Laura Mullen, A Female Brewer Who Is Making Her Mark

Laura Mullen Duluth News Tribune, Minn. WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) 38 year old Laura (Salyards-Fryberger) Mullen is the co-founder of "Bent Paddle Brewing Co." in Duluth. The Duluth News Tribune sits down with this Crafty entrepreneur to find out more about her journey to success.


Question: What do you actually do?

A: Lots of hats (as do my other three co-founders): marketing coordination, public relations, media contact, crisis communication lead, run our robust charitable initiative programs, bigger picture legal coordination for the company, lead planner of our 4,000 person Festiversary event each May, neighborhood and community outreach work and business visionary work, and daily decision making alongside my partners.

Years in your job: Bent Paddle was founded in 2013 but was conceptualized in 2010, so four to seven years.

Education: Graduated from Marshall School in Duluth and earned a bachelor's degree in behavioral science and law from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Family: Parents, Richard and Elizabeth Fryberger; husband, Bent Paddle co-founder Colin Mullen; daughter, Adella Mullen, 5; Siamese cats, Gus and Clover; and dog, Hilde. We all laugh and say Colin and I are also "married" to our other two Bent Paddle co-founders, Bryon and Karen Tonnis.

Community Involvement: I've volunteered my leadership and event planning skills to several non-profit organizations over the years including being one of the original founders of Advancing Lincoln Park, the Lincoln Park business group where I served as interim board President; the board of Minnesota Craft Brewer's Guild, where I served as vice president; Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth; Family Tree Clinic of St. Paul; Northeast Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, where I acted as Board co-chair; Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association Board; Women Who Really Cook Board; and others. I'm also a long-time O-reagent blood donor and oversee Bent Paddle's charitable programming, connecting brewery to more than 400 local and regional non-profits.

Native of the area? Born and raised in Duluth, but left for about 15 years. I moved back to start Bent Paddle.

What Keeps you here? Lake Superior's "pull," the small town feel, the ability to affect change in the community and my parents..

Favorite place in the Northland: Our taproom. It makes me so happy seeing people loving a product I helped craft.

How do you spend your free time? I enjoy reading, traveling, cooking, drinking craft beer, visiting local restaurants, dancing, enjoying family, planning events, playing women's ice hockey, and canoeing and cabining on the Brule River in Wisconsin, where Colin and I were married in 2008.

How can the Northland retain younger people? We are poised to become an Asheville, Austin, Athens, or a smaller Portland of the North. Keep an eye on creating a community that has a good, exciting work/life balance with outdoor activities, the arts and authentic crafters, and the younger folks will flock seeking an alternative to big city life.

Influential person in your life: My parents together somehow instilled in me a sense of fearlessness plus a true zest for life, but mixed with a deep concern for the greater good and what we can do to affect positive change.

What is your biggest accomplishment? My daughter seems to be a kind, compassionate lover of all of natures' creatures, so her.

Three people-dead or alive-you'd like to have dinner with: Erwin Kelen, my original mentor whose love of the good life mixed with a deep philanthropic spirit has always inspired me. Also, Colin Mullen and Emily Hicks-Nys, my best friends and soulmates. I only chose people I know because famous people would intimidate me if I'm eating.

Five-year goals: My personal goal is to focus on environmental causes and local environmental change. My business goal is to work with my co-founders to take Bent Paddle to the next level via internal entrepreneur structure to better further our mission: " brew craft beer with a concentration on sustainability for our business, employees, the environment and the greater community -- all while 'Bending the Traditions' that we encounter, for a more unique and interesting craft beer experience."

What's the best book you've read recently? If only I had time to read ... I miss it terribly!

Social Media:, on Facebook, @bentpaddlebeer on Twitter and bentpaddlebeer on Instagram.

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