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Mihails Minckovskis image 1

Mihails Minckovskis

"Before Covid I was on a plane every second day. I think my record is 145 flights a year," says Mihails Minckovskis. Unusually for him, he's at his home in Jūrmala, a beach town on Latvia's Baltic coast, with his wife and two kids, when we speak - although he does have a plane to catch later, his sixtieth of a year that's not yet two-thirds through.

As an ambassador for brands including ONIS, crisscrossing Europe and the globe is part of life for Minckovskis, who's generally known as Misha but also answers to Michael and Mike.

Writing glassware in the sand

Minckovskis first became involved with ONIS in 2018, when he took second place in their Glassology competition. It was curiosity, the defining feature of his professional life, that motivated him to enter.

"This was the first brand to say: 'Come on, send us your ideas and if you're creative enough we'll produce them,'" he says. "I thought: 'Wow, I could have something my great-grandson could be proud of, that he could show people, this glass that was designed by his great-granddad.'"

Compared to cocktail competitions, which can feature restrictions around ingredients, quantities, and so forth, the Glassology competition also allowed Minckovskis' creativity free rein. "It's a very fair competition, with almost no rules," he says. "It should be glass, it should have a bowl that we can produce: these are the main rules. There's no other real limitation, and we don't want to put any rules or limitation there."

The lack of limitations, he believes, frees up contestants to express their own creativity, even if some glasses they create - including his own second-placed design - are impossible to manufacture economically at scale. "When we start placing limitations, people start to worry about their designs, and the idea could be ruined," he says. "In the opening rounds, there are no rules. You have to make a drawing, which could be on a napkin, and you need to describe it."

Minckovskis' own design was based on the Japanese pufferfish, which makes mysterious patterns on the seabed - the world's largest source of sand, a key component of glass. He connected the ocean sand to the cocktail world via the champagne that traditionally launches ocean liners, designing his glass as a champagne coupe.

Despite the production challenges, his marketing insight caught the eye of the ONIS team and helped him to the role of brand ambassador, which he took up in October 2022. His own journey also helps him work with contestants during the competition and connect them with production staff at the glassworks.

Although he started working in bars aged just 17, helping out his father Aleksandrs (Alexander), a pioneer of serving cocktails in Riga's bars, Minckovskis' journey into brand ambassadorship wasn't straightforward.

From the stadium to the airport lounge

Latvia was hard hit by the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, and Minckovskis graduated from his hotel management degree into a hostile economic environment - while confronting an injury that terminated a promising athletic career.

A natural athlete, Minckovskis was selected for professional development as a sprinter in his teens and raced for the Latvian second team. "I spent five years of my life living in a stadium," he says. "I was the champion of the city of Riga at the 200 metres. But I got injured, because when you're young you don't stretch properly, and that was the end of my career."

The way he tells it, Minckovskis accepted his injury with signature Baltic resignation and lack of drama. "I never thought that sports would be my career or my main source of income," he says. "So when I injured myself, it was like: 'OK, this is the natural time to go out.'"

Minckovskis' focus, concentration and competitive spirit shine through even on a Zoom call, and he still follows a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise. But he doesn't feel that the rigor of professional athletics training instilled those qualities in him.

"I don't think sport helped me to achieve my goals faster because it made me understand that if you work hard enough you get the goal done," he says. "I studied through my life, at school and at university, and I think it's curiosity that brought me into this role, not my athletic background."

While also developing a career as a photographer, Minckovskis landed a job with airBaltic, Latvia's national carrier, as a business lounge executive. A role as category manager for a drinks distributor followed, before he became brand ambassador for a portfolio of syrups.

This wasn't the easiest entry to the role of brand ambassador. "All these brands are difficult," he says. "They're not so popular in the brand ambassador world. You're trying to sell a syrup brand to bartenders who are trying to sell homemade syrups."

And even today Minckovskis' career is unusual. "Can you name me any other brand ambassador of a glass brand?" he asks, rhetorically. Treading new turf, he had to build his marketing story, including a presentation featuring the major ingredients of ONIS' glazed glassware, from scratch.

A man of eclectic and global interests, which runs from esoteric philosophy to science fiction by way of drinks, music, film photography and more, Minckovskis is a great believer in going with the flow. And, as he gets set for that flight, from his home near a sweeping sand beach, with a job that his exploration of sand and the ocean helped to win, it's easy to assume that the sea is central to that flow.

But, no. Minckovskis is nothing if not a pragmatist. Jūrmala is his wife's hometown and she won the argument on where to live and raise their children. "I'm not a great sea lover," Minckovskis says. "The sea story was simple marketing. Selling a story. People love it."

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