Alumnus, veteran advises students ‘just try it’ in starting businesses

Alumnus Mike Root's passion for bourbon led him to launch Copper Still Distillery, but his passion for entrepreneurship fuels his life.

Alumnus Mike Root's passion for bourbon led him to launch Copper Still Distillery, but his passion for entrepreneurship fuels his life.

COVID-19 restrictions didn’t stop Troy University alumnus Michael Root from new business ventures across the country.

Root attended TROY from 2006 until 2014, earning three degrees along the way.

He double majored in sport management and criminal justice to obtain his two bachelor’s degrees and finished his career at TROY with a Master in Public Administration degree.

Root was also a part of the university’s ROTC program and started his first business in Troy.

“In 2012, I started a company called Troy Transit,” Root said. “We had buses and Suburbans and we drove people around because there was no transportation for us as students back then.”

Root said he was proud of his business for bringing light to the lack of transportation services in the city.

“I wanted it to kind of cause other people to be aware of the lack of transportation for students,” Root said. “Now the school offers it, which is great.”

Root received his second master’s degree in theology from Liberty University during his time in the Air Force. He had concluded his time serving the country in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“On my third deployment, I went to Pakistan for a year and knocked out a second master’s,” Root said. 

Root chooses his areas of study depending on where he is and his interests in life. He is currently halfway done with his doctorate degree in public policy. 

If pursuing a doctorate wasn’t enough to keep him busy. He launched Colorado-based Copper Sky Distillery in Colorado in the midst of the pandemic. The distillery produces whiskey, bourbon and rum. The idea came after Root found a passion for collecting rare bourbons and whiskey.

“When I got out of government work, I wanted to build a brand,” Root said. “I figured I’d merge the two things: a love for bourbon and whiskey and wanting to start a known brand.”

Root drew inspiration for his company’s name after seeing the Colorado sky and comparing it to references in the Bible.

“Out here in Colorado when the sun is peaking over the mountains when it’s setting at night, it’s this orange, beautiful, amber sky,” Root said. “In Revelations, there’s a lot of imagery and battles going on. It becomes this personal meaning.”

Despite challenges Root faced while starting his business during the pandemic, he described it as a “fun opportunity” that allowed him to work with other small businesses.

“Not only was I trying to overcome the challenge of starting during COVID, I was helping other small businesses keep cash flow coming in by contracting them,” Root said. “The biggest thing was recognizing opportunities in the market.

When the fledgling company had to shut down its retail space due to the pandemic, Root and his team pivoted to focus on distribution. After a year, Copper Sky has more than 100 sites across Colorado.

Root also has a book titled “For God and Country: A Discussion on Servant Leadership” that helps Christians who struggle with serving the government while serving God.

If Root could tell young entrepreneurs anything, it’d be to “just try it.”

“I’ve probably had just as many failures as successes,” Root said. “The rewards come from trying. It feels good to succeed, but it also feels good starting something.”

The distillery isn’t Roots’ only current project. He currently has a nonprofit organization called The Kingdom Advancement Project, and recently started his third company, Axiom Consulting Group.

“We focus on helping new and young entrepreneurs get started with their companies,” Root said.

Root concluded that any young student or entrepreneur is free to reach out to him on the Copper Sky Distillery website.