There probably aren’t too many entrepreneurs gutsy enough to launch a product-based business without a product! But with her design background, founder and CEO of Tragos Games LLC, Carolina Acosta did just that, designing a website for the game that was still largely an idea!
Her shot paid off in a big way as the self-funded venture, which started with 200 pre-orders, grew to $2 million in two years.
“We became a brand that people started talking about. After the pre-orders, I had to come up with the actual game,” Carolina says laughing on a recent episode of the Werk Mija Podcast.
The idea for Tragos came during a heritage trip to Colombia. The U.S.-born Carolina went to explore her roots and met her now-business associate John Lim. The two bonded over their cultures and came up with the idea that led to the launch of an Asian party game, Azn Flush. Carolina, who has a BFA in Communication Design from Parsons, The New School, designed the packaging. She says she knew immediately that she had to make a product for Latinx consumers.
To fill those pre-orders in 2019, she and her friends tossed some cultural ingredients in a shaker and mixed up the Tragos party game, which has a pan-Latin sabor. Part of her goal, she says, was to also help remove the stigma of not speaking Spanish fluently or not being Latina enough, something many U.S.-born Latinx can relate to.
After a Tragos-related post went viral, orders for the game were slamming, going from 10 orders a day to more than 5,000 orders in one week alone! After panicking momentarily, Carolina set about scaling in order to fulfill those orders. She also found that honesty was appreciated: When she informed customers that it would take a while to fulfill their orders, she found support and patience. Ultimately, they were willing to wait for a cultural product that deeply resonated with them.
Named one of Forbes 30 Under 30, Carolina also leads Tragos’ product development and partnership initiatives. Today, the game has expansion packs and a family-friendly version called Get Loud. No drinking required.
Carolina says she still considers Tragos a small business and has learned to pivot when necessary—as well as how to run a business even as she’s doing it. The Tragos game, which was first available on Shopify and now Amazon, is sold strictly online but she hopes to be in retail stores in the future. Meanwhile, she continues to work on products while also exploring additional revenue models, including events, collaborations and speaking opportunities.
Tragos’ success has allowed Carolina to contribute to causes near and dear to her heart, such as Black Lives Matter, Helping Hands of Puerto Rico, The Immigrant Worker Safety Net Fund, and more.
The Queens-born Colombian-Dominicana says the Tragos game is not so much about drinking as it is about relating to cultural touchstones. She’s heard from customers that they’re so glad the game exists.
“I see huge things for it because it has a wider audience but serves the same mission as Tragos,” she says. Carolina clearly takes her culture and her customers seriously.
“You have to be very in tune with what is happening in your business every day,” she says. “Every day you learn something new about your audience.”
Carolina recently led the webinar about her experiences as an entrepreneur and a CEO of a quickly expanding business. We talked to her about her recipe for success. She dumped a lot of ingredients into the conversation, swirled them around and spilled some truths about the risks and rewards of being an entrepreneur, including the fact that she didn’t want to be a CEO!
“I love product design. I didn’t think I would get into games. I didn’t think I would have my own business but I did work with a lot of startups, mainly in the digital startup space,” she says in the podcast. “But I also saw how much work it would be, and I thought never, no thanks but here we are. There’s a lot that goes into the journey that is way more rewarding than you think.”
The once-reluctant CEO now can’t see herself doing anything else. She leads an all-female and Latinx remote team, which includes some friends. She eschewed the adage about not mixing business with friendship, recognizing that friends have strengths she may not possess. She believes in surrounding herself with people who are smarter in order to help grow her business.
Carolina has been featured on major media news outlets, including Forbes, ABC 7 Eyewitness News and Refinery 29.
Want to watch or relive the webinar? Click the video above to watch!
We’ll toast you again soon with more great content!