Kirk Zembal (MBA student)

Jenna Marynowski, BAA Communications Committee Volunteer - 14 December 2020

Kirk Zembal is one of the co-founders of Blindman Brewing (along with alumni Dave Vander Plaat,'13 MBA) and a current MBA student (anticipated '22). Here, Kirk tells us about jumping into entrepreneurship with your eyes open, integrating community into a business and pursuing an MBA while growing a business.

Kirk Zembal

BAA: Where did the idea for Blindman Brewing come from? What has been important to you and your co-founders as you've built the company?

Kirk: The idea for Blindman Brewing came from a place of unrealistic enthusiasm. A generation ago, my partners and I would have probably said "we should totally open a bar!" I had been on trips to the US and saw the beer culture in all these great cities and wanted to play a part in growing that same culture in our corner of the world. The Brewers Association's economist talks often about how breweries are "wonderfully inefficient" and bring such positive benefits to communities and it's been a great ride. Plus, beer is fun, nobody gets too worked up in the beer world.

BAA: Tell us about your experience at the Alberta School of Business. What have been your favourite memories?

Kirk: It's been a lot of fun so far. I'm doing my courses a bit out of sequence - my thinking is "what does my business need right now?" and I take that class. Because of that, I've gotten to meet a tonne of classmates in a number of different years. I find the content engaging and I don't hate the group projects, unlike some undergrad projects, so that's pretty nice.

BAA: Community is clearly an important value for Blindman Brewing, how does this show up in how you run the business?

Kirk: The motto I am probably hated most for due to the endless amount of times I repeat it is: "Cool stuff doesn't happen unless we support the cool people doing it". I think COVID (and yes, I know every conversation these days ends up bringing up COVID) is really amplifying this. At the risk of sounding preachy, we all need to think about the things we want in the world and support them now - when they need it the most.

BAA: Blindman Brewing is known for its stunning labels, including labels that showcase local authors. How does the inspiration for your beer can designs come about? Why is it important to you to showcase the work of local artists on your beer cans?

Kirk: Well, my joke is that the main reason we showcase authors on our cans is so that I could get my own stories published. And I grew up before the age of smartphones where we had to read the back of cereal boxes so we're basically just replicating that experience. But truly there's just a huge well of talent in our world and anytime we can tap into that we're going to get some great stuff.

BAA: What piece of advice would you give to others looking to pursue entrepreneurship?

Kirk: Jump, but with your eyes wide open. I know there's a famous TED talk about how timing is the most important factor in a venture's success. I don't know if you can perfectly time a business or a product, but it'd be great if you could.

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