While some business leaders are called entrepreneurs solely because they built a venture from the ground up, Russ Weiner has truly earned the honor with the towering success of ROCKSTAR Energy Drink, which created the 16-ounce energy drink category. With its appeal to consumers through the highest quality ingredients, amazing taste and tremendous value, ROCKSTAR has become distinguished as one of the top three selling energy drinks globally. As an independently owned venture, ROCKSTAR achieved swift market penetration in the U.S. and has expanded distribution to Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Spain, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates and Japan - becoming a multi-billion dollar brand in the process.
Born in Oahu, Hawaii and raised in the equally mellow splendor of Marin County, California, Russ was influenced early on by his parents, Dr. Michael and Janet Weiner, two of the world’s leading herbalists. Motivated by the early death of Michael’s Father from a heart attack due in part to poor diet, the Weiner family launched an extensive study of native nutrition around the world. Michael Weiner earned his Doctorate degree in Epidemiology and Nutritional Ethnomedicine from the University of California at Berkeley after receiving his Masters degrees in Medical Botany and Medical Anthropology. Together Michael and Janet have authored or co-authored nearly two dozen books on health and nutrition, published in more than ten nations.
Though schooled in California, and briefly during high school in New York, Russ received a unique, hands-on education in the planet’s natural classrooms. "From my earliest walking days, I remember exploring the jungles of the South Pacific on expeditions with my parents, who were searching for native folk remedies," he says. Over a 15-year period, the Weiner family explored the islands of Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, The Cook Islands, Tahiti, and the Marquesas Islands, learning about healing plant remedies and elixirs used by native doctors. At the end of their journey, they gave their first published book, Secrets of Fijian Medicine, to the people of Fiji as a written compendium of their oral wisdom in plant healing.
After graduating high school Russ enrolled at San Diego State University, not entirely sure where his passions were leading him. In 1993, after earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Minor in Psychology, he briefly studied graduate level clinical nutrition, but instead heard the call of the business world. Russ spent one year as a distributor manager for Country Life Vitamins in Los Angeles, then returned to Northern California to embrace a specialty he had previously honed: producing student trip packages. As sales manager for Invasion Tours from 1994 through 2001, Russ further developed his skill creating exciting and memorable events: fully packaged student trips to Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, San Felipe and other exotic locales, with a concentration in skiing and snowboarding adventures.
Taking the experience gained in the travel and tour industry, Russ transitioned into product development for Maurice Kanbar, creator of Skyy Vodka. Kanbar engaged the energetic 29 year-old on the rollout of several consumer ideas, including Vermeer chocolate liqueur. When Russ complained one day that he was "sick of paying $2 for an 8 ounce can of Red Bull" and that bars were also paying too much for such a small product, Russ's mentor challenged him to do something about it. With Kanbar's blessing, he left to start his own company, mortgaging his condo in Sausalito to raise $50,000.00 and leveraging his own beverage experience. "I just had a gut feeling that if I personally wanted a larger-size, better-tasting energy drink, but at a truly competitive cost, then other people did, too," says Russ, who devoted 18 months to intense development and vetted 750 variations to finally achieve the perfect product. He made a few cans, filled them up and brought demos to Southern Wine & Spirits, one of the world's largest beverage distributors. "They had no logical reason to list the product, but I guess they saw someone who was passionate about a product that seemed to have some intrinsic value," says Russ.
Starting in January 2001, ROCKSTAR was introduced in Northern California, first at independent liquor and convenience stores, convincing owners to list the brand through in-person taste tests. Within months the product’s success caught the attention of regional and national grocery and convenience buyers, who have since struggled to keep up with consumer demand. The skyrocketing rise of ROCKSTAR Energy Drink is further impressive, given that the company has waged a marketing campaign alone, with no national advertising. Its brand has clearly resonated with consumers, partly due to the product itself, and partly due to its image: a sturdy black can with gold and red lettering, gold star icon and provocative slogan (Party like a ROCKSTAR!, not to mention a brand name suggestive of celebrity, high energy and sex appeal.