The spirit of adventure

Contact: Zack Zagula
Jon Good stands outside with a tree in the background.

WMU alumnus Jon Good, founder of Green Door Distilling Co.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—This week's Broncos Building Businesses entrepreneurship story highlights Jon Good, co-founder of Green Door Distilling Co. Good graduated from Western Michigan University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering, and then went on to earn a master's degree in engineering management in 2015, also from WMU. Good's partner, co-founder Josh Cook, also graduated from WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

In his interview, Good reflects on his time at WMU, discusses how he successfully built an award-winning grain-to-glass distillery and offers advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.

How would you describe your company?

Green Door was founded out of a love for adventures and new experiences. We are an award-winning grain-to-glass distillery located in Kalamazoo's River's Edge District. We are proud to be Kalamazoo's first distillery and represent the rich distilling history that Kalamazoo possessed in the 1800s. We make spirits with a no-nonsense mentality and focus on unique and specialty spirits.

We feel moments and adventures in life are better with friends and craft spirits. To us, there's nothing better than enjoying a round of golf, a bonfire, or just laying by the pool with a quality spirit.

How did Green Door Distilling Co. come to fruition?

We followed the typical path of going to college, getting a degree, and finding a "good job." After seven years of education, a bachelor's and master's degree in engineering, and four years of experience in the field, we could see the end of the path. The daily routine was going to be the same for the next 30 years. Even worse, the spark and love for what we do for a living was reduced to a smoldering ember. In short, you can say GDDC was the product of a love for dynamism and new adventures with a little corporate world rejection rolled in. We take this mindset and apply it in everything we do.

What sets Green Door Distilling Co. apart from other spirit or distilling companies?

Adventure. The definition of adventure is up to you—and that's the beauty of it. Each adventure is defined by the people (or spirits) involved. We hope our spirits make the perfect companion on your next adventure! If you don't know where to start, we make it easy for you. Buy a bottle of our spirits and take a closer look at the top-right corner of our logo. You'll find coordinates that lead you to a specific location. Once you arrive at these locations, you'll see why we chose them; they're the perfect spot to enjoy a craft spirit and unplug from the world. Take the time to listen to the environment and take in the views.

What was the most valuable part of your experience at WMU?

My graduate program. The MEM program drew connections between the topics I learned in my bachelor's program and their application in business or negotiations. You could say my bachelor's program taught me the information and my master's program taught me how to package that information and apply it to a variety of situations.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Embrace the struggle! Entrepreneurship is not sitting in a coffee shop on your laptop sipping coffee and doing emails. Entrepreneurship is a competitive, demanding, dirty and inglorious lifestyle. It's in your best interest to understand that before you can live the life of an entrepreneur, you must become one. And becoming an entrepreneur is the most difficult part.

If you don't have an overwhelming desire and love for something, don't become an entrepreneur. Your love is like a savings account; it's what keeps you going when things go wrong and you question your actions. Without it, you'll ultimately stop your venture or sacrifice far too much for it. Entrepreneurship is an amazing thing. It will give you the freedom, joy, fulfillment and autonomy that a lot of people desire; however, all of these emotions come after years of struggle and typically when your journey is nearing its end. If you don't embrace and enjoy the tough times, you'll be your own opposition.