In 2001, with the deep rooted philosophy that works conquers all, the Nicaraguan decided to start his own business of cocoa-based beverages, Licores Don Juan, and has won several international awards due to the superiority of products offered.
For two consecutive years (2017 – 2018), his products have received gold, silver and bronze medals for the Central American and Mexican region categories at the International Institute of Chocolate and Cocoa Tasting.
From recycled bottles to a global showcase
Don Juan liqueurs, originated 60 years ago when his paternal grandfather planted his first coco fruit seed using the agro-silvopastoral model. Thirty years later, his father began to develop a liquor empire. However, the idea to modernize and add a twist to the business arose while Gerardo, faced with the need for additional income, was pursuing his master’s degree.
The first orders of business were to finalize and label, procure recycled bottles, and participate in the 2008 Nicaraguan Association of Producers and Exporters fair. “I went to the fair with the illusion and the challenge of selling the product, with the surprise that on the first day everything was sold and I said to myself, here is a business, a company,” he adds.
Between 2008 to 2012, he consolidated the business plan and participated in local fairs. By 2013 he began the formation of his company, visiting fairs such as SIAL in Paris, Foodex in Japan and ANUGA in Germany. “There came Don Juan liqueurs, I bet because I had quality raw material and there were no drinks of that type in that category.”
By 2016, Nicaragua would become 100% of the world’s fine cocoa and aroma producer, with Central America importing a substantial amount of beverages based on this seed and other types of ingredients.
Paez has envisioned a unique opportunity to showcase his products on the global stage. He has participated in various competitions in Europe and Japan as part of his strategy to take his products worldwide.
Paez attributes his success to the solid foundations that Zamorano instilled in him for the constant need of innovation.
He recognizes that consumers are increasingly selective with the quality of craft liquors, which is why “we do not stop at the success achieved, but we seek to reap new triumphs.” He plans to compete in other categories such as; chocolates, infusions, and alcoholic beverages, focusing on ginger, coffee, and tropical fruit based drinks.
Persevere for succees
Gerardo Paez, is one of thousands of young people who was able to study and graduate from Zamorano thanks to a scholarship. He became an agronomist with complete financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). That was followed by an Agronomic Engineering degree through a partial scholarship from the Swiss Cooperation Agency for Development (COSUDE), and an MBA with a partial scholarship from the Pellas fund in Nicaragua.
He attributes his Zamorano experience with helping him become an entrepreneur. “The discipline is something that has influenced my professional training, innovation and creativity that Zamorano gives us to solve things, regardless of what it is. The quality of the classes, academic curriculum, and learning by doing, were important “.
The deep seated values, inherent customs, and above all the perseverance that Zamorano instilled, “influenced to be what I am professionally, since, although we started our modules doing something we did not know, as we advanced in the practice of learning by doing, we arrived at satisfactory levels and that was due to the persistence of a daily practice of said activity, hence, work overcomes everything, it is a philosophy that is well rooted in me “.
Paez advices the new Zamorano generations to not to lose the essence of getting their hands dirty, to take the experiences and the challenges that the school places as an everyday exercise to awaken creativity and innovation, the changes that are happening in the world and in agricultural technology, the most important thing is to build a solid base of knowledge, as taught by the university.