How a boots-to-the-ground attitude led to a golden opportunity in beekeeping: Michael Golden [BComm (Hons)/08]
“I had an interesting path to get where I am now,” Michael Golden [BComm (Hons)/08] will tell you.
After graduating from the Asper School of Business with a double major in entrepreneurship and accounting, Golden sought out a graduate program that played to his strengths. The next year he started at the University of Denver, doing a Masters of Science in Real Estate and Construction Management. After that he pursued his MBA, then did a Masters of Taxation. All of these degrees were completed within four years.
“Going from someone who was a C student to someone who could complete three Masters in four years felt like a great accomplishment,” says Golden.
After he finished his Masters of Taxation, Golden went straight back to Winnipeg and started to look for under-utilized sites to grow his real estate portfolio.
“I was very grateful for my time in Denver, but I knew I needed to get back to Winnipeg. I came back with solid experience and a new perspective on my city.”
In present day, Golden’s portfolio now includes multi-family housing, an industrial subdivision, 15 acres of development land next to Ikea off of Kenaston, commercial real estate and more, totaling $65 million in aggregate value. These investments have allowed him to invest back into start-up businesses.
Golden is a passionate and involved investor: “As a general rule, I never invest in real estate or business that I can’t get to every single day. I’m not a passive investor – I want to know the business-owners personally and help develop their passions.”
An interest in the environment was what first sparked his investment in a commercial beekeeping operation. Golden and the operation’s founder started their operation in Selkirk, Manitoba, but Golden quickly identified a problem that was stopping them from scaling as quickly as they wanted. The commercial extraction process was time-consuming and transporting the hives risked contamination.
The pair sought out a solution and discovered a honey extraction technology in Finland. It was then that what started out as a commercial beekeeping operation quickly turned into International Honey Products.
This portable, commercial honey extraction trailer stops most gravel, dust and debris from getting into the hive, one of the contributing factors to declining bee population. As a result, clean, filtered honey can be dispensed right on-site and the GPS location is recorded, allowing for consumers to see the exact spot their honey was extracted.
Golden has taken this technology global, and is now working with a Maori group in New Zealand where they’re packaging Manuka honey, a medicinal honey with anti-bacterial effects.
“Working in international business brings new challenges and ways of doing business. I’ve had to learn a lot about the New Zealand business culture, which is surprisingly different than Canada’s and I’ve had to navigate the different logistical issues and regulations that comes from never doing business in this county before.”
When asked about future endeavours, Golden’s focus is still on Winnipeg.
“The future of entrepreneurism in Winnipeg is exciting. This city has unbelievable potential and we’re really a city of entrepreneurs. I also want to give back to the entrepreneurship program. Looking back, I credit my time at Asper to where I have gotten to at this point. It’s thanks to the entrepreneurship program that I have the confidence and drive to work with entrepreneurs.”
For context, Golden’s father was a serial entrepreneur. His father had grown up poor and part of a large family. This “boots-to-the-ground” mentality was passed onto Golden and he learned to hustle as a young child. Golden started washing dishes for money at the age of five, and eventually graduated to collecting scrap metal. Needless to say, Golden was used to working hard for what he wanted.
So, years later when he was initially rejected from getting into the Asper School of Business, he turned to a midterm from one of his courses and found an error in grading. This led him to get his course grade changed from a B to a B+. Unfortunately, this was still not enough to get him in as the professor had already submitted all of the grades and was leaving for a sabbatical.
Golden waited outside of his office for seven hours just for the chance to speak to him about his grade before he left for sabbatical. He was successful in his argument and after all of his hard work, he got into Asper.
Once he was settled into the business program, Golden knew his education would lead him to bigger and better things, but was struggling through the tougher required courses such as corporate finance.
When he began a course taught by Rob Warren, director of the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship at the time, the class was told that one third of them would likely drop out because of the intensity of the course. Golden saw this as a challenge and went all in with a group project where the students had to create a business and pitch it. The winning pitch would be selected to represent the school in international business case competitions.
To his delight, Golden’s team won and rather than competing against other undergraduate students, the group was selected to compete with those at the MBA level in front of a panel of international venture capitalists.
This boost catapulted Golden into the world of business and he hasn’t looked back since.