VCSU alumnus Mark Zinke ’16 spends his days teaching in the gym and coaching on the field. By night he is busy designing and selling gear to people who are proud to represent their North Dakota roots.
Tell us about yourself.
I live in Mandan with my wife, Steph, and son Liam (20 months). I am a physical education teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School, a varsity football coach for Mandan High School, a varsity basketball official, and a salesman for Northern Trophy and Silk Screening. I also own my own business, AsceND, a North Dakota lifestyle brand that provides gear for the people who are proud of their North Dakota roots.
How did you develop your AsceND business?
My father-in-law owns a silk-screening business, so I have been helping him print shirts and been around the t-shirt business for close to 10 years. The idea for AsceND came when I moved away to Arizona for a year and was looking for clothing to wear to show off my North Dakota roots. I didn’t think there were enough options so when we moved back home, I put that idea into motion. My role in the company is literally everything — I run the website and social media, design all the logos, print the shirts, sell at vendor shows and all else that is involved.
Tell us what it is like to work a full-time job and manage your own business.
It definitely gets to be a lot during the school year and especially football season. Teaching and coaching are my top priorities as far as my career goes so I try to focus on that as much as possible. A couple days a week I spend late nights at the shop printing orders. The real MVP is my wife who puts up with all the chaos and holds down the fort!
How did VCSU prepare you for your career?
The culture of the football team and the life lessons from coaches are things that not only help me as a business owner but in my life in general. I learned and experienced more than just football. Being a team captain helped me become a confident leader and that, of course, helped me out in the long run.
What are you most proud of in your business?
I’m proud that I can provide awesome, affordable North Dakota gear to customers. I am not doing this to make a bunch of money. I really just want people to be able to represent North Dakota to the fullest!
If you were to write a letter of advice to future students it would start, “Dear Vikings…” What’s the rest of your letter like?
Never be timid or afraid to chase a dream or idea; you will have regrets if you never try to live it out. If you ever have any setbacks, find the positives and keep going. In the words of Mike Stud, “You learn more from falling than watching your step.”