From overcoming adversity to being an entrepreneur
Mike Reed is venturing beyond pre-law studies and the crease at Germain Arena, where he’s one of Florida Gulf Coast University’s starting goalies. Recently, Reed has launched his own company, American Barrels Bourbon Whiskey.
“I’ve been working on it since I was a freshman at Indiana,” Reed said. “It’s a young bourbon. Bourbons are traditionally marketed based on age. Over the last five years or so, there’s been a big upswing in bourbon for consumption in America and exports.”
With the increase in demand, younger bourbons are making their way onto the market. Reed has made it his mission to grow his business and be one of the most successful new bourbons on the market as “a beautiful blend of American tradition and American pioneering, welcome to the new age of bourbon.”
“I do everything,” Reed said. “I’m the CDO for the company. I promote it, coordinate the events, arrange the advertising and handle social media. I don’t do the website. I don’t do the books. I have a distributor, and I’m working to get a big time distributor to pick it up.”
Right now, American Barrels can be found at some local spots such as Cigar Bar. Reed has had a long road getting to where he needs to be with his company and with hockey.
Born in Memphis, Reed began playing hockey in Carmel, Ind. He didn’t start out as a goalie. He definitely worked his way up to being the goalie that helped FGCU get the runner up spot in the 2014 ACHA National Championships.
“I played forward,” Reed said. “When I was younger, I played both ice and roller hockey. We had a roller tournament, and our goalie got sick before the championship game. Someone had to put on his pads, or we had to forfeit. I said I’d put on the pads, and we got lit up. But it was fun so I started playing goalie on ice and was naturally good at it. People kept picking me on teams as a goalie so I was kind of guided into it.”
This year Reed has two shutouts in FGCU’s undefeated (15-0) season. Reed knows that falling into the goalie position is where he belongs in hockey. But he said it wasn’t always an easy road. At 5-foot-9, Reed isn’t what most people think of as a typical hockey goalie.
“I was patronized growing up,” Reed said. “I always had people telling me I was too small. I would have to prove them wrong. My assets have always been that I’m acrobatic and quick. Teams hated playing against that.”
Reed played hockey throughout his younger years with junior teams, including the Panthers, where he played with teammate Dan Echeverri and former teammate Lee Khan. He also played with the Junior Everblades. Growing up playing hockey wasn’t easy, either.
“I played for the Everblades from Mites until Peewees,” Reed said. “Most of those years were good, but I had one year that was rough. Hockey has a lot of politics. There are often parents on the board, and the kids get special treatment with the teams. My parents were the complete opposite. Unfortunately, it was taken out on me. So punish the parents by punishing the player. So that was my bad year. But I know that I grew up playing hockey with integrity. If I could go back and do it all again, would I do it differently? Never.”
Reed went to a couple of different prep schools and eventually to Indiana University. He said that he takes hockey seriously, and it’s fun for him when the team treats it as seriously as he does. This wasn’t the case at IU.
“I went there to play ACHA DI hockey and attend the business school,” Reed said. “When I got there, it wasn’t what I expected. It was a fun two years, but it’s two years that I wish I could have done differently.”
Reed decided to come to FGCU to play hockey before he had even met with coaches. His family is in Fort Myers, and he considers Germain his home after playing there when he was growing up. Reed isn’t a big fan of school. He doesn’t want to go to law school. He said he’s an entrepreneur. American Barrels Bourbon is the first step he’s taking in making all of his ideas come to life.
“I’m creative and can manage to make my own destiny without school if I want to,” Reed said.
As a great a player as he is, Reed doesn’t think that hockey is his calling in life, either. He knows the difference between kids who play hockey and kids who are hockey players.
“I’m not the former” Reed said. “I would love to play pro hockey. Going to Europe, ECHL or AHL, any of those options would be ideal. But it’s delaying life. Eventually, I’ll need a career. I love hockey, but hockey doesn’t love me. I’m smart enough to fold my cards and walk away before I lose my money.”
Right now, Reed is enjoying playing at the college level while he begins to venture into the tough world of trying to launch his own business in a struggling economy.
“I love the guys,” Reed said. “Everything I do, I do with them. We’re all ‘for the boys.’ We play all weekend, practice together all the time, go to the beach together and I couldn’t be happier for my friends who are hugely successful in the sport. Eche [Dan Echeverri] reached the 200-point mark the other weekend. That’s a huge milestone.”
Reed knows that his life is here now. He’s managing to handle his class schedule, play the sport he loves, enjoy his friends and become a successful business owner.