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Spirit-Free Innovations: Rebecca Styn's Journey in Modern Mixology

Rebecca Styn, the Founder and CEO of Blind Tiger Spirit-Free Cocktails, embodies the essence of an entrepreneur navigating diverse landscapes, fueled by an unwavering dedication to community and innovation. 

Rebecca’s entrepreneurial journey took root after her second electoral defeat, illuminating the path toward her first entrepreneurial endeavor—a speakeasy-style eatery merging her love for music with a vision to revitalize her community’s downtown area. However, when the pandemic reshaped the bar scene, Blind Tiger emerged. Born out of necessity, this award-winning, spirit-free cocktail brand is filling a void in the market for quality, non-alcoholic beverage alternatives. Today, Rebecca’s mission is clear: redefine social experiences, ensuring inclusivity for all. Blind Tiger’s impact echoes beyond beverages, fostering a sense of belonging for everyone at every occasion.

We asked Rebecca about the most meaningful impacts Blind Tiger has had so far, how her past experiences have contributed to how she operates as an entrepreneur, and what she would tell her younger self if she were to start her journey over again. 

Tell us the story behind your company’s founding. How and why did you start working on Blind Tiger Spirit-Free Cocktails? 

In 2017, I opened a speakeasy bar that became known for its craft cocktails. However, in March 2020, as a response to the pandemic's restrictions, we were government-mandated to takeout only. As history often repeats itself, we couldn't legally sell alcohol to-go, but 90% of our sales came from the bar. Refusing to close our doors and recognizing a gap in the market, we opted to craft and sell non-alcoholic versions of our classic cocktails. The response was overwhelming. 

Today, over 30% of the population fully abstains from drinking alcohol. Yet until recently, the landscape of adult alternative beverages was limited, leaving those who refrained from drinking with unfulfilling options. This absence of quality, non-alcoholic choices at bars and restaurants left many individuals feeling left out of the social experience. While our business was born out of necessity during the pandemic, its true purpose transcends those circumstances. We were driven by a bigger mission: to help everyone feel a “part of the occasion.”

In entrepreneurship, everything feels like it’s failing—until it isn't. It is that paradox that keeps me forging ahead.

What are some of the most meaningful impacts Blind Tiger Spirit-Free Cocktails has had so far? 

Blind Tiger’s purpose extends far beyond our product; it aims to reshape the very landscape of our drinking culture. Drawing inspiration from the clandestine watering holes of the Prohibition era, Blind Tigers (synonymous for speakeasies) bore a profound impact on society during their reign. Speakeasies served as spaces where individuals from diverse backgrounds, races, and genders converged. In an era marked by division, these underground establishments fostered unity. In the spirit of those establishments from the past, we at Blind Tiger strive to recapture the essence of the speakeasy experience, not just in the beverages we serve but in the values we uphold: the pursuit of a more inclusive world.

In what ways has your upbringing or past experiences contributed to how you operate as an entrepreneur?

My life’s path has been incredibly varied—from an undergraduate degree in music, to a Ph.D. in leadership and, today, the founder of a beverage company. Over the years, I actively contributed to my community by serving on multiple boards, orchestrating numerous large-scale events, and even making two attempts at running for local public office, though both ended in defeat. 

One of my core pillars during my second political campaign was to invest in and revitalize our downtown. Wanting to put my money where my mouth was led me to create my first business—a speakeasy restaurant and bar—one that could also weave in my lifelong pursuit of music. Then, when 2020 brought about the pandemic's restrictive challenges, I embarked on my second entrepreneurial endeavor: Blind Tiger. Much like most of my life, there has been little linearity.

Have you ever felt like you’re “different”? If yes, in what ways has this contributed to your journey as an entrepreneur?

I've forever been drawn to the fringes, and I can only imagine it’s a behavior shared by many entrepreneurs. My innate inclination to always question the status quo is ingrained in me. Even when things appear flawless, I still look for ways to do it better. This inclination has become the driver for my own innovation and tenacity, with the latter being a critical attribute in my journey. Any entrepreneur has to have a ridiculous amount of tenacity and resilience to continue to willingly subject themselves to the unending cascade of setbacks, failures, and frustrations that come with launching or scaling a business. In entrepreneurship, everything feels like it’s failing—until it isn't. It is that paradox that keeps me forging ahead.

Have you felt like giving up? What made you persist?

I still often feel like throwing in the towel. The most difficult part of launching a business is not seeing a clear pathway forward. You navigate murky waters, with moments of clarity emerging only just in time, refusing to reveal themselves a moment sooner. And as any entrepreneur can attest, the journey is often studded with more setbacks and failures than successes. Thankfully I have this unyielding reservoir of grit and determination—even through some of the darkest moments. There are often still times I wonder if the business will survive the next six months. But it’s the tenacity that keeps me going. I follow a great entrepreneur and writer, Alex Hormozi, on Twitter. He encapsulates the entrepreneur better than anyone I know: “Play to win and you’ll be out first. Play to outlast and you’ll win.”

What would you tell your younger self if you were to start your entrepreneurial journey all over again?

The entrepreneurial journey is a professional and personal rollercoaster ride. Hard stop. Challenges and setbacks are inevitable. They require humility to acknowledge that you can't control everything that happens, but you can control your reactions and decisions. While it's tempting to always focus on moving ahead, I would tell my younger self to try to savor the present moments and cherish the experiences—the good and the bad. Every experience has a lesson, but not everything is a teachable moment. Sometimes, it's a recurring pattern, and if you find yourself stuck in a cycle of similar outcomes, don't question why it keeps happening. Instead, inquire what it's attempting to show you. I would remind her that in doing so, you assert your control and refuse to be a victim of circumstance, which will always set you back. 

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