A business leader, advisor, financial expert, and trailblazer, Jekaterina Stuģe, Group Chief Executive Officer, and Board Member at Amber Beverage Group, is one of the rare female C-Suite examples in the beverage industry. In addition to her excellent ability to manage and develop a global business, innovation is her second passion as she is truly an innovative leader on an everyday basis.
Jekaterina joined the SPI Group (mother company of Amber Beverage Group) as the CFO of the Baltic business unit in 2014. She has participated in the development of Amber Beverage Group (further also ABG) and since that time, she has worked across many parts of the business. While she held the roles of CFO and COO in the Group, she was made CEO in 2020. As an executive, she has overseen the company’s growth and now is set to reach the main ABG goal: to become a 1 billion company over the next five years.
When the global pandemic struck the beverage industry, Jekaterina was part of the management team that proactively focused on realigning ABG businesses to work within the new reality. Through effective cost management, streamlining internal processes, growth in production, and a quick introduction of new brands, ABG exceeded its performance despite the pandemic.
More about the Amber Beverage Group
Amber Beverage Group is a rapidly growing global spirits company, which entered several new international markets in 2020 and 2021 and grew awareness of its core brands: Moskovskaya Vodka, KAH Tequila, Riga Black Balsam, Rooster Rojo tequila, Cross Keys Gin, and Cosmopolitan Diva.
Amber Beverage Group’s products are found in millions of households across the globe. Over the last seven years, the Group has grown significantly, nearly doubling its business and expanding internationally through a series of acquisitions. The Group has further enhanced its international operations by establishing and enlarging its footprint in the Americas, the Asia Pacific, and Europe, from which the Group will continue to benefit going forward.
ABG is a leading beverage producer, distributor, logistics provider, and retailer, with over 1400 brands spanning everything from premium vodka and sparkling wines to specialty Mexican tequilas. The company has grown from its original core production business established in 1900, to become a global spirits industry player that, despite the challenges faced by the industry in 2020, had one of its busiest years with excellent financial results reaching almost EUR 31m EBITDA, which exceeds the previous results.
Clientele & Corporate Ethos
Amber Beverage Group has around 2000 employees in more than 20 companies from production all the way through to retail. In each function – production, logistics, distribution, or retail – they have several dozens, even hundreds of clients. And each of them is treated individually following their execution standards. The management has worked hard to create a common culture and to streamline its operations so that they can respond organically to the rapidly changing marketplace and the client’s needs. ABG continuously invests in the simplification and integration of essential functions, through a common platform for day-to-day business activities. This is the internal flow of energy and information that powers its independent, yet integrated business divisions.
Towards Global Expansion
Some believe all it takes to become a global market leader is deep pockets, but in reality, it takes a lot more. From local producer to global spirits company, the Amber Beverage Group is a perfect case in point. They expanded the business quite rapidly, so the family got bigger and bigger, their corporate DNA became more diverse, and there were even more processes to be managed. They actively work to improve and optimize their daily work in order to support this growth.
Jekaterina believes that getting used to changes is the biggest challenge in every company. “Thinking of what and how can be changed and done more efficiently is part of my daily life. The main challenge in driving non-stop improvements in such a global company as ABG is to make people believe that they need these changes and convince them to see that as something positive and not as a threat. From my perspective, this is a very interesting process,” she says.
ABG has transformed from a Baltic enterprise into a global organization with world-class infrastructure. In addition to developing and growing the business ABG already maintains, the Group has been active to acquire and integrate several new companies in the UK, Australia, Austria, and elsewhere. “ABG is operating in a highly competitive environment and faces pressure from both local and international spirits producers. This is the reason why ABG is looking to be a widely integrated company through production, distribution, and retail. Through our own distribution businesses and working with independent distribution partners in global markets, ABG has developed unique capabilities and competitive advantages in relation to the critical aspects of route-to-market management,” adds Jekaterina.
From the CEO’s Desk
Key Factors behind the Success
Jekaterina said, “There are two things that helped to reach where I am today. The first one, dedication, hard work, and enthusiasm for the company that I represent. And second, the teams that I have worked with. I’ve always believed that the right team stimulates you to reach the best results possible. The team that pushes each other to the next level is priceless while achieving your personal and also company’s goals”.
The Daily Routine
Every day Jekaterina starts quite early in the morning by opening emails and checking the up-to-date results that are sent automatically via several programs. Thus she knows where her focus should be spent on this day. After that, she goes for a short walk to think about the priorities of the day and structures her thoughts, so the day brings the best results possible. As Jekaterina’s everyday is quite busy, the good news is that everyone in her family could be perceived as hard workers, and now when her kids are teenagers and out of the nest, she can truly dive into her aspiration – grow ABG as a global TOP10 industry leader.
Jekaterina leads numerous projects to help around twenty ABG companies to fasten their everyday processes. She is constantly innovating the company’s products and sales channels to get closer to the customers and their needs wherever they are. With roots in the business stretching back over a century, it is a challenge to keep pace with the ever-changing marketplace, while investing in qualities that matter.
Favourite Book: “The Da Vinci Code”
The key objective of Jekaterina in her role as the CEO of Amber Beverage Group is to pivot the whole organisation by means of an innovation agenda. This includes the development of new products, expansion in new markets and consumer segments, the introduction of the latest technologies in AI and automation, and reinvention of operational and production processes to achieve efficiencies.
Overall, ABG is continuing on its path towards its ambition to become a Top 10 spirits industry player globally. This will be achieved through smart brand building, active management of sales channels, expanding ABG e-ambition, further investment in innovation, focused work on efficiency and effectiveness programs, and capturing new business opportunities.
Jewels in the Crown
In the past Jekaterina has won several business awards including the Best Female CEO from Latvia of the Year 2020 in the Global 100 Annual Awards, the prestigious Business Worldwide Global Corporate Excellence Award in such categories as The Most Innovative CFO – Latvia and The Strongest Growth Strategy Team in Europe. Finance Monthly Magazine has recognized Jekaterina as one of the strongest financial professionals in the region.
Advice for Female Entrepreneurs
Diversity in the workplace, including gender diversity, makes things better. As simple as that. It works like a law of physics – the more perspectives you have, the more active and creative the workplace dynamic becomes, and as a result – the more efficient the outcomes are. To sum it up – you get better performance. And yet this rule is still far from reality and gender parity remains elusive.
But here I want to offer an optimistic view. The situation for women in the workplace, despite the entrenched obstacles, has perhaps never been better. That glass ceiling is there, but it is now within the reach to be knocked at and eventually shattered. This is the time for us, women, to dare and challenge and take that ambitious step by saying out loud “Yes, I have the competence and the vision, and I will be the leader!”