Grand Rapids, MI (WZZM) - If you could have a beer with anyone alive today who would it be? That question kicked off a Michigan man's four-year quest to meet his idol, Sir Richard Branson. On Tuesday, he did what many thought impossible: clinked a glass of beer with the billionaire.
Justin "Bugsy" Sailor is an MSU grad who now lives in the U.P. He is bit of an entrepreneur, and has been named an Ambassador of the Upper Peninsula. He has also had a crazy idea since 2010.
"I launched a New Year's resolution to have a beer with Sir Richard Branson," explains Sailor.
Sir Richard Branson is a self-made billionaire. He is a British citizen, knighted by the Queen. He owns Virgin Airlines, Virgin Mobile, and is a pioneer in space flight with Virgin Galactic. This is not someone you can simply call up to share some beer.
Branson has always been someone Sailor looked up to, though.
"I admire his entrepreneurship and really just taking a big idea and saying, 'Let's go for it,'" explains Sailor.
Sailor, following Branson's example of taking initiative, built a website called beerwithbranson.com, which asked people if they could help him get in touch with Sir Richard Branson. In the first year of the site he got some people that sort of knew Branson.
"I got a guy that once delivered pizza for Sir Richard Branson," explains Sailor. "I get a lot of grief from my friends, 'Oh, you're obsessed with Richard Branson."
Four years went by and he still had not made contact. Then someone told him that Sir Richard Branson was coming to Grand Rapids to speak. "I relaunched the website and asked, 'Who do I know in Grand Rapids,'" explains Sailor.
His website beerwithbranson.com was shared on social media, and just like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon experiment, the website was shared by creative marketer Rob Bliss. WZZM 13's Steve Zaagman then saw it and contacted Lorna Schultz of the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, which invited Branson to GR. The group then contacted Richard Branson's staff.
"When I mentioned it to his staff, they were familiar with his websites -- so it wasn't altogether a surprise," explains Schultz.
Sailor had found his contact, and Branson agreed to meet for a quick drink.
On Tuesday, when Branson was set to speak in DeVos Place. Sailor set up a couch with two beers in the hallway to wait for Branson's visit. One beer was from Founders in Grand Rapids, and one from his hometown in the UP.
The billionaire soon walked in, and Sailor introduced himself. He opened the beer and chatted with Branson about how this meeting came to be. Then Sailor asked, "So if you could have a beer with anyone who would it be?"
Branson responded, "Well, young entrepreneurs like yourself."
The two clinked glasses and Branson was whisked off to give his speech. "It was quick, and it was what I expected," explains Sailor. "Him taking a minute to sit down with me is fantastic."
This is one New Year's resolution Sailor can cross off his list, four years after making it.
"Mission: Accomplished," says Sailor.