Featured Alumnus: Andy Consuegra ’80
For alumnus Andy Consuegra ’80, the spirit of Avon Old Farms is in his blood. As a toddler, Andy wandered through the Village of Old Farms following the footsteps of his alumnus father, Jorge ’51, and older brother, Jorge Jr. ’77.
“As a family of immigrants who recently arrived from Cuba, we were grateful to be brought to Connecticut through the grace of Farmington’s Congregational Church and the guiding hand of Don Pierpont,” explained Andy, who now lives in Miami. “For my father, it was an opportunity to return to his alma mater. For me, it was a new world that would become my home.”
Andy’s childhood memories of jumping in piles of leaves took place in the Quadrangle, learning to fish happened at Beaver Pond, and his walk to the bus stop passed beneath Kevin Driscoll’s window (which he would always throw acorns at). With his siblings Jorge ’77, Ini, and Julie at his side, along with other small children living on campus like close friend Phyllis Mendell, there was never a shortage of comrades to join in on the adventure.
Andy wasn’t just a ‘faculty brat’ though. In the sixth grade, he began practicing with the Avon Old Farms wrestling team. As an eighth grader, he traveled to the state wrestling championships with the team and watched heavyweight senior Lou Smith in one of his final high school matches. When it came time to enroll in high school, there was no other option in Andy’s mind: he wanted to become a card-carrying Avonian.
“I was already a part of the community by way of living on campus and knowing so many of the faculty and students, but preparing for my interview with Frank Leavitt was daunting—I wanted to get in, and was unsure what I would do if I didn’t,” Andy said. “Luckily, all my worrying was for nothing and I was accepted.”
From the beginning, Andy’s father told him there would be no opportunity for anyone to think Andy was receiving any favoritism as a faculty child.
“He said I would never receive an A+, or maybe even an A,” Andy joked. “He was an intimidating guy, even to me. Honestly, I knew I had to forge my own path, and tried to differentiate myself from my parents, who were both teaching at the time.”
The neighbors who Andy was friendly with around campus quickly became mentors and coaches. From legendary teachers Frank Leavitt and Sid Clark to wrestling coaches Bruce Billings and John Brennan, Andy remains grateful to all the people at Avon who shaped him into the person he is today.
“So much of what was taught at Avon has impacted me and the way I operate my business,” he shared. “The integrity of the faculty, the diversity of our community, and the focus on giving back all were a part of who I became and the values that I hold. And of course, Avon also taught me to never give up; to always persevere.”
That lesson in perseverance would be tested when Andy fulfilled his dream of starting his own company.
“I think I always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” he explained, sharing a story about catching trout in Beaver Pond and selling them to faculty around campus. “My dad’s family owned restaurants in Havana, so I like to think it’s in my blood.”
After earning a degree from Tufts University, Andy moved to New York City and began working on his MBA at NYU’s Stern School of Business. He promoted city clubs while in college and worked at restaurants during his summers in Miami, but he formally entered the wine & spirits industry through an international brand with a local name: Heublein Spirits.
“I already had the goal of starting my own company, but I knew that I needed to gain some experience and broaden my horizons first,” he said. “Heublein offered a program which would expose me to all the facets of its business (finance, operations, marketing, etc.) in just three years.”
From there, Andy became the Director of Strategy and Business Development at Grand Metropolitan where he was responsible for negotiating distribution contracts in central and south America. His next stop was with Diageo, where he became a director and then the Vice President of Marketing in Brazil.
“We moved to Brazil and happily called it our home for five years,” said Andy, who by then had met and married his wife Mercedes and had two children: daughter Drea, and son Luis ’14.
Andy’s list of experiences also includes roles as a vice president for Allied Domecq Travel Retail Americas and as a managing director of Beam Global Mexico. But, after 20 years in corporate work, Andy knew it was time to take a risk. In October of 2007, he and his wife put everything they had saved into the launch of their own company WEBB, just before the financial crisis took hold.
“We started in a loft, running the business from it by day and sleeping there by night,” he explained. “Actually, there were a lot of sleepless nights throughout the first five years. But, after an inspiring pep talk from Peter Evans, I was reminded that I was an Avonian, and we always dig deep and push through.”
During that same time, both of Andy’s children were coming of high-school age, and the plan was always to send them to boarding school, as both of their parents had done.
“We refused to let our current hardships shape the opportunities our children would have,” Andy explained.
Drea attended Miss Porter’s School, and Luis became a member of Avon’s class of 2014.
“With Luis, I tried to give him his space,” Andy explained. “Of course I wanted to be there to see his Avon experience, but we knew it was the right place for him. It was the kind of thing where you trust the process and get out of the way… Plus, people like Major Bourgault, Kevin Driscoll, and Pete Evans there knew when to step in and guide versus letting a boy take his own strides. It paid off, because Luis graduated and went on to Franklin & Marshall. Now he’s also learning about business in Vietnam. He’s living in Saigon, with a fellow Avonian as a flatmate.”
In 2017, WEBB merged with Banks Channel. Today, Andy is CEO and majority owner of WEBB Banks LLC, a marketing and distribution company for premium wine and spirit brands in the Caribbean and duty free/cruise line channels.
“After a slow start, we sold a division in 2017 and have grown the business nearly tenfold in the past five years and are on a path to exceed $50M in sales this year,” Andy shared. “Along the way, I’ve counted on fellow Avonians for support. One of my mentors in the industry is a member of the class of 1968, Chase Donaldson, and the people who manage my company’s pension assets are the Linke brothers, class of ’79 and ’78. My sales director is Tiffany Holt, daughter of Gail and Todd Holt '74, one of my Avon coaches. The Avon network has been a huge asset.”
In addition to his business, Andy and his daughter Drea also are heavily involved with the charity Third Wave Volunteers. Based in Miami, the organization focuses on crisis response, including hurricane relief, super storm recovery, and refugee assistance. Drea travels with WEBB Banks employees to recovery efforts after natural disasters. In 2019, WEBB Banks raised $200,000 to support all of Third Wave’s causes.
“I may have grown up in a small village in the woods of Avon, but it exposed me to so much more than I would have been in a regular household,” Andy reflected. “There I was, living with 400 people from around the globe, dealing with adults on an ongoing basis...The incredible diversity prepared me for my role in international business.”
Fast-forward to today, and there are details in Andy’s life that are physical reminders of where he came from: for example, his home in upstate New York is conveniently located on Beaver Lake. On a more somber note, there was an overwhelming Avon presence at his father’s funeral in December 2019.
“While it was a very sad time for our family, it was a proud moment for Avon,” Andy shared. “The turnout from the AOF community was fantastic. Seeing so many come out to pay their respects to someone who had given so much to their community was admirable.”
In a few short months, Andy will mark his 40th reunion along with the rest of the class of 1980 and hundreds of other alumni...but really, he’s been a part of Avon for much longer than those 40 years.