Today we’re going to be talking to Kieran Folliard. He moved to the USA from Ireland at an early age and has successfully sold some of the most popular bars and restaurants in Minnesota and launched 2 GINGERS Whiskey. We’ll talk about how he built his business by following his passion as well as how he has exited. You won’t want to miss today’s show!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How Kiernan decided to become an entrepreneur and about his experience moving from Ireland to the United States.
- How Kiernan’s passions fit into the equations and why exploration was key. He also talks about how his parents were supportive.
- How starting an Irish pub solved a problem that Kiernan encountered in Minnesota.
- How Kiernan overcame some of the challenges that accompany opening a restaurant, which is known to be a difficult type of business to open.
- How Kiernan went about hiring a team and making sure that everyone’s skills were complementary. He also talks about how he established a vision with his team.
- The emotions that surrounded backing away from one venture while starting another.
- Considerations Kiernan kept in mind as he developed and grew 2 GINGERS.
- How Kiernan structured his business transitions.
- What Kiernan is applying to his business model to ensure longevity.
- Where Kiernan gets his ideas from, what he’s trying to accomplish, and what the future may hold.
Passion. It’s what got you into this business, and it’s what will drive you through it. But what value does passion have in terms of our future successes and can it be turned into equity? Today’s podcast with Kieran Folliard explores the idea that following our passions can lead to greater business success and a strong legacy.
So what’s the value of passion?
Passion as Drive
Kieran’s passion drives him from enterprise to enterprise. He learned at a young age that anything is possible if you have the determination and work ethic to achieve it, so he has spent his adult life making his dreams a reality. His great love for his culture—including its beer and whiskey!—spurred him to pursue his dream of creating the perfect Irish pub in Minnesota, of all places.
Kieran’s passion for exploring took him to Saudi Arabia to operate a dairy farm—yes, a dairy farm in the desert. His passion for Ireland led him to open his own Irish-themed bar and even make his own whiskey, called 2 Gingers. From there, Kieran has branched into the food industry and is working on high-quality and award-winning products which focus on nutrition and flavor. Passion has driven him to multiple successful enterprises and keeps him actively looking for the next big thing.
Combining the things we love with the things we do doesn’t always work out. You need to have the discipline to see the venture through to the end. In business, you also need to be able to create something that is sustainable and valuable to someone other than yourself—so how do you value passion?
The Equity of Passion
The thing with passion is: You can’t measure it. You can’t tell how successful an idea will be simply from the desire to make it a reality. However, there are aspects to passion which lend themselves to valuation.
As with most assets that are difficult to measure outright, passion is an intangible. You can’t weigh it, measure it or put it on a spreadsheet. To figure out how passion can become equity for your business, you need to know which other intangibles it impacts most.
For Kieran, this meant finding the key aspects that made the most successful bars in Ireland and repeating them in the States. From atmosphere to whiskey, he covered it all. His staff was hired with the intention of being treated like family—so much so that he chose his management staff as his exit option. He took care in designing the bar to be a place where anyone could come to relax and have some fun, in Irish fashion (games, sports, poetry, etc.). And as far as the beer and whiskey goes… well, he was so successful that he actually sold his company after only 15 months of operations and took his whiskey on the road. Demand was high.
Many of today’s most recognizable brands are made up of no more than these key concepts. Specific images, products and even tastes and smells are associated with companies like McDonald’s, Starbucks or Apple. You come to expect a certain type of experience when you enter one of these locations, and the power of their brand is what drives their competitiveness in the marketplace. Imagine trying to edge out one of these companies?
Well, it’s hard, but it’s not impossible. We see giants crumbling more and more often with today’s technological and adaptive market. How does this happen? These moguls become disenfranchised from their customers.
Be Passionate About Your Customers
People have strong, subjective opinions about where they spend their money—and on what. You need something that is in demand (or which you can convince people they want), and you need to present it in a way that makes it even more desirable.
Markets change regularly, so you need to keep abreast of the trends and be adaptive. As such, having customer input is vital to long-term success. Kieran found a very niche market in the Irish pub and focused in on the culture and ambience you would find in Ireland to create a successful enterprise. Customers would often comment on the genuineness of the pub and how nice and friendly the staff were—just like on their last trip to Ireland! People were looking for a high-quality, authentic Irish whiskey—he delivered. And as the trend toward less-processed, more nutritious foods continue, Kieran is now riding on the forefront of that wave as he helps build and progress the food brand of Red Table Meats and Bakersfield flour. You need to reinvent yourself and your products to stay current in the competitive marketplace.
Work With Passionate People
The other aspect Kieran touched on that can’t be undervalued is the quality of help you have when establishing your business. Not only is it important to hire good staff on the local level, you also need to have the right structure in place to support your operations. Whether this means hiring an accountant or a salesperson, be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and hire people who share your passion and your vision to grow your business.
Kieran worked with the same people for years. He established strong bonds of trust with people he knew he could count on and capitalized on that equity. You don’t always need to hunt for the best deals or the flashiest people to drive revenue or create value. You need a skilled team of people who understand your needs and wants and can help work with you toward your end goal.
Keep Passionate About the Horizon
Following that, it’s important to keep in mind that you will inevitably exit your business. So who do you want to sell your business to? Are you passionate enough about your business to want its legacy to survive your exit? Kieran was. So he used his management team as his successors since they already had so much sweat equity in the place and would keep his vision alive.
And when you do finally exit your business, whether it is to start your next venture—like Kieran—or to retire and enjoy life after business, you need to be passionate about that, too. Why? Because many business owners find the disappearing perks of ownership too much of a shock, or they haven’t figured out what to enjoy in life after their time owning and operating a business has concluded.
So consider your passion. What aspects of it are valuable? How can you essentially brand your passion? And when work is no longer your main focus in life, what else are you passionate about?
- You can grow a business that is who you are and that reflects your deeply ingrained personality.
- People are the key to success: You need to align your vision with your team.
- Always think about the customer. How do they feel when they enter your business? What do they want and need? Have your eyes and ears open to customer needs and different trends.
Links and Resources:
More About Kieran:
Born in 1955 in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo in the West of Ireland, Kieran started out in the hospitality industry carrying the bags for the passengers in his father’s Hackney (taxi cab) business. After 17 years spent in corporate marketing including time in Ireland, Saudi Arabia and the U.S, he realized that he loved being in pubs. So, like any good self-respecting Irish guy, he decided to open one.
18 years later, the pub business had grown to include The Local, The Liffey, Cooper, and Kieran’s Irish Pub, all in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area. 2 GINGERS® Whiskey was launched as a test in those pubs in March of 2011, and quickly earned a loyal following. So, in order to focus on a new project in pursuing wider distribution of 2 GINGERS, Kieran sold all his shares of the pub business in July of 2011. He heeded warnings about the door hitting him on the way out, and went on his merry way. Today, 100% of ownership of those pubs belongs to the management team that had worked with Kieran over the years to make them successful.
2 GINGERS is now Kieran’s full-time passion. He’s lived in Minnesota for 25 years, but has seen more of the state since launching 2 GINGERS than ever before, as he hits the road to sample his new product and meet the people who support the new brand.
Just nine months after the statewide launch of 2 GINGERS in its home state of Minnesota, the whiskey can be found in over 800 liquor stores and over 1000 bars and restaurants. When he decided to start 2 GINGERS, it was with confidence in the product and an undeniable urge to make a go of a good idea. Kieran’s entrepreneurial drive is contagious to those who know him.
For more on Kieran’s inspiration, his “2 GINGERS” (Mother Mary and Aunt Delia,) read the Legend of the two women whose young faces grace every bottle of 2 GINGERS.