Surfboards, Real Estate, and Tequila: Living the Dream on the Beaches of Lake Michigan

Straight chillin’ on the beaches of Lake Michigan . . . what could be better on a summer’s day? We caught up with Bennett McNeil, the founder of two very different companies that serve the locals and tourists of some lakeside Michigan communities. Our main investigation was to see if Ben was working hard, or hardly working! Let’s dive in. Here is our review of the interview:

BJM Drums

  1.  So you own a retail store by the name of Wet Mitten Surf Shop?

“Yes. My brother John and I own Wet Mitten Surf Shop together.  Wet Mitten has two retail locations, both on the shores of Lake Michigan. We sell stand up paddle boards, surf boards, skate boards, accessories, and a lot of gear with our own logo on it which is very popular with both locals and tourists.”

  1. If you were to give some advice to someone opening up a brick-and-mortar retail shop, what would it be? 
  • Answer the tough questions. Viability and longevity.
  • Have an exit strategy.
  • Be prepared for the “retail burn out”.
  • Never underestimate operating expenses.
  • Create new revenue streams.
  • Save for a rainy day.
  • It is true that the customer is always right, unless of course they’re being completely ridiculous.
  1. What were the 2014 revenues for Wet Mitten Surf Shop?

Ben couldn’t say exactly . . . but with a bit of reading between the lines, I think it’s safe to say that the Wet Mitten is moving over a half a million dollars worth of product each year. Not bad for a surf shop on a lake. Hang ten brother!

  1. We hear that you’re into music. What is your favorite song?

“This is the most serious question I’ve ever been asked . . . ”

  • On a mellow day – “Helpless” by Neil Young (live version)
  • On a sunny day – “Ants Marching” by Dave Matthews Band (also live)
  1. Looks like we hit a nerve with live music, so now we must ask . . . favorite concert? 

“The Allman Brothers will melt your face off on a good night . . . and I don’t want to hear any elitist bullsh*t about how they’re not the real Allman Brothers anymore without Duane or Dickey. Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes are two of the best guitar players out there, and they hold it down just fine!” Author comment: *Ben was getting fired up here. It was awesome.

  1. So once the waves die down, and the music stops . . . you’re into real estate as well? What does a typical day look like?

“Yes. My brother Cam and I launched our brokerage Freshwater Realty in February of 2014, and after completing some startup requirements, we closed on our first deal in late spring. Rounding off our first year, we brokered $1.5M in transactions. Riding that initial momentum into 2015, we are looking at closing on $3.0M to $5.0M in deals.  As far as real estate is concerned, there doesn’t exist a “typical” day; rather, if you commit to always holding the client as the #1 priority, you will do just fine.” Author comment: *we tend to agree that the person giving you money is always the most important 🙂

  1. And finally, at the end of a long day . . . what is your favorite alcoholic drink?

“Tequila and soda (with a lime, of course). Thanks to my good friends at StarterNoise for turning me on to that one.”

  1. Do you personally invest in real estate as long term rentals? Vacation rentals? Fix and flips? What would you advice be for someone getting into the game?

Let me sum up Ben’s advice on investing: Do you homework. Then do it again. If it feels too good to be true, then it probably is. Author comment: *A true follower of the KISS rule.

  1. Do you have a quote or a life motto that you live by?

Didn’t I just say that Ben follows the Keep ISimple Stupid rule? I wasn’t surprised to hear his (current) life motto: “It’s not f**king rocket science!”


*From StarterNoise

  1. Do you want to know something else that isn’t f**king rocket science? 

Using Twitter. We will lay it out for you in 3 simple steps:

  1. Follow @StarterNoise
  2. Tweet your current life motto to @StarterNoise and use #MyLifeMotto
  3. Check back to see if you’re the winner – @StarterNoise will retweet the best submission!
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