Squish Stars: Christa Cotton

photo of christa cotton posing in front of a brick wall

The past number of months have been a whirlwind. Yet, there are some women entrepreneurs that are continuing to break the mold and shine like the stars they are! We're proud to introduce our Squish Stars campaign, highlighting incredible women entrepreneurs!

We were lucky to talk to Christa Cotton, CEO of El Guapo Bittersand ask her some questions. 

Description of your business? How did you get started?
We manufacture and sell cocktail bitters, syrups and mixers made with love in New Orleans. In college, I helped my father start Georgia's first distillery - 13th Colony Distilleries. After a stint in advertising, I decided to rejoin the maker community, acquiring the trademark to El Guapo and embarking on a journey comprised of all things bitters.

What measures have you been forced to take since COVID started? What is the biggest pivot you had to make with your business? 
Christa: We've pivoted our business model from majority B2B to dominantly B2C. We work socially distant split shifts and have implemented a myriad of changes within our facility to support our rapidly evolving operational requirements.

What have you learned from this experience thus far? Both on a professional and personal level. 
Christa: Personally, I've learned that operating a small business with a toddler and no family around to rely on is at best, chaotic, but more realistically, nearly impossible. Professionally, I've learned the value of a quick response to shifting market conditions. I am so proud of our team for overcoming the myriad obstacles we've encountered and proud of the exponential growth we're experiencing this year.

Have any businesses or individuals helped to inspire you through this time? What do you admire most about them? 
Christa:  Yes. Being a part of the Tory Burch Foundation 2020 Fellows class has been a lifeline during COVID. Having access to female entrepreneurs experiencing similar struggles and at a similar stage in growth has been invaluable to me during this time. I've very much enjoyed getting to know Neillie Butler of Marie Amie in Birmingham, Rene Graham of Renzoe Box in Austin, Molly Feinning of Babiators and Red Clay Hot Sauce in Charleston, Ira Green of Freedom Deodorant in Las Vegas and so many more.

What are the biggest issues for running your company right now? What areas do you need help with? 
Christa:  Scaling is a real b*tch. We're just trying to get our ducks in a row before we scale up again, as we outgrew our new facility less than a year after moving in.

What's been your biggest win since starting your company? 
Christa:  We're 4x Good Food Award winners, which is really special. Our largest piece of press if set to run this holiday season, and we've worked so hard to get this editorial placement. We're so excited for everyone to see it.

Are there any special or new self-care practices that have helped you stay grounded? 
Christa:  Yes! Long live adult bubble baths! When I'm feeling stressed and especially after a long day of juggling my toddler daughter and the business, 30 minutes to an hour alone with a glass of wine, a candle and a good book is truly a lifeline.

Favorite show you've been watching/book you're reading/podcast you're listening to? 
Christa:  I'm excited about Bethenny Frankel's new podcast Just B. I've loved the How I Built This resiliency series, as it makes the highs and lows of this roller coaster seem more normal. I've been reading non-work related materials as an outlet to destress.

If you could be any of our marshmallow flavors, which one would you be? 
Christa:  OMG Birthday Party!!! I miss parties and socializing with my friends so much. When this ends, I'm going to celebrate everything. Every birthday, every holiday, every everything!

To learn more about Christa and her business:
Instagram: @elguapobitters / @hurricane_christa