Manjit Minhas is the newest and fiercest female Dragon on Dragons’ Den this season. An entrepreneurial success story from a young age, Manjit started Minhas Breweries and Distillery at only 19 years old. Manjit’s success falls far beyond her impressive $155 million revenue, earning awards ranging from The National Posts Up and Coming CEO to Chatelaine Magazine’s Top Entrepreneur Woman of the Year award. We spoke with Manjit to learn more about her story.
Who is Manjit Minhas?
Hmmm, that’s a tough one…well how would I describe myself, first and foremost a wife, and a mom and an entrepreneur.
What was your first foray into the business world?
My parents opened up liquor stores in Alberta, so I worked in my parents liquor stores. Through them I learned what it takes to run a business, have employees, leases, dealing with banks and the rest of it. As far as doing it on my own, my brother and I started our own business in 1999 in the liquor industry when we brought private label spirits to my parents liquor stores.
How supportive was your family when you decided to buy a brewery? Through-out your whole career?
Well my brother is my partner – my 50/50 partner, always has been and still is to date, so that goes without saying and then my parents for sure in the beginning were absolutely supportive selling the product in their stores. They have always been supportive of what we’ve been doing, especially in the beginning, when we were just getting up and going, but they also wanted us to have our education to fall back on. So both my brother and I are engineers.
We started with spirits, and then we went into beer. And beer is what’s made us famous. And now it’s about 70% of our sales, the other 30% spirits. We really thought it was a niche market that we could fill, of being high quality, fair price, and we had the expertise that others didn’t, as far as keeping low overhead to being negotiators, better marketers and just having a little bit of the edge on all aspects to make it work.
You are a Brand specialist – how did you learn to build brands and what are 3 main keys to brand building?
- Time (It doesn’t happen overnight!)
- Have a Consistent Message
- Be Creative – Think out of the Box
The average person has to be exposed to a brand 19 times before they actually spend a dollar to pick it up and so it’s a matter of making sure the consumer remembers your look, your brand, your slogan and remembers something good about it!
How did Dragon’s Den happen?
March of last year, I got a call from CBC. They said I was on their radar and would I be interested in coming down on Monday to sit down for a screen test, meet the producers and see if its something I’d be interested in. I said yes absolutely I’d love to come. I met all the producers, did a screen test – they told me that they liked it, liked me on camera. I discussed it with my brother and my family and then we decided yes I’d be on board! I met a lot of great entrepreneurs, and now we’ve been working diligently with a lot of the companies to re-do marketing, design, brands, distributing, lots of work…it’s been an amazing experience.
As a South Asian female entrepreneur you have shattered many stereotypes… What message do you want to pass on to other young women?
There is no certain field that women, nevermind a South Asian, can only be in. Nobody would have said that a woman would have been running a beer empire. So wherever life takes you let it go that way and don’t be worried of what is the norm or what should I be doing, ask yourself what you WANT to be doing and really that’s what it comes down to.
What advice would you give to the ‘mompreneurs’ out there and striking that work/life balance?
Entrepreneurship is not for someone that is worried about getting everything done and doing it the way it’s supposed to be. It’s a matter of doing what you can do and getting as much support and help as you can, whether it be on the home front or business front, because there are only so many hours in the day. My biggest thing is to never regret anything. If today is all work or this week is all work, then it is and I won’t regret or feel bad about the class meeting, play date or the birthday I missed, and when I’m there at home I don’t feel bad about the work meetings or what I’m not doing at work. So whatever moment I’m in, I’m in, and have to be happy with it. Absolutely it’s a struggle but it’s a combination of finding family, friends and paid support to help you. Maximize the time you have and stretch each dollar – and have no regrets!
What’s next for you?
That’s a tough one….if you asked me at the beginning of March I wouldn’t know about Dragon’s Den, so I don’t know! I don’t know where life is going to take me, I kind of just go with the flow. I have plans but I don’t know whether they’ll come to fruition so I think it’s best to just keep them to myself! (laughs!)