I let that passion dominate my trajectory," she says.

2. Back up that passion with cold, hard facts. Here's the thing, González Nieves warns: "It's not always easy making yourself or your ideas heard. It takes courage." But beyond that, she advises, when you need to sell an idea—or yourself—to a company, "make sure you are prepared with data and research, which will make your opinions more valid."

3. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Work-life balance may be elusive—or a fantasized myth—but González Nieves truly believes that to be outstanding at work, you must also take care of yourself at home. "I travel for work frequently," she says, "and I'm out many nights with clients. But I make sure to integrate a healthy lifestyle and a regular workout routine into my life. There are no excuses, ever." To excel at work, "work out regularly," she advises. "Feeling good makes you more confident, and helps you be more balanced and productive."

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