Elysia Treviño Gonzales is the Chief Operating Officer of Twang Partners Ltd.a manufacturer of premium Flavored salts, sugars, and seasonings headquartered in San Antonio, Texas.
Gonzales leads the management team in carrying out strategic plans for the organization while ensuring. Company wide commitment to company values and culture. Gonzales is essential to the team and provides big picture thinking for
The organization Prior to working at Twang, Elysia studied at University of Texas, San Antonio and earned a degree in interdisciplinary studies. She intended to become a teacher for grades K4, but after working at Twang.Part time to support herself through college, Elysia decided to stay in San Antonio at the family owned company.She cites customers’ enthusiasm for Twang products as well as her experience working alongside passionate individuals with talent, intelligence and work ethic as the reason for her remaining with the company since 1999. Before taking on the role of Gonzales worked in several aspects of the business, with a focus primarily on sales and marketing. She finds inspiration in consumers’ positive experiences with Twang and is humbled to be a part of the company, which brings happiness to millions of beverages and snacks across the country every year.
In the years since Elysia took a leadership role in the company, Twang has experienced remarkable growth. They now produce several different product lines available across the country and have enjoyed double digit growth each year over the last decade. The company has over 50 team members, over half of whom have been with Twang for five years or more. Elysia currently lives in San Antonio, Texas, and enjoys spending time with her three daughters and playing sports.
Q. What moments in life help get you to where you are today?
My parents started Twang over 30 years ago. Growing up in the business and watching my parent's intense work ethic and just the fact they were willing to do anything it took to get us going and growing.This really allowed me to just understand what hard work and some humility can do. I stepped back and had a moment of realizing how much hard work and effort had gone into what we have today, this realization inspired me to keep pushing to the next level. Second to that was understanding how to get small successes, selling our product on a store by store base to nation wide agreements I learned to under promise and over deliver, I hate to commit to something I can't deliver on.
I learned to under promise and over deliver, I hate to commit to something I can’t deliver on.
Ultimately, having confidence in myself and knowing my capabilities, I knew things would end up ok...I have never been scared of failure. I'm a student through and through; this was just another topic I could apply myself to learn.
Q. When did you guys experience your first product market fit?
It was probably in the late 90s. We had small success with our condiments, Twangerz, where it was a packet that you could add to anything to give it a little more flavor but then we had the chance to work with Anheuser Busch on a tie in on a beer they were launching and we heard people were using our salt on their beers...that's when it clicked. Beer Salt..why don't we position it as Beer Salt and really give it a home and channel it to the market as that. We came up with a little beer bottle design and the product exploded. It became our leading product sold by FAR. For the first time retailers were calling us instead of the other way around! It was a surreal feeling. Since then we have come up with additional product range..and a lot of times with our products - whether it is a line extension or coming up with a completely new brand - we really start with the marketplace. And try to identify the market gap...who is NOT doing something here and how can our product or industry knowledge fill the void.
Q. You had the option to pursue other career paths, what made you want to stay in the family business?
I got my degree in education. I was a teacher at an elementary school for a little while and even though I love being around kids I really did not enjoy the politics of the education system. I had always been working at Twang filling in wherever help was needed. I began to do events in the field and I got to see first hand how consumers were enjoying the product and saw firsthand the happiness it brought them. I noticed our customers were super loyal ( we call them the ‘Twang Tribe’) and realized that I can have a positive impact here, that is what drew me back into the organization.
we heard people were using our salt on their beers...that’s when it clicked. Beer salt..why don’t we position it as Beer salt and really give it a home
Q. Did you ever question the decision of joining the family firm rather than pursue some other career? Did you ever hesitate or was your decision pretty steadfast?
I was pretty certain on my decision as I knew I wanted to find a long term home in the company. I have done everything in all the departments, I did accounting and realized ...ya..that is ok but not really my cup of tea. I did sales for a while and realized the importance but again it wasn't my fit. So before becoming the COO most of my time was spent in marketing as the Marketing Director. I started as a marketing coordinator and worked my way up to the Director level marketing....that was more my niche. I love the whole idea of branding and concept creation and execution. Then when the role of COO came up, my father was in that kinda mode of retirement and offered me the position. The role seems bigger than me but I'm excited by challenges that make me feel nervous. This role allowed me to see the whole chess board. I have learned the importance of transparency and communication. It is essential to get everyone to paddle in the same direction.
Q. Was there one dept which illuminated your visibility into the organization?
Sales and marketing are important to understand or have visibility into, anything that allows you to understand your customer. Often it is easy to lose sight of your customer and focus on other parties, in our case the distributor, but let’s face it, we can get it into the store but if people are not buying it off the shelf we are doomed.
Q. What do you think are the most important qualities in a C level exec?
I would say that one of the biggest qualities is the ability to set the tone. Whether that is through motivating people through projects or sharing the vision of the company at an all hands meeting, keeping the tone steady and strong is vital. Another important quality is to not take yourself/job so seriously...we gotta have fun! We are spending more than 8 /9 hours a day with the folks around you. Maintaining a fun and happy environment is crucial. I focus a lot of energy towards that.
Q. How do you do that?
It is a challenge. Half of our company is admin/marketing/sales side and since we manufacture our own product we have a whole operations crew. We do a monthly all hands meeting to get everyone aligned. We take the time to celebrate the small wins and special occasions. We are a family run business and we treat our employees the same way, with trust and love.
celebrate the small wins and special occasions
Q. What are those questions that you ask now that are a little bit different...you have any interview questions that are unique?
The one I ask is: “ If your two best friends were sitting here today how would they describe you?” To me that question is self-assessment. It gives you insight into how that person views himself and for all of us that is challenging.That pause for self-reflection, which is a great way to view the personality of the individual. Another one is, “what is your drink of choice?” Or what is your favorite beer? The best answer yet ..."Free Beer, of course!!" that individual is now in our marketing department and doing very well!
Q. How has digital really affected your brand?
Digital has helped us communicate the versatility of our products. For example, something which was just a beer salt can now be used in a recipe, or you can throw on your fruit and vegetable or use it in this dip. Digital has allowed us to use a platform to share all these ideas and gain feedback quickly. Digital has helped us both from selling standpoint and then on the consumer side of letting people know all the ways of using Twang and where they can get it!
Q. So where are you guys making your biggest investment as a company to get to the next stage of growth?
This year one of our biggest investments is on the marketing side because we have always had growth years but everything has in the past been really organic. We have been pleased with our slow and steady growth. This year we partnered up with Giant Noise to have a larger media presence.
Q. What has been the most successful marketing campaign for you so far?
We had a "Don't Drink Naked " campaign. In San Antonio when you order a beer people will ask you: Do you want it dressed ..really they mean they are gonna add some salt to the side of it and since we really want everybody to not drink "naked. My dad liked to have a sense of humor for the brand. We really don't like to take ourselves too seriously, we are looking to give just a little spice of enjoyment.
Q. What trends are you seeing within just the beverage industry?
For us one of the big trends we saw that we really gravitated to like Global Flavor...I think people now are so much more willing to experiment and try. The craze of the Food Network and other food shows has sparked an interest in people to experiment and try ambitious flavors.
Q. So media is influencing people to be more ambitious with their foods?
I think media has a big influence on it and then definitely generational. I think the millennial generation is a little bit more apt to try new things and tastes. They are willing to go back and forth. We know and developed spice flavors for that. Even on the beverage side, we have to come up with unique and different things, for example, our Margaritas salts...new flavor profiles, no artificial flavors, no artificial color, etc., because it is just a standard now. We continuously work with our R&D team to tweak our products so that they get cleaner. It is the way industry is going. On the drinking side...in the past, if you were a Budweiser drinker you didn’t try anything else. Nowadays, myself included one night I might have a beer, next night I want a cocktail, following day I will try a wine–sometimes all these on the same night! Historically, you had people who were loyal to a brand. For us, it is a challenge to keep up with people's different choices and needs. We need to make sure that we have products for all their choices...so now we have a line of seasonings, line of salts, line of coffee toppers, etc to keep up with customer tastes and choices.
Historically you had people who were loyal to a brand. For us it is a challenge to keep up with people’s different choices and needs. We need to make sure that we have products for all their choices
Q. How do you maintain brand loyalty?
People these days want to know that there is a company with caring people behind any product. It is on us to maintain and grow relationships with Twang customers and foster that relationship. Telling our story and putting a face behind our brand is important to help our customers relate to our journey and product.
Right now our whole ‘Con Twang’ campaign is a throwback to when our company originated in the 80s, so it has 80s vibes. First, who doesn’t love the 80s...the company was born in that era when things were light, fun and colorful. Idea is that if you are an early adopter of Twang then you will recognize that kind of nostalgic marketing and we are even doing some throwback packaging as a component of the campaign so if you were an early adopter you will relate to and say “I remember you guys,” and help us pass on the word. For the newer generation it the campaign that allows for curiosity…like “everything's better with Twang,” or “Twanging since 1986,” or “enter the world of Twang.” This will capture that cause for that younger customer who doesn't maybe know it yet and get them to Google/research our brand.
Leading by example and becoming that woman figure for them so they can look up to and say wow you really can have a career and a family life
Q. What excites you in the next 2 years, 5 years and 10 years ..for you personally and the company?
I feel like we are just getting started. We laugh about this because organizationally we are definitely going through some growing pains and even though we have been around a long time we feel we just started. So in the short term continuing to expand our partnerships and now that we have our brand recognition; other brands acknowledge that we bring value to their brand so look forward to growing these cross collaboration opportunities.
On the personal side, I have 3 daughters. For me, it is about finding the balance between what I do at work and making sure that I am there for all their special moments. Leading by example and becoming that woman figure for them so they can look up to and say wow you really can have a career and a family life. This keeps me motivated to make sure that I am balancing my two areas that I love the most.
Q. How do you personally travel for Business and Pleasure?
Yes...I am real big on AirBnB right now because often when you are traveling and you are in the city for 3 or 4 days it gives you more space and comfort. I am always checking out what are the good places to go and eat and I love local spots. That’s always on the list but I think the whole market of AirBnB, HomeAway or any of those things...to be able to come back to space and kick up your feet on the couch is wonderful.
Elysia's San Antonio Recommendations:
Coffee: Local Coffee
Cocktail: Georges Keep
Restaurant: Singhs food truck
Hotel: Hotel Emma