Eden Prairie-based Man Cave Worldwide, known for staging Mary Kay-style home grilling parties for men, is rapidly evolving, expanding into grocery store and restaurant sales and exploring growth options including a possible Man Cave-themed sports bar.

Nick Beste, a University of Minnesota student when he launched the company in 2008, said the goal is to build Man Cave into an iconic brand with an expanding array of products for guys, where home parties are just one of many sales channels.

“All along we thought the opportunity was so much bigger than home ­parties,” said Beste, now 27 and Man Cave’s self-styled “chief meat officer.” “Just like Disney is the brand for kids and Victoria’s Secret is the brand for women, we want to be the brand for men.”

Grocery store sales of Man Cave brats, which began roughly a month ago at Lunds and Byerly’s locations, have expanded to 130 stores and counting, Beste said. A three-month test of Man Cave-branded menu items, including foot-long brats and a half-pound hamburger, just ended at Joe Senser’s Sports Theater locations. Beste is looking to line up another establishment for the next trial run, with an eye toward a licensing deal for a Man Cave restaurant within the next three years.

Man Cave home parties, meanwhile, continue going strong, with 1,700 “guides” serving as party hosts, Beste said. Man Cave offers meat products, grilling tools and barware through the parties and online sales, in addition to its retail meat sales. The company, which has seven employees, is projecting revenue of more than $3 million next year as retail accounts continue to grow, according to Beste.

Adviser, investor

Beste’s passion for the brand and its growth potential this year landed him first an adviser and then an investor in Carl Schroeder, of the Schroeder Milk family. Schroeder’s 30 years of food and beverage industry experience proved valuable through the spring and summer as Beste looked to expand into retail sales. (Schroeder Co. was sold to Canadian dairy leader Agropur in 2008).

Schroeder and his wife, Kristin, made the unspecified investment in August, and he recently began spending three days a week at company’s headquarters.

“Nick is very energetic, very personable, very creative and very dynamic, especially around the Man Cave concept,” Carl Schroeder said. “I describe Man Cave as standing at a river that’s a mile wide because there are so many opportunities for products that it would become a part of.”

Schroeder said he sees the potential to build a national presence for Man Cave’s non-meat products and over the next year to establish a strong regional market for Man Cave’s brats and steaks.

Managing rapid retail growth is one challenge he hopes to help the company address, said Schroeder, who described his primary contribution as bringing focus to Man Cave, along with his background in managing people, budgets and operations.

“Our philosophy is, we exist to serve the customer,” Schroe­der said. “All of our activities and focus need to be on how do we satisfy the customer.”

Carl Schroeder was looking for a company to invest in, and where he could share his knowledge and be an active shareholder, when he was introduced to Beste by John Stavig, director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the U’s Carlson School of Management. Man Cave is a frequently cited example of a student business launched in entrepreneurship classes at the U, where Beste is an occasional speaker.

“It’s great to see successful businesspeople give back and help out young entrepreneurs,” Stavig said. “It’s been a great fit and they bring a lot of valuable experience to help him out.”

Broader connection

Man Cave stands out in part, Stavig said, because it connects to a broader male demographic, more middle-aged and middle- to upper-income, than those targeting younger, more-affluent hipsters or urban dwellers.

“Nick’s always had a pretty big vision for where he wants to take this,” Stavig said. “If he can position it with the right products, it could be very interesting. It has a lot of potential and I know Nick’s looking at some longer-term opportunities around product licensing that could be pretty exciting.”

Scott Kersting, director of meat and seafood at Lunds and Byerly’s, a family-owned group of 21 grocery stores in the Twin Cities, said he had been “very pleased with early customer response” to Man Cave’s four brats, including two mini-brat varieties.

“We are always looking to offer our customers products with delicious, differentiated flavors, and Man Cave brats deliver on both fronts,” he said.


Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is todd_nelson@mac.com.