How Manjit Minhas Pivoted Her Business to Protect Her Community During A Pandemic


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Calgary-based Manjit Minhas was born to be an entrepreneur. At 19, the Dragons’ Den investor started her first company in the booze business (Minhas Breweries, Distilleries, and Wineries) with her brother, Ravinder, and eventually grew it into the global empire that it is today. Like many entrepreneurs, Minhas understands the importance of community. As the pandemic spread, she spearheaded the production of much-needed hand sanitizer, producing tens of millions of bottles for essential service workers. For her, being an entrepreneur is as much about building game-changing businesses as it is about giving back. 

Bay Street Bull: During the pandemic, you converted your facilities to the production of hand sanitizer. How was that decision made?

Manjit Minhas: A few days after the pandemic started, we got a phone call from a regional health authority asking if we could help produce hand sanitizer for them. Eight days later, we got all our formulation and Health Canada approvals, labels, ingredients (other than the alcohol, which we already had) and hired hundreds of extra staff members to make Minhas Hand Sanitizer in multiple sizes and containers. We donated and sold to essential service workers throughout the country—hospitals, doctors, nurses, janitorial staff, grocery store workers, warehouse and distribution centres, truckers, and more.  

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Bay Street Bull: Was it difficult to pivot your production facilities so quickly? 

Manjit Minhas: It was definitely challenging as we were all learning a completely new business and supply chain in days, which would normally take 12-18 months. Everything was a challenge, from figuring out the formula, sourcing and handling the ingredients, Health Canada approvals, designing and printing labels, sourcing proper containers and caps, and delivery. [The most challenging part was] just running a manufacturing business during a pandemic.

Manjit Minhas in blazer against purple on Bay Street Bull cover
Minhas Breweries, Distilleries, and Wineries CEO Manjit Minhas

Bay Street Bull: What has been the most rewarding part of this initiative? What kind of impact have you seen as a result of your efforts? 

Manjit Minhas: It has been immensely rewarding to know we are able to help keep our community and those most vulnerable a little bit safer and healthy. Being in the alcohol industry, we are in the business of helping people celebrate so it is nice to know that after two decades of being in business, there are always surprises in how we can make someone’s life a little better.

Bay Street Bull: How do you think your entrepreneurial journey has prepared you for the business challenges that came with 2020?                                                                                                                                       

Manjit Minhas: Entrepreneurs are problem solvers by nature. I get excited to take on new challenges and innovate new ways of doing things to produce a product. I think I was as prepared as I could be! I am an optimistic, positive person naturally so that has helped me cope with the challenges faced daily while running a business this year.

Bay Street Bull: What did you learn about yourself while navigating the pandemic? 

Manjit Minhas: When starting a business, it is absolutely important to have a community throughout the journey. The nature of having a business is that there are good times and hard times. It is during those times that you need advice from like-minded individuals, or to share your experiences to help someone else. The support system you get from a business community helps you grow and confirms that you are not alone in your struggles.

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Bay Street Bull: As a leading entrepreneurial voice, what duty do you think entrepreneurs have to their communities and giving back where they can? 

Manjit Minhas: Investing in your community is a great way to give back to those who have helped support your business. Volunteer groups and non-profit organizations do so much to help the communities that all of us are a part of, but they can’t do it alone.

Many people really enjoy the intangible benefit of giving—a pleasant feeling of connectedness and the satisfaction of at least trying to make the world a better place. However, there also are tangible benefits. It contributes to bettering the community and can also serve as good publicity for your business. It really is a win-win situation for everyone when entrepreneurs give back.

Personally, I have always believed that it is my duty to pay it forward and to help those less fortunate. It gives me motivation in both my personal and business life.

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