Carolina Acosta and her business partner John Lim have created the perfect card game for your next social gathering, Tragos. Tragos is a culturally competent card game that uses common Latinx themes, truth, and universal — slightly embarrassing — cultural anecdotes that are hilarious and highly relatable.
After an impactful, life-changing trip to South America, Acosta was inspired to create a game that could be played and enjoyed with your friends, primos, or elders. The game is easy to play. Someone reads a card and if what is said applies to you, you take a sip of your drink. One card can read, “If you have ever been called exoctic, spicy, or caliente take two sips,” while another might asked you to go around in a circle naming popular Latinx recipes until someone can’t and then they would have to take a drink. Although some may dub Tragos “the Latinx Cards Against Humanity” it is so much more than that. BELatina spoke with Acosta about how Tragos got started, that impactful trip to South America, and some of their new product launches.
Do you have a background in business?
I don’t have a background in business. Tragos is my first business. I studied graphic design in college and was freelancing at the time Tragos started. Before that, I had about five years’ experience learning how to build startup brands and digital products at an agency in NY. I applied everything I learned about brand design and marketing to make Tragos stand out and look legit. John also helped a lot in the economics of e-commerce and successful ad campaigns.
How long did you have the idea for Tragos before your product went to market?
The idea of Tragos was cultivated in January 2018, right after I had helped launch its sister brand, Azn Flush — the party game for Asians — with my partner, John Lim. We immediately tested the market by first designing the [Tragos] brand and website, then running social media ads to see who was interested. The game content was still being tested out by friends and family in a Google Doc when we started to pre-sell online in February. Those preorders helped offset initial costs, making it affordable to launch the business. By March, we were already shipping out the game internationally.
Did you do any idea/product testing before deciding to launch the product and business?
I tested the concept with almost every Latino I knew, bringing it up shamelessly at any get-together. The interest was definitely there. When we had the content for all the cards created, the document was also shared many times before we finalized the game for production. We continue to test each version for newer releases based on real customer feedback.
Latinx people come from a variety of cultures and places. How did you ensure that Tragos would be a culturally relevant game for all Latinx people?
Tragos was a joint effort. Working with friends from DR, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Mexico helped improve the overall content and make it general enough for any nationality to relate to and play. I also searched on social media for inspiration. Content creators like LeJuan James, Jenny Lorenzo, Lele Pons, and Joanna Hausmann were huge in providing that humor Tragos was striving for.
Tragos en Español was recently launched. What was the process for translating the cards like and how do you think having Tragos en Español would reach larger audiences?
It was a lot harder than we thought to translate Tragos in Spanish. Most of my team and I were born in the United States so we leaned a lot on our moms and other native-Spanish speaking friends and family. The most difficult part was deciding on grammar and certain translations that varied from country to country. We decided to go formal when in doubt but would also have to adjust syntax and tone to fit certain cards. It helped a lot having Spanish speakers of different generations and countries give us feedback. We only launched Tragos en Español when it felt ready to be played by a Colombian mother and a Mexican millennial, among other identities. We’re still collecting audience data to see what the main demographic is, and are already considering distribution channels in South America for easier and more economical shipping.
What has been your most impactful customer experience story to date with Tragos?
At one point in June, Tragos suddenly went viral and we started picking up sales at an unprecedented rate. Sales peaked so quickly that I didn’t realize it until after we had sold out! In one week, we received over 8,000 orders! A lot of those orders were made without customers realizing we had sold out and because our website platform allowed for presale, sales didn’t stop even after our inventory marker had hit 0. This felt like a customer experience disaster. We had to tell so many people that they would have to wait a month to get their orders! One of the things that saved me during this moment of crisis was the amount of supportive emails I received from customers. After I sent out a mass email explaining the situation, I received many emails saying things like “I’ll wait! What you’re doing for our community is amazing,” and “Just want to say, you guys are handling this very well, you’re doing great and yes, I’ll wait for my game!” Those responses gave me encouragement to keep pushing Tragos well past that hectic month. It was definitely worth the insanity to get all those games out!
That’s amazing! What are some of your aspirations for Tragos?
Tragos has become more than just a game company to me. We’re working on a mission to see it grow as an entity that supports and motivates the Latinx community to give it their all and pursue their passions as proud Latinos with just as much opportunity as the next person.
Growing up as an American, I had pushed away my culture thinking it would set me back because people might judge me as a Latina woman. It was only until after I visited South America for the first that I realized this is an incredible culture and I should be proud of it. If it wasn’t for that trip, I would’ve never felt confident enough to spearhead a Latino product like Tragos. I can now say I’m confident in my success and for what’s to come next, not despite being Latina, but because I’m Latina.