014: Payton LaCivita - On the Road to Balsamic Perfection

Meet Payton LaCivita: Entrepreneur, Restauranteur, and co-founder of MiaBella - a Traditional Balsamic Vinegar or in Italian, 'Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale' from Modena Italy. MiaBella is DOP certified (Denomicanzione di Origine Protetta) as being a true, traditional balsamic as each 8.5 ounce bottle contains only one ingredient - grape must, resulting from the reduction of Trebbiano grapes aged in wooden barrels over time. Each bottle of MiaBella is hand-signed and numbered and is treated with tremendous care. Perhaps that is Payton's trademark, but MiaBella is unique in that it is sweet, thick and has a robust, full flavor. It has been awarded as the #1 Best Seller Balsamic Vinegar on Amazon. 

In this episode, Payton shares his experience in being a part of a family-owned restaurant, Cogburn's located in Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona - a local neighborhood bar known for its hot wings,  as well as his passion for launching MiaBella. You will learn about the difference between traditional balsamic vinegar versus commercial grade balsamic and Payton shares great insight and advice on marketing to different generations, go-to resources that have made a great difference to him that can prove valuable to other entrepreneurs as well as  sensible advice for anyone aspiring to be an entrepreneur. Payton walks the listener through his own entrepreneurial journey that is hugely insightful.


Instagram - @dearmiabella

Twitter - @dearmiabella




Cogburn's Bar

Listen to the final outro of the interview to get an EXCLUSIVE OFFER for MiaBella as a listener to Entrepreneur Uncovered. 


Overview on Payton: [00:05:51]

Listen to Payton describe his history growing up in the restaurant industry and participating in his family-owned business, Coburn's Bar with two locations in Gilbert and Mesa, AZ. Payton talks about the evolution and concept of Coburn's based on the fictional character Rooster Coburn from True Grit originally played by John Wayne in 1969 and later in a 2010 remake by Jeff Bridges. Coburn's Bar is famous for their large hot wings and Payton gives some first hand advice on key areas to focus on to be successful as a restauranteur. 

Story of launching MiaBella: [00:16:17]

Listen firsthand on the story behind MiaBella, meaning "My Beauty" in Italian and why Payton and his business partner decided to bring the sweet tasting Traditional Balsamic Vinegar to the U.S. market. 

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Explained: [00:20:29]

Learn how Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is exclusively produced in Modena or Reggio Emilia, Italy and how MiaBella is made. 

Payton's Biggest Ah-Hah Moment - [00:26:10]

Learn how Payton had to change course from marketing to the Farmer's Markets, which originally seemed like an obvious choice, to going direct to local grocery stores and grocery chains as well as marketing online through eCommerce. Payton also gives some great insight on the specific steps that he took to launch his brand. 

Learn how Payton grew MiaBella [00:31:24]

Great insight for any product-based business who is wishing to grow both online component as well as through traditional retail. 

Marketing to Millennials: [00:36:00]

Payton explains his viewpoint on being a millennial and how he markets to different generations.

What Payton has learned from his failures: [00:39:29]

Payton shares his story of originally being told no in marketing directly to a local California grocery store and he explains his process in finally figuring out how to win the owner over so much so, that he has become one of Payton's best customers. 

Payton shares some go-to resources that he has relied on as an entrepreneur - [00:43:30]

Payton explains his daily routine, shares some books that are shared below within the Podcast Notes and also shares some must-have resources that are also illustrated below. Payton is a big believer in networking and is always seeking to connect with others. 

Payton was asked what has been some of the best advice that he has received as an entrepreneur: [00:45:58]

[The] best advice though that kind of transcends all other advice for me is to hustle. Don't give up. Keep going hard as you can. Have a routine. Stay organized. Just don't give up. Even if one business fails, don't give up and start something new...
Like I've said, I've had just so many failures even before MiaBella that you just don't skip a beat and you move on to the next thing. You come up with the next idea and you go out and learn from what you did wrong in the past and apply it differently on what you are doing in the future and what you did in the past might work differently for what you are doing in the future now. So I think the best advice is just... don't give up and keep grinding, keep hustling!

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice, what would that be? [00:47:33]

Payton explains his overall learning curve and shared:

"the adversity helps you get better as an entrepreneur and so I don't know that I would want to tell myself: you're going to experience this and here's how to avoid it; I'd almost say: you're going to experience this and figure it out."


Tools Payton Uses:

Shopify.com - An eCommerce platform for merchants wishing to sell their products online. 
Asana - App / Program designed to improve the productivity of teams for task oriented completion
DropBox - Easily share and store large files over a secure cloud network
Wave Accounting - Free Accounting Software for Small Business Owners
Google Apps - Professional email, productivity tools, shared calendars, storage and more. 
Bizzy.io - Targeted, behavioral marketing and more for your small business. 
Slack - Huge collaboration tool that simplifies all of your online communication into one forum. 

Books payton Recommends:

4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuck
Choose Yourself by James Altucher
Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday
The Dip by Seth Godin
The Hippie's Guide to Climbing The Corporate Ladder and Other Mountains by Skip Yowell

Last but not least -

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Everything you wanted to know about balsamic

Emilia-Romagna Region 

There are many stories and accounts stemming from the middle ages through the Rennaissance regarding an exquisite, celebrated vinegar produced in the Emilia-Romagna Region of now modern Northern Italy, exclusively from the communities of Reggio Emilia and neighboring Modena

                    Trebbiano Grapes

                   Trebbiano Grapes

This particular region in Italy, the ancient territory of the Duchy of Modena, has a longstanding tradition of cooking grapes, largely in part because the grapes from this region, Trebbiano grapes,  yield a wine with a very low alcohol level and thus are better suited for vinegar. 

In perhaps a most noted example among many of the popularity of the prestigious vinegar, a manuscript notes that in 1046 a.d. Boniface of Canossa, a powerful Prince and Count over the Northern Italy region including Modena,  offered a most extraordinary gift to Roman Emperor Henry III in Piacenza. Boniface gave a small silver barrel of the coveted vinegar to the Emperor and legend dictates that the gift was unrivaled even by "hundreds of horses, goshawks and other birds of prey" that the Emperor had previously received, celebrating his Coronation. 

What we now know to be Balsamic Vinegar, the vinegar did not receive its modern name until the mid-18th where it was thought to have therapeutic and restorative properties and was sold as a tonic. The word Balsamic derives from Balsam which is an aromatic resin that was utilized for healing wounds and soothing pains. Balsamic Vinegar does not of course contain any balsam, but the name has stuck. 

Although the ancient recipe is somewhat of a mystery due the fact of its closely guarded secret, up until the 18th century, traditional vinegar production often incorporated the addition of other spices and even fruits during various stages of the fermentation process such as:  licorice juice, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, pepper and juniper berries and on occasion apples and figs.

The traditional process however of making Balsamic vinegar hasn't changed in that Trebbiano grapes are boiled down to about 30% of their original volume and form a concentrate, or must. The grape must is then aged, where is ferments and takes on its unique flavor, over a period of many years in wooden casks (barrels) of varying woods such as: acacia, walnut, chestnut, cherry, oak, mulberry, ash and juniper where the grape must ferments over time. 

The actual aging process itself is unique in that the cooked grape must is placed and then subsequently transferred to a series of decreasingly smaller barrels, collectively known as the batteria, or barrel battery. The largest barrel can be 60 liters or more and then subsequent barrels would progressively range in size to 50 liters, 40 liters, 30 liters, 20 liters, 16 liters, 13 liters and finally 10 liters.

The amount of barrels used in progression and type of wood of the batteria, as well as how long the vinegar aged in each barrel is unique to each traditional balsamic vinegar manufacturer, but the process is the same. In all cases, a small amount of aged vinegar is left in each barrel (meaning each barrel is never fully emptied) so that new vinegar being transferred to the barrel can absorb the same properties as before.

To be considered a true Traditional Balsamic Vinegar or Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale in accordance with the European Union and receive the status approval of the Denominazione di Origine Protetta (or Protected Designation of Origin or simply DOP), the vinegar must age in progression of at least five barrels. 

During the fermentation process itself, the vinegar's sugars convert into alcohol and then later pass through acetic oxidation (acidity) the vinegar is then decanted and transferred from from its larger barrel the next in smaller size once a year.  This usually occurs during the months of January or February and the process is known as 'Topping Off'. The aging process and utilization of different woods gives Balsamic Vinegar its unique robustly sweet flavor that has a consistency similar to syrup. 

While the quality of the vinegar depends on the quality of the grapes as well as the timing of each transfer from one barrel to another, the flavor is largely determined by the vinegar's age and the overall combination of wood used for each barrel that the vinegar ages in. 

Lastly, once you have tried a traditional balsamic vinegar, such as MiaBella, that is DOP certified and carries the words, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, it is hard to ever go back to commercial balsamic vinegar that is made from a mixture of vinegar, caramel coloring and thickeners added. So, if you haven't experienced the taste of traditional balsamic vinegar, perhaps its time to change that...