“To do anything in life we have to like it”
With a creative spirit, owner of an easy smile and a storyteller, José Redondo is the guardian of the values of a brand that has crossed generations and remains the “Liquor of Portugal”. Son of José Carranca Redondo, founder of Licor Beirão, José Redondo affirmed himself as one of the greatest Portuguese entrepreneurs, maintaining the connection to the land, to the family and to a business with more than 70 years.
The history of Licor Beirão begins in the 19th century. What can you tell us about this adventure?
My father started very young, at the age of 12, working in a liquor factory. At 18 he went to work for Remington, a typewriter company, where he quickly became one of the best sellers. When World War II began, the company returned to the United States to manufacture war supplies, and my father became unemployed. At that time, he was already dating my mother and proposed: “If you marry me, I will buy the liquor factory”. After having bought the factory, which had 70 products, it soon reduced to only five or six and started advertising Liquor Beirão.
What do you remember from earlier times about the Licor Beirão formula?
Who weighed the plants and delivered them in the still was my mother. With two or three employees, it was my mother who made the distillation and the syrup. In the early years I can say that my father almost did not care about liquor. He was always involved in advertising, in developing new ways to advertise the company. When I came back from Overseas, I also began to help my mother weigh the ingredients and it was her that gave me the recipe, which remains secret until today.
Your father was advertising at a time when this was not a common practice in Portugal. How did his interest in advertising come about?
No one was advertising, I think it was something innate in him. He would paint murals, stick placards, distribute stickers, rulers, napkin holders, any kind of publicity he could imagine. Licor Beirão even advertised a cycling team in the 1950s. At that time, there were no teams associated with brands and this team was banned from participating in the competitions. No doubt my father was a visionary.
What are the most innovative ideas you remember?
So many. Advertising in the 50s, 60s and 70s was very rare and there were few advertising companies in Portugal. In the 1960s a law was introduced that prevented the placement of advertising on roads outside urban areas, because it was considered as distracting drivers. Under this law, companies stopped posting posters. My father did not. At the age of eighteen, after taking the driving license, one of the things that gave me the most pleasure was hanging out with a company employee and posting posters. But even before that, when I was 10 or 12 years old, I worked here at the factory at the end of class.
Was it something you liked?
Yes, it was something I’d come to like. I liked it because it had counterparts: I was the one who had the best bike, was the one who went with my father to Coimbra or to Figueira da Foz, considering that at the time leaving Lousã was fantastic. I enjoyed walking with him and we spent a lot of time together; I’ve been more than 50 years everyday with my father.
What memories do you have of your father?
My father was a very demanding person, very hard, who did not hesitate to give me any order. But it also had a great human dimension. He had these two extremes. My father always liked newspapers and when I was eight or nine he was the agent of the newspaper Primeiro de Janeiro in Lousã. During my vacations I would often distribute the newspaper. My father always instilled in me the idea of being a businessman, of starting a company. In fact, the entire advertising company of Licor Beirão was mine.
What was the main legacy your father left you?
I think the main thing he left me was the love for work and the for company. I keep coming to the factory every day at eight in the morning, and being able to stay active at the factory is a very important thing, which I think I inherited from my father. In fact, one of my grandchildren once told me: “Grandfather, you have a capacity”. It was something that made me shiver because this is the message I want to convey to my children and grandchildren. To do anything in life we have to like it. It was this legacy that I inherited from my father and that I also passed on to my children.
Recently, Beirão d’Honra was released, a special edition to commemorate the centenary of the birth of your father. What did he wourld say about this product?
Beirão d’Honra was the first product we launched in 70 years. I think my father would start by saying bad [laughs]. He was remarkably controversial and I think he never praised anything or anyone. I just remember my father crying when I was assigned to Mozambique. He was a man of tremendous harshness and toughness, but he was also very emotional, creative, persistent, and a born communicator. Regarding this new Beirão, I do not know if he would like it. First of all, there is something he would certainly criticize. The traditional liquor is around 10 euros and this Beirão d’Honra costs 20 euros. There he would criticize, because the price-quality relationship was sacred to him. He always wanted to earn the most, selling as cheaply as possible.
What qualities do you consider to have made you a successful entrepreneur?
As an entrepreneur I do not even reach my father’s heels [laughs]. I may have more training than my father, but assuredly he was a brilliant, remarkable businessman. With only the fourth class left a very rich creative and entrepreneurial legacy that prides the whole family.
Your are a known lover of rugby. What is your connection to this modality?
I played rugby for 10 or 12 years at Académica when I studied in Coimbra. When I arrived in Lousã in 1973, after the military service, I spent two years trying to launch the modality in this region, because it was a modality little known. In 1978 he already had a group of juniors, who in 1981 were already seniors. It was also at this point that I founded Lousã Rugby Club, which is in the first division in Portugal. We have excellent facilities, exclusively oriented to the practice of rugby, and a stadium with my name. My children say that I am the “fathersponsor” of this club. My children also played, were international, and eight of my ten grandchildren also play. Rugby is indeed a passion.
Do you consider yourself a rich man?
Yes, in many ways. For my family, and for the legacy I have received and preserved, I consider myself to be a very rich and very happy person.