At the young age of 19, with $10,000 and no business experience, Manjit Minhas set out to start her own private-label liquor company with her brother Ravinder Minhas. This type of bold action and risk-taking is characteristic of a rare class of business people - entrepreneurs. “The reason why entrepreneurs make up 1 per cent of the population is because we are willing to do what 99 per cent of the other people are not willing to do,”says Minhas as she confidently showcases her expanding manufacturing facility. The Beer Baroness, CBC Dragon, Mother and Wife sat down to share with us what she has learned from her journey as a women entrepreneur and what she wants other women entrepreneurs to know.
Never stop thinking like a small company
Regardless of whether you currently run a small, medium or enterprise-level business, Minhas recommends revisiting the mindset you had in the first or second year of starting your business. Doing this keeps the embers of the entrepreneurial ‘think big’ mentality burning, giving rise to innovations and strategies that position you as competitive and trailblazing. Although it may seem counterintuitive to look backwards, your start-up mentality ultimately led to your current position and differentiated you in the market. Minhas’ Craft Brewery embraces this strategy, keeping all departments across multiple countries and various streams of business, tightly knit and collaborative. Additionally, a small company mentality enables you to be in touch with your customer and iteratively test and release products or services. “By the time it [product/service] goes through the retailer, the distributor and back to the office, it is too late,” warns Minhas. She highlights that your product or your brand should not blanket an entire market, but instead be adaptive to your target audience’s needs.
Communicate and ask for help
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” adds Minhas while describing communication as both a key success factor, and barrier for women entrepreneurs. Often entrepreneurs feel that they have to work in solitude, which is not only unhealthy, but also detrimental to the growth of your business. “Nobody does it by themselves, nobody!” laughs Minhas, who repeatedly reflected on the support and empowerment she receives daily from her vast network of family, friends, mentors and business partners. Entrepreneurs should be continually surrounding themselves with people, both personally and professionally, that can act as advisors, support systems, a push in the right direction, or outlet for sharing ideas, challenges and celebratory news. Isolation often leads to patterns of self-destruction, which is why it is so important that you ‘fill your table’ with people that believe in your vision and are dedicated to your success and happiness.
Invest in yourself and have the courage to succeed
Success begins with believing that you are not only capable, but worthy of it. “You need to be courageous to be successful, you need to show up, be able to ask for help and speak your mind,” explains Minhas. In fact, to this day, the Beer Baroness and CBC Dragon still struggles with bravery. “Every time I have to get on stage my body tells me not to, but once I take those three steps, I know I am fine because I prepared, I am ready.” Self-doubt often inhibits entrepreneurs from dreaming big and taking their business to that next level because they sell themselves short. Next time you find yourself saying no, think yes first and have confidence in your ability to deliver. If you focus on the risk of failure, you will never be in the position to succeed. Be your number one fan. Go all in on yourself and your business. After all, if you want your customers to believe in you, you better believe in yourself.
Consciously seek out mentorship
Mentorship is essential. But how do you get one? “It won’t just happen for you,” exclaims Minhas, who spent the first few year of her career seeking mentorship from her now business partner, Max. “I would fly down every three months with pages of questions, but he wouldn’t meet with me. By the fifth time he felt bad and gave me about 5-6 minutes of his time. It grew from there.” Being honest in your discussions, and with yourself, is key in finding a suitable mentor. “In the beginning Max didn’t know that he would by my mentor,” admits Minhas, who believes many entrepreneurs try to formalize the relationship too quickly. First and foremost, entrepreneurs should focus on developing relationships through authenticity and meaningful conversations. Often, by talking about concepts that matter to you and your business, mentors are able to reflect on their own business opportunities, challenges and experiences and see value in your relationship. It is also important to note that as you proceed through each life stage, your personal and business needs will change - and so too, should your mentors!
Pause, reflect, grow and evolve
Over her 20+ year career, Minhas has seen many dramatic changes. Perhaps the biggest shift is the way in which she defines success. In the beginning, she found herself driven by the opportunity of money. Today her efforts are focused on her reputation, both with her children and as a businesswoman. “That is my North Star,” she reflects “I want my kids to be proud of me.” She stresses that articulating your personal mission and being faithful to what you truly want is a momentous step towards success, whatever that may be to you. This is especially true for women entrepreneurs, who are often forced to wear many hats. Whether you want to change the world, or maybe just make someone's life a little bit easier, clarifying and understanding your goal or purpose will help simplify decision making and validate strategic direction. “When I go to bed at night I want to be happy with the decisions I made that day,” Minhas states.
Carry it forward
Looking forward 20 years, Minhas hopes to continue her role as a mentor and influencer in the women’s entrepreneurship space. “We can support women entrepreneurs by investing in them and treating them with honesty,” says Minhas. Sustainable change is accomplished through the education of women entrepreneurs and the development of skills such as how to build a network, how to market your business, how to grow your business and more. By means of investment in training and mentorship, we are able to create value over time that is transferable to future entrepreneurs and other entrepreneurial communities. Once successful, women entrepreneurs will unbiasedly be viewed as equitably smart, solid and investable.
Whether you’re starting a new venture, expanding your business or are the co-founder of a multi-million dollar enterprise-organization, you are an entrepreneur. A title reserved for those with grit, hustle, perseverance and vision. We asked Manjit to address this dynamic community of entrepreneurial dreamers with one single sentence, and above all, this is what she wanted to say [to you]:
“Start now. Dream big. Support each other.”