Interview by Derek Grosso
From Cleveland to Columbus to Brooklyn and back again, Mark Tinus’ journey is proof that success in the distilled spirits game is equal parts determination and hustle, mixed with a damn fine product, of course. It’s an industry that generates more than $110 billion in the U.S. annually and his Karate Cowboy brand is certainly shaking things up. After graduating from OSU, Mark began his career as a brewing manager for Anheuser-Busch where he ran brewing departments in Columbus and Newark, NJ. He attended grad school at NYU (where he picked up his MBA), then joined a consulting firm working with global brands like Bacardi before taking a Marketing Director role with Heineken for Caribbean and South Central American markets. It was at that point he started his own company, Revolution Experiment, and made the move from Brooklyn back home to Columbus in 2015. And Karate Cowboy Spirits & Sake was born!
Name: Mark Tinus
Company and Job Title: Revolution Experiment, Founder
Neighborhood: New Albany
Tell us what you do at Revolution Experiment:
I would say “a little bit of everything.” We develop, brand, market and sell our products ourselves, so the job description changes from janitor to CEO on a regular basis. The most important part of my job is centered on inspiring people to try new experiences and demand more from their products. That is with consumers and our internal staff, as they have to believe in what we are creating.
What’s the “elevator pitch” description of Revolution Experiment, and why is it important to the Columbus distillery scene?
Columbus is one of the best communities in the world, and we prove that daily through diversity. Our contribution to the distillery scene is in our outside the box mentality to the category. We find it more important to bring a non-overlapping offer to the table with our local brothers and sisters and rather add to the robust options that can be sourced locally, where you would have previously needed to look outside our state (or even country) to find these products.
What gave you the initial idea for Karate Cowboy?
I loved the sake category as a traditionally meaningful and social offer that had not had much innovation. In the US market there were barriers to growth – shelf life, brand recognition, etc. – that we thought we could address with a fusion offer; Japanese Sake + American Spirits = Karate + Cowboy. After getting into the spirits game we started creating many of our own cocktail offers and found a huge gap in 100% all-natural mixers that could easily make craft cocktails, and that was the birth of our newest brand, Simple Time Mixers.
What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
My 2 and 4 year old kids – for both questions actually – literally in the morning and figuratively through the week. They inspire me to be better constantly and see the best in people and in situations.
How you achieve success in spite of the hustle and bustle of your job?
I have arguably the best wife in the world (Jess). I’m a terrible person to talk to about work-life balance, but she can bring me back when I need to be reeled in.
What do you do to unwind?
Basketball and running. But my kids are also good at pulling me away. They are probably the least interested people about my business so I can always count on them to pull my brain out of work mode.
What is some of the best advice you’ve received along the way?
Focus on the journey and never stop listening.
What’s the coolest thing about Columbus right now?
We are still writing what “we are.” It’s great to live in cities with deep rooted histories, but better to live where we are currently defining that.
What’s the coolest thing about your industry right now?
The people and rapid evolution to be new and different.
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
Collaboration and Hustle!