Rum Brand Ambassador Chris Fierro lives and works with heart, passion, and a strong sense of community. It is largely his personable character, his willingness to grow, and his dedication to his brands that allow him to make a name for himself in the Rum Industry. Fierro travels long distances from West Palm Beach to Miami for work. He communicates with bartenders, restaurants, and mixologists to learn from those around him. He is also professionally and personally present for those in the industry that he considers a part of his family. His personal touch and community-oriented approach not only makes him a beloved member of the community, but also the perfect mentor, friend, and contributor to the South Florida Rum Scene. Similarly, to his first brand ambassador job at The Real McCoy, Fierro is undoubtedly the real thing.
How did you get started as a Brand Ambassador?
In 2013, I was working as a bookkeeper for The Real McCoy brand. During my second year working for The Real McCoy, I started helping out the brand by seeing what I could do on my end to help promote it. We were a startup. I went into local bars where I had good relationships with the managers and asked them if they could bring in my brand because I would like to drink it at their bar. They said sure and I kept following up every week. After the first month, the manager told me that The Real McCoy rum was at the bar and you can order whenever you want, anytime you come. I did the same thing with my other favorite restaurants and bars. I was persistent. Then, Founder and CEO Bailey Pryor took notice and appreciated the work that I did for The Real McCoy brand. Mr. Bailey Pryor guided me and showed me how to transition from my role as a bookkeeper to a brand ambassador.
How do you differ from other BAs?
When The Real McCoy left West Palm Beach and went to Connecticut, I picked up a new brand and started on my own in the industry. I said to myself that the only way I’m going to be successful is by working hard, being very passionate about my work and the brand, and making sure that I could make the industry better. supported everybody in the industry. Succeeding in the market involved supporting the bartenders, bartenders craft, my brand, the bars and restaurants. That was my formula. I brought my passion to every restaurant and showed them who I am and what I’m bringing to the table. I’m not saying that nobody has ever done that but with every account that I had, I show them a great appreciation for their support. I caught people’s attention with my approach and a lot of people told me that I’m different from the brand ambassadors that they’ve seen in the past. I tried not to worry about other brand ambassadors with competitor brands. I focused on my work and what I could do to continue growing.
Who in the industry has inspired you? How has their inspiration impacted you?
I did not come into this industry knowing everything. I followed people that I admire and learned from them. Ambassadors like Gabriel Urrutia, Cesar Diaz, Freddy Diaz, and Jessica Stafford were rock stars to me. My biggest mentor was Robert Burr. He’s the organizer of the Miami Rum Festival and he gave me a lot of guidance. Forrest Cokely is another amazing person that inspired me. He’s a genius with spirits. He’s like a Guru. These individuals gave me a good reason to be in this industry and to learn what it is all about. They taught me how to give back to my community and how to help the next guy that’s coming into the industry by mentoring them and continuing to give my support.
After The Real McCoy, what other brand did you represent?
After The Real McCoy, I started working with Richland Rum. To give you a little bit of history about Richland Rum, it is from Georgia, made from molasses, aged up to 2 years in brand new American Oak barrels. It was a new brand to the Florida market when I accepted the brand ambassador/sales role. I knew it was going to be a challenge to sell a bottle at $40.00. Richland Rum was a new product to the Miami market with a premium bottle price. I had to sell it with few tools to impact the market (sell sheets and t-shirts). I knew that the only way to sell this rum was to be active on social media and show my buyers and followers my work and what I was doing with all my accounts. My schedule was working after lunch hour until midnight, sometimes to one o’clock in the morning. Drive back home and wake up early in the morning to research on Facebook. I would look into what bars and restaurants are busy and offering great craft cocktails. Then I would hit the pavement to visit accounts, introduce myself to new potential accounts, and do my follow-ups. With a lot of hard work, I started seeing results in the market with Richland Rum. I even expanded my market from Key West to Jacksonville with the help of my friend Cesar Diaz. My name became known and was easier for me to sell at new accounts. I felt like after I was done with Richland Rum, I truly became a brand ambassador.
What have you learned about Rum that fascinates you?
Learning about the brand is helpful to understand the spirit. At the Miami Rum Festival, I met a lot of distillers and was interested in hearing about their distilling and aging process. I also learned a lot from brand ambassadors like Stilo Pimentel and Zan Kong. I read a few books about rum too. The Real McCoy brought me into this amazing industry. It was my loyalty to the spirit that pushed me to learn about other rum brands. My two favorite rums to drink neat are The Real McCoy Rum and Grander Rum.
What are some challenges of your job?
Some challenges happened during my start. I worked with small brands that didn’t have a distributor, budget for marketing, sales support or POS. They lacked the necessary tools to stay competitive with bigger brands. It was also difficult to work around the established brands when I didn’t know anyone and when I didn’t have any relationships in the market. The Miami market, which is one of my favorite markets to work in, is very competitive. If you make it in Miami, you can possibly make it in other rum markets.
What are some rewards?
My rewards in the market have to be meeting a lot of amazing industry people and making new friends.
How have COVID-19 affected you personally and professionally? How has it influenced the Rum industry?
I’m currently on furlough. It affected me to see my accounts that are closed and thinking about my friends being out of work. Of course, it is important to prevent the spread of the coronavirus but I know that people are being affected by the virus emotionally and financially. I see everybody in this industry as a family so I’m always thinking about them and what I can do to help. For most bartenders, this industry is their livelihood and it can be upsetting not to work. I may have a backup plan but they may not. They could be in a worse situation than I am in. I try to support them and travel from West Palm Beach to Miami as much as possible to meet for a drink or a bite at one of my accounts. It helps sometimes just to talk or get out of the house and share a good conversation.
How will you celebrate National Rum Day? Do you have a favorite cocktail?
On National Rum Day, my favorite cocktails are the classic Daiquiri and the Jungle Bird. I am going to stay safe at home with my family. I might do a barbecue in my backyard with my family and drink some delicious rum neat and in a cocktail. I might also do virtual cheers with some of my industry friends that are willing to celebrate National Rum Day.
Name three things needed for an awesome National Rum Day.
First, be safe. Second, stay positive. Third, make sure you have your favorite bottle of rum next to you throughout the day.
What do you do in your free time? Tell us about your hobbies?
I work in my backyard. It was a disaster back there. I had a lot of weeds. I had a lot of holes because my dogs loved digging. I finished installing my fence and I stained it. I started gardening and built wooden planters for my new plants. I kept myself busy to avoid anxiety or depression. I also go on long, three-mile walks with my dog. This helps me get in shape so I can be stronger physically and mentally to be ready when it’s time for me to go back to work.
I’m also enjoying my free time. I have two amazing daughters that I adore and love. We are bonding more. We watch movies that I used to watch back when I was a teenager. Recently, we watched Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club and Better off Dead. Valley Girls is the next movie to watch. We watch 80’s movies that aren’t boring for them. I’m not trying to put on a combat movie and have them be on their phones. It helps to watch movies that they can relate to and enjoy. We also enjoy the evening with some ice cream and pizza.
Are there any businesses that you would like to take a moment to highlight/support?
Some of my favorite restaurants that are still open are Vista, Shokudo, No. 3 Social and The Butcher Shop. I’m always happy to support local businesses.
How may we follow your journey?
Facebook: Chris Fierro