Networking & Special Events

Business Awards Luncheon

2023 DATE TBA

Meet Our 2022 AWARD WINNERS

2022 SMALL BUSINESS PERSON OF THE YEAR

Tom Frericks, Ultimate Sports Bar & Grill

Tom Frericks Ultimate Sports Bar
Tom Frericks, owner of
Ultimate Sports Bar & Grill

Tom Frericks, owner of Ultimate Sports Bar and Grill, spent 35 years dreaming of what he would do if he remodeled his bar.  There were so many things – more windows, change the ceiling height, create an outdoor space, add more light, modernize the restrooms – the list went on and on.  But that was just a fantasy and in his daily life what he thought was “I have a really cool bar.” 

That all changed on Monday, April 6, 2020.  At 8:53 a.m. Frericks received a 9-1-1 call that the building’s heat and smoke sensors had triggered.  By the end of the day the bar had burned to the ground.  That night he talked with his children about the bar, the fire, and his future.  He had already made up his mind.  He would rebuild.

“I was 58 years old.  Too young to pull the plug and way too old to work for anyone else,” he said. “I had land to work with, a city that was cooperative, and 35 years of dreaming that I was able to turn into reality. I know it sounds arrogant, but I knew I could create something that this area had never seen.”

Starting from the ground up after 35 years in business has reminded Frericks how much he loves the bar and restaurant industry. “I love that I get to stare straight ahead and control my own destiny,” he said. “Failure is nothing more than a bad decision and I don’t have to accept failure and I don’t have to accept ‘no.’ I have no one to blame when it doesn’t work out and I love that.”

The new Ultimate Sports Bar & Grill is not just bigger in size.  The old Ultimate had 23 employees, none of whom were full time.  Today Frericks employs 90 people during the winter and an estimated 115 during the summer, including 10 full time.  His payroll has gone from $200,00 to $1.6 million and his revenue projections were so vastly underestimated as to be laughable. 

“We were a $1.2 million business pre-fire,” Frericks said.  “We’re going to be closer to $6 million when this calendar year ends.”

Because of his response to adversity, the creation of an innovative destination bar and restaurant, and his business growth, Tom Frericks was selected as the 2022 St. Cloud Area Small Business Owner of the Year by the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce. 

2022 BUSINESS CENTRAL MARK OF EXCELLENCE: Family-Owned BUSINESS

Pete Rengel, Rengel Printing

Pete Rengel Rengel Printing
Pete Rengel, owner of
Rengel Printing

Rengel Printing was started 100 years ago by John M. “Jack” Rengel and his business partner Andrew H. Goedert.  Goedert passed away in 1950, paving the way for Jack Rengel to purchase his shares in 1951. Jack’s son, John, purchased the business from his father in 1975 and John’s wife Dee joined the company in 1979. Today the business is owned by Jack Rengel’s grandson, Pete. 

Pete Rengel had no intention of buying Rengel Printing.  After growing up in the business, he was interested in going in a completely different direction.  He had been tinkering on snowmobiles since he was 16 and eventually found himself at the X-Games.  “We have three X-Games golds,” Rengel said.  “We started with one 53-foot trailer and ended up with eight.”

Then he received the phone call from his father saying he was going to sell the business unless Pete wanted to come home and buy it. So Pete went home. “I did it for my parents and my family,” Pete Rengel said.  “The first 10-12 years were not fun. I did it because I had to do it, but I didn’t enjoy it.” 

During those first years Rengel made the hard decisions to reorganize, cut staff, and eliminate expenses.  He took the company from 23 employees down to 12. He parted company with family members who had been in the business. He worked 20-hour days learning every aspect of the business and looking for new products and services to offer.

It was a slow turn-around, but under Rengel’s leadership the family-owned business has made a comeback.  He purchased St. Cloud Stamp and Sign, which helped them branch into additional services and St. Cloud-based Continental Press, expanding his customer base.  He upgraded technology.  In the last five years the company has grown to about 45 employees with four satellite offices across the state.  And there are additional expansion plans in the works which will add another office and 14 more employees.  “I always said I’d never come back to print,” Rengel said, “but now we’re having fun.”

Today this 100-year-old company remains family-owned and is on a growth trajectory.  In an old industry, Rengel Printing is constantly finding ways to reinvent itself and grow under the leadership of the family’s third generation.  For this reason Rengel Printing was selected as the 2022 St. Cloud Area Family-Owned Business of the Year by the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce.

2022 Emerging

ENTREPRENEUR

Michelle Henderson, BadCat Digital

Michelle Henderson Badcat Digital 2 1
Michelle Henderson, owner of
BadCat Digital

Michelle Henderson did not start out to own an ad agency.  Her liberal arts education in comparative religion, law, and interior design did not prepare her well for business ownership. But after moving to St. Cloud she needed to do something to earn a little money while she looked for a job. 

In September 2017 she and her husband agreed that he would cover their expenses for six months while Henderson tried her hand at creating a business she called BadCat Digital.  She reached her goals in four months and within nine months had hired her first employee. From first year sales of about $60,000, the company tripled their sales in year two.  Then they doubled. Then they doubled again. She added employees, moved to larger office space, and finally decided to buy and remodel a building. 

Finding, purchasing and remodeling a building in downtown St. Cloud was a dream come true for Henderson, but it carried some hidden challenges.  As she focused on the building she spent less time working on the business. Expenses climbed.  For the first time since starting BadCat the business was not profitable.  Henderson refocused her attention and enjoyed the company’s best sales month ever in January 2022. 

Henderson says she has little trouble finding employees.  She places less emphasis on experience and more on people who have practice problem-solving.  She speaks to classes at St. Cloud State University and has found that to be an excellent way to connect to potential employees.  And she offers a comprehensive benefit package, which includes full health care, an unusual move for a small, newer company.  “Young people don’t understand health care and they don’t want to,” she said. “That makes it an attractive benefit to the age group that we hire.”

Today Henderson is focusing on increasing video services, as well as exploring augmented and virtual reality. “That’s the future,” she said, “and we want to be sure we’re ready to go – that we know how to make the products work and that they’re profitable – when our customers are ready for them.” 

It’s this future focus, along with the company’s business growth, and the steps Henderson has taken to ensure the company’s success that she was chosen as the 2022 St. Cloud Area Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year by the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce.

 

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