By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
As a middle schooler growing up in Norman, Blaine Stansel dreamed of some day running his own business. He wanted to be an entrepreneur.
But, his first job after graduation with an undergraduate degree in management at the University of Oklahoma wasn’t running a startup. Instead, he stepped into the world of retail.
“I loathed it,” Stansel said.
So, he went back to college to pursue an MBA and focus on a new path. He chose a concentration in finance, but found himself drawn once again to the startup world.
“I took a course in entrepreneurship and I fell in love with it,” he said. “I ended up doing a double concentration, one in finance and one in entrepreneurship.”
Entrepreneurs are risk takers who look for market opportunities as they start and build businesses.
Stansel took his first steps down the entrepreneur’s path when he teamed with OU classmate Pauline Sein to write and pitch a business plan in the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup.
The pair won the Graduate Division of the 2008 competition with a business plan written around technology that greatly reduces the number of injections diabetics are required to take daily.
Stansel thanks the Governor’s Cup experience for the career doors that opened after graduation, including the one that led to his role over the past five years as director of finance for Oklahoma City-based Charlesson LLC.
And the experience inspired him to start his own business, a craft beer brewery called Roughtail Brewing Co.
“Really, without the Governor’s Cup, I wouldn’t have had the connections I had to get the job at Charlesson,” he said. “And without the Governor’s Cup, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to develop the skills needed to write an effective business plan and probably wouldn’t have the confidence needed to start a business.”
Stansel was hired for the finance position at Charlesson by then-CEO Mike Moradi, who also connected him to the technology for which his team wrote the winning business plan.
Charlesson is working to advance vision-related diabetic therapeutics, and also operates a thriving contract research subsidiary called EyeCRO LLC.
Meanwhile, Stansel had been brewing his own beers since college and then sharing them with like-minded beer enthusiasts in a home brew club called Red Earth Brewers. There he met Tony Tielli, who co-founded Roughtail Brewery with Stansel and is the company’s brewmaster.
Stansel handles the business end of the brewery, which the pair founded in 2012. Rough tail operates a 10-barrel capacity brewery in Midwest City.
Roughtail brews beers like Roughtail IPA, Red Republic and Polar Night Stout that are growing in popularity among Oklahoma craft beer fans. It also recently launched a new line of 3.2 percent alcohol by weight beer.
Roughtail will bring some of its seasonal beers to the Oklahoma Bioscience Association’s BrewFest on Thursday at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. BrewFest participants can sample Roughtail’s Pumpkin Latte Stout, which contains vanilla bean, coffee, and pumpkin spice, along with beers and spirits offered by 15 other breweries, brewing clubs, distillers and wineries.
For Stansel, pouring beer brewed by his own company is the culmination of an entrepreneurial dream that began years ago.
“I’ve actually wanted to be an entrepreneur since the seventh grade,” he said. “I lost a lot of that spark prior to my MBA, and the MBA classes and Governor’s Cup really ignited that spark again for me.”
Jim Stafford writes about the state’s life sciences industry on behalf of the Oklahoma Bioscience Association.