Rod Marchand: Entrepreneur and... Author!?
Quick Rides and Party Vibes
Patents Give You a Monopoly, Not Permission
// JULY 2022
Sponsored Content: Education is Key to Keep Ahead of Fraud
Sponsored Content: From Design to Build
Sponsored Content: Ask the Expert: Group Benefits with Great North Insurance
CEO Conversations: Amy Hass
Entrepreneur and... Author!!!??
The Value of a Mentor
Not Your Traditional Billboard Company
Buzi Bus: Quick Rides and Party Vibes
Undeniable Relentless Effort
10 Questions With John Machacek: Livewire
Patents give you a Monopoly, Not Permission
Give Your Business a Sales Tax Check-Up
Sales Intelligence: Harnessing The Power of Data in Today's Marketplace
Ladyboss of the Month: Taylor Budge
Awesome Foundation: Fargo Moorhead Humans of Color
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E d i t o r ’s n o t e
oes anybody else have summer hours? They are fantastic!
At Spotlight, we get off at noon every Friday which gives our employees the ability to restore, relax and explore during a time of year which is so precious in our region. Personally, I'm extremely thankful for this. However, that isn't to say that this flexible schedule doesn't come with its challenges. Less time at work means less time to get
projects done and less time to coordinate interviews and photoshoots. You might be thinking, 'how big of a difference can 4 hours on Friday really make.' And you're probably right. However, the majority of people in this region also save up their PTO to spend it in the summer, as they should, meaning those halfday Fridays turn into 4-day, 5-day and weeklong vacations pretty frequently. This isn't a bad thing. At the time of writing this, I'm preparing to head out to Glacier National Park for a week and couldn't be more excited—we just need to make sure we prepare for our departures.
A Few Tips • • • •
Get that automatic email response ready Work ahead if you can (duh!) Bring a hotspot (and someone to drive) during your commute Delegate before you leave
Brady Drake Fargo INC! Editor
Brady Drake, Fargo INC! Editor
Education is Key to Keep Ahead of Fraud
Business fraud is as old as business, but it’s constantly evolving and taking new forms. Especially over the past year and a half, with many workers first shifting to their homes and now returning to the office, security gaps and changes in behavior have emerged that fraudsters are able to turn to their advantage. Business owners need to know what to watch for and how to be prepared. Often the best defense is simple—stop, think, and ask questions when something unusual comes up. Here are some things to think about:
Keep a sharp eye out for email compromise fraud
During the pandemic, cases of business email compromise (BEC) soared. In BEC, a criminal impersonates a coworker or partner and requests a payment to an account. They may pretend to be a CEO, salesperson, or banker, or may act as a regular employee and ask HR to change their direct deposit. Unlike “spoofed” emails, where the sender address is recognizably fake, today’s BEC often comes from a real hacked account. Keep passwords secure and follow up every email request for funds with a call or in-person verification.
Beware of ransomware
Ransomware is also on the rise. Major attacks make the news, but small companies are a prime target regardless of industry. Ransomware is sold as a package to cybercriminals, so it is no longer the domain of a few skilled hackers. It infiltrates a system, often via an email link, and encrypts files in the background. A victim’s first sign will often come too late—a locked screen demanding payment in exchange for decrypting the data. The best defense: educated employees who don’t click on strange files and links, internet security software and robust data backups. A great resource is stopransomware.gov.
Cover your back with backups, tests, checks, and software
Start with internet security software and regular data backups, then go a step further with testing: Test your data backup to make sure it is copying all expected files, and practice accessing and using the backup. Make sure the backup can’t be infected from the network. Check bank accounts daily for unusual activity. You might even consider testing employees with fake phishing emails to see who clicks. This is a chance to reinforce key lessons and drive home risks.
Check your insurance policies
Active defenses and education are crucial, but it's also important for businesses to mitigate risk. Check your insurance policy to confirm it covers cybercrime, fraud and ransomware attacks. Some companies provide assistance in the event of fraud. Insurance brokers and business advisors can help you identify the best level of coverage for you. It can be the difference between a slight disruption and being down for weeks—or maybe even out of business.
Employee education is the key to blocking fraud
It can’t be stated enough: People are most often the conduit through which fraud hits a company. Make sure all employees are trained. Too often leaders are taught about the risks, but don’t deliver the message effectively to those who need it. Make cyber defense a priority, teach it consistently, and revisit it often. Alerus has been advising firms on fraud and keeping their financial information secure for decades, from the days of keeping paper checks secure to helping them understand the risks we face today. We offer services like Positive Pay to cut down on check fraud, and we offer presentations and webinars on fraud prevention to our clients and their employees to help make good habits second nature. Talk to an Alerus business advisor to learn more.
The information contained herein is general in nature, is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Alerus does not provide legal or tax advice. Always consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation. Alerus Financial, N.A. is Member FDIC.
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JULY 2022 Volume 7 Issue 7
Fargo INC! is published 12 times a year and is available at area businesses and online at FargoInc.com.
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Kristy Van Beek DRG Senior Project Designer
Design Build How Christianson Companies + Spotlight Found Success Through Collaboration
about The PRoject In the summer of 2021, Spotlight moved offices. However, what few people know is that our new office was designed from scratch with the help of Christianson Companies, here are the details:
• 5,460 square feet • Custom Windows • Mix of internal and external installation • Flexible lease arrangement • Lighting
• • • • • • •
Studio space Conference room Break room Flex space Breakout rooms Open concept + More
t spotlight, we try to use our Fargo INC! publications to bring you the very best content, advice and recommendations. In doing this, we rely heavily on the area's expertise. After all, the opinions of those we trust are crucial to bringing you the full breadth of content for everything our booming business community has to offer. However, there are times when we are lucky enough to speak from firsthand experience. And, wow, were we lucky to have firsthand experience with Christianson Companies when it came to developing Spotlight's new office space.
continued > FARGOINC.COM
how it works As a client of Christianson Companies, which handles the construction management side of things, you get an all in one solution including real estate with PRG and design with DRG. Design Resources Group handles the interior, site design and architecture. Property Resources Group helps find the space you need and navigate the best terms for leasing the space.
Working with Christianson Companies was refreshing because all aspects from finding the space, designing it and seeing it through was all done through one company and it created a ton of efficiencies." -Mike Dragosavich, Spotlight CEO/ Founder
Don’t get us wrong, we loved our old space, it was awesome! Downtown Fargo welcomed us with open arms, and so many memories and firsts were made in our old office. However, as time went on and our team grew, and grew, and grew, our Founder Mike Dragosavich realized that we needed a larger space, better suited for our team's creative and collaborative needs—one that was less segmented and more inviting to the creation of company culture across departments than what we were currently in.
Enter Property Resources Group Once Mike began to realize that a new office space would be advantageous for the company, like most entrepreneurs, he quickly
took action by shopping around for the best fit until he found it with the Christianson Companies family. “I had never done this before, building out an office space from scratch,” Mike said. “I basically came to them and said, ‘Can I tell you my vision of how I want my business to operate, what type of culture I want to create and what outcome I want out of the space and have you help me engineer that and visually orchestrate it so I can make decisions?’ They said, ‘absolutely’ and I thought that was really cool. They took a lot of time learning about what I wanted and how I wanted the business to operate.” According to Senior Project Designer Kristy Van Beek, that’s how Christianson Companies works with every client.
“We really want to help businesses by understanding their needs and helping them address those needs,” Kristy said. “Obviously, for every client that looks a little different, but we don’t see that as a bad thing at all. Each business is unique and requires unique solutions."
Mike and Kristy during the buildout.
Spotlight’s ‘Unique’ Needs
As a content creation company, Spotlight’s needs are definitely unique. What’s more, each sector of the company has its own needs, processes and goals as well. The sales team is working to find clients that we can assist in growing their brand, the editorial team is trying to find and write the best content possible, the design team is working to bring that content to the readers in a fun and easy to consume way, the video team is working to deliver powerful and impactful content to our clients and on and on. And that's all without even mentioning the fact that our space needed a photo studio, a conference room, a break area and places of solitude for everyone. Pretty hard to fit into an open concept, right?
• A beautiful entrance area • Open space • A flex space • A lot of natural light • A conference room • A photo studio space • Breakout rooms
Maybe, but not impossible.
Before building out the space, the Christianson Companies team took an extra step in ensuring our leadership was comfortable with the space that they would be putting together by providing a 3D walkthrough for us to look at. “That was unbelievable and helped us with the aesthetic aspect of things,” Mike said. “That was so cool and helpful for me to have as someone who doesn’t have experience with blueprints. Without experience, it can be
really hard to understand scale and it can be hard to visualize what you're ultimately going to be walking into. So, I thought that was a nice touch. And ultimately, it saved us a lot of time and money by allowing us to know how to make decisions around decor.”
Coming To Fruition Once the 3D walkthrough was approved, things really began to come to fruition and Christianson Companies helped guide us through their very well-stepped-out general contractor process. However, they also allowed us, and do allow clients, the opportunity to work with other vendors we had relationships with as well. Even in this, they were not passive, but instead gave us flexible but firm advice on whether or not some of these vendors would fit within our build.
finishing Christianson Companies is truly a full-service company. “They made it very clear how the space financially works when it comes to the lease, and they were very flexible on different ways that we can structure a lease so that it works well with how our business operates,” Mike said. “They treat you like a partner as opposed to a tenant. The other benefit, I think, for us was that we don't really know where we're going. We don't know how fast we're going to grow. It's hard to say, but we could bring on a couple of clients and immediately add 10 to 20 people. That's a benefit of working
They took a lot of initiative, which I was really happy with because I've had experiences with other vendors in my career where they basically say, ‘what do you want, we'll do it.’ That can be kind of difficult because this isn’t my area of expertise. Christianson Companies came in and said, ‘What do you want to achieve? We'll help you get there.’ That was really awesome.” -Mike Dragosavich, Spotlight CEO/ Founder
with Christianson Companies, they have plenty of properties in different places that we can pivot to or move to. That was a really big advantage of moving within their network. They made it clear that they would work with us to get us more space or to find new space immediately if those things happened.”
Not to mention a beautiful new office. “It has been a lot of fun to see the completed space,” Kristy said. “Spotlight has added a lot of fun artwork and things like that to the space as well and I’m really happy with the results.”
In addition to the flexible financing, Christianson Companies has also provided us with great security, technology, HVAC and communication to help ensure that we are making the most out of our new home.
Property Resources Group does it all: a full array of real estate and brokerage solutions including site selection, land acquisition, land development, build-tosuit, platting/zoning, architectural design, construction build-out, selling or purchasing investment property, 1031 tax-deferred exchanges and selling or purchasing hunting/ recreation/farm land.
We wanted to spread more natural light through the space. kristy mentioned a transom window that could help with this.
Ready to work together? Christianson Companies is one of Fargo-MoorheadWest Fargo’s leading developers that provides all-inclusive services taking projects from their inception to their completion. Christianson Companies is currently working on projects in 20 different states across the US.
Get in Touch Phone: 701.281.9500
Address: 4609 33rd Ave S Suite 400, Fargo, ND 58104
Ask the Expert:
Group Benefits with Great North Insurance By Josiah Kopp Photo by Geneva Nodland
Who do you see as the ‘typical’ GNI/HUB Group Benefits client? We serve any group of employees from two to 10,000. We have the ability and passion to help any size of business, from small businesses whose HR Department consists of just the company’s owner, to large corporate entities.
How do you help employers streamline the open enrollment process? Our process to serve our clients starts well in advance of open enrollment. In some cases, it will start as early as 2 months after the previous year’s renewal. We have
discussions with key team members within each company to discuss specific needs, upcoming changes they see relevant and any other areas of need we can address.
Why should companies use a dedicated employee benefits broker, vs. going directly to a carrier? A few reasons come to mind with the biggest being our team of professionals. We have advocates to serve your specific business needs. We have individuals on our team that have served in a variety of roles— including underwriting, which will help you as a business owner or HR Director understand more about the policies we provide and how we can aggressively negotiate terms and premiums for your business.
What help do you provide clients in developing their benefits communications? We don’t see ourselves as just ‘plan designers,' but communication experts. We are not here to only deliver your policy at renewal, but to help you negotiate solutions to your coverage needs. One of the biggest keys to our process is utilizing our large team of experts to meet your every need and walk you through the process from A to Z. We have dedicated team members fluent in healthcare, Medicare, group benefits, dental, vision and disability insurances.
What are your thoughts on how to attract and retain employees in the current landscape/workforce environment? Becoming a leader in your industry starts with implementing a thriving company culture. Great North Insurance, operating as HUB Great Plains, has the ability to not
only assist you in implementing a top-notch benefits package, but to have a team of experts to help you lead the way in staying on top of relevant HR trends. We have a team of experts ensure that you have a competitive advantage in your market. We utilize benchmarks to lead the way in salary and benefit trends and we compare to others in your field within your state, region, country and even local community to show you, as the employer, how you line up with other, similar employer groups.
We offer a high deductible health plan. Are there supplemental plans we can offer to employees on a voluntary basis that will help employees pay out-of-pocket medical costs? In the market today, many employers are looking for ways to help employees pay out-of-pocket expenses. The most common voluntary plans are: • Accident Plan: pays benefits to the insured to help reduce out-of-pocket expenses associated with an accidental injury. Benefits are paid in addition to other coverage and can assist the insured in paying out-of-pocket expenses, such as deductible, coinsurance or increased out-of-network costs for care. Benefits are available for treatment of everyday injuries, such as burns, lacerations, broken bones, dislocations, concussions, eye or teeth injuries and more.
in addition to other coverage and can be used to pay for out-of-pocket expenses, experimental or homeopathic treatment, travel for treatment, second opinions or even living expenses if employees need to take time away from work to recover. • Hospital indemnity Plan: pays a benefit to the insured if they are hospitalized due to a covered illness (including pregnancy) or injury to help reduce their outof-pocket expenses. Benefits are paid in addition to other coverage and can assist the insured in paying out-of-pocket expenses, such as deductible, coinsurance or increased out-of-network costs for care.
What are some other voluntary plans employers are offering to their employees to help with recruitment and retention? • Identity Theft: coverage that alerts you if your identity has been stolen and takes care of the resolution process. Coverage typically also monitors credit and banking accounts (including retirement accounts), in addition to helping reduce unwanted solicitations and removing information from public databases to lessen the likelihood of a breach It also provides legal coverage such as traffic tickets, contract review, name or gender identifier updates, real estate disputes, adoption, consumer issues, debt collection, tax audits, elder law, etc. • Pet Insurance: coverage that provides benefits for pet medical treatment, ranging from network savings to reimbursements for treatments received. Coverage can include benefits for injuries, sicknesses, prescriptions and wellness.
• Critical illness Plan: pays the insured a lump-sum benefit upon the diagnosis of a covered critical condition. Benefit is paid
Value Added Services Healthcare Cost Management I am turning 65 and not planning to retire. Do I have to sign up for Medicare? At age 65, you do not have to enroll in full Medicare. If you are eligible to remain on your group health plan you can do so. If you are enrolled in a traditional health plan, many people will enroll in Medicare Part A only. You should have a Medicare analysis completed to make sure you are enrolling or not enrolling in the appropriate parts of Medicare as well as making sure you are enrolling in the best plans available to you.
I am turning 65 and not planning to retire. I contribute to an HSA. Does Medicare status impact that?
HR Technology & Benefits Administration Hr Technology makes benefits administration easy.
Benefits Compliance Service & Guidance Do you have a comprehensive strategy that keeps up with everchanging regulations?
Pharmacy Benefits Management
Pharmacy is one of the most highly valued and utilized benefits in your employee benefits package.
This has become a very common question as HSA active accounts have grown over time. The easy answer is if you enroll in any part of Medicare, you are no longer eligible to make contributions to your HSA nor can your employer. Many people who make contributions to an HSA want to continue but think they cannot once they are 65. This is simply not true. As long as no parts of Medicare are active, you can continue to make contributions. Once on Medicare, HSA dollars do not expire or go away. The HSA account balance can be used tax and penalty-free to pay the Medicare Part B premium, Part D premium as well as Medicare-approved outof-pocket expenses.
Employee Benefits Analytics
I heard there are penalties if I don’t sign up right away for Medicare. Is this true?
Employee Value Proposition
There are late enrollment penalties associated with Medicare. However, as an active employee of a creditable health plan those penalties are waived when you elect Medicare after the age of 65. Upon enrollment, your employer will complete a Request for Employment Information form which is submitted for processing to avoid penalties. If you do not have an active employee plan available to you or your spouse, you will need to enroll in Medicare upon eligibility to avoid penalties. This can include retiree health coverage and COBRA. 30
We'll help you implement cost management strategies for your employee healthcare benefits program.
Comparing your benefit plans and costs to your competitors. Big data is invaluable, if you have the time and the resources to analyze and interpret it. Data is telling you is essential.
Total Compensation Statements
Total compensation statements raise your employees' awareness of the full value of their pay, benefits, time off, stock-based compensation and more. Employees don't know what they don't know.
Your EVP will capture everything you have to offer, from pay and benefits to the intangibles that make your organization unique.
Workforce Absence Management
Absence management programs are critical to employers and employees alike.
A solid benefits communication strategy engages employees before, during and after open enrollment.
Current Great North Broker? HUB International
Why choose HUB International over other Employee Benefits Brokers?
Avoid the annual renewal fire drill when you partner with us. We'll help you understand your cost drivers and develop a multi-year plan to achieve sustainable results and optimize every dollar spent.
The era of one-size-fits-all benefits is over. We'll help you craft affordable employee benefit options that meet the unique needs of your workforce, wherever they are in their life and career journey.
Engage your People
Delievering a positive experience is key to retaining talent, and that means ensuring your team understands its employee benefits. We'll bring the right tools and resources to help your people achieve their health and financial goals.
Great North is ready to serve you. To get a quote, visit greatnorthinsuranceservices.com or call 701.239.4647.
I was working retail at the time and I wanted to get out of working nights and weekends, and I am good friends with the former marketing person at Spicy Pie (the President of EPIC Companies Todd Berning owns Spicy Pie). And so they told me about a position that had open for a new company that Todd was starting. I was interested in the opportunity, so I went in and interviewed. I like to say each of us kind of gave each other a shot. From there, I started leasing out our apartments and worked my way up.
I was nervous as I’d never done anything like this before, however; I was told on the first day—and it’s stuck with me—is that EPIC will always have my back. If you screw up on something, think of it as a learning opportunity. That original message was valuable for me because I taught myself a lot through different channels/research and slowly created policies and procedures as we grew.
I would say property management in general: how it’s run, how leases work, how security deposits work, really anything involving the renting of an apartment. I had no experience in the industry so in the beginning I wore a lot of hats and learned a lot. I’m glad I went through the ins and outs of the organization as I feel more knowledgeable about what I do now.
There are several things, but the most meaningful is EPIC’s community enhancement aspect. Being able to do great things for our local communities really drives me. Our employees also give me purpose day in and day out!. I love hearing their ideas, watching them learn alongside me, and seeing dreams become reality. We cultivate an atmosphere of continual learning and growing at EPIC.
I feel very blessed to have started with EPIC in 2016 and see how it’s evolved over the years. It’s been thrilling be part of the growth and celebrate the wins and losses with such an empowering team. On another note, it’s also very humbling. When I originally interviewed, my boss had a sketched out a version of The Lights and downtown West Fargo on a napkin. At that time, I was unsure how the community would accept a project like that but being part of the process and seeing the passion as it came to fruition was incredible.
I think communication is the key to success and something that we strive to work on each day. One of our values is to evolve and adapt, as we continue to grow, we’re constantly learning and improving with each project. Our employee engagement and culture are also important to our entire team. We love hearing ideas that help us build a culture where employees thrive and feel valued.
a better leader. Delegating and leaning on your leaders—along with hiring correctly—are also really important for a company to be successful.
I would say creating communities within communities. We have truly changed the meaning of live, work, and play. Our mixed-use projects set us apart whether it’s the commercial space, apartments, plaza spaces, or even now bringing condos, hotels, and a waterpark to the mix we are trying to think on step ahead. At the end of the day, creating a heightened quality of life for our tenants is what we are about.
We look for an extensive variety of commercial tenants whether it’s office, retail, customer-serve, you name it, and we have a space for you. With mixed-use, it’s important to have active tenants who bring customers in throughout the day including businesses such as bar/restaurants, retail shops, coffee shops, and more. We want tenants who are community-driven and want to enhance the area they’re in. Our commercial tenants are partners of ours who often can see the vision before it’s a reality.
It’s a team effort for sure, I always credit the people behind the scenes and at the end of the day it’s about. Having good leaders in place honestly. Our Vice Presidents are very knowledgeable in their departments and lead the day-to-day. I work with them one-on-one to discuss budgets, strategic planning, the future, goal setting, etc. I really rely on that group to help run the company and allow myself to see the long-term goals of our company. Time management is crucial when in a leadership role because time it is a finite resource. I’m in a book club with another CEO in town, and we strategize together as we read through the books. I recently finished The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni which opened my eyes to a number of ways I can become
Our company culture centers on relationship building, and we hire on “heart.” If you’re a good fit for EPIC, we’ll find a role for you. We work hard to keep our environment fun and upbeat, and we’re always learning and adapting as we go. Surrounding yourself with good people is huge and sets our team apart from others.
I would say someone who is passionate about being part of a community project. Our developments are full circle from start to finish and we play a large role in getting them to feel that way. We always say we’re involved with community inside and outside of our four walls. We have a volunteer committee (Volunteering by EPIC) that includes more than half of our employees on staff. We volunteer our time and donate monetary donations throughout the area. This has really changed our company culture and we love it when our employees get involved!
The most recent one I am continuing to work on is making sure we don’t lose our culture as we gain employees. That’s one topic I’ve been sure to read about! When we’re doing our strategic planning, it’s something we take into consideration and make sure our culture isn’t diluting because of our growth. Many of our employees want to work here because of the team atmosphere and culture that has been created.
Yes! No risk, no reward. We have our employees' backs and letting them learn from mistakes is a crucial part of their development.
My free time is spent with my family and friends. My two nephews, I don't have any kids, are a big part of my world. They're 10 and 11 and they live in South Dakota and I try to see them as often as I can. I enjoy reading and doing puzzles and watching Golden Girls. That's probably the gist of it.
Yes, I'm typically focused on reading leadership books, but I also read a lot of books on personal growth.
Absolutely, another thing I try to do is sudokus because it's a different type of brain break and it helps me distress.
In the last couple of years. I've also started to take piano lessons to utilize a different part of my brain. That has been really fun.
Honestly, when I turned 30, I entered a bit of a self-discovery journey. This journey has helped me not only personally, but also professionally develop into a better leader.
Trying new things and understanding more about myself as a person. For some reason, I was nervous about turning 30. I’d experienced business success, but on the personal side, I had a lot to learn. I do really enjoy my job, what I do, and the people I’m surrounded with. I enjoy working so much that I realized I was ignoring the nonwork side of my life. Thankfully, I now recognize just how important it is to have down time as well. It has helped me become a better leader by; not being solely focused on work all the time. Life is short so we must enjoy each day!
Entrepreneur and... Author!!!?? Meet Rod Marchand Owner of Marchand Retail Group
By Brady Drake Photo by Geneva Nodland 42
Rod Marchand, a Harvey native, set up his most recent business venture in Fargo!
The honest reality of entrepreneurship is that oftentimes you'll think you have everything figured out and then some pitfall happens or something new that you have to overcome." That is the sentiment that entrepreneur Rod Marchand, President and CEO of Marchand Retail Group, knows all too well and that's why he is sharing it with us in his very first book which is aptly titled Man F@#k. It's supposed to be a very inspirational book," Marchand said. "But it's not just that. It's a story of my journey and the things we have had to overcome along the way." Among those challenges include the near-death of a child and a major fire at their business—yeah, real-life stuff. However, it's not all tragedy in the book. Marchand lays out, in a very easy-to-consume manner, his path from an employee at his parent's mom and pop electronics retail shop in Harvey, North Dakota to what is today, a much bigger operation. Marchand and his wife bought the company in 1999 which, at the time, was housed in a 1,600 square foot location. Today, the Harvey location sits at 20,000 square feet. We sat down with him to learn more.
What is the book about? Despite what the title says, it's not a vulgar book. However, the title is the sentiment that is the honest reality of entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur, when things are going well and you think you have things figured out, that's usually when some life event happens or you run into something new that you have to overcome. It's a very inspirational book and it's intended to be that way. But it's a story of my journey. It's a very open and honest book about the reality of life and what it takes to persevere and overcome and grow your business. We are the second generation of our retail group which was founded by my parents as a little momand-pop electronic store that I grew up in. The book describes this whole journey. My wife and I bought the company in 1999 and we've grown it since then from a 1,600 square feet location to a now 20,000 square feet in small town, Harvey North Dakota, and we've been in multiple industries, but we mainly sell furniture, appliance, and floor coverings out of the Harvey location. At one point, we got very heavily into the E-commerce platforms, specifically selling furniture on Amazon. We were doing great with that volume-wise, but couldn't make any money because of all things being equal on the internet—the lowest price wins. Also at this time, around 2014, the bed box industry, major competitors like Casper, Ghost, etc. we're really blowing up. We saw that consumers really liked the delivery method. It was convenient and easy to do. But we found that most of the products in the industry were imported from China. You could choose from five models that were already pre-designed and you just picked the one and slapped your own label on it. They were poor quality, had bad
quality control and just a lot of issues. There really wasn't anything that was a premium product. That gave me the idea to create my own mattress with a focus on health and wellness—to put a premium product in a box. We started Accord Comfort Sleep Systems with our own proprietary technology. The book is about our journey from the beginning to where we are at now with that.
So is the mattress part of things the majority of Marchand Retail Group now? It's really still kind of the minority of it. The business in Harvey is actually very large and successful and we go all over the state. We're heavily invested in the
commercial flooring business for schools and hospitals and things like that. But we intend on Accord becoming a significant part of the business. Our Fargo location just opened about 30 days ago and we intend for that to become our headquarters and flagship store. And we definitely didn't accidentally pick Fargo. It's a great market, a large market, a growing market. It's a very entrepreneurial community and it's very supportive. That's kind of why we chose this market in North Dakota. Its primary purpose is so that we can bring franchisees in to see the corporate store and then franchise this mattress business model nationally and even internationally. We are talking to a group out of Toronto as we speak to potentially open up three stores in Canada as well.
Make sure to meet Rod Marchand at his book signing on July 28 from 4-6 p.m. at Ferguson Books. 300 Sheyenne St S160, West Fargo, ND 58078
So how is your mattress company different? We offer all core comfort and sleep systems from foundations, bases, linens, pillows, mattresses and all sorts of bundles. It's kind of a unique niche and market because these products are exclusively ours. You can't find these anywhere else. We're not selling our products in other stores. My twin sons, Quincy and Spencer now have some equity stake in the business so we're actually third generation. My son Spencer is the CEO of the mattress company and he's just going to be turning 25. This young guy is really heavily invested in the industry and the designing of these. All of the hybrid models that we launched recently were all his build, so it's kind of neat that he's my mattress designer so to speak.
It seems like your business has changed a lot over time. Definitely—when my parents started the store, my dad had retired from the Navy and so he started as just an electronics dealership. Then we went from electronics to appliances and then we added furniture. And each time we expanded into an industry, we either moved a location or expanded. Floorcoverings were a big passion of mine. That was the kind of the first time my father and I partnered as a team. When we did that, it was the early 90s, when big box stores were crashing a lot of electronics margins. Everything was disposable. We got out of that industry. We got into window treatments and for a while. We have invested in and out of a lot of different industries.
What's the purpose of the franchising model in your mind? It's more for just building the brand. However, we may want to open more corporate stores in Grand Forks or Bismarck, or even the Minneapolis area or Sioux Falls. But the beauty of franchising is that it's not always our capital that we're laying on the line. However, we would want to vet the franchisees very well because we want good business people and people that would be productive and do a good job. But it's a really great way to grow quickly without such a heavy investment.
What's been unique so far is that we've done this all on our own. We haven't raised any outside capital or taken on any other investors. We're kind of proud of that fact. Another unique thing about us is that we're really looking at the younger generation. Our beds fit in a very small box and can be taken home from the store in a Prius! We're going a little bit more with the instant gratification concept. You can come in, try out the bed, and no kidding, take a king-sized mattress and put it in your Prius and drive home. We're like the IKEA of mattresses.
What are you looking for in a franchisee? The fee for entry is very low so it's a great opportunity for someone who does really well at sales but can't afford to open on their own. It's a chance to own a very large business with a low cost of entry. However, we really want people who are going to represent the brand well.
What was your relationship like with the family business in your youth? My relationship with my dad was tough. But of course, he's from a different generation. I certainly don't interact with my children in that same way. I got the loan to buy the business when I was 25 and it was kind of a he's gotta go or I gotta go because we can't work together very well. I don't think ruling with an iron fist and being a dictator or a multitasker is really that productive. I think it's actually very restrictive to your ability to grow.
Have you always wanted to write a book? Yes and no. That's a funny part of the story. I was at a resort in 2000. Right after we had bought the company and then expanded, it was growing so fast and we were undercapitalized. When we did it, we were having a lot of financial stress. And my good friend decided that we should go down to the Atlantis resort that just opened in the Bahamas.
Rod Marchand just opened his Accord Sleep Systems headquarters in Fargo.
The only reason we went is because my buddy went to school for Hotel Management and he ended up being the GM for that resort. So we got comped rooms, otherwise, I shouldn't even financially have been down there. While I was down there, I couldn't think of anything but the trouble that's going on back home. We decided to go out and see a comedian. This guy comes out, introduces himself and says, "I've been thinking about writing a book about my life. I'll call it man, fuck." It was hilarious. I said for years that I would write a book and title it that, but what really inspired me to do it was Kevin Harrington, one of the original sharks from Shark Tank. He reached out to us because we had such an innovative product. We went down and presented to him at a Shark Tank-style event in Florida where he's living. He was giving a kind of a motivational talk after the pitch and mentioned the importance of reading. I
subscribe to that, I read a lot myself. And he said, "Has anybody here ever written a book? And if so, I'd love to read it." At that moment, I decided I was going to start writing as soon as I got home.
Did you have any sort of hurdles in writing the book? The only thing was during the editing process, they kept wanting me to make it longer. I struggled with this. I wanted it to be like talking to me. Very quick and to the point. To learn more visit: rodmarchand.com marchandretailgroup.com
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By Makenzi Johnson
THE VALUE OF A MENTOR
Founder Bridge the Gap Consulting 48
Meet the new Doc! Dr. Ashley Motacek
Q&A with Jason Orloske
How did you get started in project management? I was working for the Thompson Corporation, called West Group back then, in the Minneapolis area. I was doing data acquisition and transitions. An author would write a book, a pamphlet, or whatever it would be and send this information to us. We would then take the information and go two directions: one, to print the legal textbooks and two, print to the CD ROMS. So there was a whole new book series that was coming out and this person, who was a project manager, was someone I hated, everybody hated him. We would be sitting in a conference room and he would walk through the door saying the same thing every week, “You’re not doing your job, you’re all terrible, you’re falling behind schedule, you should all be fired.” One day he came in and said “You guys suck, you’re not doing your jobs right.” I said back to him, “I have an idea. What if we, instead of running one at a time, run these two tracks parallel?
I think we would get done quicker.” He turned bright red and he goes, “OK slick, if you think you can do better, do it,” and threw his project binder at me and walked out of the room. He never came back. I talked to my boss and she said, “Well if you want to do this project, go ahead, but you’re going to need some help.” I said back to her, “Yeah, I do.” Then I was exposed to the world of project management, through Pete.
What are you doing now? Right now I have my own LLC, Bridge the Gap Consulting. I’m also a senior consultant for a company called Digineer. I consult on project portfolio management. If companies have an idea of what they want to do from a project management standpoint or if they have a strategy but don’t know what to do, that’s when I get a phone call. I can help flush things out a bit more, understand where things are with them, where they want to go, and start to prioritize the tasks of the project. I like to say I turn vision into reality by helping their teams out. I run their projects from start to finish and then I’m out.
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My family and I moved from Minneapolis to Fargo in 2013 to get away from the traffic and the hectic lifestyle down there in the cities. My commute time to work in Minneapolis was an hour and ten minutes, one way. It just got to be too much. We just wanted a smaller community. We thought about either coming here, or I had a good friend of mine that worked down in Kansas City, MO and he said, “Well if you’re on this side of the city there’s all the major companies and you wouldn’t be driving more than 15-20 minutes.” I thought, whoever offers a job first, is where I will go. It was Fargo. We love it here, we love our neighborhood. I’ve kind of got myself into some of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the executives club with people like Patrick Metzger. I feel that I made a good establishment here and I will continue to grow that presence.
How did you meet your mentor, Pete Blissinbach? My mentor came in 1999. My boss said, “If you’re interested in project management, I will help you out in that field but I can’t mentor you directly, you need to bring in somebody else.” She had heard of one project manager and put us in contact with each other. There was this guy who had just started, his name was Pete Blissenbach. Pete was from California, and had been doing project management for 15-20 years. He was a California kid, had long, blonde hair, and was a surfer. He only moved to Minnesota because his wife had family there and wanted to move closer. I got to meet him and said, “Hey can you help me, because I really need some and I don’t know what I’m doing.” He said, ‘“Yeah absolutely.” He was in his late 40s at the time, and I was in my mid twenties… He was my first
mentor and was the most impactful person. I attribute my 20 plus year career in project management to him because he guided me onto that path.
What were some of the key lessons you learned from Blissinbach? He taught me three big lessons. The first one was probably the most important: relationships. The art of project management really are the relationships and trust you develop. He was once leading an effort where it was two project teams who didn’t like each other, and they were constantly arguing. So he goes, “I’m going to bring you to this meeting and you’re going to hear yelling and screaming. People are going to be pointing fingers at each other and it’s going to be very uncomfortable. But you’re going to learn a lot.” We sat down,
Provided by Jason Orloske
*Data provided by a MentorcliQ study
84% of Fortune 500
companies have mentor programs
90% of Fortune 250
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97% of past and current mentees say having a mentor is valuable
89% of mentees will go on to mentor others
On average, Fortune 500 companies with a mentor program had better profits during the Covid-19 economic downturn
and he was right. These four people start yelling at each other, cursing and calling each other names and I’m kind of leaning forward like, “I think we should say something.” He just puts up his hand and goes, “Let the animals kill each other, and when they’re done, make friends with who’s left.” He just sat there and waited. Eventually it was just two people that were arguing. He goes, “OK, everybody stop. You’re basically saying the same thing so let me kind of tell you what I’m hearing.” So he really taught me the value of taking a step back and that sometimes you have to let the conversations just happen, and then you come in. Only then was he able to build trust, not only from him to the person he was talking to, but even amongst the others. It was just really interesting to watch his thought process of, you know, conflict is going to happen, but sometimes you need to let it go. Once you get down to just a couple people, build a relationship with those couple people—especially since they’re the leaders of those groups. And then get aligned after that. That was probably my most fond memory of him, because he was just so laid back about it and didn’t get upset at all. The second thing he really mentored me on was project schedules. Clients want to have a schedule of when we are going to be done. Earlier in my career, I would make these humongous schedules, 400 lines long for each individual task. The thing he taught me was that the schedule will be correct on day one, but it will be wrong on day two and until the very end. If I showed you
a 400 page project plan, you’d be like, “No way.” If I showed you ten, just the key dates, those are the things people understand. Know that simpler is better and less is more when planning out how long your project is going to take. Don’t get into too much detail because if one thing goes wrong, everything else is going to be wrong underneath it and you’re going to spend more time correcting your project plan than the project itself. The last one is status reporting, which is a huge part of project management. Everybody wants to know how we’re doing on time, cost, and whatever else those metrics are. You don’t need a book, you just need one page, simple things. If you can't read it in ten seconds or less and understand the current state, you’re doing something wrong. So again, less is more, keep it simple.
Were there any other valuable lessons you learned? Those three are the big ones, but I always think back to his value of relationships more than anything. He would stress that with me over and over again. There's the formal aspect of relationships: I owe you a status report and I want to make sure that you understand it. Where you really can get worked up is informal relationships. So take people out for coffee, take them out for a beer after work. Whatever it would be, just have an informal conversation, get to know them on a personal level because that just builds
that relationship capital. Once you have that relationship capital built up, later on, you can negotiate something or ask for a favor. Relationships above everything else will help you get your work complete. I was very nervous early on in this profession, because you deal with the senior management level all the way down to the front line workers, so you’re dealing with the whole range of workers, personality types, and different seniority levels. He helped me to remain calm especially when I was talking to those senior level people. He would say, “They have no idea what you’re talking about so you have to dumb it down. Remember, they’re probably the dumbest person in the room, not you.” He helped me with all that, just gaining that self confidence. He also got me to take on harder and harder projects. Originally I was just taking on some of the print acquisition ones. So writing a new book or whatever it would be, I would put the project plan together for it. Soon it became very mundane and routine because you’re doing them all the time, it’s just operational. An opportunity came up to take on a technology project, they asked me if I wanted to do it and right away I said, “I don’t know if I’m able to or have the knowledge.” Pete told me, “What you already know will help you be successful.” He really pushed me to try something that was a lot harder and outside of my comfort zone.
What was the dynamic of your mentor-mentee relationship? Our mentor-mentee relationship was pretty informal. We did have a personal relationship, having coffee at least once or twice a week. I remember having so many meetings with him just to sit down and talk. I mean one day he said “I’m not here for a cry session but if you need to do that, I’ll be here.” I would bounce things off of him all the time, I had questions every time we got together, or scenarios for him. He just had this real laid back style of he would listen, ask a few questions and kind of sit there and say, “Dude have you thought of this?” … He would never tell me what to do but he would ask questions and kind of guide me to try something else. We had this mentor-mentee relationship for about 18 months before he left the company.
Do you still keep in touch with Pete? We stayed in contact for a while after he left, but eventually lost touch…On one of his last days—which was the first time I ever hugged a coworker—I said, “Hey you really helped me out, you know.” … We stayed in touch for a while and then about 6 years ago or so somebody told me that he had passed away unexpectedly. Otherwise, I would’ve loved to have gotten him on the phone again. He was very influential.
Have you repaid the favor of mentorship to others? I’m on the MSUM board for their project management group so every chance I get to either talk to the students or be a panelist or whatever. I want to pay it forward for everything he did for me.
Where do you think you would be without his mentorship? If I had not had this relationship, I think I would've stayed in the more operational hole of data acquisitions. I thought it was OK, it wasn’t hard, it wasn’t easy. I think I would’ve stayed in something like that role as opposed to projects. As soon as he exposed me to that world, I was hooked pretty fast.
If you want to learn more about Jason Orloske and project management, visit btgconsulting.biz.
Written By Grant Ayers
How iDigital is Transforming the Billboard Business into a Full Suite of Advertising Solutions iDigital Outdoor Media is a local outdoor advertising company based in North Dakota. We sat down with Taylor Danielson, community relations manager and account executive of iDigital, and Andy Solheim, COO of iDigital, to discuss the growth of iDigital, the digital advertising industry as a whole and how iDigital is tracking trends within the industry.
ith the streaming era rising, many are leaving core formats of advertising in the past. As people pay increasing amounts of money to avoid them, advertisers have had to get creative with how they can continue to share a message to the everyday consumer. Many people are often distracted by their phones when watching television, or their television when an advertisement appears on their phone. One place that many are less distracted is during their commute. As eyes are everywhere on the road, placing a standout digital advertisement along a consumer’s commute can increase the likelihood of an advertisement being seen, recognized and retained. As the team behind iDigital Outdoor Media continuously employs evolving technology within their billboards to catch the audience’s attention, the team also works to develop new locations for their outdoor digital advertising.
We first got into the advertising business because we saw there was a monopoly in the marketplace. Our goal was to make billboard advertising affordable to all local businesses to combat the market share that online shopping was taking from our local brick-and-mortar businesses.” Andy Solheim, COO
- Andy Solheim, COO of iDigital
iDigital first launched in September of 2017, with their first billboard being installed at the Dakota Magic Casino. By the end of 2017, they installed a second in Warroad, MN. While it may have been a slow start nearly five years ago, Solheim explained that the company quickly expanded within the following years. “In 2018 we formed a partnership with BookYourBillboard in Sioux Falls on a sales and consulting basis while we started building out the Fargo, Bismarck, Devils Lake and Thief River Falls markets. 2021 was a huge year for our growth, as we acquired an interest in a St. Cloud-based and a Montana-based billboard plant. Currently, we have assets in ND, SD, MT and northern MN,” Solheim said. While iDigital is still searching for new, creative ways to continue expanding, they’ve come to a point where they can reflect on their small beginnings merely five years ago. When questioned about what the primary reasons could have been for iDigital’s immense growth and stability, Danielson was adamant about the reliability of the team. “A cohesive leadership team and great staff all sharing the same vision is what helped us grow so quickly. Having everyone on the team share the same goals is paramount,” Danielson said.
Taylor Danielson, Community Relations Manager & Account Executive
What do iDigital's dynamic advertising campaigns consist of? From start to finish, we believe in overall campaign success in all areas – from the initial campaign goal, to creative and implementation, we take great pride in the details put forth. We offer campaign consultations, creative planning and campaign monitoring. We monitor for needed updates and changes as well to ensure overall success from the time the campaign goes live to its end date. We will work with you to make updates and offer advice.”
- Taylor Danielson Pictured: Andy Solheim, Taylor Danielson Josh Gilleland and Julie Halverson
Anything live online can be displayed on your digital billboard, including time and temperature, game scores, trending news, Amber Alerts and more.
Location, Location, Location
A client’s advertisement will be placed on the major travel corridors and busy streets that your targeted customers use as they commute to and from work, run errands or attend events. With digital billboard advertising, your message will be where your audience is, when they are most likely to consider making purchases.
Cooperative advertising provides small businesses an opportunity to pump up their advertising budget. What happens in this situation is that retailers place local ads and share the cost with wholesalers or manufacturers. Manufacturers usually budget an annual amount of cooperative advertising dollars to ensure product awareness, yet many of them admit that much of this money is left untouched because relatively few retailers pursue the opportunity or fail to fulfill the details of the agreement.
Effective Management Since the client is in charge, they have the capability to bypass printing and installation costs, and change your digital ad whenever you like—monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, or as life happens. In real time, iDigital can utilize RSS feeds; anything live online can be displayed on your digital billboard, including time and temperature, game scores, trending news, Amber Alerts and more.
Rotational Advantages iDigital’s Midwest billboard network allows client ads to rotate throughout all locations in the market minute after minute. Each display offers 6 advertisers with 7-second ad-hold times, giving 43% more time per ad than many competitors. As iDigital adds new locations to each market, those new billboards will automatically be added to our network, and clients’ ads will begin rotating immediately. What does this mean for clients? For a single contract purchase, that ad will rotate on every billboard location, giving maximum coverage in a single buy.
Generally, cooperative advertising requires that the retailer provide proof to the manufacturer or wholesaler that their product was, indeed, advertised in order to receive reimbursement. The required proof is a simple photograph. iDigital has a digital web camera taking pictures of your ads as they run, and we will email screenshots of these images to you at your request, so you can submit proof to the manufacturer and be reimbursed for a portion of your advertising costs.
Short-Term Advertising If you’re aiming to bring awareness to an important issue or to an event, such as an upcoming marathon, political fundraiser, liquidation sale or visiting celebrity, short-term advertising may be for you. Features such as countdown tickers and the ability to change an advertisement in realtime make this an effective way to reach the audience you want with time to spare. • From the iDigital Media Website
We’re locally-owned, on the grow, and working hard to create the largest independent network of digital billboards in the Midwest. Our mission is to install digital billboards in high-visibility, well-traveled corridors and city streets, allowing our clients to make the most impact possible with their money.” -The iDigital Media Website
iDigital currently has:
271 billboard structures 140 digital faces 312 static faces 85 bus shelters 10 airport kiosks
iDigital delivers optimized advertising!
iDigital’s attention to detail through management.
iDigital offers specialized networks and customization, allowing all businesses to have their messages optimized to offer maximum potential views. This is done through technology embedded in their billboards that can be used to detect things as a change in weather, the presence of mobile devices in the area or the makes and models of passing automobiles, which may then be used to trigger the appropriate advertisements.
Each campaign is highly monitored and given great attention to detail by a dedicated account manager. This ensures that campaigns are running efficiently and all parties involved are on the same page with one another.
iDigital takes pride in its roots. iDigital is a small, local company with a deep understanding of what makes a campaign effective in our region. Currently, they have campaigns based out of North Dakota and Minnesota, choosing to focus on and care for the area that matters most to them.
iDigital offers more than just digital billboards! The team at iDigital prides themselves on having a team of skilled, industry-leading professionals who are trained in all forms of advertising, including digital and static billboards, transportation (bus, airport) and more.
For a single contract purchase, an ad will rotate on every billboard location, giving maximum coverage in a single buy.
iDigital will cater to your required needs. Something that sets iDigital apart is that they’re proud to cater to all businesses, large and small. They’re able to create campaigns that fit a client’s individual needs, rather than a “one size fits all” approach. “We believe that an advertising campaign has to work around the client and we ensure clients know that their campaigns are customized to fit and reflect their business needs,” Danielson said.
Clients can update their campaign as often as they would like to, free of charge. With flexible services, you’re not locked into a stagnant campaign and iDigital can help by offering fresh, creative ideas.
iDigital remains committed to following three C’s.
iDigital engages in tag-team advertising!
According to Danielson, three important qualities that ensure iDigital stands out from other advertising companies are customer service, customization and creativity. Keeping these qualities in mind ensures that iDigital will focus on the client’s experience, as well as their freedom in the advertising process!
Tag-team advertising is a process where iDigital will work with the client, as well as other nearby businesses, to combine forces and create a digital billboard campaign that draws customers through doors. Working with multiple businesses in the same area is a technique to save money with a one-two punch by attracting multiple people to the same general area at the same time.
iDigital advertises on-the-fly messaging capability.
iDigital allows customergenerated content!
Their digital billboards allow a client to adapt their message to the weather, time of day, traffic flow or outcome of the local football game! For example, iDigital can monitor local weather conditions and activate fitting promotions, making it possible to advertise windshield wipers when a rain shower passes through, electric fireplaces when it’s snowing, or jet skis and fishing boats on a hot summer day.
Now, iDigital allows the client to let their target audience do the marketing! iDigital will download content from the client’s online presence, such as a website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account, and upload it to the digital billboard live, as it happens. It’s a great way to make fans feel invested in the client’s future and encourage them to develop a loyal following to the company, product or service.
Each company faces unique challenges as it grows and transforms into a wide-ranging, more experienced business. When questioned about what some of the biggest challenges for iDigital have been over the past half decade, issues came forth not just regarding the company, but the digital advertising field as a whole. “The biggest challenge facing digital marketing is helping companies know and understand the benefits of digital advertising. Oftentimes, digital advertising is still a new medium for companies,” Danielson said. “Where traditional forms of advertising have been around and widely used for some time, we are seeing that digital and digital outdoor advertising are truly one of the only consistently growing forms of advertising in today’s industry. Overall awareness and knowledge is the most important factor in ensuring companies know they have options in their advertising campaigns.” As people are still adjusting to the relatively new world of digital outdoor advertising, iDigital’s goal of staying on top of the latest trends aims to prevent some clients from falling behind on the industry standards, becoming frustrated and abandoning the concept of outdoor digital advertising. In turn, they’re doing everything they can to keep track of the latest digital marketing trends, as well as determining what works and what doesn’t in their everchanging industry. “Our team at iDigital believes in regular training and staying up to date on the latest industry knowledge. Whether it be through classes, webinars, networking or personal research, it’s important to us as industry leaders to continue to educate and learn about new and upcoming trends,” Danielson said. “One way we ensure our campaigns are as effective as possible is through constant monitoring and implantation. We encourage our clients to update their creative to stay top of mind to their audience. Each of our clients receives live images, proof of play reports, creative services and guidance throughout their campaign.”
Technology embedded in the billboards can detect a change in weather or the presence of mobile devices, which can be used to trigger the appropriate advertisements.
Clients can determine geographical boundaries around desired locations to directly target their specified audience.
iDigital has the unique ability to create dynamic campaigns with the creative to match.
Reporting and Metrics
iDigital can connect audiences based on locations, lifestyle, brand categories and other specific demographics.
iDigital’s reporting is detailed and extensive to drive results. [iDigital] will break down all key performance indicators that are important to the brand.
From iDigital Media Website
Each display offers 6 advertiser spots with 7-second ad-hold times, giving 43% more time per ad than many competitors.
iDigital made an impressive mark on the outdoor advertising industry in the last five years. However, that’s not stopping them from looking ahead with goals for the future, as they still have a ways to go in their eyes. As trends are constantly changing, they’re confident that they’ve found the next major trend in digital marketing. “[The next major trend in our industry] will be the pairing of digital out-of-home advertising with digital mobile advertising. There is truly no better way to meet your audience where they are at than a campaign that combines both services. iDigital
offers free business consultations to showcase our one-of-a-kind abilities to create dynamic and effective campaigns with this highly successful pairing,” Danielson said. Tracking trends isn’t the only next step for iDigital. Recently, they added their latest vertical digital billboard network in the St. Cloud, MN market. "This specialized market of digitals will allow clients to advertise their message in a unique way as our vertical billboard networks are not only extremely eye-catching, but the only ones in the tri-state area,” Danielson said.
Three Things That Keep iDigital Motivated to Grow with Taylor Danielson We believe in the strong entrepreneurship mindset of this community! We believe our services can help continue to foster a creative and successful community for all businesses. We love the diversity and flexibility we have in creating impactful campaigns for our clients throughout the Midwest.
While an immense accomplishment for the expanding company, they aren’t stopping there with their unique advertising. “We proudly offer vertical digital billboard advertising in Fargo, ND and St. Cloud, MN. We recently received confirmation that we can finally put up billboards in the Grand Forks market! This is exciting news for us as there has been a moratorium in place there for over a decade,” Danielson said. Many companies measure success by hard numbers, such as locations, employees or annual revenue. However, iDigital defines its success by another standard. “We believe success is measured through the clients we retain and the level of dedicated service they each receive when they make the decision to trust iDigital with their advertising needs. We take great pride in the extremely high level of client retention we hold,” Danielson said. “It is our goal to provide outstanding services to every business, no matter the size of the campaign. We also absolutely love whenever we have a new client referred to us by word of mouth. In the end, there’s nothing better than knowing your service was worth talking about.”
We are highly motivated to continue to provide the highest level of customer service to all clients, current and future. With the constant growth of our community, we have never ending opportunities to work with amazing clients and be a part of their business growth.
Contact iDigital Outdoor Phone: (701) 369-6100 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: iDigitalOutdoor.com Facebook: facebook.com/iDigitalAd LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/ idigital-advertising
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Buzi Bus: Buzi Bus is a rideshare service, in the FMWF and DL areas, that aims to combine the efficiency of a taxi service with the feel of a party bus. I sat down with Xavier Bonner, founder of the Buzi Bus, to discuss the details of the rideshare business, along with what he’s learned from single handedly launching a business while pursuing a college degree. Learn more about Buzi Bus’ new app, how much they’ve grown since launching nearly two years ago and more.
How One Life-Saving Business is Keeping The Party Going North Dakota received a DUI severity score of 92.1 out of 100, making it the worst state in the nation according to findings from the FBI and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Buzi Bus is looking to change that, one safe ride home at a time.
By Grant Ayers Photos provided by Buzi Bus
It’s no secret that college students like to go out, have fun and make the most of their first years of freedom. Bonner was no different. During his time in college, he realized that there was a gap in the transportation market that could be fulfilled. “Based on my personal experiences, there's the pregame, and then there's the house party or the bars. And from the pregame to the party or bars, you have to get a ride,” Bonner said. “There's a point where you're having a good time, then there's a time where you're not having as good of a time or bored. We want to change that period right there, so riders can continue to have fun throughout the night.” The Buzi Bus first launched on August 19, 2020. “It had started really slow. On the first day, we had zero riders. On the second day, we had four riders, which were some of my friends. Then that Saturday, it kicked off through word of mouth, with a total of roughly 65 riders. From there, we've just kept on growing,” Bonner said. Today, there’s a consistent average of 100-150 riders per night during the summer season. When school was in session this past spring, with more college-aged riders in the area, the rider average was roughly 200-250 riders per night. As Buzi Bus grows in locations and capacity, they’re confident that reliance on them will as well. While gaining word-of-mouth and growing to become wildly popular amongst the college demographic was a struggle at first, it wasn’t the only challenge that Bonner faced when beginning the business.
Buzi Bus offers a wide range of merchandise, including t-shirts, hoodies, pullovers, hats and more! They plan on releasing new and exciting merch over the next few months. FARGOINC.COM
Starting a business can be challenging enough in the perfect conditions and setting, but Bonner has endured an experience more unique than most. Not only did he pursue his Buzi Bus vision during an ongoing pandemic, but he did so while pursuing a bachelor’s degree simultaneously. When asked about what challenges he faced along the way, he didn’t shy away from discussing the obstacles that were thrown in front of him. “It was hell. It definitely builds up in your head and can be overwhelming at times, but it's all worth it. One of our biggest challenges has been vehicle maintenance since everything costs money. People say that it costs money to make money, which is true. I mean, you can do things that are low cost and high reward. But when you're trying to really build something, there's always going to be costs,” Bonner said.
North Dakota was ranked the “drunkest state” by USA Today, which measured the statistic by most gallons of alcohol drank per capita.
Despite these obstacles, Bonner was able to find balance, with the future looking bright for the Buzi Bus. Bonner recently earned his bachelor’s degree from NDSU, a goal that he was determined to accomplish. “I'm happy that I have my degree. I wouldn't force it on anybody to push through if they don't want to, but it was a goal for me to finish school, and I really wanted to accomplish that. I view a lot of goals as tests in my life, to keep me motivated and keep on pushing.” While Bonner is running what may still be a young and growing company, he’s already picked up on some entrepreneurial tips and advice along the way. “My biggest piece of advice for young entrepreneurs is to just stick with it. Doubts can creep into your mind from time to time. You just have to stay positive, know what your goals are and keep on pushing. Also, building connections with people is huge. When you're an entrepreneur, you're all on your own. You have to learn things, piece by piece, from each person that you meet,” Bonner said. “Keeping good relationships with people is also huge for any type of growth. When people ask about your business, one of the most important things is how it reflects on you as a business owner. That's why it's super important for me to always keep those positive connections with people and just be a good person. We let bar managers know that if somebody had too much to drink, they can always give us a call, and it's great to have those relationships with them.”
Since launching, Buzi Bus has grown in inventory, staff and location covered, all while remaining true to the original mission. The business first began with one van to support the FMWF area, before recently expanding to Detroit Lakes, MN. As the company nears two years of service, the team behind Buzi Bus has hit their stride and found an ideal balance. “We're going on year three this school year. We've expanded to DL this summer, and we're hoping to be in Grand Forks for this coming school year as well. Maybe not at the very beginning of the school year, but hopefully this fall, we'll be in Grand Forks,” Bonner said.
At the time of writing, Buzi Bus has given over 21,000 rides, which they measure as “ lives saved.”
With the recent expansion to Detroit Lakes, comes the need to have a steady inventory on hand. “We have two vans in Fargo and one in Detroit Lakes, but some weekends in DL have been really busy, so we may bounce our second van back and forth, based on how busy it is,” Bonner said. “If there are upcoming events where I know that DL will be busier, such as the 4th of July or WE Fest, we'll be sure to have two vans out there.” Currently, they have five drivers available in Fargo and three available in Detroit Lakes, able and ready to drive if needed.
As they’ve grown and become known for their efficient transportation services from pregame to party, they’ve begun advertising another form of party transportation: event package shuttling. “We do a lot of birthdays, weddings, bachelorette and bachelor parties. We'll also have groups that want to go to the bars all night, so we'll shuttle them and be there for them the whole time,” Bonner said.
“When they want to go from one bar to the next, we're sitting out front on time ready for them. At weddings, we'll be there at the ceremony when they need rides to the hotel, and we'll bring them back and forth. In terms of price, our event rates are much cheaper than a lot of other places, as we only charge $100 an hour. That covers our gas costs and payment for our drivers.” With so many moving parts in launching, and running, the Buzi Bus business, prioritizing goals and tasks within the company can make a significant difference in success. Lately, Bonner and his team have been hard at work on developing their mobile application.
Christian Koski, that wanted to help out. They’re sticking around to continue furthering the app and pushing new updates to get new features out there, bug fixes and more,” Bonner said. While the app has proven to be successful and efficient for riders to operate, the team is looking into implementing more features in the near future. “We're going to be adding notifications, which will help with driver-rider communication, like knowing when the driver got the request, and when they're on their way. We'd also like to add a feature where riders can select their favorite drivers,” Bonner said. “If the driver is active, the rider can message them and say 'Hey, we're looking to go out tonight, and we'll be scheduling a ride with you.' That way, that driver has rides at that time, and they can pick up rides as the night goes. We'll also be adding our location services through GPS mapping, so the rider will be able to see where we are. We're hoping to add that feature within the next year or two, tops.”
Earlier this year, Buzi Bus launched a mobile application for riders to get in touch with the rideshare service. The idea to have an app available for riders has been in mind since the beginning. While the app is a success amongst riders today, the journey to launching it was both daunting and testing. “You would think that making the app is super simple; just click and drag, right? But no, there was definitely a learning curve to begin with. I'm blessed to have the friends I do. People tell you that it's all about who you know. I stumbled upon a few friends that were coders, Mitchell Knox and
Looking further ahead, Bonner’s goals for the app include independent drivers, similar to Uber or Lyft. Once verified and approved, freelance drivers could be their own boss as they support the company, riders and themselves, under the Buzi Bus brand.
Once a rider has ordered, they receive a ride code. This code can be shared with friends to enter, order and notify the rider of how many people there will be.
The interface is efficient, as they only require core information for a safe pick-up and drop-off.
Here are some of the newest features included in Buzi Bus’ latest app update! • Added support for Apple Pay and Google Pay for iPhone and Android. • Added full riding history for customers. • Added ability to share ride links with friends for multiple riders. • Ability to track the number of rides a driver has given.
It’s safe to say that Buzi Bus has come a long way in the short time that the business has been in operation. However, Bonner and his team have many goals, both short and long-term, that will keep them determined and focused on the business's future. "We’re here to have a good time, get our riders from point A to point B and have an impact on people’s nights,” Bonner said. Between the increase in vans and employees, a recent expansion to Detroit Lakes (and upcoming to Grand Forks), as well as ambitious plans for their always-improving mobile app, Bonner has his eyes on the prize: saving lives. Whether it be a wedding, birthday party or a simple ride downtown with friends, Buzi Bus offers a safe ride to your destination, and a party while doing it.
Web: buzibusllc.com Instagram: instagram.com/buzibusapp Facebook: facebook.com/buzibus
Photos by Josiah Kopp
Undeniable Relentless Effort By Josette Ciceron
Whitney Walker, Owner, Beauty Bar
In 2015, Whitney Walker took a chance on herself and pursued her passions—she could never have known that she would one day be at the head of a growing empire, Beauty Bar.
hitney Walker’s story begins in the small, quaint town of Minot, North Dakota where she grew up and lived starting at the age of eight. Receiving a scholarship to North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton took Whitney out of her hometown and set her on a new path. Whitney completed the dental program, earning her associate’s degree. From there Whitney continued to pursue her education and transferred to Minnesota State University in Moorhead, Minnesota. Whitney’s influence into the business world was a seed that had long been planted since she was a child growing up with an entrepreneurial-minded mother who owned her own hair salon, a clothing store, and multiple food truck businesses. Having always enjoyed makeup and beauty, Whitney’s interest peaked one day when she watched a commercial on TV about pursuing a career in skincare as an esthetician. This led to her further researching the industry and that was the start of her journey into the world of beauty.
Taking advantage of social media and popular platforms like Youtube, Whitney began showcasing her makeup skills—honing and improving upon them each time. Makeup tutorials were becoming a very prevalent trend in the 2010s and it gave her the chance to connect with a wider audience. Leaning into the business side of things, Whitney began selling makeup through a multi-level marketing beauty brand that gave her her first professional dive into the trade. The culture and lifestyle around the industry made Whitney crave more. “What was so simple to me: putting on some eyeliner, some lipstick, some powder and being out the door— could make such a huge difference and have an impact on how people feel about themselves,” she said. The simplicity of it all made Whitney feel good and proud to be able to make people feel special. It’s a feeling that would continue to fuel her throughout the years.
"It’s a blessing that takes copious amounts of relentless effort."
Photos by Josiah Kopp
Beauty Bar began in Whitney’s home. Most of her earlier clients were friends and family, and little by little her base grew. She soon outgrew her home business and with the help of a new connection, Whitney was encouraged to begin checking out brick and motar locations with a realtor—giving Beauty Bar an official home at its very first location at 624 Main Avenue in Downtown Fargo in 2018. Whitney felt an immediate connection to the historical building. “My parents, my upbringing, was kind of older, more reserved, quiet—rich but bustling…Very much like the details and intricacies of this building. Older, quiet but firm and solid I loved it!” Walk into the vintage building and Whitney’s description of it all falls into place. In October of 2018, Beauty Bar launched its grand opening in a small suite on the second floor overlooking the elaborate wooden staircase that ran down the center of the large establishment. Whitney started off by herself in a single room with one table, a pillow, and just a handful of clients. In
just a few short years she’s accumulated a successful, solid group of talented employees, co-workers and contractors. Though the initial space was small, Whitney made the best of it and focused on growing her business, conducting skincare procedures in one room and makeup in the other. The “OG Beauty Bar” is what Whitney and her team has affectionately dubbed the space that started it all for her. Today, Beauty Bar is in three different locations in North Dakota with the other two locations being in her hometown of Minot and in Wahpeton. Whitney admits doing what she loves has made her journey seem less like work because she’s truly adhered to her passions and has remained steadfast in making sure herself and her employees are constantly taking on new skills and keeping up with their training. Whitney attended and completed her own training at Josef’s School of Hair, Skin, and Body here in Fargo and graduated in 2014. With an ever-changing industry, it’s essential to continue to take classes and keep up with the new beauty trends. Most
recently, Whitney has taken on permanent makeup which has seen an uptake in popularity in the last few years. Beauty Bar offers a number of skincare services such as skin waxing, a variety of facials, face and body treatment, lash extensions, makeup and now permanent makeup. At the start of Whitney’s career, she noticed that there was a lack of resources for people like her who wanted to do more than just be in the industry but build something of their own. Wanting to inspire and empower others, Whitney developed a continuing education curriculum and program for estheticians that wanted to start a business. “Opening my own business was always the end goal for me. After I completed my schooling I realized that not very many places here provided training for the ever-so amount of changing services that our industry offers.” Whitney studied what was available in the area, acquired all the necessary certifications and fashioned her program specifically with training that weren’t available everywhere else and targeted newly graduating estheticians.
Photos by Josiah Kopp
Designed with that in mind, Whitney also wanted to make sure that Beauty Bar’s Master Esthetician Program is flexible enough for those who have to balance full-time jobs and still have the ability to work towards their personal career goals. The program, which consists of 1,000 hours, also offers students an apprenticeship that will allow them to practice their skills at the Beauty Bar alongside experienced estheticians. Whitney could not have foreseen all that her future would entail. At the start, all she knew was that she wanted to be successful and that failure was simply not an option. “I made a determination in my brain to stay on this path and survive. Once I got past the survival piece, then came growth. I grew ridiculously and now I’m at the place of maintaining (the businesses).” Naturally, it’s a lot of work, commitment, and pressure to maintain all that Whitney has built but she chooses to see it as more than just stress which carries a negative connotation. “It’s a blessing that takes copious amounts of relentless effort.” Whitney is acutely aware of her unique position as a young, Black woman in business. Growing up as one of the few
Photos by Josiah Kopp
Black kids in Minot, she was no stranger to discrimination, racism, and ignorant stereotypes. “What I’ve learned amongst society and amongst people that look different from you or grew up different from you—is to just stand firm in what you believe in and be undeniably good at what you do.” This self-taught belief system has stayed with her her whole life and when it came to her career, she made no mistake in applying it to everything she does. How Whitney sees it is when you’re good at what you do—race, gender, age—are all irrelevant in the grander scheme of things. Whitney believes it is her skill set that has attributed most to her career and has kept her business thriving. “In business school they always tell you that you need to have a target market and demographic—I don’t.” Whitney spent many years at the beginning of her beauty business pondering out the who, the why, and the what of it all and came to the conclusion that the demographic simply didn’t matter so long as she continued to provide quality service, her clientele expanded and continues to. While she could’ve moved to a larger city and catered to the demographic that looked more like her—she wanted to create her roots in the place that gave her her start and create a welcoming environment for anyone to walk out feeling like their best selves.
Here in smaller demographics there are lots of cliques and stereotypes that present challenges for Whitney and her business. “I don’t want to be a part of it. I don’t want to be a Black business because I’m a Black business owner—I just want to be a beauty bar.” Showcasing her skillset is how she’s overcome any challenges that have come her way. “I don’t get bogged down by the question of ‘what it’s like to be a Black business owner’—ask me what it’s like to be a business owner. I’m going to tell you it’s fabulous! And before long I’m going to tell you that being an African American business owner, that’s prominent and succeeding in running a real business is also very prideful for me.” Whitney could not be more proud of the amount of time, effort, growth and energy that has gotten her to where she is today. Whitney’s advice for those who are looking to follow a similar path is to have an end goal. “Know what it’s going to look like, what you imagine or dream it to look like and execute it one step at a time.” Looking back at her first couple years in business, Whitney believes had she slowed down a bit and taken the steps instead of jumping, she wouldn’t have had to backtrack as much. “When you have a detailed end goal, an end plan, an end vision—the journey through it isn’t as strenuous.” Once Beauty Bar grew beyond that second floor suite, Whitney expanded the business by acquiring an additional suite on the third level of the building that has been designed as a replica of
Did you know? Whitney Walker also owns Texas Best Express, a (closed for the time being) food truck featuring a beef chili cheese dog topped with crunchy potato chips. The food truck also features pulled pork, polish sausages, ribs and desserts.
Photos by Josiah Kopp
the upstairs suite and has provided more space for her employees. Whitney refers to the space as Beauty Bar II which is where eyelash extensions as well as full-body waxing is done.
who helped her find Beauty Bar’s home base downtown. Today they continue to meet monthly to discuss business financials and growth ideas.
As Whitney reflected on her success over the years, she knew could not be where she is were it not for the incredible relationships and connections she made every step of the way. She was blessed to have business mentors from a variety of business backgrounds to show her the ropes of customer service, sales, management, and even bookkeeping. She capitalized on every relationship and connection she made professionally regardless if they were in the beauty industry or not.
“The Fargo community, my neighbors, my friends, and my parents—they all believed in me. I have a lot of support and didn’t have to seek anyone out or pay them.” Whitney realizes that for some that may be the only option and that’s okay.
“When I first moved here I was a waitress. Kent Larsen of Chef’s Table brought me to a restaurant Barbacoa, owned by Dan Herder and managed by Cody Nelson before it permanently closed. I had no clue what I was doing at first but I loved the people and they were all like family to me.” Many would be shocked to find out that the self-made beauty mogul's very first business venture was actually as the owner of a food truck, Texas Best Express on Broadway. Much like the same feelings of pride she experienced when working with her beauty clients, Whitney felt just as attached to making people feel good through delicious, well-prepared food. The food truck was popular for their delicious crunchy dogs. Once the pandemic set in, Whitney was forced to put that business to the side (for now) to focus on Beauty Bar. Whitney was still running Beauty Bar out of her home when she connected with a food truck customer who took notice of her Beauty Bar hat and t-shirt. After a quick exchange, he booked an appointment with her and actually became one of her greatest friends and mentors. This was the friend that would later introduce her to the realtor
“If even one person believes in you—that’s all you need. We have to stop getting hung up on who’s there to support us and get hung up on what it is you really want to do. The people that truly support you will come along. It’s a visual industry and you have to allow your skill to speak for itself.” Whitney feels she has received more love and support from strangers than she has from people she actually knows and that’s because she kept pushing forward despite whether there was someone there to support her or not. Whitney is not limiting herself to one industry and feels you only do yourself a disservice when you do so. Wigs are yet another passion of Whitney’s that she has made a reality with the opening of The Wig Suite by Whitney. The small store specializes in handmade, custom wigs for everyone. The store is located on the same floor as Beauty Bar II, only a quick turn down the hallway. The wig store will soon be providing professional wig installations. When asked what was coming next, Whitney explains wanting to get into real estate and house flipping for the Airbnb market. There’s no doubt about it—Whitney is single handedly building an empire and the sky truly is the limit for her. She hopes to be a onestop shop for all sorts of needs from beauty and skincare to wigs to real estate and maybe even the wedding industry some day. Whichever direction Whitney Walker goes next she’s sure to create magic in every space she commands.
Beauty Bar by Whitney 624 Main Ave Suite 9, Fargo, ND 58103 701-371-3575 Facebook: @beautybarfargo
Questions ohn Machacek, Chief Innovation Officer for the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, has worked with countless startups throughout our community over the past nine years. He knows their ups, and their downs, but most of all, he knows the questions to ask them. Here are John Machacek’s 10 questions for Kent Kolstad, Founder of Livewire.
By John Machacek Photos by Josiah Kopp and Hillary Ehlen
01 Will you please tell us your Livewire elevator pitch? Livewire is a full-service live and virtual event production company, providing audio, video, lighting, staging, scenery, and streaming for corporate events, conferences, expos, concerts, and theatrical events, nationwide.
02 Before I dive into the remaining questions, I recently learned that you first started working in the audio/visual world at age 11. Can you tell me more about that? It's been quite a ride! I grew up in Alexandria, Minnesota, where there typically wasn’t a great deal of live event production support happening—at most, you’d encounter your typical “meeting room” basics, maybe a projector on a cart, a small screen or TV, overhead projectors (remember those transparencies?). When I was eleven years old, I was attending a friend’s birthday party when his parents asked if everyone attending would like to head to their
church’s youth group. I knew next to nothing about what that was or meant, but I went along with it. We arrived at a then-new, very large church that seated about 900 congregants for Sunday morning services. I was in awe of the big video projection screens, and large and very thoughtfully designed audio system, so I immediately
03 A misconception I initially had about Livewire was that you just did sound and light production at live event; you know, the people in black shirts at the back of a Chamber event or something like TEDx. However, I now know of other services like virtual events and streaming, as your team helped us plan, shoot and produce the GFMEDC’s virtual annual meeting these past two years. How would you describe this service?
realize that it takes more than just a Zoom call to create impact for an online audience. We all had to get through the pandemic together, attending virtual meetings, seminars, etc.— what did we learn from that? People’s attention spans became much shorter, and individuals also realized they could accomplish more, or attend more virtual events, more often. People’s attention became divided. With these things in mind, we realized quickly it would be the special touches we can provide, like high-quality camera imagery, highquality audio with musical flourishes, newscast-quality branding and graphics and more to create interesting programming on behalf of our clients that keeps their audiences’ attention. Our designed-from-scratch, custom-branded web portals for our clients’ virtual and hybrid events have been a hit. We’ve always wanted to be sure that the second an attendee walks through the door, they feel immersed in our clients’ brand and message. Our custombranded web portals are truly the next best thing if you’re hosting a virtual or hybrid event.
We believe that virtual and hybrid events hold the same possibility for audience impact that a traditional in-person event does. With that in mind, it’s critically important for anyone hosting a virtual event to
04 Why or what should a company do to delve into this? Many of our clients today came to Livewire needing only a few basic aspects of audiovisual support—a few microphones for a meeting because their venue’s sound system didn’t have the appropriate capabilities; a basic, one-camera stream of their event; or maybe seamless video switching and management of PowerPoint presentations for presenters at their annual conference because their I.T. professional simply didn’t feel they could (or maybe didn’t want to) handle it anymore. Livewire exists to not only simplify the event production process, no matter the scale or format (in-person/virtual), but also to ensure that audiences are not distracted by the event technology being utilized so that they can fully take in the message being presented on-stage.
05 With COVID, the live event industry was basically punched in the gut and then turned upside down. How did Livewire fare in all of this? The onset and continuation of COVID-19 has been incredibly challenging for everyone, without a doubt. Everyone I know has had a difficult experience in their own way. The event production industry around the world was not just shut down, but truly shattered within a matter of 48 hours. I was on the way to a client meeting in Minneapolis when I pulled off the interstate to write all of our then-pending and confirmed clients an email to advise on how we could best move forward together. At that time, I’d only had three postponements of events come through; not even two days later, we’d lost nearly a year’s worth of live events in postponements and cancellations. There were many considerations and decisions that had to be made in short order with a team of our size (then, around 21 employees total, now up to 30). Thankfully, our team is comprised of thoughtful, informed professionals who understood right away that
anything could happen, given the global landscape. I brainstormed a bit with our team members and a couple of friends locally and around the country, and we quickly found we could create a stop-gap for ourselves in the short-term: LIVE@ Livewire. This was a live, streaming concert series we hosted from our facility’s loading dock (thankfully, event lighting dresses up any space VERY well). The series raised money for local and regional musicians that were effectively placed out of work due to the pandemic, just as we were. Across 60 episodes, we raised over $28,000 for local bands and musicians, and sponsors of the series such as 701 Communications, Network Center, Choice Bank, Codi and Steven Nowacki and Robert Gibb & Sons, all kept Livewire afloat as we continued to produce this show. The best part? We were able to keep our staff’s creative minds sharp—and keep everyone on the payroll. While we had a large body of work across streaming and virtual events prior to the pandemic, the LIVE@ Livewire series kept us present and relevant to our audience—and probably grew it, too. When our client base was finally ready to explore virtual events, they knew they could count on us to execute flawlessly.
As the “new normal” began to set in, not only did the vast core of our client base thankfully come back to us to produce their virtual or hybrid events, but we were also able to find new clientele nationally such as Amazon, Wind River and Google.
06 Another misconception I had about Livewire was that you only served a local or regional market, yet you do work nationally. What are some examples of the type of services you’re providing and where? Nationally, we’re providing the same in-person, virtual, and hybrid event production that we’ve had the opportunity to finely polish in Fargo-Moorhead. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Fargo-Moorhead is the singular reason we’ve been able to grow and thrive the way that we have— we’ve made some amazing connections here thanks to the companies and incredible people that call this place home. In less than ten years since taking this company full-time (late 2013), we’ve only got ten states left to cross off our list! It doesn’t hurt that we are centrally
located in the lower-48 while also having the benefit of a very low cost of doing business in North Dakota. As one great example prepandemic, we were grateful to provide support to WEX Health’s Partner Conference for a number of years in Minneapolis, Scottsdale, and Miami. This connection led to another connection: to WEX Inc.’s marketing team in Portland, Maine, who brought our team in to support a number of their all-company meetings. At these events, our team would connect each in-person event location to another: for example, Melissa Smith (CEO, WEX) in Portland would be able to have a real-time conversation with the event host in Fargo in front of all audiences, then Fargo’s event site could pass the baton to the event in Nashville, and so on. At the highest point, we had six different locations hosting in-person events with our technology and team on-site, all connected via Livewire’s two-way streaming services, with audiences in all locations applauding one another! It was wonderful to be able to create these connections for WEX, just as we’ve now done for many others, including Goldmark and Moore Engineering, locally. As a result of this national work, we’ve also learned how to ensure that our clients’ dollars are wisely spent. Many hotels and venues in
larger markets have exclusive contracts with audiovisual vendors that require they be utilized for rigging, power, or other needs; sometimes, the pricing for these services can be 300% or more above our own retail rates. Our team is exceptionally well-suited to find creative solutions to ensure that these substantial and often unexpected costs are minimized or eliminated entirely.
07 With the size of your team, staff and equipment travel and the various locations, how do you effectively manage that? We accepted early on that every single event we produce is different: even the yearly, rinse-and-repeat, two-screens-and-chickenand-soft-vegetables events (thanks for that phrase, Greg Tehven) have variables that certainly will change, whether that’s the schedule, branding, presenters, attendee numbers, venue or venue type, etc. As a result of this, we’ve found there’s really not a one-size-fits-all project management or CRM solution out there. We’ve also found that those live event companies that do utilize those types of platforms struggle to be nimble, creative and versatile. Our
primary work suite, Google Workspace, does offer us the ability to organize information in a fast, dynamic format across scheduling, data hosting and organization and communication across our team and our clients. There is one big thing that sets us apart from other event production companies nationally: the size and scope of our team. We’re now up to 30 employees at Livewire, whereas most live event production companies have only 5-6 full-time administrative staff, with the remaining team members usually consisting of freelancers. The danger with the latter format, particularly in Fargo-Moorhead, is that most freelancers come and go. Some graduate from college and leave FargoMoorhead; others work many other jobs in addition to freelancing, and some just aren’t the type that can (or want to) guide a worldclass live event to success. With that in mind, our larger team allows for 1) consistency for our clients: we have the privilege of getting to know our clients and their goals, and very often the opportunity to work with them on a repeat basis; 2) the opportunity for our team to take time away from their work; to rest and recharge; and 3) the opportunity to collaborate with a team of professionals to ideate, brainstorm, and create in favor of our clients.
08 Through my work at the GFMEDC in assisting in business expansions, I know you’re making a number of improvements and investments into your building here in Fargo. What excites you about this expansion and what does it mean for Livewire? We are very excited for the potential in our building! While we’ve been operating out of this space since 2018, we’ve only really utilized it as a warehouse location for our event operations. We’ve slowly been chipping away at a remodel that will include office space, collaborative meeting space, a largeformat client/team meeting space, and the ability for our Black Box Event Space which launched in 2020 to be utilized for small-tomedium sized in-person and virtual events, with or without Livewire production on-site. Not only will the office buildout benefit our team from a day-to-day perspective, but the audio and video studios we are building will feature state-of-the-art equipment to allow for audio sweetening,
voiceover work, video editing and review, and turn-key virtual events at the drop of a hat.
09 If you could go back in time to Kent from several years ago, what hindsight advice would you give yourself? This WAS and IS the path for me. Especially when I was graduating from high school in 2006, it was all the rage to be told that I had to get a degree and “get a real job.” To be clear, I did that, too: I graduated from Concordia College in 2010 with a teaching license in English Education and worked a variety of full-time stints around Fargo-Moorhead afterward. I don’t regret any of that for a second: I use that degree every day of the week in running this business, and my work with Media Productions in the early 2010’s was an invaluable, lifechanging experience with an amazing group of colleagues that I consider mentors and friends today; truly, the giants whose shoulders we stand on. …But I also probably could have been less of a 30-yearold trapped inside a 16-yearold’s body. I’m younger now than I was back then.
10 What can we do as a community to help Livewire succeed? I’m grateful to be able to say that Livewire’s in the best position it has been in in ten years—we are growing, strategizing, and forging new paths to create wins, efficiencies and new creative processes for our clients and for our team. Without a shred of doubt, Fargo-Moorhead is absolutely responsible for that growth and stabilization. We are grateful to call this place home. How can the community help? Two things come to mind—first, to keep us in mind and help others do the same! If you know of an event or project that might benefit from our work, please connect with us! There is truly no event or audiovisual need too small or too large for us to consider. We pride ourselves on being accessible and flexible to ensure every event gets the highest-quality audiovisual support possible. Not only that, but we also are glad to sponsor nonprofit and community organizations with major in-kind discounts, too. Second, help us grow! For example, right now, if you know of anyone that
might be a great fit for our organization across project management, administration, marketing, sales, etc.—I’d love to connect. Similarly, we are always open to exploring new possibilities to improve and streamline processes. If you or your organization might be able to help take our business to the next level, which we anticipate to be a true and consistent national presence based on our existing body of work and travel schedule—I’m interested. Last, tell us what you think of what we’re doing, and share ideas with us! We are always eager to learn how our audiences feel about our work, and frankly, some of our finest event work has been the result of a scribble on a napkin. We are always all-ears on feedback. To learn more, visit livewirenow.com Facebook: @livewire.fargo Instagram: livewire_now
BY THOMAS KADING
Patents Give you a Monopoly, Not Permission People often incorrectly believe a patent gives you the right to make, sell, offer to sell, or otherwise use a particular thing. Patents do not in fact give you these rights. Patents give you the right to exclude others from making, selling, offering to sell, or using a particular thing. In effect, a patent provides a monopoly on a particular concept for a certain time period. A person can obtain a patent on a concept, but at the same time be prohibited from the actual use of the concept by other patents.
HOT TUB EXAMPLE: For example, pretend someone held a patent that claimed the exclusive right to make, sell, offer to sell, and use a hot tub. Assuming the patent was with the United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), that person would have the monopoly on hot tubs with typical covers in the United States. Another person could come along and invent a novel upgraded hot tub cover. Suppose the novel upgraded hot tub cover was not an obvious improvement of existing prior art (i.e. the typical cover). In that case, the second person could obtain a patent on the upgraded hot tub cover. Even if the second person was to obtain a patent on the upgraded hot tub cover, the second person couldn’t sell hot tubs with the novel upgraded hot tub cover
Thomas Kading Attorney at Fargo Patent & Business Law, PLLC Josiah Kopp
unless the first person gave permission. Effectively, without the first person’s permission, the second person would have no right to make, sell, offer to sell, or use a hot tub with the upgraded novel cover. The second person could use the upgraded novel cover without the patented hot tub. Whether selling an upgraded hot tub cover without a hot tub is a marketable product is another question in itself. To understand this idea, I want to break down what is a monopoly and what is permission.
MONOPOLY DEFINED: A monopoly is defined as the exclusive control by one group. A utility patent gives the patent holder the right to prohibit others from making, selling, offering to sell, or using what is claimed
in the patent. When you have the right to prohibit everyone else from making, selling, offering to sell, or using a concept, you effectively have a monopoly on that concept. Utility patents establish that monopolistic right for 20 years following the date on which the patent holder filed a patent application. In the previous example, the first patent holder has the right (i.e. monopoly) to prohibit the second patent holder from making, selling, offering to sell, or using the hot tub that is claimed in the first patent. The second patent holder has the right (i.e. monopoly) to prohibit the first patent holder from making, selling, offering to sell, or using the upgraded novel cover that is claimed in the second patent.
PERMISSION DEFINED: To have the right to make, sell, offer to sell, or use a concept in the United States, there may be many types of permission a person needs to obtain. In the previous example, the second patent holder must obtain permission, such as a license, from the first patent holder in order to sell a hot tub. In the cited example, the second patent holder must receive permission from one other party. In reality, it is possible a
business might obtain permission from multiple intellectual property owners to sell their product. A business wishing to sell a product not only has to consider whether its product infringes on patent rights owned by others, but also has to consider the regulatory requirements for the product. For example, a business selling a consumer product may need to comply with the Consumer Product Safety Commission as well as state law requirements. It is possible that an inventor could hold a patent on a concept that is prohibited by regulation. A patent does not alleviate or fulfill the requirements of regulation.
only. Information provided may not be the most up-to-date legal information, and it is recommended that readers contact their attorney to obtain advice on any particular legal matter.
At the end of the day, a patent does not give you the right to make, sell, offer to sell, or use a concept. A patent simply gives you the right to exclude others from making, selling, offering to sell, or using a concept. Fargo Patent & Business Law is an intellectual property and business law firm. We are always happy to talk to you if you have questions about trade secrets, copyrights, trademarks, patents, or other business law issues. The information provided in this article does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. All information, content, and material is for general informational or educational purposes
GIVE YOUR BUSINESS A SALES TAX CHECK-UP Why should your business care about the difference between a Twix bar and a Snickers bar?
By Kyle Brehm and David Tibbals
We all have our eccentricities, but those of us who are sales tax attorneys can be particularly maddening. Let’s consider a brief hypothetical. Imagine purchasing a Snickers bar and a Twix bar from your local retailer at an agreed-upon $1 each. When the clerk asks for payment, you see a total of $2.15, which includes sales tax. Most people facing this situation swipe their credit card and move on. But not a sales tax attorney—a sales tax attorney is officially triggered because in several states that tax calculation is incorrect. Q: Why is that wrong? A: Because the Snickers bar is subject to sales tax, whereas the Twix bar is exempt from sales tax. Q: That’s ludicrous. Why? A: It is. But many states have specifically exempted purchases of groceries from sales tax. Q: Okay. But how is a Twix bar any more or less of a grocery item than a Snickers bar? A: It’s all about the flour, and the amount thereof. Just like licorice, which is also typically exempt as a grocery item, a Twix bar has more flour and is thus considered a grocery item. A Snickers bar is considered a taxable candy. And, yes, they’re both delicious.
Fredrikson & Byron Attorney Kyle Brehm is a tax attorney with more than a decade of experience working with companies to resolve a broad spectrum of issues related to state and local tax matters. His email is email@example.com. Photo provided by Fredrikson & Byron
Q: And… what does this have to do with someone reading a business magazine? A: All businesses and industries need to understand that words matter, especially when it comes to sales tax. Why should I care about sales tax being complicated? Having a plan for sales tax is important for businesses, because of its effect on your
bottom line. For example, we have worked with manufacturers of varying sizes across the United States on issues surrounding sales tax. Many states have exemptions in place, allowing manufacturers to purchase certain items exempt from sales tax—based on the state and the type of an exemption could save a manufacturer between 2.9% (Colorado) and 12.95% (Sterlington, Louisiana) on purchases of exempt manufacturing equipment. Q: So, why don’t I just tell my vendors to stop collecting tax? A: Makes sense, but which vendors? And for which purchases? Q: What do you mean? For all of my manufacturing purchases…right? A: Based on the state, manufacturing could mean just machines that touch the product during the production phase, or it could be items used to handle the product as a raw material or a finished good. Some states may include quality control and/or R&D equipment. What about computing systems? Utilities? Q: So, what do I do? A: Go get a cash tax refund (read: above the line) of historical overpayments, and work with your systems and vendors to stop overpaying moving forward. How do I know what to do? As you’re probably realizing, sales tax is complicated. And states can be vastly different when it comes to sales tax impositions and exemptions, as well as audit rules and the required processes to obtain historical refunds. Considering this, we think it is wise that you give your business a sales tax “check-up” every so often. Here are a few ways you can do that: • Consider the nature of your business. Although the general rules of
sales tax apply across all businesses and industries, the nature of your business may have certain rules of thumb to apply and exemptions to consider. For instance, are you a service provider? If so, your sales of services are generally not taxable unless specifically enumerated by state statute. If you’re a seller of tangible goods, are you a retailer or a wholesaler? If you’re a retailer, you should generally be collecting sales tax from your customers, but if you’re a wholesaler, your transactions will typically be exempt sales for re-sale. What industry are you in? We earlier mentioned manufacturers, who may benefit from exemptions on certain investments in assets and purchases of supplies. States also typically apply similar rules to producers of agricultural products. Are you in the construction industry? Then you have a unique set of rules concerning tax on items incorporated into real property to consider. Sales tax statutes are often long reads, but the nature of what you do will bring certain sections into focus. • Identify your business’s footprint. Where your business is active will dictate what sales tax statutes you need to comply with. If you’re in the Red River Valley, you’ll likely need to pay particular attention to both North Dakota and Minnesota sales tax laws. Fortunately, the two states are generally quite similar in how their sales tax statutes are structured. If you’re active in South Dakota, you’ll need to keep in mind that its sales tax statute is particularly broad, including taxing the sales of most services, primarily to compensate for the state’s lack of an income tax. Speaking of South Dakota, it was the catalyst behind a major development in sales tax law across the country just a few years ago. In its decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that states may impose a responsibility on out-of-state businesses to collect sales tax if they have a specified economic presence in the state. Practically speaking, this generally means that if your business is making at least $100,000 in sales into a
state, you need to collect sales tax from your customers in that state, although the exact thresholds vary by state. • Confirm your vendors’ sales tax determinations and invest in processes. Procedurally, sales tax statutes rely on businesses to collect tax directly from their customers and later remit those amounts to the state. Considering this, state tax administrators will regularly audit businesses to ensure that they’re doing this properly. But as we’ve established, sales tax is complicated, and businesses of all sizes make mistakes and can be assessed tax liabilities (plus penalties and interest) on audit. With this in mind, make sure you’re incorporating into your procurement and accounts payable processes some level of confirmation of your vendors’ collection (or non-collection) of sales tax. Are your vendors collecting tax when they shouldn’t? Then there may be opportunities for you to seek refunds either directly from the vendor or through the relevant state tax administrator. There is a lot of nuance to consider when it comes to sales tax and the subtleties of each state’s rules surrounding impositions, exemptions, and process. Hence your authors’ eccentricities! Fortunately, some contemplation of the character of your business, identification of your business’ footprint, and confirmation of your transactions can help you focus on the most significant compliance responsibilities and savings opportunities. In closing, the next time you stop at a convenience store, make sure you’re not paying sales tax on that Twix bar!
David Tibbals is an associate at Fredrikson who assists clients with a variety of commercial, corporate, and state and local tax law matters. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photo provided by Fredrikson & Byron
hese days, sales intelligence is all the rage. However, just knowing the term won't get you very far as a sales representative or an account manager. So, the question is: How can Sales Intelligence be used? And how can it support you and your sales team? Having your goal in mind is essential – using software aimlessly has never helped anyone. Still, some sales reps use Sales Intelligence but don't know their goal and what they want to achieve with it. This article intends to help you understand the essentials of Sales Intelligence and how it can help you achieve your sales goals. Let's get started! What is sales intelligence and what are its key components? At its core, sales intelligence is the process of gathering and analyzing data to inform your sales strategy. By understanding the trends in your industry, you can make more informed decisions about where to focus your efforts and how to position your products. A few critical components of sales intelligence include market research, competitive analysis, and customer insights.
Market research helps you understand the overall landscape of your industry, including key trends and growth areas. This research can be conducted through surveys, interviews, and data analysis. Competitive analysis entails taking a close look at your competitors to understand their strengths and weaknesses. This information can be used to develop strategies for positioning your own products or services. Finally, customer insights involve understanding the needs and wants of your target customers. This knowledge can be gathered through surveys, focus groups, and customer feedback. By taking the time to gather sales intelligence, you can develop a more effective sales strategy that will help you close more deals and grow your business. How does sales intelligence help salespeople be more successful? In a highly competitive sales environment, salespeople must have all the information they need at their fingertips. This is where sales intelligence comes in. SI software gives salespeople access to data about their potential customers, such as contact information, web activity, and social media posts. This information can help salespeople identify potential leads, assess their needs, and craft more targeted pitches. Additionally, sales intelligence can help
salespeople keep track of their progress, identify patterns in customer behavior, and troubleshoot any problems along the way. In short, sales intelligence is an essential tool for anyone looking to succeed in sales. With its ability to provide accurate and up-to-date information, sales intelligence gives salespeople the power to close more deals and drive more revenue. Benefits of using sales intelligence Sales intelligence helps businesses make better decisions about their sales strategies. By providing insights into customer behavior and buying trends, sales intelligence can help companies target their marketing efforts more effectively and improve their overall conversion rates. In addition, this technology can also help companies avoid potential pitfalls, such as overspending on ineffective marketing campaigns. Simply put, sales intelligence helps improve bottom lines by allowing businesses to make more informed decisions about their sales strategies. How to get started with sales intelligence Getting started with these sales’ tech solutions can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. There are a few key things to keep in mind that will simplify the process: First, it's essential to define your goals.
Shawn Peterson is the CEO of Quantum Business Solutions. He comes with a decade of experience in the technology services industry as an executive. Shawn is a visionary focused on high growth and performance through sales, marketing, and client experience.
What do you want to achieve with sales intelligence? Once you know this, you can start to gather data that will help you reach your goal. This data can come from a variety of sources, such as customer surveys, financial reports, and online research. Once you have this data, it's time to start analyzing it. Look for trends and patterns that can help you understand your customers and your market. This analysis will help you make better decisions about your sales strategy. Finally, don't forget to keep track of your progress. Sales intelligence is an ongoing process, so it's essential to regularly review your data and adjust your strategy as needed. By following these simple steps, you'll be well on your way to using sales intelligence to boost your business. Sales Intelligence in action It's all about providing organizations with information about their customers and potential customers. Access to this information can help marketers understand customer needs and develop
marketing campaigns. Sales intelligence can also be used to identify new sales opportunities and track the progress of ongoing sales efforts. Furthermore, sales intelligence can improve customer service by providing information about customer preferences and buying patterns. There are many examples of how sales intelligence has been used successfully by businesses. For example, a clothing retailer might use sales intelligence to understand its customer base's needs better. By tracking customer purchases, the retailer could identify trends in customer behavior and develop targeted marketing campaigns accordingly. In another example, a sales team might use sales intelligence to track the progress of their efforts and identify new leads. By understanding which methods are most effective at generating new business, the team can focus its energy on those activities. Ultimately, sales intelligence can be a powerful tool for improving sales performance.
Today's modern marketplace demands advanced sales intelligence technology. With the help of data, you can understand the trends within your industry and make more informed decisions about where to place your efforts. As a result, sales intelligence helps salespeople close more deals and increase revenue. If you're ready to implement SI technology within your sales force, Quantum Business Solutions specializes in helping businesses leverage this game-changing technology. Schedule a meeting with us today and let us show you how SI solutions can take your business to the next level! Quantum Business Solutions Phone: 712-389-4639 Email: email@example.com Web: thequantumleap.business
Q. Tell us a bit about yourself. A. My name is Taylor. I live in Fargo and work at WDAY. I grew up in the Twin Cities, went to Saint Cloud State, and did a broadcasting major. I hate winter, but I keep making my way further north. Q. Did you always know you wanted to get into broadcasting? A. I am that weird person who has known what I wanted to do since I was five. In kindergarten when they’d say,“ draw a picture of what you want to be when you grow up,” I’d draw myself talking to a camera with the TV screen behind me. I knew that was what I wanted to do. My parents supported me from the beginning and never said no. My high school had a great TV program that was ahead of its time. I got involved in that and just never looked back! Q. Do you feel like having encouragement from early on helped you feel confident in your career choice? A. I was the kid who was always in sports. So, it made sense that [sports reporting] is what I would want to do. I played baseball. My parents didn’t think twice about me being the only girl in the league. I wanted to play, and so my parents said “Okay!” I was the only girl in the league for the six or seven years that I played. I’d always played sports so it made sense I would want to talk about sports for a living. Q. You were the only girl in the league?
You may know Taylor Budge from her sports coverage at WDAY. She talks with Ladyboss about playing by the boys’ rules, the importance of having your dreams supported, and the pressure of being a woman on air.
Written and photo provided by Ladyboss Midwest 104
A. Starting in kindergarten I was on the San Francisco Giants baseball team. I played until middle school and then switched to lacrosse. I had
shorter hair, so I was able to tie it back and hide it in my hat. I never wanted to be “the girl” on the baseball team. I wanted to be the best hitter or fastest runner. I became the girl whose parents brought the best treats. When I switched to lacrosse in middle school, there wasn’t a girl's league. It was co-ed, but you played by boy's rules, used boy's gear, there was checking, all of that. There was only one other girl in the league. It was fun. I took out one of the big, popular guys in our school. Q. How did you get involved in your work? A. I knew what I wanted to do. By the time I was a freshman in high school, I could take classes like speech to help me prepare. I took a class called Intro to Graphics and Video that clicked for me. I learned the behind-the-scenes stuff, which you need in order to be on camera. In my sophomore year, I did a college visit at Saint Cloud State and toured their TV program, and I committed right away. When I got there, I was the first sophomore-age eyesight reporter, and I held that position the remaining three years. Q. Did you always want to cover sports? A. I loved watching the weather channel, but I realized how much math and science were involved. I took a meteorology class in high school. I held out hope because I knew I’d get paid more, but it was always sports for me.
Q. Was it ever challenging to be a female broadcaster covering sports? A. I’ve heard stories about women having to try so hard to prove themselves in this field. I don’t know if I’ve just been lucky or if I’m super naive, but honestly no. This is a really image-focused industry. There is pressure to be attractive and so I feel like I have to prove myself in that way. I have the work ethic. I have the knowledge. I work hard, and I’m incredibly driven and passionate. My two best friends from college are also women who work in sports. It’s nice to be able to chat with them about our experiences. I’ve been so supported along the way, I truly feel like it isn’t a crazy thing that I’m a woman who covers sports. I feel really blessed to have gotten to cover the stories I’ve gotten to and [make] the relationships I’ve made. I love storytelling, and I feel so lucky to do what I do. Q. For women in your field I assume there is an additional pressure to be attractive or to have a certain image. Has it been challenging to have a public persona, or be a known face in the community? A. That’s my least favorite part of this industry. It can be really image-based. I want to be known as Taylor Budge, the journalist, not Taylor Budge, the person who you see on TV. I want people to love how I write something or how I tell stories. When I’m not at work, I’m in sweatpants, no makeup. There’s a pressure to be on
when in public, too. Maybe not when I’m in sweats at the grocery store and no one will recognize me, but at a game. Even if I’m going to just get some quick footage and come back, you’ve got to look put-together and be chipper and happy. That part can be difficult. I feel like I can’t complain because I just feel so lucky to do what I love. Q. What makes WDAY a great place for women to work? A. I’ve had other reporting jobs where they made such a big deal about the fact I was the first female sports anchor. At WDAY, I think I was one of the first, if not the first, but they didn’t make a big deal out of it. I don’t like to make a huge deal out of something like that. They encourage us to continue to grow and seek out opportunities, just like the Ladyboss retreat! Q. Who are you outside of your work? A. I feel like I’m truly myself on air. If I’m not at work, I’m at a sporting event. I’m also a proud dog mom. I spend a lot of time with family and friends. That support is really important in a career like this because I work weird hours and work holidays. I try to really enjoy and make the most of the time away.
AWESOME FOUNDATION GRANT AWARD WINNER
Fargo Moorhead Humans of Color ith vaccinations to help mitigate the effects of the COVID virus, and warmer temperatures to lure people outside, the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo area has seen a host of varied events over the past few months. One noteworthy event was the First Annual Spring Fling (2022) hosted not by an organization or business, but instead by members of a local Facebook group.
The Fargo Moorhead Humans of Color Facebook group began when Lynnea Eckhoff accepted a job and moved to the FM area. In her search to find community, she discovered that many of the existing opportunities for people of color were connected to a larger group requiring membership in a specific business, profession, or charity. Finding it difficult to find a community of other BIPOC people, she decided to “try to use the internet for good” and created a group on Facebook for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) individuals in the FM and surrounding areas to connect with each other without a formal structure. “The big theme I kept coming back to is that obviously, we know there are quite a few people of color in Fargo-Moorhead, but it still feels so predominantly white, and there is clearly a barrier between people of color being able to connect with each other,” Lynnea says. “There
are all these small pockets of people, that don’t really seem to interact much. Also, traditional networking structures often revolve around people working an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. desk job. But there are a lot of people in the community—not just people of color—who work odd hours or have multiple part-time jobs or work weekends. I wanted to eliminate some of the barriers to connecting, and this is really accessible. Anyone with a Facebook account can join. I just thought, there are groups for everything: mom’s groups, running groups, craft groups. Why not this?” Starting with just three people, and currently boasting over a hundred, the group continues to grow slowly, but steadily. Members share opportunities, ask for help, or offer to attend an event with someone who doesn’t want to go alone. Lynnea believes those connections are very important. “Fargo-Moorhead is growing rapidly,” Lynnea continues. “A lot of BIPOC individuals come here for college, but do they stay? Do they feel they have a community here? Or do they leave when they finish school?” “When I went to NDSU in 2019, I didn’t see anyone that looked like me,” Gabby Clavo, a member of the group says. “It wasn’t until I saw the Black Student Association that I got connected. But after college most of the people I knew left, and I was wondering what there would be for me in the community. But
then I discovered the Fargo Moorhead Humans of Color Facebook group and the FMWF Chamber Professionals of Color and I started meeting people.” It was Gracia Sanchez-Dekarske who urged the group to put on a spring event where members could meet not only each other, but anyone in the greater community who wished to attend. “Most community events aren’t planned by people of color, though BIPOC people are invited. This event was organized by a group of BIPOC women, but we wanted to be clear that the event was open to the entire local community region. We wanted it to be an invitation to our community to get to know us,” states Gracia. “That cross-sector collaboration is what many organizers are missing,” says Yvette Reyes, local business owner and co-organizer of the event. “I grew up in the Midwest, and I know how it feels to know people don’t want you there and to feel like an outsider all the time, so I’m always trying to create space for people. All our organizers are people of color, so what do we want to see at an event? It’s all about the same community, just showing there’s a whole lot more to it.” With the assistance of a $1000 gift from the Cass Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation, the group hosted its first Spring Fling event at the Hjemkomst Center at the end of May. The Historical and Cultural Society of
Photo provided by Brandi Malarkey
Clay County is known for encouraging events to be held at their location, especially those hosted by the BIPOC community. The timing was especially fortuitous, as the museum has three exhibits available to visit through the end of 2022 highlighting people of color in the history of the area: ‘Stories of Local Black History’, ‘Ihdago Manipi: 150’, and ‘Dibaajimowin: History in Color’. The event offered free admission to view the exhibits, refreshments provided by Food Hotspot, whose owner is also a member of the Facebook group, performances by BIPOC individuals, and brief talks from community organizations making a difference in the community. “I wouldn’t say we are a resource yet,” continues Lynnea. “We just want to get people connected to each other and to feel like they belong here. There was a moment at our event where I was looking out at the park, watching people talking, sitting together and eating food, and seeing little kids running around playing together, and I just thought ‘this is what community is about’. I'm proud of how the event went and I'm so grateful to
everyone who helped make it happen.”
The Cass Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation awards a $1,000 gift each month for awesome ideas of all sorts. Grant recipients do not need to be associated with a non-profit. Applications can be made at awesomefoundation.org/en/chapters/ cassclay.
ow well do you understand the structure of the industry you work in? This question should be of central importance to managers when it comes to business strategy and identifying opportunities and threats to a company’s bottom line. At the heart of business strategy is a framework developed by Harvard Business Professor Michael Porter that helps managers understand and evaluate five major forces that shape the structure and landscape of an industry: 1) Competitive Rivalry, 2) Threat of New Entrants, 3) Threat of Substitutes, 4) Supplier Power, and 5) Buyer Power (Dyer et al., 2018).
Understanding the basics of Porter’s Five Forces is beneficial to managers in four ways. First, it provides managers with a mental model for deepening their understanding of any industry. Second, it can be used to evaluate any shifts and/or trends within an industry due to external changes in the general environment (e.g., economic conditions, technological changes, etc.). Third, managers could determine ways to make internal changes to the organization to better position themselves within the industry in response to each market force. Fourth, when considering the combined effects of all five forces, managers can make strategic decisions about the attractiveness of their current industry or perhaps the attractiveness of a different industry. Thus, my purpose for this month’s article is to provide a brief and easy-to-understand overview of Porter’s Five Forces along with things for managers to consider as it pertains to their organization.
BY Shontarius D. Aikens, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Management at Offutt School of Business at Concordia College
Competitive Rivalry refers to “the intensity with which companies compete with each other for customers” (Dyer
Force #1: Competitive Rivalry
Understanding Industry Structure using Porter’s Five Forces et al, 2018, p. 22). The main implication in this area is for managers to clearly identify those companies that are their real competitors. Consider the needs of your customers and all products or services that can meet those needs. If another company offers a product or service that can meet those needs as well, then that company should be viewed as a direct competitor.
Force #2: Threat of New Entrants
The Threat of New Entrants refers to the difficulty for a new firm to enter an industry. In some industries, there are significant barriers to entry (e.g., government policy, large capital requirements, etc.). In other industries, those barriers are relatively small. When evaluating this force, the main implication is to identify the likelihood of new competitors in relation to the requirements to enter the industry. Then, managers should determine ways to increase those barriers to discourage new competitors from entering the industry.
Dr. Aikens can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Force #3: Threat of Substitutes
The Threat of Substitutes refers to the availability and awareness of alternative products or services that can meet or exceed the purpose of original products or services. For example, consider beverages that are consumed in the morning. For some people, coffee is their go-to beverage every morning, and no other beverage will suffice. But for others, they may choose to switch and to consume a different beverage (e.g., orange juice, milk, etc.). The main implication for managers is to be on the lookout for emerging substitutes that could potentially catch the eye of their existing customers and incentivize them to switch to a different product/service.
Force #4: Supplier Power
A supplier is defined as “a firm that provides products that are inputs to another firm’s production process” (Dyer et al, 2018, p. 24). In this regard, Supplier Power refers to the bargaining power that suppliers have over the companies in an industry. If a company is limited to inputs from only a few suppliers, suppliers typically have more power in the bargaining relationship. Managers should evaluate this force as it relates to their organization to determine ways to make themselves less vulnerable to changes in prices and/ or the availability of inputs needed to operate.
Force #5: Buyer Power
After a company receives its inputs from suppliers, it converts them to outputs, or finished goods and
services, to be sold to customers (buyers). In this regard, Buyer Power refers to the bargaining power that customers have over the companies in the industry. When customers have lots of choices of companies to buy from, customers typically have more power in this relationship. The main implication in this area is for managers to continuously examine their product/service to develop the proper balance and mix of price (lowest possible price) and quality (highest possible quality) by continuously listening and responding to the needs of their customers or buyers.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, my purpose was to provide a basic understanding of the principles and assumptions of the Porter’s Five Forces model. For a more in-depth explanation of each force, there are plenty of available resources that can be retrieved through internet searches. Given the changes in business over the last several years, a refreshed and revised understanding of the current state, condition, and trajectory of one’s industry is recommended. It is my hope that the information in this article will be a good starting point to help managers deepen their understanding of the structure and landscape of their industry and to develop ways to better position themselves to compete within their industry going forward.
E. Moore Art L
ook to brighten up your summer with local art by E. Moore Art! You’ll find her at a variety of in-person shows to meet IRL and crushing it on social media to keep things bright, colorful, and purely fun. Learn more about this crazy creative artist this month!
By Ashley Morken, Unglued Photo Provided By Unglued
Tell us a bit about yourself: My name is Elizabeth Moore and I was born and raised in Moorhead, MN. If my art doesn’t scream it enough, I’m really into anime and video games! When I’m not a couch potato I care for my 100+ plants, yes, 100+. My goal is to live in a rainforest but in the comfort of AC. The other activities I enjoy include weightlifting in Body Pump Class and if I have pentup emotions from someone that didn't use their turn signal, I box it out. My jobs before becoming a super cool business owner were sales at GameStop, barista at Caribou, and makeup artist at Sephora and if I had the time I would work at a plant nursery. All very different fields but each has shaped me today. What type of products do you make? My style drips in anime-inspired work. I create vibrant illustrations on my iPad using the program Procreate. I translate those digital files to print as posters, stickers, buttons and apparel designs. I make the stickers in-house using an inkjet printer and use a Cricut to cut all of them. Anything I can get my art printed on I will attempt to make! The
type of art you’ll find from me is bright, colorful, and will put a smile on your face—guaranteed! Tell us how you got started with art? Art has always been a part of my life since I could form memories at the age of 4. I knew that whatever I did with my hands was the coolest thing ever. Art runs my family. My dad paints wildlife realism and my nana Francis worked with oil paints. I was a BIG unicorn fan and would attempt to draw these beautiful creatures. But with my limited art expertise, they looked, well, like a 4-year-old drew it. So I asked my dad if he could teach me the proper way to draw a horse so I could change them into unicorns, pegasus, etc. I continuously practiced until I made an epic piece that my mom has laminated and still brags about to this day. What is your personal favorite item you have created? A watercolor piece I made for the game Halo 5 when it was coming out in 2015. I was just getting into the groove of making my art using watercolor and photoshop. This piece particularly stands out to me
because I'm a huge Halo fan, it was my first attempt at drawing Mecha, and Microsoft themselves reached out to me on Twitter to use it as promo for the new game. You are constantly creating new things—what keeps you inspired? Visually, watching anime shows really sparks that creativity for me. The characters' movements, the way colors are used, and of course, the wild things that can happen in these shows. Mentally, I listen to podcasts. My go to one is Creative Pep Talk! Andy J. Pizza has a really good insight of the creative mind. We also see life as a video game so I’m able to really relate to what he says. For research, I use Pinterest and gain insporation from other creators on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. You also crush it in the social media world and we love seeing you on Tik Tok! What advice would you have for a small business wanting to get on that platform? JUST START! I completely understand the self-doubt one feels when they are just beginning on a new platform. But, it's better to start and learn as you go rather
than not starting at all and missing out. Also, taking inspiration from other creators who may be outside your niche is a great tip to learn. I personally learn a lot from Katie Steckly, Vanessa Lau, and Modern Millie. All super great and talented ladies that have helped me take my content to the next level!
What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago? First I’d congratulate freshman me for sticking to what I love no matter what people and school officials told me about being an artist. If anything I’d probably hone my people speaking skills and presentation of my work a lot sooner!
What is something you've enjoyed the most about doing this handcrafted business? Meeting you! Being a traveling vendor has its perks in getting to connect with others who like what I like or are curious. This makes making art fun for me. Also being able to go through the whole process of creating something from my head to my hands to a physical item is magical! I LOVE what I do and am grateful for it and am celebrating six years of being in business this July!
Where can people find your work? Let’s hang out on the internet! You can find me everywhere @e.mooreart
What is the most challenging thing? Creating things in a timely manner. I feel like I don’t have enough time to do everything when it comes to drawing, running my social media, shooting/editing videos, the list goes on.
My show list Night Bazaar: July 28, Aug 25, Sept 22 Fargo Street Fair: July 14 - 19 Grand Forks Street Fair: Aug 19 & 20 MetaCon in Minneapolis: Sept 2 - 4 Anime Fargo: Sept 23 - 25 Siouxpercon in Sioux Falls: Sept 30 - Oct 1 Shop online: www.emoorearts.com Shop in person: E.Moore Art Studio 2551 45th St, S Fargo, ND. 58104 Monday — Friday : 12pm - 6pm Saturday: By appointment