How it all started…
Monkey in Paradise began with monkey cocktail markers; the markers themselves I ordered from Amazon so as to differentiate who’s cocktails were who’s at my condo. It gave me an epiphany – how do we find a way to differentiate who’s cocktail is who’s exactly? I went online and searched for cocktail markers, and I thought monkeys were funny, cute and everyone would like them. I ordered generic monkeys and they solved the problem. People would come up to the bar and ask about the monkeys and what they mean. So that would lead to a conversation and we would give the monkeys out to people, so people ended up having a better social experience, because they would then meet others over the monkey conversation.
My business partner took monkeys on a business trip to China, and people there came up to him Google Translating and taking snaps. So that point inspired a product conceptualization of an international symbol of fun via conversation. So being that the product symbol is a monkey and we live in a tropical paradise (Florida) – we came up with the name Monkey in Paradise (MIP) and raised market awareness through Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms. People started to send me pictures with monkeys, so I posted them on Instagram and the monkeys began trending. We started gathering thousands of followers with just generic monkeys. Then we decided to make our own monkeys, put an MIP logo on them and that would be our signature Monkey in Paradise. It is a social movement where monkey can break the ice and have a better social experience.
When did the ‘Monkey in Paradise’ idea originate?
Beginning three years ago my business partner and I decided that we would have a marketing platform that spoke to millennials and generation X’rs (around 21 to 35) through social media, and we thought how we are going to monetize the concept. We looked at clothing, car parts, everything, and then found the spirits industry has a gap because no one was speaking to the younger generation in a genuine way. There is not a single other spirit brand that has a social media and genially interacts these younger target markets. At that point we decided that we are going to have our own vodka named MIP and it is going to be the spirit for young people.
Our vodka is distilled right here at West Palm beach locally. We went to all kind of distilleries and we sampled different vodkas and realized that manufacturers just label vodkas and resell them as different brands. We wanted our own AND our own signature formula. So, we found who had the best private label products, told them we want to make it better, wanted it to be distilled even more, apply superior contaminant filtration, and only use the purest water – which is exactly what we accomplished. We picked a distillery to create our own formula, registered it, and MIP owns the formula. Additionally, we use gluten free corn as our base stock.
How is the vodka distributed today?
It is presently distributed through third party distributors which we have to have by law – brands cannot be their own distributors. So, we have a distributor in the States of Florida and Georgia, plus we are finishing negotiations with a distributor in Tennessee. Next, we are planning to expand to Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, France, and others.
Monkeyinparadise.com is our merchandise platform for clothing, beach towels, bathing suits, all kinds of other fun products we sell. So a consumer can actually go to our website and pay with Bitcoin for the merchandise. The State distributors can also pay us using Bitcoin to buy vodka products (consumers cannot buy vodka directly). Shortly, we are going to be switching over to Dash Coin, which is a better solution, much faster, it clears the payment in less than one second, whereas bitcoin can take 6 hours to clear. We believe that Dash Coin is going to be the future for merchants’ solutions. MIP has partnered with Dash Airsports whom operates a fighter jet that performs at air shows. We will be joining Dash for air shows and ground display.
MIP is already an award winning brand!
The most prestigious spirit completion is San Francisco’s world spirit competition using 32 judges from all around the world. Over 2000 spirits compete, and it is the most renowned and respected competition. And we have won a double gold medal there which means that every judge gave us a gold medal. And it has put us internationally as one of the top vodkas in the world from the quality point.
What are your next initiatives?
We have been raising capital and expect to be fully funded within the next 45 days. Our past 90 days growth rate alone has had us recruit a CEO who is going to help our brand to the national level. We have also recruited a controller and two executives that will take us to the national branding. In order to expedite the process, we want to recruit a really strong executive team, so we can become national brand quickly by leveraging their network relationships and industry expertise.
It had been interesting because originally we thought that the brand would be more of a college bar brand; rather, it has done well at Mar-A-Lago, very high-end venues, casual places, night clubs and restaurants. It has been amazing to see how widely accepted the brand has been for younger generation. A big part of our success is related to the fact that we are a local brand, and as we know majority of vodka brands are overseas importers from major Russian and French distillers.
We have done a good job of getting exposure by partnering with larger brands, companies like McLaren, and organizations such as the Ferrari Club of America. They provide us with credibility to be able to partner with larger brands and extend our reach on the market.
Biggest challenges faced so far and anything that you would have done differently?
As in any business getting capitalized initially is the hardest part – especially in the distillery market. Most spirit brands fail, so you have to have something different with a strong proof of concept before anyone is going to hop onboard. So we spent our first year really doing POC in the Palm Beach area with our own limited budget money by showing we have a viable concept, a great brand concept, and something truly different. We were able to sign on over hundred locations on our own without investors. So now the brand has proven itself, we can capitalize, grow and turn it into an international brand. The hardest part of it was working through the proof of concept where you are not taking a paycheck from morning to night, living it, breathing it. You have to have a passion for this.
What is it that drives you as an individual?
The drive is financial freedom, so I can do whatever I want, when I want, and make the people around me happy. That is what is most important to me. I have a lot of fun hobbies, interest such as flying airplanes, racing cars, and racing boats. I have been able to directly tie in to MIP and use for marketing. There is a speed boat with MIP logo on it, there is a fighter jet with MIT logo on it, and there are multiple race cars. I’ve taken my dreams and passions and tie in them to business which has made it really rewarding and exciting.
What do you think the future hold for you?
Once we take the brand nationally and profit from it at that level, that is going to be a major success point. It will also mean the brand will most likely be acquired. We have a very specific plan, detailed objectives, what we need to do, when we need to do to hit our targets, and the company will be a great acquisition candidate because we are filling such a unique niche in the market.
What does success mean for you?
Success to me is not necessarily financial, to me it is being able to make people around me happy. It is having experiences together, sharing, traveling and a better happier quality of life is what I call success. My Instagram IG is ‘Successful’, so it aligns well with the Art of Success blog J Another thing to share is that I have had a few meetings with the Florida Weekly and are they are bringing me on as their first ‘paper ambassador,’ through my own weekly column. I am pretty excited about this opportunity as I can write about lifestyle, spirits, cocktails, so I can share more of what I do on a weekly basis.
To add: we sell at ABC liquor locations and it is a huge step for us getting into their store, since ABC Wine and Spirits is the largest non-publicly owned chain with over 130 locations in FL. We’ve been doing really well as our sales have been great and we are present in 25 stores from Orlando all the way down to Miami-Dade. Accordingly, we will be adding more stores over the next few months because we have been very successful.
Any advice to readers who want to move their idea forward and make it a success?
Make sure you enjoy what you do because with my previous business with distressed assets I did not have a passion for it and I did not enjoy it. Now I have a true passion for something, so enjoy what you do and try to tie it to what you love, it’s been the key to make it successful.