Brewery CEO surprised by nomination

·3 min read

THUNDER BAY — Drea Mulligan, the CEO of Thunder Bay’s award-winning Sleeping Giant Brewing Company, may have to install a larger accolade shelf after learning that she is one of seven finalists in the category of Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the 2021 Canada Innovation and Entrepreneurship Awards (CANIE Awards).

“This is a complete surprise,” she said. “I was emailed from CANIE that someone has nominated me and I don’t know who.”

Mulligan says it was “really a lovely surprise” to get some recognition, which reflects on her team especially through such a hard COVID-19 year.

Mulligan and her Sleeping Giant team were also recognized earlier this June by the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce and were awarded with the Business Person of the Year award and the Business Excellence award for a medium size business.

“It’s always a joy to be nominated because it gives you that chance to stop and reflect, because we are always so busy with our noses to the ground working — and that’s everybody in our company,” she said.

“Our team worked extraordinarily hard as did most people during this COVID year, so it was really nice to see that recognition because it was well deserved for our staff.”

Mulligan says they have a very diverse team at Sleeping Giant with 50 per cent male and 50 per female, from different cultural backgrounds and “everyone brings something interesting to the table.”

Together with Kyle, her husband and business partner, they co-founded the brewery in 2012 as a way to educate the community in proper brewing of a great beer. Kyle is the head brewer and helps to balance both the family and the business. Today they produce up to eight flag ship beers and multiple seasonal beers that are marketed across Ontario and Manitoba with plans in the works to expand further west.

One of these seasonal beers is their second-year production of Love Equals Love, a Raspberry Sour beer that they produced in support of the Rainbow Collective and their gender diversity workshop which Mulligan’s staff participated in.

As a female business leader, Mulligan says there are still barriers where people are surprised that she is the business owner who runs the operation.

“Sometimes people still refer to me as ‘the wife,’ but it’s continuing to educate people that women can bring something to the table — and sit at the table,” she said.

“I have built my confidence as a leader and made sure that I can make those hard decisions, stand by them and be accountable.”

Mulligan added that she is fortunate in a male-dominated industry that she hasn’t encountered a lot of hurdles that she hasn’t been able to overcome, and again credits her husband-business partner and her team.

“You are only as strong as your weakest link — and we have no weak links,” she said.

This year there were more than 420 submissions for the 2021 CANIE Awards which celebrate business leaders across the country for their impressive journeys and achievements that contribute to the country’s entrepreneurial landscape.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal

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