Giovanna Minenna, a former Business Administration student at Red River College, certainly knows a thing or two about raising eyebrows in Manitoba.
And the local entrepreneur — owner of boutique chain Brows by G — caught the eye of millions more people this week, when she and her husband and business partner, Scott Russell, entered TV’s notorious Dragons’ Den to make a pitch to some of Canada’s toughest and best-known investors.
The duo flew to Toronto late last year, but only recently announced to local media that they’d faced the infamous Dragons, leaving friends and clients anxiously awaiting the air date of last night’s episode.
During Minenna’s on-air pitch, the brow queen shared stories of her success here in Winnipeg, and asked for $400,000 for 16 per cent of her company in order to continue expanding across the country.
Her solid business plan and pitch prompted three of six Dragons to shoot fiery deals her way.
Jim Treliving, chairman and owner of Boston Pizza International, offered $400,000 for 20 per cent of the company, with an eye on helping the duo franchise. Manjit Minhaus, co-founder of Minhas Breweries, Distillery and Wineries, offered the same amount to help grow their cosmetic product line across the globe. Finally, renowned venture capitalist Arlene Dickinson matched her fellow Dragons’ offers, but with an added promise to build more corporate stores.
In the end, Dickinson tweezed out a successful deal.
But long before she was making pitches on TV, Minenna was shaping her career path right here at Red River College.
She says she started her educational journey like many her age — unsure of what she wanted to study or do for a living. She enrolled in university classes, but it wasn’t long before she realized she needed a career that sparked her creativity.
“I was encouraged to go to university, but I soon realized I was just going through the motions,” says Minenna. “Makeup artistry always really spoke to me as a way I could fuel my passion for being creative, while also helping others feel good about themselves.”
She packed her bags and headed to Toronto to study make-up, working in the film industry for a few years. Eventually, the long hours spent on sets — not to mention the time away from family — caught up to her, and she decided to return home.
“I wanted to go back to school and pursue a career in business, so I enrolled at Red River College because I knew it would be the kind of practical, hands-on learning style that I excel in,” says Minenna.
“I wanted to be a person, not a number, and that’s exactly what I loved so much about the College. I always really appreciated how much the instructors care about you and your education. They all come from industry with years of experience, and they want you to succeed.”
While at RRC, Minenna needed to generate revenue to support herself, so she began working from home, offering services in what she describes as an “untapped market.” Midway through her second year at RRC, she was faced with a difficult decision.
“My business completely took off, so I had to make the really tough decision to decide between finishing my final year of studies, or to take the plunge and launch Brows by G full-time. I felt my experience at Red River prepared me with the skills that I needed to take that important first step,” she recalls.
“I knew I could always come back and finish, and one day I hope to, because I’d love to get that piece of paper.”
Less than four years after Minenna struck out on her own, Brows by G is an industry leader, with two brow-bar locations in Winnipeg and a staff of 25 full-time brow specialists who offer a wide range of services including microblading, micropigmentation, and brow-styling services, training, and cosmetic products.
Minenna’s leadership, innovation and tenacity have been recognized within the local business community, and last year she was named the winner of the Women Business Owners of Manitoba’s Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Her achievements have also been noticed on the national level, with Brows by G being named a 2018 Growth Accelerator Winner by Futurpreneur Canada.
Minenna’s advice to those who are unsure of what they want to do, or where to start?
“Taking a business or communications course is always a step in the right direction, and the skills you will learn will help you grow and will be useful no matter which path you choose,” she says.
“The other important thing to keep in mind is to trust yourself and trust the people you work with, because you won’t be able to do it without them. Surround yourself with good people and don’t give up on your passion.”