Entrepreneur leaves corporate job in New York for the 'simple' life

Mark Tinus spent much of his career climbing the corporate ladder at major alcohol companies. One job in Manhattan allowed him to work with acquired brands in Central and South America.

“I loved going out into the field and figuring out a $20,000 marketing spend project in Haiti,” Tinus said in a mid-February interview. “And then I'd come back to our New York office and be talking about a $10 million marketing campaign in the U.S. and I'm like, ‘I like the small thing.' … [I liked] building trucks in Haiti and employing more people and having street vendors and creating like this more lifestyle-oriented way of guerrilla marketing.”

After spending several years in New York, Tinus relocated to Columbus with his family to start his own business. First came the Sake-infused alcohol Karate Cowboy. While pushing that brand, Tinus and his team began batching cocktail mixes to complement the spirit for bars and restaurants.

“People loved it,” Tinus said of the pre-made mixes, which could vary greatly in quality once they ran out, leaving bartenders to their own devices in crafting the drinks. “And then we'd walk away and people were like, ‘I don't really like the cocktail anymore.'”

Due to turnover in the industry, the bar and restaurant staff were not consistently using fresh juice or adhering to the recipes. In response, Tinus launched Simple Times Mixers, a line of all-natural, handcrafted cocktail mixers, in September 2017. Flavors range from Pineapple Mule to Blueberry Basil Lemonade.

“My goal was: Can we sell a bottle?” Tinus said. “Is it possible?”

Nearly 18 months later, Simple Times products are used in more than 40 bars and restaurants and are sold at more than 50 retailers in the Columbus area. The company has also partnered with Ohio distillers and breweries like North High Brewing, which offers a collaborative shandy.

Production is currently housed at the 1400 Food Lab commercial kitchen, but Tinus is working to open his own manufacturing facility. And he's moving toward sourcing as many ingredients from Ohio as possible.

On Friday, Feb. 22, Tinus will host a sold-out cocktail class at 1400 Food Lab. If all goes well, there will be more in the future.

“It's more like how do you create your own custom cocktail mixer than it is like a mixologist course,” Tinus said. So instead of requiring them to make “the perfect Manhattan,” they'll have more room to experiment according to their preferences.

And going forward, Tinus will continue to cater to his customers.

“I still get the corporate questions a lot … like, ‘What's the next big fruit in 2020?'” Tinus said. “I look at that stuff because I'm in the industry, but I'm going to make stuff that people want and ask for.”