Beer and students are a match made in heaven, and no one can argue that more eloquently than University of Calgary graduate, Ravinder Minhas.
"I think I know booze better than I do anything," said Minhas. "You seem to gravitate towards what you're best at."
During his first year of undergraduate studies, the 18-year-old Minhas teamed up with his sister to start their own business, the Mountain Crest Brewing Company. The bank turned down their request for a loan and not wanting to borrow their parents' money, they saved up $10,000 from allowances and odd jobs to finance the company themselves.
Entering into the already-saturated business of beer and hard liquor, Minhas faced fierce competition from seasoned businessmen who surpassed him in both age and experience.
"I wasn't intimidated," said Minhas, now 25.Â "I took it as a challenge, but I recognized that I needed to put an extra emphasis on professionalism, maybe more so than someone older might have. You have to prove that you're a serious businessman."
This driven attitude has led the young entrepreneur into operating a $30-million company. Along the way, Minhas has generated many accolades, most recently including his win of the 2007 Graduate of the Last Decade Award.
The GOLD award acknowledges U of C alumni under 35 who have made an early impact in their careers.Â It is one of the two award categories under the Arch Awards, an annual program bestowing the highest honour upon U of C alumni by recognizing career and lifetime achievements.Â
Past president of the U of C Alumni Association and chair of the Arch Awards committee Dean Brawn acknowledges how difficult it is for the association to select from the plethora of deserving candidates.Â
"It never ceases to amaze me, the quality of people we get to recognize," said Brawn.Â "The graduates that we have coming out of our university, and the contributions they've made both to the university and the world, I'd stack them up against alums from much older institutions."
Minhas said he was honoured to be recognized by the prestigious award.
"[The award] means a lot," agreed Minhas.Â "It's amazing, the university has recognized me out of all the top graduates that they get and all the alumni out there."
Minhas admitted it was a struggle to even finish his undergraduate degree in petroleum engineering.
"I was taking six courses and running a full time business," said Minhas. "At a point, it was a challenge to go all my classes and pay attention."
Yet, this business giant refers to his university graduation as one of his biggest personal accomplishments.
Since starting Mountain Crest Brewing Company, Minhas has expanded his market across Canada and started a line of premium sodas in the U.S. In addition, he has begun his own oil company, Minhas Energy Consultants Inc.
"You've got to be passionate and you've got to put hard work into something," stressed Minhas. "There is a wealth of knowledge around you, [whether] it is your parents, colleagues, professors; as long as you're willing to ask the questions and listen to the answers, you'll go far."
Despite being a multi-millionaire, Minhas remains down-to-earth and approachable, both in business and in person.
"Our message is, you don't have to pay premium prices for good-quality beer," he said. "We're not your typical beer company selling the beautiful girls and the cottage life, because the reality is that we're not always living a cottage life, and let's face it, every time I crack open a beer, there's not always a gorgeous girl sitting beside me."
The other category at the Arch Awards is the Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes alumni who have achieved outstanding success over a lifetime. This year's recipient is Dr. Kenneth Storey, a biologist whose ambitious research is leading the world in the area of hibernation and organism survival in freezing conditions. Storey joins an impressive list of diverse alumni, ranging from astronauts to artists to peacekeepers.
Brawn stressed the significance of the Arch Awards to the U of C community.
"The more recognition we get from the recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award and the GOLD Award, the more valuable our own personal degree becomes," he said.