Brotherly Love

Success in business is not

always just about a good idea and a business plan.

For Matt and Keegan Myers, success hinges on happiness and good relationships. Be happy where you are and who you are working with. Then you can build it, and they will come.

The brothers, owners of the M-22 and Broneah Kiteboarding brands, began their entrepreneurial endeavors downstate. It wasn't until they combined their love of kiteboarding with their other love-northern Michigan-that their business efforts became a success.

We caught up with them at their M-22 store in Traverse City.

Are you surprised by your success up to this point?

We always thought that together we could be successful. We discovered kiteboarding together, which was where it all started. But we're certainly very happy with how things have gone up until this point. There are many things that can turn a business upside down outside of our control, so we are always watching for those.

At some point it dawned on us that we had to do this business where we loved to be. Our very first store we opened in a location that was not ideal to say the least. When you're downstate in the summertime and you know what it is like in Traverse City, you don't want to be anywhere else. We weren't happy there, and it didn't last long.

To anyone who wants to start a business, never live where you don't want to be. If you aren't happy and content with where you are, it shows. You cannot just start a business to make money. You have to be happy first. Once we made the decision that our business would be in Traverse City, things began to fall into place.

Many entrepreneurs work with family members. What makes you two successful working together as brothers?

We have figured out how to concentrate on our areas of strength. We both work on brand management and agree on designs. Most other things seem to be divided and conquered by each of us. Because we always did want a business that would run well with us or without us, we just have to agree on the delegation of what we need to get done.

There is a great level of communication with your brother, so we always know where we stand with each other. We don't fire BBs or sling slots at each other anymore, but we can get frustrated with each other and then be done with it five minutes later.

How has the M-22 Challenge become such a big and sought-after event?

People say business is all about relationships, and it is true. This event was a great idea, but it never would have gotten off the ground without our relationship with the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. At the time I [Matt] had been doing circuit training at the gym, and we wanted to design an event that we would want to do ourselves. We spent so much time kiteboarding out there in the area that we knew what a cool layout it would be for the race and what an athlete would have to go through.

This event is a huge deal for us now and it has an element of exclusivity. This is the fifth year, and we had 900 people register for it in four hours. Year one was 130 participants; year two, 300; then 500; 800 and now 900 this year. It has been amazing.

We are constantly trying to improve the event. We gave participants the option this year to transfer their registration to someone else if they have a scheduling conflict, because we know that is sometimes unavoidable. We want all of the athletes to be able to show up.

We take it very seriously, because we know these athletes expect great organization and great energy that day. We don't want it to grow any faster than it has so we can manage the experience and make sure it is top notch.

What is your marketing strategy?

Back to the relationships being the foundation of everything, we have strong partnerships that have worked for us. When it comes to the M-22 brand it is our event for one. But the event is successful because of partnerships with organizations like the Leelanau Conservancy. We support them every year. We support the National Lakeshore. We have been building these relationships for a long time, and they work for all involved. We are big fans of Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine because we think they do a great job representing our area up here. They have been with us from the beginning, too.

How do things run so well without you here?

One of the biggest things we agreed on when we signed the lease here on Front Street was that this would not be dependent on having one of us here. We don't want to have a business that is built around one of us sitting behind a cash register. When we started M-22, so much of it was about being able to travel during the winter, so we have always worked that mentality into our business plans. We wanted to make sure the business could afford to have people there besides us, and if it couldn't then we would rework the business plan.