Meet Mike Rosenbaum
The story of Mike Rosenbaum dates back a few decades to a 15-year-old teen scooping ice-cream at Baskin Robbins. He took the standard route of finishing undergrad and then decided to take on an MBA at Western University’s Richard Ivey School of Business. It was there where his passion for startups and marketing began to explode.
Soon after graduation, Mike dove into the beverage industry. Today, he is the founder of the successful start-up known as QuenchCo.
Our team at Influence Digest had the opportunity to sit down with Mike to learn more about his story and to hear more about the future and direction of online marketing.
Influence Digest: Can you give us a little background on your story?
Mike Rosenbaum: Early on, I knew I’d pursue entrepreneurship, having started working as a scooper at Baskin Robbins when I was 15.
I had always wanted and enjoyed being self-sufficient, and working was a way of doing that. It was by timing and chance that I started my first entrepreneurial venture, teaching guitar during my final year of high school. In this business I got my first taste of working for myself, making good money and seeing the successes of hard work.
Coming out of university, I knew I would eventually start my own company, but still felt like I had a lot more I needed to learn and develop; I still do to this day. At that point, I wanted to be a sponge and learn as much as I could, and I was fortunate enough to work at two of the world’s best marketing powerhouse organizations, Kraft and Anheuser Busch. After learning from the greats for several years, I had felt like it was time to continue to grow and learn in a formal setting, which is why I went back to do my MBA at Ivey.
Influence Digest: What is QuenchCo?
Mike Rosenbaum: QuenchCo is a strategy, marketing and distribution company that helps beverage brands grow
It’s origins started by trying to solve a problem. That problem is one often experienced by many entrepreneurs, in the beverage space and otherwise, which is: how do we scale and grow, without having big budgets?
This is a common concern, and unlike in my CPG days of multi-million-dollar budgets, access to quality strategy and marketing work is difficult for smaller brands. That’s where QuenchCo comes in. For small beverage brands who cannot afford a 6-figure CMO or a half-million-dollar retainer for a large agency, QuenchCo offers an alternative. We work directly with beverage clients to build strategic marketing campaigns and then execute on the programs. We also help scale distribution with our connections to local distributors and retailers, with the aim of helping these brands achieve their dreams.
Influence Digest: Why did you start it in California instead of Toronto?
Mike Rosenbaum: Professionally, it just made sense.
My background is in food and beverage and 1/3 new beverage products in the U.S. comes from California. On top of that, California leads the country in health trends, they’re usually 2-3 years ahead of what you’ll find North of the border, so it’s important for us to have our finger on the pulse.
Influence Digest: Why the switch from MBA to startup life?
Mike Rosenbaum: The switch was inevitable, the program was ending and the ‘real world’ began.
I really wanted to use my MBA time to learn and build my own practice. There are some amazing opportunities that came through the MBA, but I was looking for something different, having come from big corporate environments.
Influence Digest: What is the biggest mistake you have made along the way?
Mike Rosenbaum: I’d say occasionally not asking for help, thinking I needed to know the answer myself.
There have been a few times in my career where the easiest and best thing would have been to just ask for help from a peer, a boss, a mentor. I had felt like it would be a failure to ask, but in hindsight, the only failure was not asking in the first place. I think people come to respect the honesty and vulnerability with not always needing to be right or the smartest guy in the room, and that’s something I’m working on improving every single day. It took time for me to come to that realization.
Influence Digest: How do you deal with negativity/haters as you grow?
Mike Rosenbaum: One of my favourite quotes goes something like “you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with”, and I think that’s absolutely true.
The best way I’ve found to stay motivated and avoid negativity is to manage what’s around you. It starts with your own thoughts, and if you don’t have control over your perspective and don’t believe that you can succeed, no matter what happens, you won’t. Once you have that roadmap laid out in your mind, it’s about being around supportive people.
Now supportive doesn’t mean cheerleaders who will tell you that you’re on the right course when you’re about to jump off a cliff, but rather people that truly have your best interest in mind, which is rare. There’s no shortage of ‘yes men’, find yourself a productive challenger.
Influence Digest: Did business school prepare you for entrepreneurship?
Mike Rosenbaum: I get asked this a lot, and the answer is: yes and no.
Business school is a great tool to learn the vocabulary, learn how to add structure to problems and stay organized. Business school gives you a network of contacts and people you can rely on for advice and help along the way. I look back fondly on my time in school, but it’s just that – a training ground, and to be a business owner, you really need to take the plunge, dive in and learn the hard way, hoping that your training back at school will be your compass and help you make the right decisions.
It’s like riding a bike. Your mom and dad can explain how to ride a bike, and even give you a helmet in case you fall. But the only way you’ll learn how to ride and then get faster and more confident is by doing it yourself.
Influence Digest: How important is a building a personal brand in 2018?
Mike Rosenbaum: I don’t think you can build a strong business without it anymore.
I’ll point to an obvious example:
Tesla & SpaceX – You can not go a week without hearing something that Elon Musk has said and done. This brings attention and perspective to his brand.
Influence Digest: What social media platform is best to develop your personal brand?
Mike Rosenbaum: There is no one thing.
The platform to choose is the one where your audience is active on and the one that will allow you to get your message across.
In my case, I like to focus on LinkedIn.
The more touch points you have, the more your message multiplies. Most strong brands aren’t only on YouTube, they actively engage on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook too.
Not only are they reaching more people, but they are reaching people in different moods, different times, and different places.
Influence Digest: Where is the direction of marketing heading towards?
Mike Rosenbaum: For my business, it’s all about getting the attention of emerging brands that are looking for help but don’t know where to turn.
I love working with entrepreneurs that have amazing visions for their company, and if they could get some expert help on the marketing side, it could take off.
For the brands I work with, it all depends on the product and the consumer. But more often than not, it’s about telling a great and sincere story about why the brand exists, and why it’s a good choice for you to drink.
Influence Digest: What do you do when you hit rock bottom?
Mike Rosenbaum: I don’t think I’ve ever hit rock bottom but I’ve had low points. This goes back to what I said earlier about the 5 people you spend the most time with, and how that impacts your outlook. I’m very lucky to have an amazing family and close friends that are supportive and help me re-frame my perspective to continue on, and I end up coming out swinging, more energized than ever before.
Influence Digest: What made you decide to go into entrepreneurship?
Mike Rosenbaum: My family have been entrepreneurs for generations, and so it was always something I was exposed to growing up. Beyond that, the thrill and freedom of owning back my time was something I had a taste of in high school, and I knew I didn’t want to lose that ownership of the most important resource we have: our time.
Influence Digest: Is there anything you want to leave us off with?
Mike Rosenbaum: I just want to say that if anyone reading this is thinking about taking that entrepreneurial leap – just do it.
I’ve had a lot of successes on this journey, but also many failures – it’s what makes it so challenging, but also so worth it. I am now living in an amazing part of the world, meeting really interesting people and building my business, but it would never have happened without taking the first step, which is often the hardest. I’m living out my California Dream, and I’m sure a lot of people reading this will have their own version of that dream. If there’s one thing I’d like people to take away from this piece, it is that there is nothing more valuable, precious and sacred than the freedom of your mind and your time. So be selective about it. Be a gatekeeper of it. Spend it where and with whom you choose. And when you start to move from the passenger seat of life into the driver’s seat, it’ll be scary but also one of the best decisions you’ll make in life.