ara carvallo

Ara Carvallo: Soul of the industry

30 March, 2021

Ara Carvallo is described as a ‘serial entrepreneur’ in Drinks International’s Bar World 100 list, but few people manage to combine business growth with environmental sympathy as successfully as she does.

Carvallo is at the forefront of the drinks industry, acting as a role model for sustainable practice – and not just behind the bar as, on a corporate level, she successfully implemented her carbon-neutral bar show, Barra Mexico, in 2014. Carvallo’s career in the bar industry began when she moved from her native Mexico to Amsterdam to study  nance at university. There she landed her first hospitality role at the Hard Rock Cafe, where she spent three years in a variety of roles before undergoing two extra Masters degrees.

“I always thought I would be an economist, but I only lasted two weeks at the bank before leaving,” says Carvallo. “I found the drinks industry a lot more engaging and rewarding.”

While she studied for her Masters qualifications, Carvallo began working for Lucas Bols and stayed with the brand for a decade, spending the final four years as global brand manager for its international premium portfolio.

“I love Amsterdam because the people are direct and I can walk and cycle everywhere. I can be in the countryside really quickly and be surrounded by nature. But at the same time I love my family, who are back in Mexico, and the idea for Barra Mexico came about when I was back home visiting them.”

Carvallo set up Barra Mexico with Paula Garcia and it remains the main trade show for premium spirits in Latin America, but she’s also left her mark in Amsterdam with the launch of the city’s first coffee shop to be run solely on green energy.

“The first Barra Mexico already had sustainability policies, but every year it gets stricter and a few years ago I realised that my calling was in nature and sustainability, that’s where my heart is. But I thought if I’m going to talk about it I need to learn first.”

This led Carvallo back to education to study yet another Masters degree, this time in environmental sciences and resource management. Her studies coincided with the start of her current role as portfolio director for Distill Ventures, Diageo’s business accelerator company for emerging premium spirits brands.

“It’s been really rewarding because I’m partnering with some super-innovative people and I’m able to bring in elements of my sustainability knowledge too. I’m excited by what I do and I love my job, but I’m also anxious about whether I’m giving back enough.

“Right now I’m reading all about conservation and wildlife projects,” adds Carvallo. “I’m passionate about conserving animals and my dream would be to have a conservation project saving jaguars somewhere, but maybe I can start small by saving one cow or something.

“I’ve had several companies during my life and over time I’ve increasingly started to think about what I could give back. I’ve been rethinking the amount of travelling I do and with pain in my heart I think I need to do less of it, unless I’m going somewhere for a conservation project.

“I get a lot of satisfaction from helping people, it’s part of who I am. I’m now looking at setting up something to help people in need in whatever way I can, maybe some kind of charity.”

There aren’t many members of the drinks industry who carry such a successful track record in business as well as a conscientious and charitable soul, and if everyone could take even a fragment of Carvallo’s good will the industry would be a much happier place.

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