Several years shy of his 40th birthday, Marc Farrell has already lived multiple lives. Born in Trinidad, he left his tropical home for the stately halls of MIT, where he began studying chemical engineering–at the age of 16. By 26 he would also hold a masters in philosophy from the University of Cambridge as well as an MBA from Harvard Business School. By 36 he had gone on to become the youngest Vice President in Starbucks history, heading up eCommerce and then global retail and beverage innovation.
What might he have in store for 46? If Farrell has his way, rum will have a lot to do with it. The business impresario has traded in coffee for Coladas with his latest venture: Ten to One. The nascent brand launched earlier this year with two expressions, a Caribbean White (priced at $29) and a Caribbean Dark ($43). Both represent a blend of liquids from esteemed producers across the islands.
And as you can expect with someone as singularly focused as Farrell–there’s more to come. Here he talks about his journey from the boardroom to the bottle shop in an exclusive interview for Forbes.
How did you come up with the idea for Ten To One? What were your inspirations?
I’m always quick to tell enquiring minds that the story of Ten To One begins in Trinidad & Tobago. Not only because it’s the place of my birth, and the axis of my own introduction to rum, but because it was there, during a visit by my friend (now co-founder) Zac Waksal six years ago, that the early seeds for Ten To One were planted. It was on that trip, as Zac spent time with my family and I over New Years, that we often discussed how surprised he was at the differences between rum as he knew it in the US, and the way that he saw it brought to life during that trip to Trinidad – a diverse and elevated spirit, that played a pivotal role in many of the special moments of celebration we enjoy in Trinidad, and in the broader Caribbean.
Over the course of the next few years, we would continue to talk about how big a gap there was between the experience of that trip, and the way that rum was typically positioned in the US, until we started working on the concept in early 2018, once the call to begin developing the brand became virtually impossible to ignore.
I knew very early in my career that I loved the consumer space, and specifically the idea of creating brands; And I’ve always loved storytelling and been inspired by those who can bring a product to life in the hearts and minds of consumers. Ten To One allows me to fulfill that passion and ambition in a unique and personal way, as the brand is derived genuinely and directly from the way that I see the world – whether my long-held passion for the spirit, my love of all things brand, the deep pride that I take in my Caribbean roots and culture, or the inspired community of folks that we hope to share the brand with.
How did growing up in Trinidad influence your experience of rum?
Through the lens of Trinidadian culture, I understood rum to be an extremely versatile spirit with several premium expressions, that played a pivotal role in many of the moments of celebration – both big and small – that we enjoyed as a people.
What gaps in the market do Ten To One Hope fill?
While seemingly every other spirit – vodka, tequila, mezcal, gin – has been disrupted, and elevated in the US and beyond, rum has seemingly stood alone, too often relegated to a very narrow, preconceived set of drinking occasions and marketing plotlines, and under-appreciated for the breadth and quality that the category has to offer.
As someone who is born and raised in the Caribbean, I really believe we have an enormous opportunity to further elevate the conversation around rum – not only by introducing a high-quality spirit to the market but by broadening both the current narrative around rum and the occasions for which it might be considered the spirit of choice for today’s consumer.
Beyond the rums themselves, what do you see as Ten To One’s overall mission?
As a company, we frequently discuss our objective to.. “create a contemporary and elevated blend, designed to challenge expectations and reinvigorate the way people taste, experience and talk about rum”
But beyond the rum itself, we’re inspired every day to provide consumers with a window into a more contemporary view of Caribbean culture, through the lens of Ten To One. For far too long, I think the category has suffered from an overly narrow and somewhat caricatured and uninspired positioning. Coming from Trinidad, my experience with rum has been very different, and the more I looked into the space, the more convinced I was that we could offer something truly different and invite the modern consumer to join us on that journey.
How will you measure success with this latest chapter of your life?
Like anyone else creating a spirits (or consumer) brand, I think the ultimate reward comes from being able to share what you’ve created with others, see them develop a resonance with your product and its reason for being, and ultimately having it contribute to moments of celebration and community in their own lives. Finding an opportunity to bring some of that same passion to life in the US market, is at the heart of what we aspire to achieve with Ten To One.
New Yorkers can already find the brand behind the bar at some of the city’s hippest watering holes and restaurants, including The Aviary, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Cote/Undercote, Gramercy Tavern, Up & Up. Look for it on liquor shelves nationwide in the months to come.