City Built Brewing and Dante Villarreal

The Place – City Built Brewing: City Built’s industrial taproom is dedicated to inventive beer experiments designed to push the limits, from cream ales and wheat IPAs to hibiscus saisons and thyme beers, these brews will be unlike anything you’ve tried before. The menu, inspired by authentic Puerto Rican dishes, is out of this world. Combine the beer and the food, and, well – it’s pretty easy to come back for more.

The Business Leader – Dante Villarreal: Dante is the vice president of business services at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce (previously the regional director for the Small Business Development Center) – an ideal place to keep an eye on the growing business trends of the area, the challenges today’s entrepreneurs are facing, and what solutions provide the best answers for those who want to start their own businesses. We sat down to talk about how startups can succeed in the current business climate.

Helping Small Business Bring Their Ideas to Market

1. Success is a Fun Narrative, But Failure Comes First

This topic keeps coming up in our conversations – which means that it’s probably important. When looking at successful young companies for inspiration, it’s very easy (even for entrepreneurs) to romanticize the process. The truth is that starting a business is tough, and that there’s definitely a learning period. Those incredible examples of success (like City Built itself) typically come after one or two startup failures. The failures, in fact, are necessary, because they teach the important lessons and allow business leaders to position themselves in a market that they now understand more fully. So stay excited – but don’t expect success to be love at first sight.

2. The Market is More Tangible Than You Think

It’s easy to talk about the “market” as a vague concept of demand that’s a nice scapegoat when things don’t go your way…but the truth is more complicated than that. The ongoing procession of startups and ventures tends to change communities in very tangible ways: New buildings go up, old buildings are convert, quiet streets become lively, and so on. This is more than a cosmetic issue, too. Savvy entrepreneurs will keep an eye on the physical changes in their communities, because they provide valuable insight into the market changes – and how to best tap into current demand.

3. Entrepreneurs Need Passion, Planning and People

Dante’s years of experience in business development have allowed him to spot three important characteristics of entrepreneurs that go on to succeed. First (and unsurprisingly) they have passion. This passion doesn’t just mean getting excited about a business idea…although that’s part of it. It means caring enough to really understand that idea, how others will respond to it, and where that idea is headed into the future. It’s a mastery of the subject matter, and it pays off constantly.

When it comes to planning, Dante has also found that successful entrepreneurs tend to understand the transactional nature of their venture. They may not necessarily have a business plan, but they understand what customers want, how to deliver to those customers, and what the business will reap in return – how it will make money.

Finally, Dante has seen that successful entrepreneurs know how to surround themselves with the right people. These people need to share the passion, have the necessary talent, and fit well in the company. That takes a lot of compromise and change, which can be a steep learning curve for many new business owners: However, putting together a team is a timeless skill that all business leaders will need to learn eventually.

4. A Diverse Workforce Starts with the Entrepreneur

Women and minority entrepreneurs tend to hire more women and minorities as a matter of course. Communities and business leaders looking to improve their economies and give more opportunities to minorities should encourage these entrepreneurs – because that’s where change really begins!

To learn more about Grand Rapids growth, entrepreneurship, and similar exciting topics, catch the rest of Dante’s interview here!

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