Kat Hantas's best tips for breaking into a male-dominated industry

In Bustle's Quick Questions, we asked female leaders for all the advice—from the best mentoring they've ever received to the questions they're still figuring out. Here, Kat Hantas, founder of tequila company 21 Seeds, talks to Bustle about how she started a company with her sister and friends, her favorite way to relax at the end of the day, and the words she cuts out of her emails .

Tequila wasn't always Kate Hantas' drink of choice. "I'm a drinker," she told Busy. But after suddenly realizing she wasn't feeling well, her doctor suggested she switch to white tequila because she believed the fermented drink was to blame. Eventually, the doctor-prescribed drink went from her happy hour order to her career.

After eight years of making tequila at home, Hantas, along with her sister Nicole Hantas-Emanuel and friend Sarika Singh, founded 21 Seeds, a company specializing in tequila infused with fruits and botanicals. Like Hantas initially, many of her friends came out of college disgusted with tequila. "I just thought, I need it to be smooth and smell amazing and taste good," Hantas said.

Hantas began his career in the entertainment industry as a film and television producer for 15 years. “My background is really in storytelling,” Hantas said. "That's what I brought to 21 Seeds." She knew convenience was key, creating something that would simply make for a delicious drink for her and her friends, so she focused on the female demographic and thought Possible pain points.

“I always say we are a brand for her, created by her, that everyone can enjoy,” Hantas said. Launched in 2019, the company partners with a female-owned and operated distillery in Mexico to produce tequilas ranging from Valencia orange to grapefruit hibiscus to cucumber jalapeño.

Below, Hantas shares her career advice of all time, how she navigates a male-dominated field, and the story behind her company’s name.

I was curious if there was a story behind the name "21 Seeds".

KH: Everything in 21 Seeds tequila is all-natural, grown from seeds. "21" is actually "two, one". We started this company as two sisters and a girlfriend. This also happens to be the recipe for our signature serving, Seeds and Soda – two parts club soda, one part seeds.

How do you shut down your brain at the end of the day?

KH: I love reading scientific journals. I'm a psychobiology major at UCLA, so I love scientific research and digging into things. Just like the way you use Pinterest, one pin leads you to another pin, which leads you to another pin, and then before you know it, four hours have passed, and that's how I learned about nutritional science.

How do you cheer yourself up when you have a big presentation or a big meeting?

KH: Music. I always wonder, "What soundtrack will be playing during this part of the movie?" Everything in life, whether I want to get pumped up for a presentation or if I need a change of mood. I always put on a song to do that. My favorite cheer jam at the moment is “New Light” by John Mayer.

Women tend to apologize a lot. We almost start with "Sorry, I can't do this, but" or "Sorry, I can't be there," even if it's via email. This immediately puts us in a situation where no matter what we say, it must have this excuse or be "less than" from the start.

Who do you turn to most for advice?

KH: My sister Nicole. She uses a completely different part of her brain than I do. She's very analytical and I'm really a big dreamer. I'm always thinking about the story we're telling, and I don't like to be drilled into details and minutiae, and she was like that. So, she brings balance. She gives me a different perspective, which I love.

What career advice would you give to young women, especially those looking to enter male-dominated industries?

KH: As women, we have certain underlying ways of expressing messages. One of the examples - and this was actually advice Nicole gave me - is that women tend to apologize a lot. We almost start with "Sorry I can't do this, but" or "Sorry I can't be there," even if it's via email. This immediately puts us in a situation where no matter what we say, it must have this excuse or be "less than" from the beginning. Sometimes I look at my emails and say, "Did I just start this sentence with 'I'm sorry'? Just cut out 'I'm sorry' and start this sentence again." It changes you and the recipient The dynamics of the conversation between, and the dynamics of how you see yourself. I think it's important to know who you're talking to and the best way to convey that message so they actually hear what you're saying.

What’s your favorite tequila right now?

KH: This is not your typical tequila. When Stanley Tucci made a Negroni on Instagram, I felt like it broke the internet. I challenged myself to make a 21 grain tequila version of a Negroni. We use two ounces of our Valencia Orange Tequila. And then we use half an ounce of sweet vermouth, which is a tablespoon of sweet vermouth and a tablespoon of Campari, and then a tablespoon of orange juice. Mix it all together and pour over ice. This is literally my favorite drink right now.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.