WHO: Alex Kowtun, entrepreneur and Monkey In Paradise social movement and lifestyle brand co-founder and managing partner
WHAT: The MIP Cherry Pig in Paradise cocktail, paired with Frickles, the Nashville hot chicken and the Brother Jimmy’s pulled pork platter with macaroni and cheese and house-made cornbread
1) The Monkey In Paradise movement began when: some friends and I began using these colorful, plastic monkeys at home as drink markers to identify which drink belonged to whom. But once we got out to local bars and restaurants, the monkeys became a great way to break the ice and meet new people. People began talking to each other in social situations instead of staring at their phones. It caught on, and suddenly the MIP Monkey became a symbol for hanging out with good friends, making new ones, [having] fun and getting social.
2) The decision to create this new lifestyle brand was: almost made for us by people that wanted to join the party. It literally went from hanging plastic monkeys on the rims of cocktail glasses, to an Instagram account with pictures submitted by followers of the movement, to a lifestyle brand and vodka within eight months. It grew organically, which led to having large decals of the MIP logo on exotic cars, private planes, speedboats—you name it. The MIP Monkey quickly came to universally symbolize fun.
3) When you go from a cute, plastic drink marker to a new vodka brand in the marketplace in less than eight months, you learn: that it’s essential to have an edge to enter and succeed in the liquor industry, that you have to be much more than just another liquor. You need to establish a unique brand, whether it’s through a social movement or organic marketing. There will be trial and error, and there will be a lot of hard work.
4) Having earned my private pilot’s license and completed advanced aerobatic aircraft training, what most people don’t fully realize about flying your own plane is: the immense amount of responsibility and absolute focus required, and the fact that there’s no margin for error. You’re responsible for not only your own life but the lives of the others in the aircraft, and those on the ground below. I’ve always been more afraid of boredom and not truly living life than I’ve been afraid of death.
5) The biggest lesson I’ve learned in entrepreneurial business is: that there will be ups and downs that will make you keenly aware of your strengths and weaknesses. You have to accept the challenges or perceived failures as platforms for change and as fuel for rebuilding. And you can only do that and move forward with a team around you that complements you best.
6) Something that I hope people will take away from the whirlwind creation of Monkey In Paradise is: that while life is difficult, there is no reason that it can’t be fun. Regardless of whether or not you drink vodka, the MIP movement is about bringing people together to make life more enjoyable.
A native of Buffalo, New York, Alex Kowtun relocated to West Palm Beach in 2010. Currently, he serves as managing partner of Banyan Opportunity Partners, LLC. A fixture on the local social scene, Kowtun partnered with Frank Gomez and Seth Goldberg to launch Monkey In Paradise in early 2016. MIP has quickly immersed itself in local charitable and social efforts. MIP Vodka will be the official vodka of VIP hospitality at the 2016 Boca Raton Bowl to be played on Dec. 20 at FAU Stadium and televised worldwide on ESPN.
What they drank:
The Mip Cherry Pig In Paradise
2 oz. Monkey in Paradise vodka
One bottle Cheerwine soda
One slice brown sugar candied bacon
Pour MIP vodka over fresh ice in Collins glass and fill with Cheerwine soda. Garnish with bacon slice arched inside glass.