Photo by Erin Burns
When Manjit Minhas received a call from producers at CBC’s Dragon’s Den inviting her to screen test for the show, she didn’t think twice.
“I said I loved the show and have been watching since Season 1, and I’ve been waiting for the call.”
As a 19-year-old university student, Minhas scraped together $10,000 with her brother Ravinder to launch their first spirits brand, Mountain Crest Liquors. Since then, they have created more than 90 beers and spirits that ship to 16 countries, and they run a group of companies that generate $155 million annually.
Now 34, Minhas is eager to share her knowledge with aspiring entrepreneurs on the new season of Dragon’s Den, airing this fall.
“I used to yell at the TV and laugh,” Minhas says. “Now I’m on the other side; I’m in the chairs doing it.”
A lifelong Calgarian, Minhas is particularly proud of the Minhas Micro Brewery near the city’s airport, which opened in 2012.
“You can try 101 different beers that we make there,” she says. “Me and my brother are always around.”
That is, when she’s not on the road. Minhas spends about half of each month travelling to offices in Vancouver, Regina, Winnipeg, Los Angeles and Wisconsin (where the company also has a second brewery). Usually, her two- and five-year-old daughters are in tow, which means she’s mastered the art of travelling with kids.
“Bring a lot of things with you to distract them and keep them busy,” she says. “I try to schedule alongside sleep times … By the time we get them on the plane, the plan always is that they’re exhausted.”
Minhas’ own love of travel got started when she was a teenager travelling to Barbados—still her favourite destination.
“I can never find anything wrong with it,” she says. “I go at least once a year, if not twice.”
Closer to home, Minhas loves visiting the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. “It’s a hop and a skip away and I go all the time. Banff is just amazing, winter and summer.”
With all that packing and unpacking, she has learned that less is more. But she admits to having one vice that makes packing light a challenge: “Where I cannot travel light is on the shoes.”
In her carry-on, Minhas always takes her makeup bag, a shawl, a pair of socks to keep warm and her favourite headphones.
“You will not catch me working on a plane,” she says. “It’s my time to relax.”
Minhas’ advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
“Do what you love because, if you don’t, life is way too long,” she says. “And as long as you love it, it won’t feel like work.”