My name is Dan Beck. I am a twenty-something entrepreneur. My biggest goal in life is to be an original. The drive to be an entrepreneur started at a young age for me.
THE EARLY DAYS
When I was 16, I co-founded a non-profit organization called the Ladysmith Skatepark Coalition. We were frustrated with how our skatepark was run down and the city wouldn’t step in to take any action.
So, we took the matter in to our own hands and this is where my entrepreneurial drive was fostered. We worked closely with the local government and managed to raise over $30,000 through fundraisers, events, grants, and donations. We took the $30k and purchased equipment from a skatepark that closed down in Minnesota that was worth about $75,000. This venture really taught me the rewards of hard work and perseverance. Ultimately, it was the beginning of understanding that everything in the world was created by people no smarter than me.
OFF TO COLLEGE
I moved to Eau Claire in 2012 to attend the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire to study business management and entrepreneurship. Again, frustrated that the only entrepreneurship club on campus no longer met, I decided to re-open the Eau Claire chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO). I had a simple vision for the club. I wanted to hear from actual area business owners, intertwine with likeminded peers, and actually start a student ran business. We developed what was launched as the Blugold Roast – a student ran coffee business.
Growing up as a skateboarder, I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to live in California for the rest of my life. Luckily for me, UW-Eau Claire offered the opportunity to study at another university for up to a year – so that’s just what I did. I packed my bags and headed for California State University at San Bernardino to be in their entrepreneur program and fulfill my lifelong dream of living in California.
Although I was surrounded by students actually running businesses at one of the best schools within the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship.. I quickly realized California was an awesome place to visit, but it was not somewhere I wanted to live long term. So, I returned back to Eau Claire to finish out my degree (no I didn’t drop-out like Steve Jobs).
Unlike the common narrative of entrepreneurs who “sold door to door since I was 5 years old” and “struggled in school because it wasn’t for me”…I actually found school relatively easy. I graduated. Magna Cum Laude from with a degree in Entrepreneurship, earning Deans Lists and awards the entire way..
While I was finishing up my degree, I was working on a number of business ideas. I filled the void of skateboarding with working out. I fell in love with bodybuilding late in high school and it carried with me throughout my college days. Naturally, I wanted to run a business around health and fitness. I had two unsuccessful attempts: a supplement company (selling pre-workout in baggies to kids in the dorms – doomed from the start, although I did accurately predict the supplement industry moving towards customer demand for label transparency) and an athletic apparel company. While both businesses could have had successes, I didn’t see traction quick enough to really stick through them.
That’s when my roommate, Gunner, challenged me to start a meal prep company one day when I was cooking my meals for the week. I said “okay” immediately. The seed was already planted for a meal prep company, because when I lived in California I witnessed the success of local companies and went in to the stores.
In 2016 with money I had saved up from working summers through college and at the Menards Distribution center, I formed my first official LLC called Midwest Meals and began renting kitchen space to see if I could get some proof of concept. The first week, I sold something like 30 meals.
Week after week, I kept after it and slowly numbers began picking up. Pretty soon, each week I was selling hundreds of meals and quickly outgrowing the shared commercial kitchen I was renting. Plus, I was renting during weekend nights when no one else needed the kitchen and occasionally the elevator would break down (the kitchen was on the third floor) and I would have to carry raw product up and cooked meals down.
I don’t know when, but at some point I started to really believe in the upside of the business. I knew if I wanted to continue to grow, I needed my own facility. I searched online to see if anything was available to rent, but there was nothing in the area. So, I decided to build.
I managed to borrow $80,000 to put toward building out my own commercial kitchen and cash flowed the rest. This was one of the darkest periods of my life. I was officially diagnosed with depression from my doctor and put on antidepressants (which saved my life). On top of that, the stress from paying for the buildout and the success of the business after we launched was playing a HUGE toll on my health. But, after HUNDREDS of hours spend working on the buildout..I was ready to launch.
In 2018 when my brand new facility opened up, I had only two employees – both of which were on kitchen staff. That meant that I had to be at the storefront for 40 hours a week for our grab-and-go coolers, still find the time to RUN the business, and spend all weekend cooking. But, if nothing else, I learned GRIT. I began slowly hiring as the numbers grew for the business..
Now, the team fluctuates from 10-15 dedicated kitchen team employees and we make thousands and thousands of meals each week. But, I am not one for complacency. I began thinking what’s next..
In the back of my mind, I wanted to build Midwest Meals into a franchise company. But, I knew that was going to take a lot of TIME. I began building the systems in place that would someday allow that to happen. So, naturally, I started looking at what location 2 might look like. But, then something happened. I met my business partner, Eric Wolfe, who grew the Erbert & Gerbert brand to over 100 location. To my surprise, he was looking for businesses to help build in to a franchise model.
Nutriprep is the nationwide franchise based on the Midwest Meals model, in which I am the CEO. Our goal is to have 100 locations throughout the nation.
What’s next? I have my hands pretty full building Nutriprep to the scale I want to see it at. But, stay tuned…