by Julie Epstein
Demand for the premium branded ice cubes sold at Davis, CA-based luxury ice brand -- that is correct, we said “luxury ice” – Gläce Luxury Ice (pronounced “gloss”) is rapidly growing into a sought after beverage addition for a thirsty and moneyed upper class. Glace Luxury Ice, made from double distilled water then filtered to attain a ‘zero-taste’ (so as not to alter the taste of your beverage; the shapes (‘Mariko’ sphere and G-Cubed ensures even cooling of your drink with minimum dilution) is served at major events and hospitality providers such as L.A.’s Fashion Week and luxury hotels like the Avia Group, the Bellagio in Las Vegas and the Montage in Beverly Hills. They may also be ordered online. Roberto Sequeira (’07), creator and CEO behind the frosty hooch enhancers emigrated from Nicaragua when he was fourteen, not speaking a word of English. Today, he owns his own luxury brand. Here, he discusses his business strategy and how Anderson taught him some of the most important tools for entrepreneurship that he still swears by today.
Bamboo sticks and a trash bag…
I’ve always had the inkling to be an entrepreneur, even after receiving my undergrad degree in engineering from Fresno State. The inspiration to start my own company came in George Abe’s Entrepreneurship and Venture Initiation class. The class was encouraged to come up with a business idea. Instead of just coming up with a product, I thought ‘what if you could design the ‘perfect’ business?’ (Niche, high margin, relatively easy to start, scalable) After exhausting most consumer products, (watches, cars, clothing, shoes, foods), we arrived at water and then naturally, ice. (Our) group worked on that project then everyone went on about to their own respective careers.
At the end of B School, I felt like I was standing at the end of this cliff. It was now or never to pursue a venture. For an entrepreneur it’s like standing there with less than optimal materials with which to glide off the cliff. Like taking a leap of faith with a trash bag and a couple of bamboo sticks instead of an expensive glider or functional parachute. -- you jump and you figure out how to build the parachute on the way down and hopefully you figure it out before you hit the ground. One year after Anderson I decided to focus on Gläce Luxury Ice full time. I own the company but I built the brand with a lot of help from classmates, colleagues and friends.
Lessons from B-School …
I learned two really important lessons in business school. In Prof. Cockrum’s entrepreneurial finance, the professor drew a big circle with all the components of a business and he said, “This is the wheel of business, and cash makes this wheel go around.” There’s no lack of ideas in business school, the brightest minds will give you solutions but you can’t even print a business card without cash.
The steady rich are different than most… in that they are still rich in a recession
Everybody thought that starting a luxury brand business in late 2007 was crazy, but the people who I was marketing to were not necessarily affected by (the recession), so I figured if we can do well during this time, imagine how successful we could be after (the recession) is over. Luxury begins when necessity ends. I've had the opportunity to do some really fun events and they're only getting better; we’ve done Playboy parties, L.A. Fashion Week and we’re about to do the Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance, an uber-lux car show, so business is going well. I don’t want people to think we’re only for the ‘super rich’ -- you just have to be rich in craving a superior experience and have an extra $25.00 lying around.
No one should make you feel guilty about achieving success. If you earned it or inherited it there is no shame in having it… so long as you didn’t steal it. This was an important point to make, so it was important for me to make the Gläce Luxury Ice brand have a responsible component. So I decided that we’re going to take a portion of our money and donate to charities, some in Nicaragua, some in Africa and Honduras. There isn’t one specific organization because it’s nice to be able to control the scope and places we help. They’re all water quality improvement-based charities in the Third World, like our project in Honduras building ‘pilas’ with Water Brigades. There isn’t a fixed percentage we give and we do it once a year based on how much we make in that year. It’s easy to give when you have lots… but doing it when starting a business requires commitment and diligence.