Mason Cook, senior in management, and Nick Herrig, senior in industrial engineering, saw an opportunity in the craft beer industry and used it to create their own beer-of-the-month club. Courtesy of Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University Relations

Mason Cook, senior in management, and Nick Herrig, senior in industrial engineering, saw an opportunity in the craft beer industry and used it to create their own beer-of-the-month club.
Courtesy of Christopher Gannon / Iowa State University Relations

After a long and frustrating day, all Nick Herrig wanted to do was go home and have a cold beer. The realization that he had none in his fridge could have led to despair, but instead sparked the creation of the Midwest Beer Club with his friend and business partner, Mason Cook.

Cook, senior in management, and Herrig, senior in industrial engineering, are in the process of establishing a business that will allow people to order personalized boxes of beer to be delivered to their door.

The business, similar to a beer-of-the-month club, is unique in the fact that it uses an algorithm the duo created that takes customers’ personal preferences and matches them to craft beer on hand from partnerships with local breweries.

“[You receive] a unique box of craft beer catered to your preferences,” Cook said.

Cook and Herrig began planning the business about a year ago and took advantage of entrepreneurship resources at Iowa State throughout the process to assist them in starting the business and navigating tricky Iowa law.

They worked with the ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, became involved with clubs on campus and utilized the knowledge and guidance of various ISU professors to build their business. Cook recommends other students interested in pursuing entrepreneurship do the same.

“If a student is passionate and truly wants to start something, I think they need to take advantage of these programs and resources,” said Diana Wright, marketing and programs director for the ISU Pappajohn Center. “A lot of times, when you’re in the real world it’s a lot harder to navigate.”

Wright also pointed out that college it is the perfect time to take advantage of these resources.

“Time is an important resource when starting a business, and although it may not seem like it to some, students do in fact have the time to really get involved and start their business,” she said.

About the ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship

The ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship offers academic opportunities such as the Entrepreneurship Scholarship Program, the ISU Entrepreneur Club and a learning community called BusAd292, as well as opportunities to gain work experience in the entrepreneurship field and to participate in entrepreneurship programs.

One of these programs, the CYstarters Summer Accelerator, proved especially beneficial for the Midwest Beer Club, Cook said.

The CYstarters program, a new program that was started last summer, gives students up to 12,000 dollars to fund the creation of their business, and provides mentorship and workspace as well, Wright said.

The CEO National Pitch Competition is yet another opportunity that has been beneficial for the duo. After placing in the top 6 at the national competition in Tampa, Florida last weekend, they are the first ISU students to be finalists in the competition.

Utilizing these resources has not only helped them achieve success with their business, but has helped them navigate the difficulties of entrepreneurship as well.

One of the obstacles that has been particularly hard for the Midwest Beer Club is Iowa’s strict alcohol regulations.

“Iowa is not conducive to alcohol entrepreneurship,” Cook said. “There’s a whole lot of things [that have been going on] in terms of working with the state that have been really frustrating, but it’s the nature of the beast.”

By being proactive during the planning process, conducting feasibility analyses and consulting their mentors, the duo has been working on overcoming these obstacles.

“In any start up, the future is always ambiguous,” Cook said in regard to future plans for the business. “We feel that we are currently in a position to adequately move forth in developing our next business strategy for [Midwest Beer Club].”

Entrepreneurial Academic Opportunities

In addition to the opportunities available through the ISU Pappajohn Center, students also have access to opportunities through Iowa State University and the ISU College of Business.

“We’ve been developing a lot of new curriculum for students in entrepreneurship,” said Patrick Kreiser, associate professor of management. “There’s a lot of flexibility in terms of the courses that students can take to tailor it back to their specific area.”

Previously the university has offered an entrepreneurship minor, which has been accessible to students in every college. With continued student interest and a growing societal interest in entrepreneurship, the university has started offering more academic options.

New this year to the ISU College of Business curriculum is an undergraduate major in entrepreneurship, as well as a Ph.D. Program — making Iowa State one of only eight universities in the country to offer it, Kreiser said.

“I think the vast majority of our students are going to go out and have entrepreneurial careers, so I think that’s going to help prepare them for that,” he said.

The increase in interest to pursue careers in entrepreneurship has been a major factor in the development of the new curriculum.

“Students love controlling their own destiny—they love innovation and creativity and all those kind of things. Students get really excited about the ability to kind of do their own thing, to be their own person and be their own boss,” Kreiser said.

He highly recommends taking advantage of all of the resources available to students at ISU, and encourages students to go to faculty and people from organizations like the Pappajohn Center for help.

“People love to a) help students and b) help entrepreneurs. You put those things together, and I think most faculty get pretty excited about [helping],” he said.

Having a clear vision of what they’re trying to accomplish and having adequate resources are two main obstacles that students, as well as any entrepreneur, may face when first starting a business, he said.

Getting involved and taking advantage of the resources will help overcome them, as the Midwest Beer Club has worked hard to do.

Other Resources

Along with the ISU Pappajohn Center and the ISU College of Business, there are also numerous resources available to entrepreneurs outside of the academic realm, such as the Small Business Development Center in Ames.

Cook hopes to raise awareness about these resources available to ISU students.

“I want to make sure that everyone understands that there are all of these opportunities to get involved—through the Pappajohn Center, Small Business Development Center, entrepreneurship club, and even post graduation there’s Startup Factory, Square One…,” Cook said. “They want to help, and people just don’t know it sometimes.”

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