Jessica Pogranyi and Miguel Albarran quit their jobs in early 2020 to recover from burnout and spend more time with Albarran's family in Mexico. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic meant they were stuck in Mexico indefinitely, so the couple decided to explore the Oaxaca region to learn more about a drink they were curious about, mezcal. A surprise stop at a roadside food stand led them the Morales family's distilling operation, which was largely shuttered due to a lack of clean water access.

With the help of a rainwater harvesting NGO and Northeastern's IDEA student-led venture accelerator, Pogranyi and Albarran launched Cara a Cara in August of 2022. The socially and environmentally conscious company sells the Morales family's mezcal to restaurants, stores, and hotels in Mexico City.

Their venture was honored with a 2023 Women Who Empower Innovator Award in “Experienced Alumnae” and “Powering a Sustainable, Resilient World” categories. “We are delighted to recognize Jessica's inspiring vision and leadership with two Women Who Empower Innovator Awards this year,” says Diane Nishigaya MacGillivray, Northeastern's senior vice president for university advancement and founder of Women Who Empower. “Alongside so many incredible Northeastern alumnae innovators, she stood out to us for her ingenuity, thoughtfulness and dedication to improving the lives of others and our environment.”

Albarran said that impact is the couple's biggest driver. “The actual beverage is the byproduct of why we do what we do,” he says. “Our ‘why' is we want to do it better—better for people, better for the planet.”

Read more at Northeastern Global News