Be it retail, technology, education, social enterprise, or the food & beverage sector, women are trooping out of their comfort zones and emerging as leaders and change-makers. And Jekaterina Stuģe, CEO of the rapidly growing spirits company, Amber Beverage Group, is the perfect reflection of the world’s top-tier leaders. She is one of the rare female C-Suite examples in the beverage industry.
Designated as the Group Chief Executive Officer and Board Member at Amber Beverage Group, Jekaterina is a business leader, advisor, financial expert, and trailblazer. 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.
“My first serious job was with the auditing company Arthur Andersen (later Ernst & Young Baltic). At that time, becoming an auditor in an international audit firm was not easy, it was a great challenge and an honour to get accepted into this society,” shares Jekaterina Stuģe. She spent more than 10 years at Ernst & Young, earning a master’s degree in economics and business administration, as well as expanding her knowledge at other educational institutions.
After work for the audit company, Jekaterina Stuģe joined the newly formed Latvian food producer group NP Foods (currently Orkla Confectionery & Snacks Latvija) as Board Member with responsibility for financial management and information technology. It was very interesting period where in NP Food Jekaterina created Shared Service Centre for servicing NP Food subsidiaries Laima, Staburadze, Gutta, Euro Food, and NP Logistics. After almost four years at NP Foods, Jekaterina Stuģe joined the Eco Baltia team as CFO and Board Member.
Jekaterina joined the SPI Group (Parent 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.
ABG – A GLOBAL PLAYER IN THE BEVERAGE LANDSCAPE
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.
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, Mexico, 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, logistics, distribution, and retail. We are distributing and developing our own brands like Moskovskaya® Vodka, KAH® Tequila, Riga Black Balsam®, Rooster Rojo® tequila, Cross Keys Gin®, and Cosmopolitan Diva®, but we are also representing third party Brand owners and we are proud with our capabilities to distribute through our own route to markets even competing brands,” adds Jekaterina.
OVERCOMING THE CHALLENGES
From local producers to global spirits companies, the Amber Beverage Group faces challenges every day, but the main point, it never stops and finds each day new ideas to be better.
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.
THE BELIEFS AND SUCCESS
“You must always be ready to respond to the most unusual challenges and business opportunities,” reveals Jekaterina Stuģe. She believes that business success is based on continuous development – both at the personal and company level.
“Employees need to be excited! It is important that they want to be on the same team as you because it is impossible to do great things without an excellent team. That is the key to my success. Employees need to be passionate about their jobs, they must want to achieve something more than just work for another day. For that to happen, we as an employer need to offer the opportunity to turn their ideas into reality. The slogan of the Group (in the meantime – also the abbreviation of “Amber”) is – “Ambitious Minds Bring Excellent Results” and I really believe in it,” reveals Jekaterina Stuģe.
THE DRIVING FORCE
“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,” said Jekaterina Stuģe.
ACHIEVEMENTS & ACCOMPLISHMENTS
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.
EXPANSION GOALS FOR ABG
The key objective of Jekaterina in her role as the CEO of Amber Beverage Group is to pivot the whole organization 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.
JEKATERINA STUĢE’S WORDS OF WISDOM
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.
Here, Jekaterina presents 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!”
CLOSING WITH A QUOTE
“I am a fan of one quote but in a little bit adjusted way. In 1962, Malcolm X, an influential African American human rights activist, said that “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” I would like to offer a version we are using at ABG: “The future belongs to those who invent it”, shared Jekaterina Stuģe.