It’s been nearly a decade since Thunder Bay’s Sleeping Giant Brewing Company began offering its brews, and the company has been growing steadily since.

Matt PearsonToday, the brewery’s beers are available throughout Thunder Bay, and are sold across Ontario and Manitoba. The brewery itself, meanwhile, has expanded, too - it regularly hosts events, concerts, and tours, and the taproom offers on-tap Sleeping Giant brews daily.

Sleeping Giant Brewing Company president and co-owner Matt Pearson shared some insight from his own entrepreneurial journey with the CEDC for Small Business Week.

  • What started you on your entrepreneurial journey?
    • For me, the entrepreneurial drive, it call came from my father, and my mentor. It instilled in me at a very young age about working for yourself, and the first company we did was a baseball card company that did trade shows, then a lawn mowing company. … Some people come from a household where they’ve got parents that work for other people, and my mom did, but my dad was self-employed. I kind of got that from him.
  • Where did you turn for assistance/mentoring?
    • I have a few mentors in my life. I’m a big advocate for people having mentors. So I turned a former boss of mine, a gentleman by the name of Mike Smith, owns a large restaurant company in London, Ontario. But I kind of use everybody for mentoring, I think it’s a constant process. Co-workers, colleagues, employees, I think there’s something to learn from everyone. It really depends on the topic, but for general, overall, it’s a former boss of mine.
  • What were some of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned along the way?
    • You’ve really gotta bet on yourself, you’ve gotta believe in yourself. I believe that carrying a high level of confidence can really take you a long way, but that confidence shouldn’t be blind, either. You shouldn’t just say ‘we’re going to succeed because we do a lot of things right.’ I think you've got to appreciate the role that luck plays in a lot of things. There’s definitely the element of luck in business - why are some people or companies a little luckier than others? And it probably is rooted in hard work and research and taking calculated risks. Over here, we study a lot, we analyze a lot, and when we make a decision, we are confident about it.
  • Why Thunder Bay?
    • We [Matt and his wife] moved up here about seven, eight years ago for … her job. But, quickly, this could have been a stop for us, and my wife pursuing other places to work, and other places to live, but we have fallen in love with the region, the area, the people. So, why Thunder Bay is to me kind of the easiest question. I think Thunder Bay offers a lot to entrepreneurs, and to families, so it wins for us on both levels.
  • What advice would you give to someone who’s just started - or is thinking of starting - their own entrepreneurial journey?
    • The number one thing I say is immerse yourself in it, whether it’s talking to other people in the industry, whether it’s attending the trade shows. Just live it. Get it in your lungs, get it everywhere, and make sure you’re comfortable with it. If you’re not a reader or a researcher, go out there and talk to people. We’re in a very collaborative industry, but I often find, actually, sometimes the older entrepreneurs, business owners, are less likely to be as collaborative as the new, younger generation. This is overly-generalizing, but there’s an idea out there that ‘I’m in this industry, I want to have 100 per cent of the market, and the market is a fixed size.’ Whereas, what we’ve experienced in the craft brewing industry is our market is growing, and let’s grow together. I believe in looking for win-win solutions, and I don’t need another company in our sector to lose for us to win. So I think having a positive attitude, really immersing yourself in what you’re doing, is really important.
  • What was something that was unexpected in this journey?
    • As much as you plan, and as much as you project and calculate, you really gotta be ready for anything. You’re dealing with many different levels of government. You’re dealing with a market that is, I’m not going to call it volatile, but you’re dealing with a market that can be unpredictable. So, just when things don’t go to plan, don’t panic. Be prepared to pivot, and pivot often if you need to.
  • What was the greatest moment in this journey?
    • The greatest moment for me, thus far, has really been watching the team at Sleeping Giant really grow. Kind of watching us grow into ourselves. When companies start, (they’re) consumed with growth - or for us, it was growth and a move - and new retail channels and new opportunities. But as that cycle slows down - and we’re still growing, obviously - to watch the team here grow into their roles and responsibilities, it’s been exciting and rewarding.
  • If you could be a food, which would it be?
    • Beer is food. We’re food under Agriculture Canada.
  • What is your business’ short pitch?
    • It’s a bunch of good people working really hard to make some good beer for Northern Ontario.

For more about Sleeping Giant Brewing Company, visit the brewery at 712 Macdonell Street in Thunder Bay, or the website at sleepinggiantbrewing.ca.

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