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Ian Kobos ’05 uses his York College education to build his company’s sales growth and brand perception

Ian Kobos at his distillery in York

Written by: Emma Simpson '23

Ian Kobos graduated in 2005 with a degree in Business and a minor in Entrepreneurship. He is the Chief Sales Officer and Partner at York’s Holla Spirits and Vodkas, responsible for the company's sales growth and brand perception.

Part of his work in sales includes building a core product lineup, then continually adding innovation that solves problems or matches categories of interest for new customers on a national level.  Kobos says, “I coach my team to target volume-driving menus, programming, and features at top level on-premise accounts. This business then organically drives off-premises business, other sales channels, then expands outward with serious velocity.”

Hiring the right team, including York College alumnus Christopher Herman ‘09/’11, with college degrees, and years of fundamental bartending experience, has been instrumental for Kobos growing spirit brands in a very crowded landscape.

While at York College, Kobos worked as a bartender to pay his tuition and took several entrepreneurship classes that focused on helping students learn to build business plans. Professors emphasized that consistent commitment to achieving one's goals was important. Kobos says, “The YCP education gave me building blocks to facilitate good decision-making and fast track my career in the spirits industry.” His experiences as a bartender also helped him to prepare for his career since he always knew he would own a restaurant or liquor company after college.

When not working at Holla Spirits, Kobos enjoys spending time with his family and studying martial arts. He says “I enjoy teaching my six- and eight-year-old sons trout fishing, boating, and playing hacky sack. I also love cooking dinners for my beautiful wife.”

Sales and branding are quickly becoming a crucial part of business success. For anyone seeking to break into the industry, there are a lot of challenges. Kobos's advice to those planning to work in this field is hiring top-level talent and a team that can instantly pivot on an industry trend of events is imperative. 

“Manufacture a product that is better, less expensive, faster than the global brands,” he says. “If you're not less expensive, you better be super fun, unique, and approachable to a specific target market. Create brand loyalty in a profitable way. If you don’t know how to do this in one’s industry you need to hire someone who does or get educated.” Finally, Kobos says that “Managers should give people a reason to buy your product, give back to the community you live in when you're successful, put others first, and coach employees into the potential they never dreamed they could achieve.”