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April 30, 2019

 St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce Business Awards Luncheon
 Tuesday, April 30, 2019 
 Holiday Inn & Suites
11:30 a.m. -12:00 p.m. check in
12:00 p.m. -12:25 p.m. meal served
12:25 p.m.- 1:30 p.m. program

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2019 Award Winners

2019 Small Business Owners of the Year

Doug and Carol Severson

Handyman’s Inc. 


Doug and Carol Severson, owners of Handyman’s Inc. 
If you walk into Handyman’s Hardware in east St. Cloud, the odds are good that owner Doug Severson will wait on you.  Severson started working in the family business in 1976 when he was 15 years old.  After graduating from St. Cloud State University with a finance degree in 1983 he joined the store full time, taking over the leadership role in 1993. Since that time he and his wife Carol have doubled the number of employees, doubled the size of the sales floor, and doubled sales. 
 
Most recently the couple bought out the minority interest of Doug’s sister, as she moves into retirement.  This  transition is part of a succession plan that the Severson’s hope will eventually lead to their children taking over store operations and becoming the third generation to own the hometown hardware store.
 
Staying local and still being competitive is an on-going challenge for the Seversons.  As an independent retailer they have no corporate or franchise support to create an online presence or point-of-purchase software for their hundreds of products.  And they don’t have a multi-million dollar advertising budget. 
 
Instead, all advertising and outside sales are handled by staff, which the Seversons believe is their greatest competitive advantage.  The personal touch creates loyalty among customers.  And they are able to carry products that the typical hardware store does not have available, allowing for quick response for customers who often need just the right part with little or no warning. 
 
Maintaining the “local hardware store” feel is critical to the Seversons.  “We could get rid of the store front and focus on commercial,” Carol Severson said, “but we love working with our customers and having that hometown feel.”
 

 

2019 AWARD WINNERS

2019 Woman in Business Champion

Brenda Eisenschenk


Brenda Eisenschenk likes sales.  Since graduating from St. Cloud State University she has focused her career on sales: copiers to outdoor, telecom to newsprint.  In the end she discovered that telecom was her passion and business ownership was her future.  She was selected as the 2019 Women in Business Champion because along the way she has made a point of supporting women and girls. 
 
Eisenschenk started inteleCONNECT, Inc. in August 2007.  Her vision was new to the St. Cloud area.  She wanted to provide telecommunications consulting for businesses on their phone, internet and cable TV services.  Telecom agents were uncommon, but she found a few in the Twin Cities market who were willing to talk with her and explain their services.  She wrote a business plan and started making sales calls. “I started at zero and went out and sold,” she said. 
 
Though she started as a one-person operation, Eisenschenk now has four employees.  Her growth has been in part because of her desire to see others succeed.  “Lisa Vouk was planning to make a change and I told her I wished I could hire her, but I couldn’t afford her.  She said ‘How do you know?’”  The two worked out a plan that would accommodate Eisenschenk’s growing business and Vouk’s desire to have more time with her family.  A similar arrangement was made with a second employee who was looking for a change following the birth of a baby.
 
In addition to her support of the women who work for her, Eisenschenk has been a strong advocate for women and girls.  She participates in Mentor Morning, a program of the St. Cloud Times/LocaliQ that connects young women with experienced female professionals and she mentors girls in her church.  Possibly her greatest impact is her volunteer work with the local Girl Scout program.  She does presentations on how to sell cookies, how to run a business, and serves as a mentor.
 
In addition to running her company, Eisenschenk  volunteers for a number of organizations, including the Sartell Chamber, the St. Cloud Area Chamber, her church, Girl Scouts of Minnesota and  Wisconsin Lakes and Pines; Habitat for Humanity, and Sertoma.  She also provides paid time off for staff to volunteer.

 
 

 

2019 AWARD WINNERS

2019 Business Central Mark of Excellence:
Family Owned Business

Steve and Jeff Mies


Steve and Jeff Mies are the third generation owners of Mies Outland, based in Watkins, Minn.  Neither of them intended to join the family business, but since 1997, when their father retired, the two have shared ownership and leadership of the company.
 
Selection of the Mies brothers as the Business Central Mark of Excellence: Family Owned Business is as much about their approach to business as it is about their success.  When asked about adversity the two look at each other with puzzled expressions.  It turns out adversity is not part of their vocabulary. 
 
“We’ve had no real dark days,” Steve Mies said.  “When things happen we look at them as opportunities.  There might be risk, but it’s always a way for us to grow.”
 
This from a company that has endured recession, survived the vagaries of the weather, experienced multiple expansions, and changed product lines.  Currently Mies Outland is transitioning away from its agricultural roots and will no longer sell John Deere products, a change that has been in the works for some time.  “We’ve known for ten years that this was coming,” Steve said.  “We’ve been managing and planning for it as best we can so that both customers and employees are taken care of.”
 
The brothers point to their purchase of St. Cloud’s Bristow’s in July 2016 as part of their strategic planning.  After a complete remodel and change of product line, the two are happy with the result.  “We didn’t know how much work it was going to be,” Jeff said.  “But the St. Cloud store is showing us what can be done with power sports.”

2019 Champion Sponsor:


 
2019 GOLD SPONSOR:
 
St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce
St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce P.O. Box 487 St. Cloud, MN 56302-0487 320-251-2940