Startup Grind Minneapolis held its latest event this past Monday, featuring local Twin Cities entrepreneur Matt Kenevan. We noted Startup Grind a few weeks ago as one of the top ten websites that every entrepreneur needs to know. Beyond the website, Startup Grind is actually a large community of entrepreneurs with over 213 worldwide chapters.
This latest Startup Grind event put on by the Minneapolis chapter was an informal fireside chat. The event took place at CoCo Coworking in the beautiful and historic Minneapolis Grain Exchange Building. If you’ve never been in the space before, it’s something to see. There’s nothing quite like looking up from your cubicle to just take in the architecture- the structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places- or glace up at the ticker board to check out the upcoming entrepreneurial events in the area and see a large, pixelated cow. They offer tours of the space every Friday, if your interested is now sufficiently piqued.
This Startup Grind Event was a laid backed talk with the one-of-a-kind business man Matt Kenevan. Kenevan is perhaps best known for his Beer Dabbler craft beer festivals and his work to build up the Twin Cities craft brewery scene. Kenevan currently owns five independent companies, all of which are loosely tied together in some manner or another, mostly through beer. After plying everyone with pizza and bottles of Fulton beer- because what Twin Cities event is complete without a local brew or two- we got to jump into the mindset of Matt Kenevan and understand what makes him tick as an entrepreneur.
As with a lot of entrepreneurs, the ability to answer only to himself was a major reason Kenevan was driven to become a small business owner. Apparently, he just really likes wearing shorts to work. But with that freedom also comes a price. He said to remember that in small business ownership, there is no nine-to-five or Monday through Friday. It’s all the time. If you feel like you’re working, it’s probably not the right field for you. He said it’s all about finding a level where you don’t even know you’re working.
He also wanted to prove to the nay-sayers that he could do something or get something to work which was thought to be impossible. Enter one of his businesses: The Growler. Maybe you’ve seen it. It’s in about every pub and brewery in the Twin Cities. The magazine is of course about beer. But it also contains cultural and lifestyle stories for everybody. Kenevan wanted negativity kept out of The Growler, avoiding any hurtful words for beer enthusiasts and brewers who were putting everything on the line to make their dreams a reality, valuable advice for all of us spreading written words out there. In an era where print is supposed to be dead, The Growler has been up and running for three years.
It might seem that winter beer festivals in Minnesota are a crazy idea, but Kenevan made that work as well. His first plan was to throw beer fests in twelve different cities. In the end, he said that was an incredibly bad and unsuccessful experience where he lost a lot of money. But he was still convinced that the winter beer festivals could work, but maybe the concept of the twelve cities was wrong. He advised that you can have the best business plan in the world, but there will still be something wrong with it. It’s all about rolling with the punches and making the best of the situation. Kenevan said that it’s alright to fail. We all do. It’s just important to avoid landing in that same position twice.
He has revamped the beer festival model, paring it down to just three events all held in the Twin Cities: the Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival, Summer Beer Dabbler, and the Beer Dabbler at Twin Cities Pride. Although he still can’t control the weather, the highly successful Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival celebrates it’s seventh season this February 6th. It’s not always great. He called the 2014 Winter Dabbler during the polar vortex “the most horrifying experience of my entire life”. But if you have a good product, people will withstand subzero temperatures for it.
Some of Kenevan’s businesses didn’t necessary have a road map. They were like a choose your own adventure plan. He said it’s all about taking opportunities when they are presented. That’s how another of his businesses, The Beer Dabbler Store, was launched. He needed an office space and wanted to be more than a beer festival promoter. He also wanted to create a physical space where people could come to talk to him about the beer fests. So he opened up the store front, selling craft beer apparel. His refrigerated tap trailer company, Metro Cold-Stor, also developed from seizing an opportunity. Kenevan saw a need for the service in the area. But, he also saw a personal need to get out of the office a few times a week, which Metro Cold-Stor provided.
Every entrepreneur’s journey is different and Matt Kenevan’s is truly unique. Join Startup Grind Minneapolis for their next event in March with the software design and development company The Nerdery.