‘Hire hard and manage light’ is Dia Simms‘s philosophy on building winning teams. As an entrepreneur, a seasoned executive, and the leader of Lobos 1707 Tequila and Mezcal‘s ‘wolfpack,’ Simms is creating a commercial case for why diversity works in the spirits industry and beyond.
We caught up with her to learn more about her career background, mentors who inspire her, her role as CEO at Lobos 1707, and more. Read on to discover why Simms is truly a ‘Female Force’ who’s changing the spirits industry for the better.
ForceBrands: Tell us about your career journey and the key moments that helped establish your role as a leader and an entrepreneur.
Dia Simms: My journey was not linear. After college, I worked for the U.S. Department of Defense negotiating defense contracts, and did everything from launching a small business with friends, to advertising and pharmaceutical sales. The predominance of my career prior to being CEO of Lobos 1707 Tequila and Mezcal was at Combs Enterprises working alongside Sean “Diddy” Combs. I started as his executive assistant and eventually became the first president of Combs Enterprises in the company’s history other than Sean himself. Each experience was invaluable.
And now I’m the CEO of Lobos Tequila and Mezcal. Backed by incredible luminaries like LeBron James and Arnold Schwarzenegger. And working in lockstep with our founder and Chief Creative Officer Diego Osorio.
FB: You’ve spent the majority of your career in male-dominated industries. What advice do you have for other women in similar positions forging their own paths?
DS: Understand your value — study after study reinforces that organizations that have more women in leadership roles have higher levels of innovation, retention, and returns. Women are not even a mathematical minority so it’s counterintuitive for women to be so underrepresented in leadership positions. We are in a time of change and as women participate more, it’s quite simply good for business.
FB: You ventured from cannabis into the bev alc space — both highly regulated industries. What lessons have you taken from cannabis and applied to your experience building Lobos 1707?
DS: Having worked in defense, pharma, cannabis, and the beverage and spirits industry, I have had my fair share of highly regulated industries.
One interesting parallel between cannabis and tequila is they are both categories that historically were viewed through an inaccurate lens. They were subject to bad branding and false narratives. When in fact, when properly developed, both represent agricultural brilliance, dedicated craftsmanship, and opportunities to expand employment and wealth creation in underserved communities.
Last year was one of the biggest revenue years in the history of the bev alc industry, and agave spirits contributed meaningfully to that growth. Tequila, mezcal, and other agave spirits are beginning to receive their overdue respect in the premium spirits space. Lobos 1707 is proud to be a part of that evolution.
FB: Tell us about your leadership style and how you approach inspiring and motivating the ‘wolfpack.’
My philosophy has and always will be to “hire hard and manage light.” This brings together winning teams and talent.
In addition to technical expertise, I look for those who have courtesy and respect, and I go out of my way to create an asshole-free zone. I’m very old school about civility and thoughtfulness, and I’m extremely proud that we have implemented a work culture with that spirit.
FB: Do you have any mentors — any fellow ‘Female Forces’ — who’ve inspired your own career path?
DS: My mother and my 9-year-old daughter. My mom is the kind of woman I aspire to be. My daughter ensures I model the kind of woman I want her to be.
FB: What keeps you up at night?
DS: Nothing. Even during these incredibly stressful and uncertain times, I am very grateful for having the basics — health, loved ones, and a career I absolutely adore. I don’t take for granted getting to work in the spirits industry, filled with great people who work hard, but also have a lot of fun.
FB: Let’s chat about Lobos 1707 and its mission to bring equity and diversity to the adult beverages industry. What are some ways you’re actively making the space more inclusive?
DS: At Lobos 1707, our view is if there isn’t enough room at the table, we will build a bigger table — bringing people together and fostering a community that inspires change, sparks creativity, and celebrates individuality. Today at Lobos 1707, we are over 50 percent women and over 60 percent ethnically diverse, and our success is because of that diversity, not despite it. We’re building the commercial case for why diversity works in the spirits industry and beyond.
Our view is that diversity isn’t a game of musical chairs, it’s about building a bigger table. We have an ultra-premium award-winning liquid, an extraordinary founder, and the backing of global icons. Our view is you can both do good and do well at the same time.
FB: Finally, what excites you most about the next 3-5 years. Where will you be and what will you be doing?
DS: We are excited to build this extraordinary brand, Lobos 1707 Tequila and Mezcal, into a global brand. Seeing the incredibly positive response from the mixology community about Lobos 1707 has been so inspiring. In 3-5 years, I will be running with our wolfpack, continuing to build Lobos 1707 as a legacy brand. We stand on centuries of experience from our founders’ family. In that spirit, we are building Lobos to stand the test of time.