Meet Mike Schwandt — Happy(our): Evolution Panelist

By Youa | October 2018



Mike Schwandt can be described as a jack of all trades, master of none — at least from the outside looking into his life, but the Creative Visionary at Bauhaus Brew Labs, one of the largest breweries in Northeast Minneapolis, says it took a lot of failing to get where he is today.

Mid-2000s found Schwandt chugging along as the lead singer of his band White Light Riot. The band found some national and international notoriety when Britpop was cycling back as the “it” sound in 2006, but ran into some legal troubles with their record label. After breaking free from their label, the quintet made one last go with their independent self-titled album in 2011 before calling it quits.

This left a lot of things up in the air, and it wasn’t until Schwandt’s older brother asked for help with his growing brewery did Mike plunge headlong into this new venture.

On Thursday, October 25, he, along with panelists Marianne Combs, Alexei Moon Casselle, and Daniel Corrigan, will share their knowledge on evolution in careers at our Happy(our) Evolution.

Find out more and purchase tickets to Happy(our) Evolution here. 

ArcStone: Are you at Bauhaus today?

Mike Schwandt: I don’t actually work there. It’s more of a bigger picture type of thing, and we meet every few weeks. I help guide creative direction.

ArcStone: What’s your official role at Bauhaus?

Mike Schwandt: The way we described it is creative visionary. I spent a lot more time at the beginning creating social content, guiding the overall marketing, campaigning, and branding. Now as we’ve grown, and we have a team in place, my wife and I decided one of us had to go full time, we said it would be best if we had flexibility with the kids.

ArcStone: How much time do you spend on your cover band Viva Knievel?

Mike Schwandt: We play twice a month. If you play too much, now you’re a working cover band.

ArcStone: You had some success with your original music in White Light Riot. Why did you decide to distance yourself from that project?

Mike Schwandt: The bottom line was I needed to pay bills, but I can’t let go of music. It’s too ingrained in my mind, my soul, everything. I can’t stop performing. I’d feel empty and unfulfilled. Viva Knievel started at my wedding, because I didn’t want to hire a band. We had so much fun, we thought we should do this again. I put out an album a couple of years ago under the name Blue Blazer. That’s more for fun. I still like to write music. It’s just amongst all other things, I need to find the time.

ArcStone: How would you define yourself? Musician, Marketer, Writer?

Mike Schwandt: I’m one of those people that’s a jack of all trades, master of none. I enjoy so many facets of creating. Creating language, brand identity, content, writing, composing music, and performance. I pride myself in being a creator of many things.

ArcStone: You have two children. How has fatherhood changed how you approach things?

Mike Schwandt: It made me realize how much more present I need to be in general. I used to always be looking for the next thing. With kids, I need to be much more present in a situation. Mostly it’s forced me to think about priorities.

It’s tough to balance, because the selfish and creative side of me still wants to do things, but I’ve found I can find a way to do that with the kids and with my family. That’s been fun.

ArcStone: Did you ever think Bauhaus would be as successful as it is?

Mike Schwandt: It’s the first time anything has worked out, so it’s been beyond our expectations. There’s been multiple things we’ve attempted in the past that we thought would be bigger, but we never put the work in. We expected things to just happen — which is not at all how you should live your life. That was a big lesson. If you’re not working hard, then you’re not even gonna get the opportunity [to succeed].

This is the first time we were “all in.” It was mainly my older brother and his wife who started it, but they were like, “We can’t do this alone.” That’s when my wife, younger brother, and I came into it. That’s when we were all like, “Alright, we’re all in.”

We spent two years doing the creation of the business plan, setting up the equity, raising the funding, finding the building, doing all of the stuff. Once you open, now the actual work begins. It’s been crazy, and we’ve only gotten better at it. It’s been a crazy whirlwind, and it’s hard to see how big it is, because you’re in it everyday. I have the luxury of being a little bit more on the outside. I am grateful that we’ve had this much success thus far.

ArcStone: Do you feel you had to encounter all of those failures to make this work?

Mike Schwandt: Oh, yeah, without a doubt. The amount of failures thus far we’ve had to overcome has been insane. There’s issues that people don’t know that we came across. You never know any of the issues — things like falling behind schedule and pissing off your customers.

There’s a lot of failing to a better process and a better understanding of your business.

ArcStone: Well, it can look successful on paper and social media.

Mike Schwandt: That’s the thing. People always say, “You guys are doing great!” But then I just had a meeting with folks, and there’s screaming over an issue.

ArcStone: Of all of the things that you’ve done, what are you most proud of?

Mike Schwandt: This would sound like the most cliche thing, but my kids more than anything else. It’s one of those things that every tells you before you have kids, and you’re like, “Really? It sounds so cliche.” But oh, my god it’s all true. Bringing life into the world — that’s the most prideful thing, but I would say second to that is the amount of work that has gone into Bauhaus.

This is the only time ever in my life that I have put in as much work, and we still haven’t paid each other out as owners. I’m not on salary, so it’s a labor of love. I’ve never gotten sick of it or questioned the amount of work I’ve put in. That’s a huge amount of pride for me. We built this, and it’s not about money, it’s not about your job. It’s just about making something and seeing it succeed.

Topics: Who is ArcStone?, Digital, Happy(our)


What is the arc of your evolution?

Our panelists will discuss the challenges that come with the pressure to evolve and what the lessons they’ve learned along their paths. Find out how to embody change in your own career and artistic endeavors.