As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, we chatted with Manjit Minhas, an international beer baroness, mompreneur and Dragons’ Den star, who will give the keynote address at this year’s Henry Bernick Medal Awards on March 27.
Manjit, who is co-founder of Minhas Breweries, Distillery and Winery, has annual sales topping more than $150 million and her massive Wisconsin production facility is one of the largest in North America. It ships more than one million cans of beer a week.
We asked Manjit to provide some insight into her success and some advice for budding female entrepreneurs.
Tell us about your first entrepreneurial venture. How did you come up with the idea and how did you start your business? Actually, Minhas Breweries and Distillery is my first entrepreneurial venture! I was 19, and I sold my car to get the $10,000 my brother Ravinder and I needed to launch the business.
Why beer? Growing up, one of my first jobs was working at the liquor store my father owned. I realized there wasn’t really anyone selling quality product at a certain price point, and I saw huge potential there for me to fill that void.
What was the biggest challenge for you as an entrepreneur? Our attempted entrance into Ontario was a really difficult time. Ultimately, it was a very expensive failure—but we picked ourselves up and pivoted to a different market.
How do you solve big problems as an entrepreneur? I ask myself what needs to happen, and then my brother and I strategize on how we can get there.
Who were some of your female role models or mentors? Most of all I’ve always admired my mom. She’s incredibly patient—and I am not—but she shows me how valuable that can be. I’ve always admired women who do their own thing and don’t listen to the people who tell them they can’t. Also, I deeply respect anyone who was able to forge their own path when surrounded by traditionalists, and find their own happiness. That’s one of the hardest things to do.
What tips do you have for other women who would like to start their own businesses? Become a confident negotiator. Remember, you belong at the table just as much as any man. Have a plan, but be flexible—it’s all about evolving and improving your efficiencies. Apologize less. Demand more. And when you fail, enjoy it: that’s how you will learn. Find mentors you can relate to, and be a mentor to others.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? To start! Don’t use researching, networking and planning as an excuse to stall. Just start!
What are the pros and cons of being a female entrepreneur in 2019? There are so many brilliant female entrepreneurs out there, and so many are supportive and work to foster a sense of community. We share such similar challenges—work-life balance, finances, family—and it’s important to create a culture of lifting each other up. Of course, there’s still sexist pushback and there is still such a long way to go before women are equally represented in top positions the business world—but overall, there are positive changes taking place. I’m happy I get to show other female entrepreneurs that success is absolutely possible.
What would you say to young women in general? Find what you’re passionate about. You’ll spend a lot of time working, so make sure you love whatever it is you’re working on. As women, we tend to have more responsibilities and take on more labour—sometimes we don’t have a choice. But when it comes to your career, you have more control than you think. Don’t dedicate yourself to a job just for the paycheck: you’ll be unhappy. Do what you love, work hard, build a support system—remember, no one can do everything themselves—and eventually you will see the fruits of your labour.
Manjit will be speaking in the Georgian Theatre on March 27. The event is free to Georgian staff and students and tickets can be picked up at the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre. The event is also open to the public and tickets are $25. Here’s how you can to purchase tickets for her keynote address.