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Small Business of the Year: Prairie Winds Veterinary Center

October 1st, 2018 by Amanda Huggett

It’s not just business as usual at Prairie Winds Veterinary Center. This companion animal hospital in south Fargo is a true community partner that offers innovative care for clients and a family-friendly atmosphere for staff.

The clinic is a newer addition to our community, operating only since 2011, but they’ve already established a unique identity. You can find traditional preventive care, tests and counseling for your four-legged friends in a nurturing, supportive environment. Their doctors have invested in continuing education to provide referral level care in areas like dermatology, internal medicine, orthopedics, dentistry and cardiology. And filling a niche need that was previously scarce is reproductive services for dogs and horses, including artificial insemination.

In the five years Prairie Winds has been in business, they have grown from a single doctor practice with support staff of five to a 5-doctor practice with 16 full time employees. Their client growth has allowed them to expand services, with new tools and technology. They have added two ultrasounds, urgent care services, and a new dental suite. This allows them to deliver quality care to more patients at less cost.

The business strategy is simple but consistent. Hire passionate people that believe in quality care with compassion. Hold weekly meetings and a clinic training program and continually work to identify needs within the community.

Of course they support the community too! Proceeds from their refreshment bar go to local rescues, and they support various silent auctions. They partnered with another agency to provide spays, neuters, and preventive care at reduced costs.

The clinic owner, Dr. Alicia Wisnewski, coaches youth basketball, volunteers at her church and is starting a radio show to help educate the community on pet care. “I’m excited to get this recognition from The Chamber because it showcases the hard work our entire team puts into our clinic every day,” Dr. Wisnewski said. “We’re dedicated to continuing to grow our practice to continually meet the needs of our patients!”

Visit them online at www.prairiewindsvet.com.

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Highlights from the 2018 Annual Meeting

September 20th, 2018 by Amanda Huggett

It’s been another spectacular (fiscal) year here at The Chamber, and we had such a great time celebrating it all with you at our Annual Meeting yesterday at the Holiday Inn, sponsored by Midco.

Outgoing board chair Steve Swiontek, Gate City Bank, and our president/CEO Craig Whitney, shared key accomplishments from the past year, including the growth of our membership and success of various Chamber events, programs and public policy. We collaborated and took a stance on a variety of important issues in our community, including conversations around a convention or performing arts center, proposals to reform special assessments, legislation for Air Traffic Control Privatization at the federal level, and the Moorhead Grade Separation, Safety and Mobility Project.

A few other items we were proud to share included…

  • Growth of the Honor Star program. Last year funds went to purchase wreaths for the ND Veteran’s Cemetery, and a donation check was presented to NDSU’s Air Force ROTC detachment.
  • Military Affairs members visited Camp Ripley Training Center in Minnesota this past August. Attendees observed maneuver training and even engaged in weapon simulation. The committee also helped kick off Fargo’s Navy Week in July by hosting a Navy Week social.
  • We took an active role in helping with recruitment for our armed forces. We engaged in efforts including protecting our bases from realignment and closure, and working to get a man flying mission back. The committee advocated for these issues in Washington D.C. while attending the North Dakota Military and Congressional Reception this summer.
  • The biggest event to date occurred last October with NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal. Voices of Vision shattered our previous attendance records, with over 1,400 attendees. The Mid-America Chamber Executives gave us the honor of Digital Campaign of the Year at its annual conference in May in Sioux Falls for our marketing of this event.
  • 14 area students developed 12 businesses this year in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. To date, 25% of our YEA! graduates are still running the businesses they created in the program.
  •  38 individuals completed Leadership Fargo Moorhead West Fargo, and it was our most successful year in terms of the Community Change Initiatives. Among these was the first annual Professionally Paired event, in which over 100 willing volunteers attended an open house that connected them to non-profits, the Commercial Action Recycling Group worked to get single-sort recycling into small businesses in Moorhead, and the Jeremiah program obtain 11 surfaces for the mothers living in their home, as well as a Tech Spark grant.
  • Over 2,600 individuals attended Women Connect events and donated over 2,300 items for area organizations.

Incoming board chair Mark Nisbet, Xcel Energy, looked ahead and talked about ongoing and future priorities. You can count on us to continue our ardent support of the need for permanent flood protection and working through the workforce challenges that affect our members and the community. And with election season here, and legislative sessions quickly approaching, we will work tirelessly to bring forward the important issues impacting the business community and work to create the best business environment.

We’ll also unveil an unprecedented initiative that supports The Chamber’s strategic plan by establishing the region as a recognized destination marketplace in the coming months.

We presented awards to, and recognized, our outgoing committee chairs, talked about the committees’ and program successes, and welcomed new board members.

2017-18 Chamber committee chairs

Lastly, we presented ND Senator Judy Lee as the 2018 Legacy Leader. After receiving a standing ovation, she shared closing comments and thoughts on leadership to our attendees.

Thank you to everyone that has been involved in and supporting The Chamber. We couldn’t do what we do without you!

View the full photo album on Facebook here!

Rewatch the Year in Review video

Rewatch the Legacy Leader video

Check out this coverage from our media outlets!

INFORUM: Sen. Judy Lee honored as Chamber’s Legacy Award winner at its annual meeting

KVRR: FMWF Chamber of Commerce Celebrates Accomplishments Over the Past Year

Check out these Tweets from attendees!

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Area K-12 Education Update: Eggs & Issues Recap

September 10th, 2018 by Amanda Huggett

Fargo Moorhead West Fargo has always had a great education system. With three newly appointed superintendents each starting their positions in their respective districts, our k-12 educational landscape is a hot topic. This month’s Eggs & Issues allowed us to hear from each of the three new leaders as they start their roles. This included Brandon Lunak, Moorhead Area Public Schools; Rupak Gandhi, Fargo Public School District; and Beth Slette, West Fargo Public Schools.

Not too surprisingly, the theme among all the districts was growth.


Highlights from Moorhead

The district has 6,980 students, 530 teachers and 1,018 employees, making MPS the largest employer in Moorhead

A shift in demographics is happening. “As our demographics change, so do the needs of our district,” Lunak said. Most notable was the socio-economic indicator, meaning thousands of students are on free and reduced lunch.

A result of the 2015 bond referendum (which was completed on budget and on time), allowed for secure entrances at all schools, additional classroom space, dedicated learning spaces, and the Horizon Performing Arts Center, which opened in April this year.

District graduation rates are always on their mind, Lunak said, and Moorhead High School saw a 7% increase in 2017 that exceeded the state average.

Other priorities from the 2017-18 strategic plan included a 1-to-1 technology initiative expanded to grades 5-8 and innovation emphasized at Horizon Middle School Campus, and the launch of Designing Moorhead High School’s 21st Century Academic/Instructional Program Task Force.

Challenges include increasing enrollment and facilities, a new state licensure system, and mental health needs for students.

Highlights from Fargo

Superintendent Gandhi is new to the area and the state, coming from California and Texas, and stated his passion for equity in schools. “The only way to plan for our future is to develop quality education,” he opened with.

Fargo Public Schools is the second largest school district in North Dakota, serving more than 11,400 students and standing as the fourth largest employer in the region.

Their challenges include services for student mental health and challenging behaviors, long-term planning, and long-term sustainable funding.

In their 2018-19 operation plan are three task forces to address these challenges, and

He also invites you to their State of the Schools Address & Public Focus Group on Thursday, January 10, 2019, at South High School.

Highlights from West Fargo

Our westernmost district is growing by 400 to 600 students per year. For this new school year, they have hired 130 new teachers, and are now over 1,700 employees. Currently, 11,081 students are enrolled, and they continue to break projections. The district has 24 facilities. The two middle schools and high schools are even the largest in the state.

To keep up with the growth, a bond referendum is up for a vote on September 25 that will allow for a new middle school and high school on a shared campus to open in 2020 and 2021, respectively. It would also allow for additional security, elementary classroom spaces, additions and renovations in Harwood and Horace, and synthetic turf at the high school. Details of the referendum and who can vote can be found in the slideshow link below.

The panel talked about their collaboration on various task forces and personalized learning, too. “It’s more than West Fargo; it’s more than Fargo; it’s more than Moorhead,” Slette said. “We’re a metro, and our students are passing back and forth between our districts. Unless we work together to solve some of these problems, and with our community, we won’t be able to do it.”

The event concluded with audience members asking questions of the superintendents. We want to thank all our program sponsors, event attendees, and host site, the Courtyard by Marriott in Moorhead for great service and a great breakfast!

 

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE PRESENTERS’ SLIDES

 

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Not-for-Profit of the Year: Great Plains Food Bank

September 4th, 2018 by Amanda Huggett

Serving as the region’s only food bank, the Great Plains Food Bank plays a unique role in hunger relief in our community. By rescuing surplus food from the food industry, they ensure it safely gets into the hands of our hungry neighbors in need.

The bank provides food assistance to more than 97,000 hungry individuals each year, which equates to one in nine individuals in our community and state, Great Plains Food Bank CEO Steve Sellent told us. “Sadly, of those 36% are children and another 12% are seniors.”

Through its network, they supply over 11 million meals annually to our neighbors struggling with hunger. “Our staff and board of directors are driven each day by our values of passion, service and innovation to advance our vision of ending hunger throughout North Dakota and western Minnesota,” Sellent said.

Five innovative programs are designed to fill the hunger gap for children, seniors and individuals living in rural communities:

  • Backpack program: A single backpack is filled with milk, juice, snacks and food for three meals to assist hungry children over the weekend.
  • School pantry program: To help solve child hunger by providing nutritious food to children and their families in convenient, familiar and safe locations.
  • Youth summer meals program: To help those relying on free and reduced cost school lunches to get healthy food during the summer months.
  • Senior food pack program: A commodity-based program providing nutritionally balanced, shelf-stable monthly food assistance specially targeted at low-income seniors.
  • SNAP Outreach: Formerly known as the food stamp program and the nation’s largest federal nutritional assistance program, assists with the program application and with identifying single people and families that qualify.

Beyond these programs, the Great Plains Food Bank offers a Pop-Up Perishable Food Program and Mobile Food Pantry that bring both fresh and shelf-stable food directly to rural communities.

Food industry partners also allow the Great Plains Food Bank to offer a business solution for waste management costs, and an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility. Then, they store and prepare the product for distribution with a volunteer force of 5,500. A total of 213 food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens rely on the Great Plains Food Bank.

By 2007, a record 5 million pounds was distributed to 200 partner agencies statewide. On average, the bank supplies 83% of all food in food baskets, while saving other local non-profits that serve hot meals $1.8 million annually.

In their 35-year history, they’ve seen immense growth. Last year, they distributed almost 6 million pounds of food to people in Cass and Clay counties who sought emergency food assistance through their programs and services, or their partner network of pantries, shelters and kitchens. This is an increase of over 11% in just three years.

In the next five years, their plan is to reduce the missing meal gap by 50%. This gets them closer to their transformational goal of creating a hunger-free community by 2037.

At the core of everything the Great Plains Food Bank does is a commitment to end hunger. They believe that when you feed a child, you feed our future. And their guiding philosophy is what’s in the best interest of our hungry neighbors.

 

Ending Hunger 2.0

Hunger is a complex issue that doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If food alone was the answer to ending hunger, we would have done it by now. But we haven’t. That’s why Great Plains Food Bank launched Ending Hunger 2.0 – a new approach to ending hunger that works to bring sustainable, long-term solutions to hunger through Advocacy, Research and Community Based Solutions.

To learn more, donate or volunteer, visit greatplainsfoodbank.org.

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Details on our downtown developments

August 10th, 2018 by Amanda Huggett

Written by Katie Mastel, Public Policy Coordinator

At our August Downtown Developments-focused Eggs & Issues, we welcomed in three community leaders to share about our three downtown communities. We were joined by Fargo Downtown Community Partnership President & CEO, Melissa Rademacher, West Fargo Economic Development & Community Service Director, Matthew Marshall, and Downtown Moorhead Inc. President & CEO, Derrick LaPoint. These three leaders gave an excellent presentation regarding the growth, challenges and exciting plans for our vibrant downtowns.

August 2018 eggs and issues

Rademacher began remarks about Fargo’s downtown by giving kudos to the Business Improvement District and the work that they do in order to carry out their mission to clean, maintain and provide a safe environment in downtown Fargo. She also touched on the importance of Renaissance zones, noting the impact they have had on downtown Fargo as “revitalization and development right outside our door!” She also encouraged visitors of downtown to check out the new parking ramp that has 455 parking spots. She concluded her remarks on the exciting downtown happenings noting the dynamic and culture of downtown Fargo citing simply the addition of three new ice cream shops contributing greatly to this feel.

LaPoint made mention to many new and exciting projects underway in Moorhead. Expressing his passion for downtown Moorhead to be a place of interest, he presented a plethora of projects in the works to enhance underutilized properties and boost commercial and retail properties in Moorhead. One interesting project they are working on is repainting the corridor on the bridge from Northern Pacific Ave in Fargo to Center Ave in Moorhead in order to create one lane each way and add a center turn lane. He added that “traffic data justified this change dramatically” saying that this project is “creating a more appropriate corridor.”

Marshall started off simply urging those who haven’t been down Sheyenne Street recently to check it out as they will notice it is dramatically different with a “completely different feel than it was even a year ago.” He noted the Sheyenne plaza being completed and another building under construction. He emphasized the importance of creating a community space noting that we have to “activate the space.” Excited for what the future brings he spoke of a grant that they just received from the state of North Dakota through the Governor’s Main street initiative saying, “this grant is a huge win for the city,” noting how it will allow for changes to the roads making for a more appropriate corridor as well as adding parking and walkability downtown.

When discussing the challenges that these three downtown areas were up against, all three leaders spoke optimistically about finding solutions to create success despite some unfavorable variables. On the Fargo side, Rademacher spoke of the importance of getting the right people at the table for discussions surrounding important topics such as liquor licenses and food trucks. The largest challenge that she noted, saying that it remains a challenge for many communities, is affordable office space and housing options. Looking ahead though, she ensured an effort to work more closely with Moorhead to “activate the river and embrace it” especially, as she admitted, due to the lack of green space Fargo has. In addition to this exciting news, she spoke about the plan to bring more art to downtown Fargo. Many of these kinds of exciting plans as well as a strong digital marketing plan are part of the Downtown in Focus plan that Rademacher referenced throughout the presentation. For the individual looking to contribute to this downtown development, she spoke of the downtown local gift cards that can be used at many downtown locations. She recognized this as a wonderful way to invest back into downtown Fargo.

On the Moorhead side, the largest challenge was to the surprise of almost none, the railroad tracks. LaPoint is determined to work around that challenge and ensure a strong downtown Moorhead. Another obstacle that he referenced was a lack of buildings and residents in the downtown Moorhead area. Keeping with a positive theme, however, he echoed Rademacher’s comments about the river, claiming we need to “view the river as a seam and not a boundary or barrier.” He finished his remarks speaking of the importance of a collective vision and “striving toward the same common goal and making it happen.”

For West Fargo, the theme of transportation was also spoken about as a challenge, however it isn’t railroads presenting a challenge, as Marshall explained, it is the lack of on street parking. Marshall talked about the obstacles that narrow sidewalks and wide roadways with little to no on street parking present. He said looking into the future he wants to be sure to include the “right mix of walkability and parking.” Marshall expressed excitement of the future of West Fargo though it presents many unique challenges that are different than its neighboring cities.

The recurring theme of the session was an optimistic vision for vibrant successful downtown communities. Looking at the recent improvements, projects underway and future plans, one can only agree these leaders are certainly going down the right avenue to create such downtown environments. Be sure to check out all that these downtown communities have to offer as well as be on the lookout for the exiting projects coming our way!

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE SLIDESHOW.

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Small Not-for-Profit of the Year: Emergency Food Pantry

August 1st, 2018 by Amanda Huggett

Many of us probably take food for granted without worrying about where our next meal will come from. But for those in different situations, the Emergency Food Pantry is there for those in need. It’s a small organization with only three employees, but about 140 volunteers, making a big difference.

Founded in 1972 in a Moorhead basement, they know what it’s like to get through tough times. The idea of the Emergency Food Pantry was born in a college class, and came to fruition through the efforts of a college professor, Volunteers for Community Service, and the United Way. Ultimately, it became an independent entity relying on donations of food, dollars and volunteer time.

Today, their main purpose is to provide a cart of food to those in need. But it’s not just food that they offer. You can also find them providing toilet paper, soap and diapers, and all with a high level of compassion.

Three years ago, they received a grant through Vitamin Angels that allowed them to make way for a new program that offers free vitamins to pregnant and nursing women. This helps support strong, healthy development during the critical early years.

The Emergency Food Pantry celebrated its 45th year of service in 2017. And, they’ve seen a 30% increase in the number of households served since 2013. They offer food baskets Monday through Friday. Each day they provide a cart of food to approximately 60 households.

Each person that seeks food has a unique situation, but one common theme is their monthly bills are larger than their income. Many families come in when one small setback impacts their life. One recent family had one car and the parents worked opposite shifts in order to not have daycare. Living paycheck to paycheck, they often have tight months. Having to replace their car battery was enough of a crisis that they needed to choose between the car battery and food. The Emergency Food Pantry provided the family with a week’s worth of food to help them through their financial crisis.

The Emergency Food Pantry invites you to the following upcoming events in which you can learn more about the hunger needs in the community.

The Emergency Food Pantry is a food distribution program whose mission is to provide nutritious food and non-food items to all persons in need in Cass and Clay Counties and surrounding area. Their goal is to provide families and individuals facing emergency situations with one week’s supply of healthy food. 

Want to learn more or help out? Call 701-237-9337 or visit emergencyfoodpantry.com.

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Frank Abagnale presents on “Stealing Your Life”

July 25th, 2018 by Amanda Huggett

Yesterday, former con man turned FBI consultant, speaker, author and inspiration for the famed movie Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abagnale visited Fargo to present to an audience of about 1,000 people on how to protect themselves from fraud and scams.

Frank abagnale on stage

We were proud to host Abangale with the help and sponsorship of AARP North Dakota and their Fraud Watch Network.

Abagnale captivated the audience with his tales of travel, forgery and deception, and ultimately arrest, extradition and time in prison. Of course that has since turned into sharing his expert knowledge with businesses, government organizations and crowds.

Abagnale maintains he always knew he’d get caught, and today he uses his actions to excuse his prior actions by lecturing and writing on the subject. But the most important thing to him is to simply be a good husband and father.

So what did he share about fraud today with us?

With billions of U.S. dollars being lost in white collar crime and advancements in technology and ingenuity of thieves, Abagnale says it’s more important than ever for consumers and businesses to stay vigilant. Frankly, some of the stats are scary.

  • $200 billion has been lost due to Medicare fraud
  • There is a victim of identity theft every two seconds
  • Children are sought-after victims of identity theft because criminals can use their identity for long periods of time before the theft is detected or credit is checked. (He recommends the service LifeLock to monitor children’s social security number use.)
  • A projected $6 trillion will be lost from the world economy by 2020 due to cyber crime
  • There are 5,000 new phishing incidents every day

“Hackers do not cause breaches; people do!” Abagnale said. “Every breach happens because someone in a company or home does something they’re not supposed to, or doesn’t do something they were supposed to.”

Today’s technology makes it easier than ever for hackers to locate access points in your home or business and use social engineering to breach your information and start collecting. Never assume it can’t happen to you. Hackers wait for doors to open, and there are a lot of doors in the world today. But there are ways you can lessen your risk.

Catch some of these tricks he shared to outsmart scammers!

  • Never list your place or date of birth online (these are the two most important pieces of information scammers need to steal your identity)
  • Do not post head-on shots of your face on social media (something that could pass as an ID photo)
  • Shred all papers that contain valuable information with a secure micro-cut shredder (not a straight-cut or cross-cut)
  • Sign up for a credit monitoring service
  • Don’t write checks or use debit cards; credit is everything and is the most secure form of payment (this way the liability is on the credit card company and not your own money)
  • The longer you are on the line with a robocaller, the more information they’re collecting on you. Hang up and verify before telling them anything!
  • Don’t use public WiFi to look up or send your valuable information (no wiring money or inputting your Social Security number in waiting rooms!)

“Every scam has a red flag. Any time I ask you for money or data, that’s a red flag,” he said. Abagnale advised when you get one of these calls and question its legitimacy, hang up, look up the listed number for the organization and call them directly to verify the request.

“It’s up to you to keep your information private,” Abagnale urged. “You’ve got to be proactive, not reactive. No one else can protect you.”

It’s important for businesses to educate their employees on safety, set up protocols and minimize risk for the security of the entire company, too. “Education is the most important tool to fighting crime,” he said. ”

He also shared that there is an effort to eliminate the use of passwords in the future. One company called Trusona is leading the charge to switch the world over to cell phone verification at places like an ATM or even your own TV. After all, “passwords are for tree houses,” he said.

For more information and resources on fraud and protection, visit abagnale.com.

View more photos from the event on our Facebook page.

Thanks to our local media who covered Abagnale’s visit as well:

Prairie Public: Frank Abagnale speaks to Fargo crowd on recognizing scams

WDAY: The man behind the movie, “Catch Me If You Can” visits Fargo

Check out these highlights from Twitter!

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Cole Papers: 100 Years Old and Still Growing

July 2nd, 2018 by Amanda Huggett

One of the most exciting things about our community is the entrepreneurial spirit and how many businesses, new and old, are present in Fargo Moorhead West Fargo. One company that has stood the test of time and is, in fact, celebrating their 100th anniversary this summer, is Cole Papers. We were going to tell you their story, but they told it to us so well that we wanted readers to hear it straight from the president’s mouth.

100 year billboard

“One hundred years ago, my wife, Nancy Cole’s grandfather Robert Cole, started Fargo Paper Company in a small office/warehouse in downtown Fargo over J.C. Penney. Three blocks away, my dad’s mother and her parents were busy opening the Gardner Hotel after returning from Saint Louis by train to bring some of the first furniture for the hotel. I am assuming that they probably knew each other. Nancy and I did not discover this early Fargo connection until after we got engaged and married in Washington, D.C. We moved to Fargo in 1980 after her father, Prentiss Cole, asked me to join the company.

Nancy attended college at SMU in Dallas and vowed she would never marry a “Texas boy.” I grew up in Texas on a cotton farm picking cotton on my knees as a kid and I never thought I would be marrying a yankee! In Washington, D.C., Nancy worked as a lobbyist for the National Cotton council in spite of never having seen any cotton. I was working as a consultant for a Big 8 accounting firm after seven years in the Navy in cryptology. We met at a Presbyterian singles group in D.C.

As one can see, our unlikely connection and background brought us together to live in Fargo where our ancestors were 100 years ago. Since we moved here, we have raised four children who have all worked at the company. Two boys still do: one is in sales and the other is in finance.

Cole Papers current leadership team

Shortly after moving here, we decided to open a branch in Sioux Falls and felt that we needed a name change. Thus, we hired a public relations firm and went with their suggestion of Cole Papers. Before opening the Sioux Falls branch, we had four other branches: Grand Forks, Minot, Bismarck and Aberdeen. After Sioux Falls, we added Mankato, St Cloud and Minneapolis.

Our 160 employees serve our customers across ND, SD and MN and the fringe areas of the adjoining states. We use our own trucks to deliver various products to several thousand customers. Our facilities maintenance, food service, cleaning equipment, packaging, printing paper and other consumable commodity products go to schools, nursing homes, prisons, motels, restaurants/bars, manufacturers, printers, etc. We also have a wholesale flooring and cabinet division that provides various flooring products to dealers, commercial flooring contractors and some large multi-family developers.

We are often told by some of our suppliers/vendors that we are one of the most unique distributors they have seen anywhere in the country. They talk about our family, friendly and faith-based culture that values people, assists and encourages employees continuing college and graduate education, and often tries to promote from within. These suppliers also comment about our part-time chaplain, our part time leadership development coach and the fact that we have helped pay for some of our mid or senior level managers get their MBAs.

To celebrate our 100-year birthday, we are holding events at each branch and in Fargo where customers and friends will be invited for ice cream, bar-b-que and live music.

We will continue participating in several national industry related organizations and buying groups. At the present time, we are focused on upgrading our software used to run the company. In addition, we are looking at some improved facilities in Aberdeen and Grand Forks as we prepare for the next 100 years.”

Chuck Perkins, President/CEO

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The YEA! Experience (Guest Post from the 2018 Shark Tank Winner)

June 4th, 2018 by Member Contributor

The below post is a guest submission from our 2018 YEA! winner, Zoe Bundy!

My name is Zoe, I am a student at Discovery Middle School. About a month ago, I won the Young Entrepreneurs Academy Investor Panel Shark Tank. This was an amazing experience, even just to be part of the class.

Zoe Bundy

Throughout the class, students come up with business ideas, write business plans and financials plans. Then, the students pitch their ideas to “shark” investors, like ABC’s Shark Tank. There, the students will receive funding for their business and many opportunities are made. At the end of the night, one student is selected to represent Fargo as the Saunders Scholar. This was the award I won.

Through the year in YEA! you meet local business leaders who have already started major businesses. The instructors are incredible. Josh Teigen, chief visionary at Protosthetics, was our first instructor. His passion and vision for teen entrepreneurs definitely shines through his teaching. Andrew Abernathey from Abernathey Holdings and Jeff Thomas, president of Cornerstone Bank, were the second instructors. They both know financials well, and helped out with a great deal of work.

In YEA! you experience real-life problem solving, team building and communication skill building. My experience with YEA! has been nothing but awesome. I walked into YEA! with no business idea, but a strong passion for girls in STEM. I walked out of YEA! as the CEO and founder of my own company Brainy Ladies, a website that interests girls in STEM.

On her New York trip

After finding success in Fargo, I was awarded a trip to New York for my business idea, Brainy Ladies. New York was a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience. Sitting alongside other teens who had gone through the same class as you, but from all around the U.S., was incredible. Every idea was creative, new and solving a problem of some sort! New ideas sparked in my mind! The competition was fun. I mean, who doesn’t want to present to a panel of super cool judges?!

The best part about New York was the museum. For dinner the first night, all of the YEA students from around the U.S. went to the Strong National Museum of Play. The museum had all the greatest toys, from Nintendo and Paperboy to superheroes and pinball. The museum was also a great learning experience, just to see all the ideas people had and the great entrepreneurs that shined through their product. Although, pitching my speech to judges was pretty great, the museum takes first place in my book. Altogether, the New York trip was incredible, and I can’t wait to see all the great ideas the future has to offer!

YEA! has taught me just about everything about business I know, and has also taught me that anyone can be an entrepreneur. If you are thinking about YEA! I 150% recommend it! There was never a dull moment! If you are thinking about sponsoring YEA! please do! Near the end of YEA! each student gets a mentor to help them along the way. These mentors are local business owners, employees and other business people who dedicate three hours of their time for 10 weeks. Help me out and let’s make YEA! 2018-19 the best it can be!

-Zoe Bundy

Learn more about the YEA! program, and how you can get involved, HERE.

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Member profile: Western Products

June 1st, 2018 by Amanda Huggett

Say “home improvement” and the old Tim Allen TV show might come to mind for some. But for many around here, it calls to mind a local company specializing in various products and services for their home. That company is Western Products, and this year marks its 70th year in business.

Today, their product offering includes siding, windows, roofing, gutters, soffit and fascia, patio and front doors, cabinets, window coverings and blinds—even spas and patio furniture. And all are installed by a Western Products-approved crew for a high-quality product and a high-quality installation. With their full-service remodel approach and extensive brand offering, their customers can tailor their home improvement experience to fit their personal needs.

General manager Ray Blaha says Western Products loves serving the ‘do it for me’ customer versus the DIYer.

Since the business has been around for decades, they’ve been able to constantly evolve to fit the needs of the people. One example of a revitalized customer experience is a brand-new Design and Experience Center, opened in 2015 where customers can view real-life house facades so they can envision how their products would personalize their own home.

“We strive to be the best in our marketplace, to provide unsurpassed customer satisfaction, to be totally committed to teamwork and to be relentless in the pursuit of improvement,” Blaha said.

An active corporate citizen, Western Products belongs to many local organizations and associations. And of course, they also give back through participating in the school supply drive and planning and implementing free-will donation events in the office to raise money for the charities they support.

“Western Products is constantly working to improve our customer experience, as well as our employee experience,” Blaha said. “We believe that you cannot have one without the other, because happy employees lead to happy customers!”

To mark 70 years in business, Western Products is treating its employees to a picnic, its associate companies a breakfast event and increasing its referral reward program for its customers. “For us, encouraging our employees and letting them know how much good they’ve done is extremely important to running our business, and this picnic is just one small way for us to give back,” Blaha said.

Looking ahead, you can expect the company to stay focused on adapting to its customers’ needs, delivering a high-quality product with reliable service, expanding its offerings to serve even more, and all with a good dose of kindness to boot.

Western Products Rennovation

An abbreviated history

1948 Peter Shuck founds Western Products in Fargo as a lightning rod distributor.

1963 Delivers the first load of steel ever produced.

1972 Begins wholesale distribution of exterior home improvement products.

1999 The Guinness Book of World Records inducts Western Products for the longest piece of seamless steel siding ever applied.

2004 Western Products opens a second location in Bismarck.

2006 Western Products provides siding, roofing and gutters for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

2008 Becomes one of the top 500 remodelers in the America. The business opens a third location in St. Cloud.

2014 Renewal by Andersen presents Western Products the “Showroom Recognition” award.

2015 Opens its fifth location in Jamestown.

2016 Receives Renewal by Andersen’s “Homeowner Satisfaction” award.

2018 70th anniversary.

…not to mention multiple People’s Choice Awards from Design and Living magazine, various dealer awards from Crystal Cabinet year after year, and even more distinctions for its sales growth, product excellence and customer satisfaction from United States Seamless.

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