Vodka, Bitcoin and Mar-a-Lago
Monkey In Paradise combines an award-winning vodka with viral social media accounts and accepts Bitcoin as a payment option for online merchandise.
But the 36-year-old’s company isn’t just for young people. ABC Fine Wine and Spirits has picked it up, it now has a strong presence in Georgia and even President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago is buying up cases of the vodka that is distilled in Riviera Beach, said Kowtun, who started the company with co-founders Seth Goldberg and Frank Gomez.
“Within four to five years we intend on being a national brand in all 50 states,” Kowtun said.
That’s pretty quick growth for a guy who didn’t know anything about distilling vodka 18 months ago. In fact, Monkey in Paradise didn’t even start as a spirits company.
It began with little plastic monkey cocktail markers that Kowtun made for him and his friends to use at his place. The color-coded primates helped them keep track of their drinks at home, but eventually they took them to bars and started getting some attention.
After giving out dozens of the markers, Kowtun realized there could be a business in it, so he started social media accounts for the monkeys.
His Monkey in Paradise Instagram account featured photos of the little cocktail markers popping up everywhere. After hundreds of posts and thousands of followers, Kowtun realized it was time to think bigger.
He saw spirits as a market that didn’t use social media well or market to the younger generation effectively, so he expanded the brand from cocktail monkeys and merchandise to vodka.
And really good vodka, apparently.
The vodka won a Double Gold medal this year at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, which is “awarded to the very few entries that receive a Gold medal rating by all members of the judging panel; among the finest products in the world,” according to the competition’s website.
The vodka uses a non-GMO corn base to keep it gluten-free, and each bottle sold in stores come with the two little cocktail monkeys, Kowtun said.
The Bitcoin piece is much more recent.
Kowtun had been following the decentralized, online currency for years before deciding to make it available as a payment option. He is still taking Bitcoin for now but might change to another online currency called Dash, which is generally considered better for transactions because it offers quicker processing times and lower fees.
The plan for the Bitcoin for now is to hold it and sell it when he thinks the time is right.
The company is a career re-birth for Kowtun, who has a finance background and used to buy and sell distressed loans.
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