Manjit Minhas was 19 years old when she scraped together $10,000 with her younger brother to start her first business: a beer brand called Mountain Crest Classic Lager to sell in their parents' private liquor store in Calgary.
Ms. Minhas is educated as a petroleum engineer, but decided instead to pursue the beer business. In 2006, she bought the second-oldest brewery in the United States and renamed it Minhas Craft Brewery. Since then, the 35-year-old entrepreneur and her brother have not only expanded their beer business across North America, but also purchased a television production company, a graphic design firm and a glass-blowing company. Each of those side ventures are directly involved in producing and promoting their beers, such as Boxer Lager and Lazy Mutt Ale. More recently, Ms. Minhas has been investing in a wide range of small private companies as part of her new role as a "dragon" on CBC TV's Dragons' Den.
The Globe spoke recently with Ms. Minhas on her investing style, including success she's also had in the coffee business and why she avoids tech stocks.
When did you start investing?
It was after my brother and I started our business. We were raised the old-fashioned way, which was, if you're going to buy something, buy it with cash and if you are going to use it, own it. The first thing we owned was an office building in northeast Calgary back in 2000, which we used as our first office. Since then, real estate has been a big part of our portfolio as we expanded our operations. I own commercial real estate across North America and overseas, about 50 per cent of it today is tied to the business. I'm not really a buy-and-sell investor. I hang on to an investment for a long time. I think real estate is a great investment. Sure, it can go down, but over the long-term, it always goes up.
What about stocks?
I tend to invest in certain industries. The last 10 years has been in the coffee industry, the energy drink market and health care. The first stock I bought, about 10 years ago, was Green Mountain Coffee Roasters [which later become Keurig Green Mountain Inc. with the acquisition of Keurig. Keurig Green Mountain was recently bought by JAB Holding Co.]. It was a way for me to peek into other companies and industries and understand how their finances work. When you have money on the line, you pay more attention.
Do you have a broker or invest on your own?
On my own. I feel that I'm best to look after myself. I like to do my own research and go with my own gut.
If the stock goes down, I only have myself to blame.
Are there certain sectors you stick to or avoid?
I stay away from tech. When it goes up, there doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason as to why, and I like concrete reasons.
Otherwise, I'm open to most sectors. I also stick mostly with companies in North and South America because I understand them best compared with those in places such as Asia.
How have your investments on Dragons' Den worked out so far?
It has been fabulous. I have invested in a lot of different companies that I otherwise wouldn't have. In the show, I invest in people, not industries. . I have closed all of the deals I made on the show to date, except one. As far as total investment dollars, I'm at about $2.7-million.
What has been your best investing move?
Expanding our business to the U.S. in 2004. It can be daunting for a small business in Canada because the U.S. is so big, and it can be a huge risk, but it has been by far our most successful move. In the stock market, my top performers have been Green Mountain and Priceline.
What has been the worst?
I've had more than a couple and they have all been around the finance industry. AIG and Citigroup are two, which I bought in 2006 and 2007, right before the global financial crisis. I sold them at a loss. I couldn't stand every week to find out how much I didn't have. I think part of the problem living in Canada is that you think, 'How can these companies go wrong?' when you look at our own financial services industry.
For this series, a high-net-worth investor has investable assets of more than $750,000.
This interview has been edited and condensed.