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Nick Beste is a year out of UM graduate school and has started his own company called Man Cave which offers products oriented to male sales. His company throws product parties at home designed similar in nature to Tupperware parties. John Larkey, Man Cave sales and marketing director, displayed a variety of products at a backyard party in Waconia.

Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

Nick Beste is a year out of UM graduate school and has started his own company called Man Cave which offers products oriented to male sales. Men associated with Man Cave got together for a beer during the back yard barbeque. From left, Dave Williams who recently hosted a Man Cave party in his home, Nick Beste, president of Man Cave, and Doug Stewart, Man Cave sales representative.

Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

Nick Beste is a year out of UM graduate school and has started his own company called Man Cave which offers products oriented to male sales. Beste shows off some of his company's products, including a beer-holding glove and a giant grill tool.

Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

Grilling up growth

  • Article by: TODD NELSON
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • July 17, 2011 - 8:32 PM

Barely a year out of college, Nick Beste already has topped $1 million in sales with his pioneering company, Man Cave Worldwide, which stages Mary Kay-style home parties for men.

The parties -- known as "meat-ings" -- have proved popular thanks to a seemingly irresistible combo platter of free grilled meat, free beer and free satellite TV pay-per-views for the hosts and their guests. Sales advisers who stage the gatherings -- Man Cave has some 1,300 in 48 states -- earn commissions on steaks, brats and grilling accessories sold at the events.

Man Cave appears to be succeeding in part because of another sort of meeting -- Beste's phone calls and get-togethers with a newly formed board of advisers as well as unofficial mentors impressed with his vision, including Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens.

With their input, Beste has refined the Man Cave business model in the past six months. The result is a company that is both "extremely scalable and extremely efficient," Beste said, now that it has outsourced a number of functions. Those include order fulfillment, most website operations and customer service.

Man Cave, which once had 14 employees and a 15,000-square-foot warehouse, operates almost virtually today, with four employees and a small headquarters office in Eden Prairie. Beste has negotiated deals with Leinenkugel's, DirecTV and other vendors to provide free brew and meat and satellite TV at each gathering.

"Now we're just a sales and marketing company," said Beste, 24. "We're really excited to just be able to focus on branding Man Cave well and building the sales and marketing side of the business. Now we're investing in growth.''

Beste has raised more than $800,000 in recent months and plans to seek additional investments. He's is concentrating on building Man Cave through social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn and online marketing.

There are no upfront costs for new advisers, who can earn up to a 25 percent commission on the sales they generate. They do not buy inventory; Man Cave stocks the products and ships them directly to customers. Men looking for second jobs to augment their incomes have found Man Cave's direct sales, home-based business model attractive.

They include the adviser duo of Greg Holst and Pete Keiner, who have recruited 200 advisers to their team. And those recruits have in turn have recruited hundreds more, Holst said.

"This is an opportunity to pick up a couple hundred bucks a month [or] a couple thousand bucks a month doing something you enjoy doing, getting together with some guys," Holst said. "I can tell these guys I've done it, I can teach you how to do it, you just have to go out and do it."

Delivering fun

Beste started Man Cave in 2008 with a partner he has since bought out, while both were students at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. Beste graduated last year with a bachelor's of science degree in entrepreneurship. He also still operates the Beste Co., which distributes North Dakota-made Village Hot Sauce to Twin Cities grocery stores, generating sales of about $200,000 a year.

Geek Squad's Stephens said he thought Man Cave was such a great concept that he has been encouraging Beste to expand beyond beer and bratwurst.

Building the business will depend primarily on attracting advisers who live the Man Cave brand and deliver fun, interesting experiences, Stephens said.

"The idea is so good there's no excuse not to succeed," said Stephens, who also was in college when he started Geek Squad. "It's just a question of how it will succeed. That will ultimately be on Nick's shoulders."

John Stavig, director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, taught Beste as he started Man Cave as a student and now serves as a mentor and a member of Man Cave's advisory board.

"He's starting to develop a very powerful brand. He's gone from initially having an interesting idea to now having a lot more professionally run business," Stavig said. "Eventually, whether it's this idea or another, I think he's going to be very successful."

The expert says: Stavig, the director of the U's entrepreneurship center, said other entrepreneurs could learn a few things from his former student.

One is Beste's willingness to reach out for advice and assistance, Stavig said. Beste, for example, arranged individual meetings with almost every speaker the school brought in, to get feedback on his business ideas.

"He's much more focused on getting things done than proving that he was right, which is pretty mature for his age," Stavig said. "I know a lot of people twice his age who struggle with that."

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

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