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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Spirit filled

Charlie Paulette '92, M.B.A. '01

Charlie Paulette has had a remarkably successful career as a businessman and marketing strategist.

Charlie Paulette

He rose from marketing intern at the Gambrinus Co., which owns Spoetzl Brewery, to vice president for marketing. In the process he grew Spoetzl's brand, Shiner Bock, tenfold.

Now he's CEO of Dulce Vida Spirits, an Austin tequila company that distills, imports and markets handcrafted, 100-proof organic tequila. And who gets the credit for this success? His alma mater, of course.

"I can't even begin to tell you how much UTSA did for me, how it set me on my career path, and how it gave me the tools I needed to succeed," said Paulette, who earned a B.B.A. in management in 1992 and an M.B.A. in business in 2001.

After graduating from San Antonio's Churchill High School, Paulette said, he enrolled at Texas A&M University as an animal science major. But, he explained, he felt lost, and his "mind just wasn't in the right place." So he returned to San Antonio, took a couple of classes at San Antonio College, then decided to change directions and take some business courses at UTSA.

"I tell people this story and they don't believe me," Paulette said. "My very first class was a marketing class with [Associate Professor] Rick Utecht. And after one hour of that class I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life, what direction I wanted to go, what I wanted to accomplish. He was that good. And I never had any problem with motivation or focus or grades after that."

Fresh out of school with a marketing degree, Paulette went to work for the Gambrinus Co. on the Shiner Bock brand, which grew exponentially in the '90s. "Beer is what I cut my teeth on," Paulette said. He spent 15 years with the company before catching the entrepreneurial bug and striking out on his own.

After helping start and then quickly selling a technology startup company, Paulette joined the new tequila venture in early 2009.

"We wanted a niche in the marketplace and we decided we were going to do a handcrafted tequila," he said.

The company owns harvesting rights for agave plants in Mexico and uses a distillery in Santa Cruz del Astillero, east of Guadalajara.

"We have our own master distiller who lives in Guadalajara," Paulette said. "He works for our company. We developed a recipe and he makes it for us."

The "organic" part of the equation means that "nothing touches that agave plant except rain over the course of the six to eight years it takes for the plant to mature. That plays out to the quality of the product."

Dulce Vida makes and sells three kinds of tequila—blanco, reposado and añejo. The latter two are the darker tequilas that have been aged in whiskey barrels and are more suitable to "sipping like a fine single malt scotch," Paulette said.

In fact, he's trying to spread the word that there are other ways to enjoy tequila besides shots or margaritas.

Paulette, who lives in San Antonio, said he's greatly impressed with how far UTSA has come and its ambitions for national prominence. And he's grateful.

"UTSA literally changed my life."

—Joe Michael Feist


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