If someone can talk you out of becoming an entrepreneur, you probably don’t have what it takes anyway.
That’s the philosophy of Mark Lazarchic of Minneapolis, whose opportunistic style of entrepreneurism has taken him through many different businesses. The latest? Whistler Soda, a multi-flavor craft soda manufacturer that utilizes an old-fashioned glass bottling machine made in 1952. Lazarchic bought the business in July of 2016 after the former owner, who decided to take another attractive job offer, offered it to him for half his original listing price.
Next, on his agenda: Franchising his Minneapolis retail store Blue Sun that offers hundreds of soda and candy varieties at any given time.
Lazarchic’s other ventures include a chain of seasonal fireworks outlets (Renaissance Fireworks); a vendor of sparklers for weddings and other special events (Wedding Day Sparklers) and a consulting business.
Crain's Twin Cities spoke with Lazarchic about his businesses and his advice for entrepreneurs.
Q: What is your background?
A: The truth is, I’m a high school dropout. I don’t put a lot of faith in high school or college education helping entrepreneurs. Most of the entrepreneurs I know were terrible students.
If you think like the herd, that’s not a good thing.
Q: Talk to us about Whistler Soda.
A: I’d been buying Whistler from (founder Jesse Hopkins) and loved absolutely everything about it – the concept, the returnable bottles, the 30 or 40 flavors, the fact it’s locally made. Last year Jesse was going back to a job in education and (made me a deal) because he liked what I was doing here and thought I’d take it in the right direction.
Q: Which of your businesses is your bread and butter?
A: My wedding sparklers business does the most money with the least amount of effort. I don’t think I’ll ever make any money on Whistler, but I bought it because I wanted to do tours and make coming there an event. If I break even, I’ll be pretty happy.
Q: You just hired a controller in the past year. How did you manage your money before?
A: I didn’t. That’s the No. 1 reason entrepreneurs fail. That’s not what we’re good at; we don’t trust someone else to look at our stuff, we get behind in taxes, we spend too much and we don’t plan ahead. Part of my problem is, instead of paying myself a bunch of money I start my next business and reinvest in it.
Q: How have you kept your businesses afloat?
A: I’ve gotten really good at a couple of things. I hire the right people and trust them to do the job.
Q: How many people do you employ?
A: Twelve full-time and about 50 seasonally.
Q: What’s the best part about your job?
A: I now make enough money where if have a stupid idea, I can do it. Money isn’t the holdback.
Q: How do you handle the stress of running seven companies?
A: For the first few years I didn’t deal well at all, and I eventually learned getting all worked up about something ain’t going to make it better. Now I just deal with it and move on.
There are 24 hours in a day, so you’ve got 16 hours to work. To me, relaxing and leisure is my garden and running my businesses.
Q: Your advice to fledgling entrepreneurs?
A: The best thing to do is hang out with other entrepreneurs. They’re the only ones who are not going to [criticize] what you’re trying to do.