Matt Swift describes himself with a "Let's go!" attitude. He says you must think bigger and differently, because you can't go big by thinking small. His ambition and work ethic, specifically in the restaurant business, are why he is being recognized as the 2019 Young Entrepreneur.
Growing up in Coralville, Matt started in the restaurant business during junior high working for his mother, Faye, at Sluggers in Coralville. He moved up from doing dishes and bussing tables to cooking, waiting tables and eventually taking over management of Sluggers in his early 20s. With the help of Faye and partners, he opened his first restaurant, Blackstone, 2007 in Iowa City. Today, he has 10 restaurants throughout Linn and Johnson counties.
Sluggers flooded in 2008, leading Matt and his mother, to purchase what was known as Rookies in North Liberty and they turned it into Reds Alehouse. When the restaurant opened, they were serving eighteen beers, and their beer sales rep told Matt that was too many. At the time the craft beer explosion was just hitting Iowa. Reds Alehouse was a leader during this time. As the craft beer market has changed, so has Reds. Today, they have over twenty-eight beers on tap.
With the goal of crafting his own beer, they pursued attaching a brewery to Reds but ultimately found it was not a good fit, so they began to investigate other options. Matt had purchased brewery equipment from Colorado and two years later they launched a brewery restaurant in Solon, creating the popular Big Grove Brewery. Matt has continued to open unique successful restaurant in the last four years including 30Hop, Pullman, Mosley's, and St. Burch Tavern. Scott Wilson credits a key part of Matt's success as "Always going into a venture with a quality general manager in place." Matt strongly believes that solid and aligned partnerships and giving opportunity for employees to become owners is the key to success.
Matt has had several mentors and business partners throughout the years who he credits with helping him succeed. Yet his mom, who is still involved in the restaurant business with him, remains his greatest mentor. " My mom is talented, driven, relentless and on point of her goals. She taught me that not preparing is preparing to fail," Matt said.
Matt and his group of partners carefully design each of the restaurants to be unique and of high quality. Matt wants everyone to win" said Leighton Smith, he is a "leader of leaders and draws strong people to him. To directly experience the genius of Matt you need to experience his creations." "Generous hospitality, fulfilling expectations and a focus on experience are equally important," Matt said. In his technology-driven world, Matt hopes to create a sense of community in his establishments - places where people put down their phones and enjoy the company. With approximately 730 employees, Matt says they are the key to making his businesses work. He cares about each staff member and works hard to provide a healthy, engaged, and happy work culture.
Outside of the restaurant business, Matt has also diversified into real estate, with developments in the Iowa City area and throughout the Corridor. He served on the board of the North Liberty Community Food Pantry, helped launch the Hawkeye Chapter of 100 Plus Men Who Care and created the Big Grove for Good charitable program. He and his wife, Cayla, have two children, Gabriella and Ashton.
His future goals are simple. Don't screw anything up, sell beer, leave the community in a better place and make his family proud.