Page 1

May 2021

VETERAN-OWNED A look at some of the most resilient business owners in our community.

// MAY 2021





Sponsored Content: Community Board Involvement During the Year of COVID


Sponsored Content: 6 Hard Hitting Questions You're too Afraid to Ask Your Banker


Sponsored Content: Planning Ahead Can Lessen Family Burden and Help Tell Your Story


Sponsored Content: Should your business offer a retirement plan benefit?


Julie Saatoff is Military Strong


Meet The Binstocks


Veteran Resources


Veterans in Business


Ladyboss of the Month


10 Questions With John Machacek


Be a Mentor


Do you know your customers?


Academic Insight

MAY 2021

44 59



All our stories in one place

Business events calendar

Read all the past issues

Extra video content

E d i t o r ’s n o t e

Veteran-Owned A

ccording to the U.S. Census Bureau's latest data, veterans make up nearly 7 percent of the United State's population and veteranowned businesses make up about 5.9 percent of all businesses. Not surprisingly, many of these veteran-owned businesses are extremely successful with estimated total receipts of $947.7 billion, 3.9

million total employees and $177.7 billion in total annual payroll. The discipline, commitment and resilience they developed during their service makes them ideal candidates for entrepreneurship.

Despite the skills they've gained through their service, the majority of individuals featured in this magazine will tell you that entrepreneurship is no breeze. Just like the average civilian

looking to start a business, there are obstacles that all of these veterans have had to overcome to get to where they are today.

Brady Drake Fargo INC! Editor

As a community, we should do our best to continue supporting them as they have already sacrificed to support us.

Brady Drake, Fargo INC! Editor




President & CEO

Lead Content & Public Relations Strategist

Dakota Business Lending

“Generosity is the outward expression of an inner attitude of compassion.” - Dalai Lama

May 4th is 504 Day – a day we like to use to celebrate the SBA 504 loan program and all the ways it’s helped small businesses! The SBA 504 loan program is a loan program designed by the U.S. Small Business Administration to create and retain jobs through long-term, fixed rate financing of real estate and equipment. The program offers fixed, below-market interest rates for up to 25 years and can finance up to 90% of the project’s cost, preserving cash flow and providing huge savings for small businesses.


Moore Holding Company



FM Area Foundation

FMWF Chamber of Commerce


United Way of Cass-Clay

Our United Way recently unveiled this year’s United Way Top 50 Most Generous Workplaces list. It is inspiring to see employees at these companies step forward to say they are proud to work for a company that is recognized for its generosity. An attitude of compassion is not only beneficial to our community and neighbors in need, but also to the success and health of a workplace. Compassionate companies have better financial performance, and higher employee and customer retention. Generosity and compassion matter when it comes to creating a better tomorrow for all of us. See who is on the list at unitedwaycassclay.org and congratulations to these outstanding companies!


MAY 2021

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the SBA 504 loan program, visit our website or contact our team for more information (www. dakotabusinesslending. com). And in lieu of 504 Day, be sure to show your love and appreciation for your favorite small business this month!

Memorial Day in my hometown was always a special day. The local VFW and American Legion would conduct ceremonies at several area cemeteries. Names of fallen veterans – local kids sent to war in faraway lands who never returned – were slowly and reverently recited. Prayers were spoken. Rifle volleys were fired. My dad, a U.S. Navy veteran, played the mournful tones of taps. Every year, it was somber and inspiring. There are Memorial Day ceremonies like this in nearly every community. If you’re not in the habit, consider attending one this year, especially if you have children. If they’re anything like me, it will leave a quiet and impactful impression.

As the new CEO of the FM Area Foundation, I’m excited to be a part of an organization with a rich history of supporting this community. As your community foundation, we support numerous charities that make Fargo-Moorhead and the surrounding area such a great place to live. We help donors maximize their philanthropy to create a vibrant community full of opportunities for everyone. As trusted guides, we connect donors to opportunities to advance the causes they care about the most and grant over $6 million yearly. We also act as Fiscal Sponsor to many early-stage nonprofits and to charitable projects, such as the Cass/ Clay Veterans Fund, which supports veterans who need short-term assistance. As an agile, responsive, and service-driven organization, the FM Area Foundation provided almost $500,000 in emergency support for nonprofits during the pandemic, including a fund that provided coffee to our frontline healthcare workers at Sanford, Essentia, and the Fargo VA Health Care System. If you are seeking help with your charitable giving strategies to drive local impact, please reach out to me today.

President and CEO

Because May is Military Appreciation Month, we at The Chamber are taking this month to honor our veterans and servicemen and women. With everything going on in the world, it is a great time to show appreciation for those who have sacrificed for us. I was raised to have a great appreciation for the men and women who protect our freedom and our liberties. My grandfather served in WWII on a transport ship, and his brother served in the Normandy invasion. I remember so many stories that they would tell us about extreme conditions, moments of terror and devastating loss, and yet they say that they would do it all again. We have thousands of men and women who courageously volunteer to fight for our honor. We have the good fortune of having so many of these brave souls here in our own community. Please check out the May edition of The Bridge to learn more about some of them. I want to thank you, too – if you are or have been a soldier, thank you. If you are a company that supports our military, thank you. If you are a non-profit aids soldiers and their families, thank you. Finally, if you are citizen who isn’t afraid to stand alongside our military, thank you.

Director of Ecosystem

Emerging Prairie

Emerging Prairie recently launched a new mission statement and it couldn't be more accurate. Energize communities. At the end of the day, we believe that change and innovation isn't possible without people and we hope to be the catalyst to bring the people and the appetite for innovation to Fargo. Innovation is a messy process. For every two steps forward, there can be three steps back, yet we persevere on. We must move on. That's why everything we'll be doing this summer is meant to celebrate and encourage risk taking. From a Space Ag Conference at Grand Farm highlighting the work it'll take to farm on Mars to celebrating entrepreneurs at our new StartupBREW to educating and training new students through Emerging Digital Academy, everything we're doing is meant to make our community and world stronger. Yet, none of it is possible without people and support. That's why I encourage you to get involved. Show up for our events. Meet us for coffee. Engage our networks. Let's energize our community together.

Founder and Director

The Executives Club of Fargo - Moorhead

Was it a sacrifice, or a priority? To sacrifice means to give up something at a loss. To prioritize is to designate something as more important than other things and to determine the best order of dealing with things according to their importance. Successful people don’t sacrifice much…because they prioritize. They have concluded what is important, what is urgent and what they are willing to give up. If it's a priority, it ceases to be a sacrifice. If it's a sacrifice, it was never a priority. Once you determine which is which, you will instantly become more focused, less anxious and find that you begin to enjoy each day a little more. Life should not be about sacrifices.

Chief Innovation Officer

KODEE FURST Program Manager

Greater FM Economic Development Corporation

The Nice Center

Join us June 23rd in downtown Fargo for our next FM Welcome Party.

The Nice Center believes entrepreneurial education should prepare students to identify and solve problems. In other words, we want to build the mindset and skillset for students to create change.

If you are new to the community, we'll show you why we love it, and we'll help connect you to the community. If you have lived here for a while, join us, have some fun and welcome folks to the community. You can expect food, local entertainment, familyfriendly activities, engaging hosts (who have moved here themselves) fantastic conversation and plenty of information about the community. There will be a cash bar for those 21+. A special thank you to our sponsors, Sparklight and Livewire, for helping us make it happen. More info & registration at www. fmwelcomeparty.com.

We’re taking a big step forward on that path by introducing A Nice Intro to Entrepreneurship, our online, on-demand dual credit course. We’ve created content that can be consumed anywhere, anytime and includes interviews with guest entrepreneurs who share their diverse perspectives building organizations. We built an assessment tool that will allow us to see how students identify in the areas of mindset and skillset and we’re testing competencies like grit, empathy and bias for action. Throughout the course, students will find a passion, build a solution and launch an idea for college credit. Our pilot launched in April and we’re grateful to the students who said yes to participating; their feedback will continue to help us shape the experience for our public launch in June. We’re reimagining what students can accomplish with community and the agency to start what they want. More information can be found at thenicecenter.org/ niceintro.



MAY 2021

Volume 6 Issue 5

Fargo INC! is published 12 times a year and is available at area businesses and online at FargoInc.com.

Publisher EDITORIAL Editorial Team Lead Editor

Mike Dragosavich Drago@SpotlightMediaFargo.com Nolan Schmidt Brady Drake fargoinc@spotlightmediafargo.com

Graphic Designer

Kim Cowles

Creative Strategist

Josiah Kopp

Contract Photographer Contributors

INTERACTIVE Business Development Manager Videographers

Jeremy Albright Wendy Klug, Shontarius D. Aikens, Paul Smith, Bethlehem Gronneberg, John Machacek, McKenzie Schwark Nick Schommer nickschommer@spotlightmediafargo.com Tommy Uhlir

Business Development Associate

Kellen Feeney

Digital Marketing Lead

Emma Bonnet

Graphic Designer

Ben Buchanan

ADVERTISING VP of Business Development Sales Representative

Client Relations

Paul Hoefer Paul@SpotlightMediaFargo.com Al Anderson


Client Relations Manager

Jenny Johnson

Client Relations Strategist

Cora Sather

Marketing Designer ADMINISTRATION VP of Human Resources Account Strategist DISTRIBUTION Delivery

Christy German Colleen Dreyer Cassie Wiste John Stuber

Fargo INC! is published by Spotlight LLC, Copyright 2020 Fargo INC! & FargoInc.com. All rights reserved. No parts of this magazine may be reproduced or distributed without written permission of Fargo INC!, and Spotlight LLC, is not responsible for, and expressly disclaims all liability for, damages of any kind arising out of use, reference to or reliance on such information. Spotlight LLC, accepts no liability for the accuracy of statements made by the advertisers.

Spotlight LLC 15 Broadway N, Suite 500 Fargo, ND 58102 Info@SpotlightMediaFargo.com ADVERTISING: 701-478-SPOT (7768)

New residential community IN HORACE


The ideal Horace location for your family Near Horace High School and Heritage Middle School Choose your builder Limited availability. Contact us today to reserve your lot!

cubcreeknd.com | 701.639.6245

MEET OUR TEAM AT CORA - Client Relations

EMMA - Social Media

AL - Sales NOLAN - Editorial

JENNY - Client Relations TOMMY - Videography

BEN - Design

PAUL - Sales CHRISTY - Design

CASSIE - Admin

JOSIAH - Editorial

KIM - Design

JOHN - Distribution COLLEEN - HR & Operations

NICK - Digital Services KELLEN - Digital Services

JEREMY - Photography

BRADY - Editorial

“We have been working with SWL for 8 years. They help us with HR practices, contracts, and other legal issues that come up. I love how progressive and proactive they are. They have always felt like a partner and not just a law firm we call when we need something.” MIKE DRAGOSAVICH

Founder, Spotlight


Escape to the outdoors in our annual weekend getaways edition. Get to know the various state and national parks across the Midwest and get out and adventure!

Busy times have guided North Dakota State through a wacky spring athletic year. With each sport playing at the exact same time, it can become hard to keep track of it all. Let alone trying to digest wins, losses, ties and statistics. This month, we do the heavy lifting for you as we profile special student-athletes from across numerous athletics programs. In the midst of a busy season, find out what makes these Bison so special.

Plug And Play recently announced 14 more startups that will expand the center's knowledge on precision farming, soil/plant health, supply chain, livestock, agrifintech and big data analytics. Get to know these new startups as they help revolutionize the agtech world.

Spring is here! Come along with us as we preview the spring Parade Of Homes tour and give you expert advice for your upcoming spring and summer projects.



Community Board Involvement During the Year of COVID BY JACK YAKOWICZ

Aren’t you sick of hearing about the pandemic by now? Don’t mind me, writing another article with “COVID” in the title. Coming up on month fourteen of our lives being altered by this disease, I find myself at stage seven of the grieving process: hope. That hope, in a large part, stems from seeing what still has been able to be accomplished in a year that none of us could have aptly planned for. More specifically, serving on the board for the American Advertising Federation of North Dakota (a group exclusively composed of volunteers) has instilled this hope. Seeing the efforts of our board, our members, and our community to rally and keep things going has made me not only grateful for the past year, but optimistic about what comes next. Our story is far from unique. North Dakota is home to over 5,300 non-profit organizations, many of whom are operating with minimal staff and require maximum support from volunteers and community members. Everybody’s been impacted by the pandemic in different ways, but being a board member for AAF-ND has granted me a special lens into the challenges that non-profit organizations, in particular, have faced. Today, I wanted to lift the curtain and give you all a little glimpse into the past several months for our organization to show how our community board has adapted and grown stronger during a time of crisis. 26

MAY 2021

About Our Organization AAF-ND is North Dakota’s branch of the American Advertising Federation, a national outfit focused on promoting and protecting the well being of advertising. Our specific ad club has no paid staff members. We’re a collective of marketers and advertising enthusiasts from around the community that band together to put on unique events (including the American Advertising Awards and our speaker series). We also host networking opportunities, have a public service arm committed to giving back to the community, and connect with the schools through our education efforts.

March 2020 - COVID Hits

Like many others, we had no idea the extent of COVID. We canceled our March speaker event and waited to learn more. Our monthly board meetings moved to Zoom, and we stayed connected with updates over our Slack channel. There was a general feeling of what’s next? Many of us transitioned into working remotely for our jobs, and adjusted to doing our board work remotely as well. We figured we may be back to in-person events by April, and also began some early prep efforts for the 2020-21 season that would start in the fall.

April 2020 - First Virtual Speaker

After we realized this pandemic was here to stay, we determined that we needed to adapt and host events virtually. We researched the best way to do so (landing on Zoom Webinars), worked with our speaker to make sure they were comfortable with their in-home setup, and began marketing efforts to get people to the event. Attendance was a bit lower than we were accustomed to, but engagement seemed strong in the chat.

Summer 2020 - Next Season Preparations

The “offseason” (June-August) is usually a time for our board to relax as we transition new members in. This year, we decided to not have an offseason. Instead, we knew that there would be major preparatory efforts required to make the 2020-21 year work. We began by trying to really focus on what role AAF should play during this time. We had member businesses who were impacted adversely, individual members who were looking for new work, and board members whose lives had been changed. It was important for us to make adjustments all around. We decided to start hosting bi-weekly “virtual trivia nights” to offer a relaxing, fun platform for our members to stay connected. We gave away gift cards to local businesses as a way to support the community. We created a Careers page on our website for businesses to post (and members to review) job listings. We also met as an Executive Team every Monday morning to make sure we had a good plan going into the next season.

September 2020 - New Season Starting

With the new season starting, we made the determination that we would have our speaker events take place virtually. This allowed us to deliver high-level speaker engagements for members to attend, without putting anyone (our speakers or members) in harm’s way. We sent out membership communications to get membership renewals, and saw a slight dip (~10%) in overall membership. However, we were blessed with wonderful support from sponsors who helped cover that loss. We continued to host virtual social events and hoped that, at some point in the season, we may return to in-person events.

November 2020 - Addy Planning

Our premium event, as talked about in our article a few months back, is the American Advertising Awards (commonly referred to as the “Addy Awards”). This event takes place each year at the end of February. Up until November, we planned to have this event be either in-person or a hybrid model (with in-person options). In November, we made the call to turn this event to a virtual gathering and started prepping accordingly. This also signaled our decision to have the rest of the 2020-21 season events be virtual, as well.

February 2021 - Virtual Awards

At this point, we had gotten into a pretty good groove with pulling off events in a virtual capacity. We hosted our award show the last Friday of February and were greeted with awesome feedback from our members. It also highlighted one of the small silver linings of this time: people were more tuned in to the program/what was going on onscreen as opposed to some of the drinks, food, and other festivities that happen at our ordinary ceremony. As a board, I think we started to appreciate some of the opportunities that this new environment provided us. We learned how to adapt and innovate and add more fun layers to the ceremony. We were also able to connect even more with individuals through email, live chat, phone calls, supply box drop-offs, and more.


We currently have about two months left in our 2020-21 AAF-ND Season before we begin prepping efforts for next year. Once again, new board members will be joining and current board members will be stepping down. We’ll transition into another season where we don’t absolutely know what to expect, but we will do our best to learn from the lessons provided by this year, including: • Making contingency plans • Showing gratitude • Being flexible • Communicating exceptionally well • Retaining hope for brighter days ahead We survived this year due to the efforts of so many - our president (Bill Lempe), our board of directors, our sponsors, and our members who stayed committed to what AAF stands for even in a year where we couldn’t bring people together in-person. There have been a lot of long days and nights planning events and taking care of board duties, but it’s been worth it to see the great success and lessons learned throughout the year. Thank you to all who have supported our club, and the vast assortment of other nonprofits in the community who have stayed working through this pandemic. It truly takes a village.




Meet The Experts



MAY 2021

Hard Hitting Questions You're Too Afraid To Ask Your Banker

Kory Shae

SVP, Business Development Director, Border Bank

Lori DeKeyser

SVP, Business Officer, Border Bank

Jordan Cook President, Border Bank

Shannon Bergee Processor, Border Bank


Q: People

always have told me never to keep all your money with one bank. Is this just a cliché? Mike Dragosavich Founder and CEO Spotlight


Diversifying your banking relationships is never a bad idea. It really depends on the size and nature of your business. For single operating companies there really isn’t a reason to need a second “bank” per se; however, having multiple banking “relationships” does make sense. You never know when an opportunity may arise to expand or move into additional businesses, and this is where multiple relationships can be very important. For owners who have multiple businesses or property owners, having multiple banks can be very important. Legal lending limits and other factors can come into play. Another obvious reason to have multiple banks is for FDIC Insurance limits. FARGOINC.COM




I've worked with many banks that say they are known for "service," how do I know you are different?

Brent Tehven Partner

Herd & Horns Restaurant



What separates Border from many other banks on the service side is the ability to make local decisions quickly and efficiently. We have the systems and people in place to have the ability to move quickly when opportunities arise. We understand that opportunities can close quickly so it is important to be swift, yet diligent, in making decisions for clients. Many banks create many layers which can create long timelines for answers/approvals. We pride ourselves on getting things done efficiently and also the fact that most of us are always available for questions/calls.

Besides the relationships between the bankers and customers, what other relationships are important for delivering great service?

Shawn Peterson CEO

Liberty Business Solutions


There are many important relationships outside of the direct customer dealings. The most significant are local title companies, appraisers and other vendors. We treat them as partners because their services are integral to what we do. Many times we are in need of quick turnarounds for closings and these relationships are imperative in allowing the banks to accomplish this. It has been a philosophy of the bank to build and foster these partnerships as ultimately it leads to better customer service for our bank clients.


MAY 2021



I'm always curious about exploring other banks but usually one of the hold-ups is the time and effort in the change. Do you have a process that would make this easy for me?

Nick Killoran Co-Owner


This is all about what systems the bank has and the people helping out with the process. We understand that moving banks is a big process that doesn’t happen overnight. You need to be patient in getting everything put into place prior to fully utilizing us as your primary bank. It is a full team effort and we have team members that handle various aspects of the process. There is a lot of banking experience here in the Fargo Branch. I have experienced a lot of this and have become familiar with what it takes as I am just over 18 months into my time with Border. A lot of previous clients have moved their banking relationship to me at Border.

Great North Insurance


In my experience, some bankers are proactive and most are reactive. Are there any additional services that you offer to ensure our banker is working for us and always keeping us in mind?

Barry Gruchow Owner

Halberstadt's Downtown Fargo


Your statement is 100% true about the majority being reactive. This really gets back to question number two. You have to be able to adapt to changing conditions (economic, market, rates, etc.) at all times. Management needs to recognize that different rate environments present additional opportunities, but also open the door to outside competitors coming for your customer base. I feel like we do a great job of keeping tabs on our customers that we have. This is why quality is more important than quantity when it comes to your customer base. When you have great relationships with your customer base, you will generally avoid the need to be reactive. Technology also plays a big key in this as well. You don’t want to get behind the times with the latest technology.




I enjoy the financing Q:

and strategy aspect of working with a bank to expand my business. My administrator on the other hand has found some banks, especially their technologies, to be a barrier when trying to create efficient processes.Tell me about your technologies and services to ensure I don't waste time on a day-to-day basis. Sarah West Owner

Light Consulting & Coaching


MAY 2021


Technology is always a challenge given it is a forever changing item. As mentioned above, if you get complacent in this area you can be passed by quickly. Your administrator is a great example of our commitment to taking care of your entire team. We try and develop relationships with all of the key people within a business. We have a lot of clients who we deal with the owners a few times a year but deal with their accountants/ administrators/etc. on a daily basis. That also goes both ways, as we have people here at the bank that we trust to take care of our clients so we don’t get bogged down in the “busy” work, which hinders expansion. Having a team you can trust and the technology to back it goes a long way in establishing longterm, trusting relationships with our customers.



Tell Your Story


MAY 2021

SPONSORED CONTENT anson-Runsvold Funeral Home has a century-long history of serving the needs of the Fargo-Moorhead community. They continue their long tradition of service by offering preplanning services as a way for individuals to make decisions about their own funeral arrangements ahead of time.

preplanning, you are able to make sure your story is not only remembered but is told in a way that accurately reflects who you are and the life that you’ve lived. Writing one’s own obituary can actually be a therapeutic experience, as you have the opportunity to think through the many life experiences you’ve had and reflect on what’s been the most important. Every life deserves a time of honor.

Dean and Nikki Jo Hulse recently preplanned with funeral director, John Runsvold, and found the experience to be both beneficial and comforting.

“Dean is a writer, so he wrote our obituaries. It sounds really depressing but it wasn’t. The idea of having this done and having one less thing to be thinking about was important to us." Nikki Jo

“He made us really comfortable. He wasn’t awkward or morbid or depressing. It was just a really good experience. When we left, we felt that internal sigh of relief and we knew this was the right thing to do. And John’s willingness to honor our wishes about where our ashes are to be scattered is really peace of mind.” – Nikki Jo The decisions that need to be made when a loved one passes away can be difficult and overwhelming and are often complicated when the person’s wishes weren’t known. Whether they are general ideas or very specific desires, most of us would have something to say in regard to what we would like to happen when we are here. “The pre-planning concept gives you more control over that component of your life which is something I think that I lot of people would like because you not only have your say in how you leave this world but you’re taking some of that burden away from other people. At Johns's age, he doesn’t need to still be working but is. My take on that is it’s because he enjoys what he does. He’s providing a service people need and that says a lot to me.” - Dean


Each of us lives a life, and our life is our story. Through Hanson-Runsvold’s

To make plans for something in advance seems logical, but it isn’t always as comfortable as we wish it would be. Planning funeral arrangements in advance can naturally bring some difficult feelings as we contemplate our mortality, so having a funeral home that gives you a feeling of comfort is very important. “I was a runner for many years and ran through Island Park 1,000 times at least. I would also see Hanson-Runsvold on my runs. I really like their location. It’s in a beautiful part of town and we’ve had a lot of friends that have passed and had their services at Hanson-Runsvold so we’re very familiar with the facility.” – Dean Throughout the last one hundred years, the caring and compassionate staff at Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home have been helping to walk families through the most difficult experiences they’ve faced. They also understand that there is no time better than the present to plan ahead, which is why their free preplanning services are available both online and inperson. To find out how you can start the preplanning process, visit www.hansonrunsvold.com or call (701)232-3222.




Should your business offer a retirement plan benefit? HERE’S WHAT TO ASK YOURSELF Retirement benefits are among the best known and most desirable employee benefits offered. So why don’t more businesses offer them? Not all tools are right for every situation, but there also can be a lot of misunderstanding about complex company-sponsored benefits. Owners who are leery of getting in over their head or who aren’t sure if the effort will be worth it may hesitate to make such a big change. If you like the idea of offering retirement benefits but aren’t sure where to start, ask yourself:

Will it provide a recruiting or retention edge, and what is that worth?

In a tight labor market, many businesses struggle to hire and keep good people. A retirement plan can help you stand out from the competition or keep an employee from walking (especially with options that reward longevity). Depending on how hard it is for you to find good people, this could tip the scales.

How will a retirement benefit affect my bottom line?

Nothing in life is free, but some things are a better value. That includes retirement plans. Your business could benefit from tax advantages the government offers to encourage more employers to provide retirement benefits. And business contributions to employee retirement are tax-advantaged, which can help your business come tax time.

What kind of plan makes the most sense for my business?

401(k), SIMPLE IRA, SEP – it’s a regular alphabet soup. But behind all those acronyms and numbers, each option offers unique features, benefits, and opportunities -- more than can be explained in a few words. Talk to an expert who can help you understand, unravel, and evaluate your options, which are probably more extensive than you realize.

What will it take to offer and manage a plan?

You’ve got a lot on your plate, so figure out how a retirement plan fits. Maybe your business has a person who can manage the plan, or maybe they’ll need training. Do you run everything yourself? A benefits partner can handle administration, communications, enrollment, and support for a reasonable cost.

There are lots of reasons to offer retirement benefits, not just including the help it provides your valued employees to prepare for a solid future. With the right guidance, you may find that offering a retirement plan makes more sense than you would expect. The information contained herein is general in nature, is provided for informational purposes only and not intended to provide legal or tax advice or recommendations for any particular situation or type of retirement plan. Alerus does not provide legal or tax advice. Always consult your legal or tax advisor regarding your unique situation.


MAY 2021

Julie Saatoff Is Military Strong By Brady Drake I Photos By Nolan P. Schmidt & Josiah Kopp

It takes strength to overcome an obstacle, Julie Saatoff has overcome more than a few in her lifetime. The proud Owner of Rocket Dogs K-9 Aquatics & Wellness Center, Fargo’s only indoor dog pool, faced financial hardship after opening a business several weeks before the onset of a pandemic. However, those challenges were small peanuts compared to the things she has already conquered post-military service. Saatoff has and still does deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of experiences she had while serving in the Gulf War. Those PTSD symptoms prevented her from going out in public for years. A far cry from where she is today as an entrepreneur. During her time in the Gulf War, Saatoff worked mainly supplying water purification to the front lines, putting her right in the heart of the action.

on because you never knew what was coming out of the sky. Some of it was very fun. All in all, it was very rewarding. I can’t say that I’d want to do it again, but I wouldn’t give up the experience.” However, the experience left a toll. Saatoff was somewhat of a hermit for years. “I’ve overcome so much,” said Saatoff. “I can go to grocery stores now. I can go out and talk to people. Before, I really had a difficult time looking people in the eyes because of things that happened.”

counseling groups at the local VA as possible. She also gets a helping hand from her service dog Cooper. “My service dog helps me. He can bring me down from an episode. He watches my back,” said Saatoff. “I feel like I’m in such a great place, even with all the downs. When I feel down, I also like to watch the news to remind myself that a lot of people have it a lot worse."

In order to help make that transition back into a normal life, Saatoff has put in a lot of work. Up until the pandemic hit, she utilized as many

“It was one amazing experience,” said Saatoff. “It was scary. Every night the bombs went off. You’d have to have your gas mask



The Pandemic

Although Saatoff has made amazing strides that should be celebrated on their own, she, like many others, was kicked around by The Pandemic a bit. Things haven’t been easy as of late. When Rocket Dogs was forced to close several weeks after opening, they stayed closed for months. “It was horrible,” said Saatoff. “I didn’t think I was going to make it.” Things were looking pretty grim. When they finally did reopen, Saatoff also had to contend with an unseasonably warm fall and winter which left a large percentage of her would-be clientele opting to wait for more frigid temperatures before purchasing a membership. Saatoff was thousands of dollars behind on rent. Her landlord was very understanding, but she needed more help than that. In order to get by, she held a fundraiser and dock jumping competition at Rocket Dogs. 40

MAY 2021

“People paid astronomical prices for stuff,” said Saatoff. “Way above what things were worth. The people that come here are amazingly supportive. In addition to the fundraiser, I sold off everything I could in my house and I sold off my camper in order to bring in $10,000 of my own money. It’s a miracle to still be here!” Saatoff was able to get caught up on everything she owed by January 1.

I really believe in this business and the good that it does for these dogs. Having been in the military, I’m very strong, very stubborn and never going to give up without a fight.” -Julie Saatoff on fighting for her business in the midst of a pandemic

A Passion For Dogs A lot of people like dogs, a lot of people love dogs, but when it comes to Julie Saatoff, you can just tell there is an added appreciation for man’s best friend. “Where else can you bring your dogs to work every day. The dogs here are so fun. It has been the best year of my life,” said Saatoff. “In some ways, it was the worst year of my life, but it has also been the best year of my life. If the business failed and never went any further, it still would have been the best year of my life. These dogs that I get to see every day are so amazing and fun!” That passion for dogs was there from a young age, even if Saatoff wasn’t allowed to have them by her father, she found a way. “Any stray that didn’t have a leash on came right home with me,” said Saatoff. “I lured them with treats and my dad got so frustrated with me. Most left, but one Golden Retriever eventually stuck around. He wasn’t allowed in the house, but I snuck him in when he wasn’t home. Eventually, he won my dad’s heart and became part of the family.” “Once I got on my own, it was dog city,” said Saatoff who in the past bred golden retrievers and miniature collies. Now, that passion is a business. Rocked Dogs is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday with options for 30-minute private swimming lessons, 30-minute private swims, membership pricing, obedience training and more. To learn more, visit rocketdogsauquatics.com


MAY 2021

Julie’s Advice:

Sometimes it’s good to just cry. Another business owner gave me that advice and it has been huge for me to just go in my office and cry when I need to.”

In addition to the swimming services, Rocket Dogs offers basic obedience training and sells Leashes by Liz.

BY Brady Drake PHOTOS BY Josiah Kopp


MAY 2021

MEET THE BINSTOCKS Brea and Eric’s dual-faceted approach to supporting the homeland while taking care of the “home front”.

Entrepreneurship, military service, federal law enforcement, and raising children. Each of these alone could be full-time responsibilities, yet the Binstocks manage them all and continue to enjoy a simple homecentered family life.

ADVICE FOR OTHER VETERANS: “Don’t let the highs become too high or the lows become too low, life is not a sprint, never pass up an opportunity and don’t ever think you can’t accomplish your goals. Set your goals high and keep going.” -Eric


MAY 2021

full-time family serving part-time, together, in the North Dakota Army National Guard. Brea is a Sergeant First Class, Platoon Sergeant with Forward Support Company, 142 Engineer Battalion while Eric is a Command Sergeant Major serving as the Senior Enlisted Leader of the North Dakota National Guard, assigned to Joint Forces Headquarters. Both were deployed from 2003 to 2004 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and once more in 2011 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). During their time downrange, Eric and Brea note the limited communication to family and friends as one of the most difficult components of deployment. “Being away from my son Kaleb who was around six years old at the time was exceptionally tough,” said Eric. Beyond the uniform, Brea is the co-founder of Lovely Lash Company, a luxury lash boutique located in West Fargo. Eric is a Special Agent with the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations. Together, they have three children, Kaleb (24) Harper (7) and Brynlee (3).

ERIC BINSTOCK For Eric, his service in the National Guard was something he wanted to do for a good portion of his life. His father, an Army Veteran was very proud of his service, and shared many stories from his time serving in Korea. He also had several family members that served while he was growing up. Eric enlisted himself at the age of 17. After originally going to school for Occupational Therapy, Eric eventually found his calling through service with the National Guard. “I realized I no longer wanted to pursue a career in occupational therapy,” said Eric. “The National Guard provided me direction and assisted me to pursue what I wanted to do in my personal and professional life. I took an opportunity to work full-time with the National Guard performing duties in various capacities, which provided me the opportunity to finish my bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Mary. I continued to pursue a career in federal law enforcement and was hired as a Special Agent with the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations.” Eric’s employment with Homeland Security Investigations keeps him busy at home investigating crime, while supporting national events such as Presidential Inaugurations, United Nations General Assemblies, and other law enforcement support throughout the United States. Just this past summer, he spent 60 days in Chicago supporting Operation Legend, a gang violence reduction effort. During this time, Brea was activated by the National Guard, in support of the emergency response to COVID-19, in this role Brea was assigned as the non-commissioned officer

in charge (NCOIC) of the Red River Valley Task Force working jointly with the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDOH) supervising Soldiers and Airmen of the National Guard assigned to facilitate COVID test sites. “Eric and I would not be able to serve without the support of my parents,” said Brea. “My mom had to step up and become the primary caregiver of our two little girls while I was working the COVID mission for the National Guard and Eric was in Chicago.” Being a dual military couple, the Department of Defense (DoD) mandates that the Binstocks have a family care plan in place for their children in the unlikely instance they were to both deploy or be engaged in emergency military duty at the same time. “I could have retired 10 years ago from the National Guard,” said Eric. “I chose not to retire because I love what I do and feel I owe this great organization for all the amazing benefits and experiences it has provided me. In my position as Senior Enlisted Leader, I get to look at things from a strategic level. It’s great having a pulse on where the organization is headed. As I look across the North Dakota National Guard, I’ve never been more proud of our Soldiers and Airmen and have never been more excited or confident in the future that is to come. To put it simply, if it wasn’t for the National Guard, I wouldn’t be where I am today and I consider it a great privilege to be a part of such an exceptional organization.” “We are both definitely very busy, but I think what is important is that we stay focused and driven with our careers and maximize our time together as a family,” said Eric



ADVICE FOR OTHER VETERANS: “Take the leap of faith and have the confidence in yourself. If it doesn’t work out, seek out the next opportunity with a goal in mind.” -Brea


MAY 2021

BREA BINSTOCK Brea enlisted into the National Guard following in the footsteps of her Grandfather Joe, who served in the Navy and her Grandfather Reno, who served in the Army. Both were incredibly supportive of her decision to serve her country. “I joined the military in 2000 after completing a couple semesters of college, for the tuition benefits and opportunity to serve my country,” said Brea. “I did not know if my military service would continue beyond my initial six-year obligation, however, after my overseas deployment to Iraq in 03-04, meeting so many amazing people, and experiencing everything the National Guard had to offer, my outlook toward the military really shifted. I developed a love and passion for the organization and knew this is where I belonged. The memories and experiences built a camaraderie that only military brothers and sisters will fully understand. The individuals I served with in Iraq and throughout my career have left a significant impact on my life. When you serve and deploy together, you become family.” In addition to the tours in Iraq and Kuwait, Brea was also deployed to Kosovo in 2009 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, a peacekeeping mission. While juggling overseas deployments, Brea obtained a bachelor’s degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead in

Business Administration with a minor in communications. Brea’s professional career included employment as a Senior Executive with Target, Human Resources Specialist with Integrity Windows and Doors, and Human Resources Officer for the District of North Dakota United States Attorney’s Office. These previous professional positions have provided Brea with extensive experience in business management, operations, leadership, and human resources. This background along with Brea’s strategic thinking ability were critical for her professional development and has established a great foundation for her entrepreneurial endeavors. “I had so many great experiences working in both the private sector and for the government, however, I needed more, I wanted to be part of the community and had the passion, energy, and drive which fueled my entrepreneurial spirit and understanding of what it takes to hustle in order to keep life moving forward,” said Brea. During the height of COVID, Brea and Ashley Froemke opened Lovely Lash Company. They were determined that nothing was going to stop them. “We went back a forth, weighing the benefits against the risks and wondering

what happens if it doesn’t work out,” said Brea. “But if there is anything my military experiences taught me it was resiliency and adaptability, we were confident in our business plan and mission to overcome any obstacle we would face down this unknown path.” Brea and Ashley were able to officially open the doors of Lovely Lash Company in November 2020 and have not looked back since. Brea and Ashley are excited to bring people together to work towards a common goal and make a difference in the lives of others, especially when it comes to empowering women to see the inner beauty of themselves. “Our goal is to build confidence in our clients through high-quality services, professionalism, education, and the passion for the art of all things lashes,” said Brea. When asked what her dream job is, Brea stated, “It’s what I am doing right now! I truly love what I am doing. I feel passionate and fulfilled to show up every day knowing I helped motivate, inspire and empower others to reach their full potential whether that’s personally or professionally.” To meet the lash club and reserve your lash nap call 701-532-2999, or stop by their location at 3139 Bluestem Dr, Suite 100, West Fargo, ND 58078. FARGOINC.COM


Veteran Resources

There are plenty of programs and benefits available to aid our veterans in their personal and business lives and we at Fargo INC! think they deserve to know what they are. That’s why we put together a veterans resource guide.

North Dakota Society for Human Resource Management State Council SHRM Veterans at Work certificate shrm.org/foundation/about/pages/ veterans-at-work-certificateprogram.aspx

The SHRM Foundation's Veterans at Work Certificate, developed for HR professionals, hiring managers and front-line supervisors, is a multi-faceted program from the SHRM Foundation. Through this certificate program, you will: • Learn the value that skilled veterans bring to the civilian workplace. • Demonstrate your commitment to attract, hire and retain these talented professionals • Earn 10 professional development credits toward your SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP recertification.

Fargo Vet Center Vet Centers are the people in VA who welcome home war veterans with honor by providing quality readjustment counseling in a caring manner. Vet Centers understand and appreciate Veterans’ war experiences while assisting them and their family members toward a successful post-war adjustment in or near their community. • Individuals and group counseling for Veterans and their families. • Family counseling for militaryrelated issues. • Bereavement counseling for families who experience an active duty death. • Military sexual trauma counseling and referral. • Outreach and education, including PDHRA, community events, etc.. • Substance abuse assessment and referral. • Employment assessment and referral. • VBA benefits explanation and referral. • Screening and referral for


MAY 2021

medical issues, including TBI, depression, etc. The Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber Of Commerce Military Affairs fmwfchamber.com/millitaryaffairs

The Chamber's Military Affairs committee is on a mission to foster a community of support for the men and women of our military and the missions they carry out on our behalf. To recognize these courageous individuals, the committee will plan activities to raise awareness in the community for the work that they do and provide opportunities for the community to thank them for their outstanding accomplishments. ACP acp-usa.org

ACP’s free Mentoring Program connects post-9/11 veterans (Protégés) with corporate professionals (Mentors) for

customized mentorships. ACP assists veterans on their path towards fulfilling, long-term careers, whether the veteran is job searching or newly employed. Typical mentorship goals include: • Resume review and interview preparation • Career exploration and understanding job opportunities • Career advancement once a position is obtained • Work-life balance • Networking • Small business development • Leadership and professional communication FM Area Foundation The FM Area Foundation has a Clay/Cass Veterans Assistance Fund that was created in 2009 to provide emergency assistance to veterans. The fund was created by the Clay County Veteran’s Service Office who saw a need. Donations to the fund come from veterans groups,

Veteran Resources

individual veterans, businesses and community members. The fund assists veterans in our community who have fallen on very difficult times. It helps fill a gap before federal or state assistance is available. The donations are often used to help pay bills, purchase visa gift cards and provide other immediate needs for veterans in our region. National Veteran-Owned Business Association NaVOBA is an independent nonprofit organization governed and led by Corporate America. NaVOBA’s mission is to create corporate contracting opportunities for America’s Veteran’s and Service- Disabled Veteran’s Business Enterprises (VBEs/SDVBEs) through certification, advocacy, outreach, recognition and education. DOD SkillBridge dodskillbridge.usalearning. gov The DoD SkillBridge program is an opportunity for service members to gain valuable civilian work experience through specific industry training, apprenticeships or internships during the last 180 days of service. Veterans Educational Training ndsu.edu/vet Available to honorably discharged North Dakota veterans, VET is a free program of study funded by the state of North Dakota to prepare you for a certification program, two-year or four-year college degree. The program provides refresher training, as well as training in English, computers, math and study skills.


MAY 2021

• Bunker Labs - Bunker in a Box Brady Oberg Legacy Foundation bradyoberglegacyfoundation. org The Brady Oberg Legacy Foundation was founded in 2015 to honor the legacy of Brady Oberg, an Army veteran who lost his life to suicide as a result of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Foundation was founded to raise awareness for combat PTSD and create a community of veterans who get together and support each other. The foundation helps to organize various events for veterans to get together and do what they love, like going to fitness classes, hunting expeditions, participating in a motorcycle ride events and embarking on their annual Brady's Border 2 Border Ruck March. Thanks to donations, every single event that they put on is free to veterans. Veteran Owned Business.com

ndsu.edu/vet The Veteran Owned Business Project is a comprehensive, user-friendly member network directory of small, medium and large businesses owned by veterans, service-disabled veterans (SDVOSBs / DVBEs) active duty military, reservists and military spouses released on Veteran's Day 2008. Here you can also find a number of great resources for starting a veteranowned business.

• Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP)

• VA Beneficiary Travel (Travel Pay)

Resource Partners

• Wounded Warrior/Disabled Veteran Resources

• U.S. Small Business Development Association • Office of Veterans Business Development • SCORE - Service Corps of Retired Executives • Women's Business Centers • Small Business Development Centers • National Veteran Small Business Coalition (NVSBC) • U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Hiring Heroes

Financial • Compensation and Pension • Consumer Financial Protection Burea • Disabled American Veteran License Plates • Dreams for Veterans • Financial Wellness • Food Assistance • Gold Star License Plates • Hardship Assistance Grant • Home Loan Guaranty

North Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs nd.gov/veterans/benefitsservices

• Life Insurance

The NDOVA’s mission is to assist veterans of North Dakota and their dependents in obtaining all benefits to which they are entitled, both federal and state, either by direct contact or through the assistance of County Veterans Service Officers, Tribal Veterans Service Officers or Nation Service Officers.

• North Dakota National Guard Foundation

Here, you will find: Healthcare • Behavioral & Mental Health • Commissioners Challenge On Suicide Prevention • Dreams for Veterans • Hardship Assistance Grant • Health Insurance

Veterans, Service Members and Millitary Spouses

• US Army Soldier For Life

• Military Spouse

• Dental VBOC Of The Dakotas und.edu/dakotasvboc/ resources.html

• ND Veterans Home Optical

• Hearing

• Loan Programs • North Dakota Association for the Disabled

• Social Security • Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program • Survivor and Military Assistance Programs • Tax Information • USDA Rural Repair and Rehabilitation Loans and Grants • Veterans Bonus • VFW Unmet Needs Employment • Disabled Veterans Outreach Program • Entrepreneurship • Experience North Dakota • Job Announcements • Job Seeking Resources

Veteran Resources

• Job Service North Dakota • Local Veterans Employment • Representative Program On-the-Job and Apprenticeship Programs

• Office of Veterans Business Development • Small Business Development Centers • Government Contracts

• Unemployment Statistics US Army Soldier For Life

• Procurement Technical Assistance Center

• Veterans Preference (Federal)

• The VA Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization

• Veterans Preference (State) • Vocation Rehabilitation & Employment Service Education & Training

• Vets First Verification Program • Entrepreneurship Training

• Campus Vet Centers

• Boots to Business and Boots to Business Reboot

• GI Bill Information

• Riata Center for Entrepreneurship

• ND College and University Certifying Officials • ND Dependent Tuition Waiver

• University of Florida Entrepreneurship

• No-College Degree Schools

• Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans With Disabilities

• On-the-Job and Apprenticeship Programs

• Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization

• Other Education Resources • PTSD Awareness Training • Spouse and Dependent Education and Scholarships • State Approving Agency Student Complain Inquiry • US Army Soldier For Life • Veteran Scholarships • Veteran’s Educational Training • Veteran/Service Member Resident Status • Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Service NDOVA Entrepreneurship nd.gov/veterans/benefits/ entrepreneurship • North Dakota Small Business Administration • Business Financing • Veteran Business Ideas • Veterans Business Outreach Center • Business Development

Suicide Prevention Veterans CrisisLine veteranscrisisline.net The Veterans CrisisLine is a free, confidential and available 24/7 service for Veterans in crisis and people concerned about them. Connect with the Veterans Crisis Line to reach caring, qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many of them are Veterans themselves. Call 1-800-273-8255, text 838255, or chat with them on their website FirstLink myfirstlink.org FirstLink is a free, confidential service available to anyone 24/7/365 for listening and support, referrals to resources/ help, and crisis intervention. FirstLink answers the 211 helpline, the National Suicide Prevention

Lifeline, and communicates via the text line 898-211. FirstLink provides these services across the entire state of North Dakota and parts of Minnesota. Dial 2-1-1 or text your zipcode to 898-211 from anywhere in their service area for confidential help and support.

Vets4Warriors: 1-855-8388255 Vet Center: Bismarck 701-2249751, Minot 701-852-0177, Fargo 701-237-0942, Grand Forks 701-620-1448 National Call Center for Homeless Veterans: 1-877-4243838 or va.gov/homeless

Mental Health/Substance Abuse Resources Hopeline: 1-800-622-2255, follow prompts to get to the National Treatment Referral Service

Family Support Services The Village: Bismarck 1-800627-8220, Devil’s Lake 701-6626776, Fargo 701-293-3384, Grand Forks 701-746-4584, Minot 701-852-3328 Military Service Center: 1-800242-4940 Burleigh County: 701-222-6622 West Central Human Services Center: 701-328-8899 Aging Services 60+: 701-3284601

Drug/Alcohol Abuse SAMHSA National Helpline: 1-800-662-4357 Drug Abuse Hotline: 1-877-659-0561 VA Healthcare/Substance Abuse Treatment Program: Fargo 701-239-3700 Recovery Talk: Peer Support 24/7: 1-844-44TALK2 or 1-844-448-2552 Sexual Assault/Abuse National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 DoD Safeline: 1-877-995-5247, text 55247, or chat online at www.safehelpline.org CAWS North Dakota: 701-2556240 NDNG Helpline: 701-425-4821 Domestic Abuse National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or chat online at www.thehotline.org National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453, Press “1” CAWS North Dakota: 701-2556240 Military Support Military OneSource: 1-800342-9647

Veterans Administration Health Care for Homeless Veterans: 701-239-3700, Ext. 3472 Mental Health: 701-239-3700, Ext 3150 Veterans Justice Outreach: 701232-3241, Ext. 4568 Substance Abuse: 701-2393700, Ext. 9-3436 Supported Employment for Veterans: 701-239-3700, Ext. 9-4325 Veterans Employment Representative Job Service ND 701-239-7358 County Veteran Services Cass: 701-476-4145 Clay: 218-299-5041 Gladys Ray Veteran’s Drop-in Center 701-476-4145 1519 1st Ave S, Fargo



Veteran Resources

Veterans Business Outreach Center

While there are many resources out there for veterans, perhaps the one that is best equipped to help inspiring entrepreneurs is the Veterans Business Outreach of the Dakotas, an organization dedicated to helping service members, veterans and military spouses looking to start, purchase or grow a business in North Dakota and South Dakota. 54

MAY 2021

Meet VBOC Director Wendy Klug Klug is the Veterans Business Outreach Center Director which serves both North Dakota and South Dakota. She provides entrepreneurial focused training workshops both on and off installations that teach key concepts for starting, running, and operating a small business. Wendy also provides no-cost advising, webinars, and subject specific workshops tailored around a community or client’s interests and needs. She specializes in creating workshops and events that are interesting, upbeat, and filled with vital information. Wendy has a creative knack that allows her to assist with marketing, social media, and other business aspects that involve creative thinking. She brings 15 plus years of teaching, over 10 years of small business ownership, and more than

Veteran Resources

5 years of small business consulting to this program. Klug holds a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of North Dakota.

Wendy’s favorite part of the job: “Getting to serve those that have served our country. Working with military members of all eras is rewarding. These are some of the most driven entrepreneurs out there and their dedication to make it happen is like no other! Their success feels like my success. I love helping others and this job lets me do just that!”

Meet VBOC Outreach Specialist Liza Cough Cough is the Outreach Specialist for the Veterans Business Outreach Center of the Dakotas. She provides support at community events, veteran functions, online workshops and technical assistance for the program. Her grandparents emigrated from China and became entrepreneurs by opening a restaurant. Growing up with the daily hustle of a family-owned restaurant, Liza learned firsthand what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Liza has experience with all aspects of business ownership from customer service and bookkeeping, to marketing products online for a family-owned art business. Liza has a Bachelor’s of Business Administration from the University of North Dakota.

Liza’s favorite part of the job: “When I make connections with so many different veteran organizations and the community, we all have the same goal in mind, to help our veterans. My work is very rewarding

and I feel blessed to serve those that have served our country."

What services does VBOC offer? VBOC of the Dakotas offers training workshops and Boots to Business and Reboot programs, both beginner entrepreneurial workshops. They also provide no-cost business advising with one-on-one personalized sessions where a client can really focus on what they need in their business to grow. VBOC of the Dakotas also offers online webinars that can be accessed by veterans at their convenience, whenever and wherever that may be. Several marketing webinars are held per month virtually and are free of charge to attend. For more information on these services, send a request to Dakotas.vboc@und.edu Community Support: VBOC of the Dakotas gets to support their community by participating in a wide array of events from presenting at lunch and learns to having a booth at local veteran organization gatherings.

Wendy: The VBOC of the Dakotas is here

to guide and mentor veterans along every step of the way for their business dreams. No business is too small and no business is not important. We listen to your ideas and help you turn them into your success. VBOC of the Dakotas is here to provide you support and become part of your cheerleader team. "Nobody goes into business thinking they will work less hours," said Klug. "The hustle is real and we are here to help you get all your ducks in a row! We have a team of experts ready to help you see your dreams of business ownership come true.” To learn more, visit und.edu/dakotasvboc/ Or, connect with them on social Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin logos Or, visit with them at 4200 James Ray Drive, Room 203 Grand Forks ND 58202-8372

“If a veteran organization or a community event is being held, we try out best to participate," said Klug. "Our favorite community event to date was having a float in the Fargo Parade of Lights. We didn’t have a budget to create a float so we turned to cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, flashlights and more. At the end, our float looked like Santa dropped off many gifts for all the children. It is these events that make us a little different. "We get to be involved with the community to show our support. We have lots of fun!”

What are the top pieces of advice you have for veterans who want to start, purchase, or grow a business?



Veteran Resources

Veteran Owned North Dakota Companies • Alpha Team Heating Air Conditioning | Williston • Benson County Veterans Service Office | Minnewaukan • Bercier Construction | Rolla • Boisvert Sports Nutrition | Minot • Bottineau County Veterans Service Office | Bottineau • Bowman Area Chamber of Commerce | Bowman • Burke County Veterans Service Office | Bowbells • Cando Area Chamber of Commerce | Cando • Capital Holdings, LLC | Bismarck • Capital Trophy | Bismarck • Cavalier County Veterans Service Office | Langdon • DAV Devils Lake North Dakota Regan McLean #5 | Devils Lake • DAVA Dickinson North Dakota Unit #8 | Dickinson • Diamond 1 Stop | Lidgerwood • Dickey County Veterans Service Office | Oakes • Divide County Veterans Service Office | Crosby 56

MAY 2021

• Drug & Alcohol Testing Network | Bismarck • Dunn County Veterans Service Office | Dickinson • Emmons County Veterans Service Office | Linton • Endeavour Industries Inc. | Fargo • Fargo Snow and Ice Management | Fargo • Feist Computers | Bismarck • Foster County Veterans Service Office | Carrington • GISH Consulting | Fargo • Golden Valley County Veterans Service Office | Beach • Grand Forks County Veteran Service Office | Grand Forks • Grant County Veterans Service Office | Carson • Griggs County Veterans Service Office | Cooperstown • Helping Hand Handyman Services, LLC | Bismarck • Hermanson Exterior Cleaning and Restoration | Casselton

• Hettinger Area Chamber of Commerce | Hettinger • Innovative Basement Systems | Fargo • Integron Health, LLC | West Fargo • Kidder County Veterans Service Office | Steele • LaMoure County Veterans Service Office | LaMoure • McHenry County Veterans Service Office | Towner • McIntosh County Veterans Service Office | Wishek • Mercer County Veterans Service Office | Stanton • Micah Cornerstone Ministries, Inc. | Fargo • Mid-America Inspection Services, LLC | Fargo • Morton County Veterans Service Office | Mandan • Mountrail County Veterans Service Office | Stanley • Nelson County Veterans Service Office | Lakota

To highlight the multitude of veteranowned businesses in North Dakota we put together the list below which contains all the businesses in our state registered with veteranownedbusiness.com. Learn more about these companies at veteranownedbusiness.com/nd

• North Dakota Procurement Technical Assistance Center | Fargo • Oh Dark Thirty Designs | Watford City • Oliver County Veterans Service Office | Center • Outlaw Concrete and Landscaping | Grand Forks • Pembina County Veterans Service Office | Cavalier • Pullen Construction Services | Wahpeton • Reli Trucking, LLC | Williston • Renville County Veterans Service Office | Mohall • Sandberg Tech of North Dakota, LLC | Devils Lake • Sargent County Veterans Service Office | Forman • Sheridan County Veterans Service Office | Denhoff • Sioux County Veterans Service Office | Fort Yates • Slope County Veterans Service Office | Amidon

• Steele County Veterans Service Office | Finley • Stutsman County Veterans Service Office | Jamestown • The Gutter Gospel | West Fargo • The Sports Shop | Minot AFB • Too Dark Motorsports | Minot • Traill County Veterans Service Office | Hillsboro • Tri State Home Inspection | Fargo • Valley City Area Chamber of Commerce | Valley City • VFW Fargo North Dakota - 762 Roy Chandler Post | Fargo • Walsh County Veterans Service Office | Grafton • Wells County Veterans Service Office | Harvey • Windy Acres French Brittany's | Napoleon



Lila Teunissen

Michelle Thomsen

Owners of Bed N Biscuit Ranch Lila Teunissen and Michelle Thomsen are both Bismarck natives and are co-owners of Bed N Biscuit Ranch, a dog training facility, daycare and boarding facility. They also board and groom cats. Both have a strong love of animals and served their county. Lila joined the Army right after graduating high school and got her animal fix by pet sitting for friends as often as possible. A good friend, Jen, really got her thinking about dog training and boarding when she introduced Lila to her well-trained and gregarious Jack Russel Terrier. Over the years she has owned five dogs and has wanted to open a training facility. She felt her dream could become a reality when she met Michelle Thomsen, who was of a similar mindset. They both volunteer with the Central Dakota Humane Society and Furry Friends Rockin Rescue and are passionate about their own fur babies. After many discussions and soul searching, they found a great property and launched their new venture: Bed N Biscuit Ranch in November of 2018. They managed to open even though Lila's mom was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a week before the grand opening and Michelle gave birth to her first child just three months before opening! Lila has served in the North Dakota National Guard as a medic, active duty Army as a linguist and Medical Service Corps officer,


MAY 2021

and transitioned back to the North Dakota National Guard where she has served as a Medical Operations Officer, Deputy Director of Personnel and Commander of the Civil Support Team. She has completed her AA in Arabic, BS in Microbiology, and MBA. The military has allowed her to travel to almost every state in the US as well as South Korea, Europe, Iraq and Ghana. Lila retired in July 2020 with over 23 years of service and is now working at Bed N Biscuit Ranch full time as a Certified Professional Trainer for dogs.

In December of 2011, Michelle graduated from the University of North Dakota with a Juris Doctorate.

As a child, there was always a family dog in Thomsen's house.

What led you to military service?

Michelle graduated from North Dakota State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with an emphasis in Criminal Justice in December 2002. In February 2003, she deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom I with the 957 Multi-Role Bridge Company. In 2005 Michelle purchased her first home and her military career was not conducive to her having a dog. She traveled often and sometimes for months at a time.

Lila: I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up and the military seemed like a great opportunity to try out some different career options, travel to different places and potentially get my higher education paid for or at least mostly paid for. I have been a linguist, a medic, a clinical support director, worked in human resources and commanded a hazardous materials team and left the service with an MBA. I've also been stationed throughout the U.S. as well as South Korea, Iraq, and was able to work on projects in Ghana.

In August 2008, Michelle entered the University of North Dakota School of Law. She completed her first year then went to training to be a Military Intelligence Officer and deployed to Kosovo in support of Kosovo Forces 12.

What was your first job once you finished your service? Michelle is still serving full-time in the North Dakota National Guard and Lila is now working full-time as a Certified Professional Trainer for dogs at Bed N Biscuit Ranch.

Michelle: I initially enlisted for the tuition assistance that allowed me to earn a law degree. I have continued to serve for over 20 years. I have a great sense of pride in

being able to serve our local community and nation. It's great to see what can be done when dedicated people come together as a team. The National Guard taught me how rewarding servant leadership and volunteering can be, and the effects of being a small part of a huge team. Did you take advantage of military benefits when starting your business? Michelle: Yes, Lila attended the Boots to Business course that is offered through the Transition Assistance Program and was linked to the Veteran's Business Outreach Center as well. They provided help with business planning, marketing, and helped find free places to advertise our services and helped us optimize our Google account. These helped us expand our audience and customer base with very inexpensive advertising, optimized word of mouth, and improved where we showed up in online searches. What skill that you learned in your military service do you use most in your business career? Lila: The military really teaches you to work with an 80 percent plan. If you wait for the 100 percent solution, the opportunity will have passed you by which translates very well into business. You have to be able to step into the unknown and work things out as they come. It also teaches you to think outside the box, recognize your weakness and use any and all resources available to you to overcome those weaknesses. We each bring very different perspectives to the business. Lila is more of a big idea, strategic thinker while Michelle is very much about the bottom line and what has to be done today. It has been a great balance that is working very well so far. Would you have been able to start a business without your military experience? Why or why not? Lila: I believe we could have started a business without military service but it would have likely been much more stressful. The Boots to Business and Veteran's Business Outreach Center really did provide a solid planning base for us and gave us good

frameworks for making early decisions. I don't know that Michelle and I would have developed the same skill sets that we have now if it weren't for our service. Those skills and experiences really prepared us to be ok with the unknown and able to reach out for help when we needed it. It taught us to be flexible on what the path would be to get the doors open and to look at all options along the way. I feel Michelle and I are smart and stubborn enough we could have done it on our own, but without the military, we wouldn't have met and the idea would never have been formed. So we definitely have the military to thank for bringing us together to create Bed N Biscuit Ranch. What words of encouragement do you have for a fellow veteran nervous about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship – or maybe a veteran who started a business and is struggling? Have your personal finances in order and know what you are able to risk financially. Once you do that, there are many resources and people that are willing to help you out. Attend the Transition Assistance Program and take the entrepreneurship add-on. Once you have a base plan, attend trade shows or conferences to learn as much as possible about the venture you are looking into. People, especially those outside of your competitive market, are usually more than happy to give advice on what works and what doesn't. Most importantly, estimate start-up costs. Conferences will show you the latest and greatest items and ideas that are in your market. If possible, contact and visit a similar business outside your area or in your area if you can find someone local to help you. The Small Business Administration has many tools as well. Many veterans struggle with finding a sense of purpose when reintegrating into the civilian world. How can getting involved in the business community help with that reintegration process? Lila: I felt very disoriented as I transitioned out of the military and I knew I would be training dogs at Bed N Biscuit Ranch! Even if you have a plan, there is a certain level of routine and security that is removed and it is

hard to adjust to civilian life. You have to pick out clothes each day, paychecks are more variable, you likely don't have the long history with your new co-workers that you did while you were serving. All of these things add small amounts of stress that can really add up. Going into business for yourself can help develop a sense of purpose and give a very clear goal of where you are heading which helps orient you as you come out of uniform. Once the business is up and running, you inevitably connect, not only to your customers but to others in the community that can develop into mutually beneficial relationships. Our connection to Furry Friends Rockin Rescue and Central Dakota Humane Society has grown over time and we plan to continue to develop relationships with other organizations over time as well. What are some things you would've done differently with your business career if given a second chance? We've been open for just over two years so there aren't many things that we would have done differently at this point. If we had had more capital, we should have created a larger facility but we worked with what we had. We started the business discussing how to overcome partner disputes and if worse came to worse how to dissolve the business, so I feel we really went into this prepared for all contingencies except COVID. COVID really challenged us to grow our training and grooming operations to keep our doors open and has actually been a blessing in disguise. Boarding had been the main income source but now all three operations (boarding, grooming, and training) are operating at full capacity and are doing very well. I don't know that grooming and training would have taken off as fast if our boarding revenue hadn't dried up and we had no choice but to really expand those two.

Lila Teunissen BRANCH Army National Guard YEARS SERVED 23



Owner of Sheyenne River Kennels/ Urban K9/K9 Crew

Joe Fluge is the Senior Intelligence Analyst for the North Dakota Air National Guard Counter Drug Force, while assigned with the 119 WG in Fargo. He enlisted in the Air Force shortly after graduating from high school and has served with the North Dakota Air National Guard his entire 23 years of service. Master Sargent Fluge was active duty for Operation Noble Eagle, serving at Langley Air Force Base after 9/11. In addition to his current position, Master Sargent Fluge served as the Regional Manager for the National Guard Bureau’s Drug Demand Reduction Program, has been with the Safety office of the 119th Wing since 2010 and plays a major role in the motorcycle safety program. He was even awarded the Enlisted Association


MAY 2021

of the National Guard (EANGUS) Award for saving a friend’s life after a motorcycle crash. While working full time, Master Sargent Fluge started a 501c3 at-risk youth nonprofit and in 2017 the first class of this one-of-a-kind nonprofit named K9 Crew started. During the same time, Master Sargent Fluge started a private canine narcotics and explosives detection business and in late 2019 he purchased Sheyenne River Kennels in West Fargo, which he has transformed into one of the best training facilities in the F-M area offering an exceptional amount of services for dog owners, including canine fitness with their Hydro Treadmill, pet obedience, pet obedience classes, one-on-one dog training sessions, dog behavior work and even a dock diving

pool to hold local events and dog dock diving training. When he’s not working, Joe enjoys spending time with his three daughters, riding his motorcycle and catching an episode of Forensic Files. What led you to military service? I wanted to challenge, change and better myself. What skill that you learned in your military service do you use most in your business career? Leadership as mentorship. I think one of the most important skills to have as a leader is being a mentor to your team. Encourage your employees to aim high and help them pursue their own work and personal goals. This has also served me well when working with the kids of K9 Crew. Would you have been able to start a business without your military experience? Why or why not? Yes, I would have started a business without my military experience - people do it every day. However, having that military experience has been a bonus. I have always been tenacious and driven, but the military has engrained in me certain standards – a need to exceed those standards and how to deal with stress and lack of sleep while keeping focused. What words of encouragement do you have for a fellow veteran nervous about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship – or maybe a veteran who started a business and is struggling? It’s going to be hard. If you’re not struggling, something isn’t right. Just as in life, business

has its good days and its bad days. More often than not, when just starting up a new business, most days will be long, tough and exhausting. In the military, we are usually taught if something isn’t working, create a “workaround." If you can push through, work hard, and manage the stress of it all, you will make it. Just never quit. Many veterans struggle with finding a sense of purpose when reintegrating into the civilian world. How can getting involved in the business community help with that reintegration process? I think over the last five years or so, veterans have started many successful companies ranging from clothing companies, coffee companies and security and training companies, which in my mind are some of the best companies out there right now. I believe every veteran has a talent to showcase, they just need to utilize social media groups that focus on their passion, be able to reach out to other vets for assistance or advice and just dig deep, set their goals and get it done. What are some things you would've done differently with your business career if given a second chance? I would not have purchased a boarding kennel three months prior to a global pandemic, hahaha. A couple of things that come to mind are getting together with different business leader groups in the F-M area and building a relationship with them, which falls back on mentorship from already proven leaders. The second would be life balance. You tend to go all in when you start a business and forget about the reason you got into the business, which for me was to build something for my Joe Fluger three daughters. BRANCH Air Force and Air National Guard


Managing Partner in Goose River Brewing LLC

WIth years of experience in the private sector and public service, Terry Sando, Hillsboro's current mayor, is working to bring a Brew Pub destination to the region's beer lovers and downtown Hillsboro through the soon-to-be open Goose River Brewing.

During his years of service with the Air National Guard, Sando held multiple positions of local and national importance.

"Goose River Brewing will be a Brew Pub and Brewery that produces our beer for on and off sale," said Sando. "The food we will be sports bar favorites."

I took a couple of months off to decompress and after that I went to work for UND developing their Emergency Management Program.

Sando boasts an accomplished resume that is too long to list in its entirety. He is currently the Director of Business Development for Mobile Recon Systems. In the past, he was the Business Manager for Unmanned Autonomous Systems in North America and a lead for advancing the establishment of Unmanned Autonomous Systems with the Grand Forks EDC.


MAY 2021

What was your first job once you finished your service?

What led you to military service? I always wanted to be a pilot and that is why I enlisted, unfortunately, by the time I was eligible, I was too old. Did you take advantage of military benefits when starting your business? Yes, the VBOC has been very helpful and I'm using my GI Bill to get a Brewing Certificate from the University of Vermont.

What skill that you learned in your military service do you use most in your business career? The leadership skills, ability to do critical analysis, and the most obvious one is people skills. Would you have been able to start a business without your military experience? Why or why not? That is an interesting question. I think the answer is yes, but it would have been more difficult. My military career provided the opportunity to gain more and more responsibility. This could have been replicated in civilian life also, but it may have taken longer to achieve. The other important factor is that after 30 years I have a secure retirement which allows me to make an investment in building a brewery. What words of encouragement do you have for a fellow veteran nervous about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship – or maybe a veteran who started a business and is struggling? There isn't any better feeling than owning your own business. As an entrepreneur, you get to focus on building something and making a dream come true. Will it be easy, no, but knowing that you made a contribution to your community and building a legacy that your family is proud of is worth the sacrifices. If you are struggling, reach out to the VBOC and SBA to take advantage of veteran programs. Use your GI Bill benefits, if available, to learn those new skills to be successful in your business.

Many veterans struggle with finding a sense of purpose when reintegrating into the civilian world. How can getting involved in the business community help with that reintegration process? I think that often it is difficult to make the transition from military life to the civilian world. Going one day where you entrust your life to the young lady or man next to you, creates a strong bond, a sense of belonging. Then, transitioning to the civilian world, where that strong bond isn't always reciprocated, can be tough. I have found that if you are open to your community, there are many opportunities to get involved. If you would have told me that I was going to be the Mayor of Hillsboro back in 2009, I would have thought you were crazy, but here I am. A lot of that has to do with my public service in the military, it's just another form of public service. What are some things you would've done differently with your business career if given a second chance? I would have looked at taking the brewing classes that I'm enrolled in now sooner. It would have helped me to develop a better business plan for the brewery.

Terrance Sando BRANCH Air Force and Air National Guard YEARS SERVED 30

Owner of Trev's Barbershop


MAY 2021

Trever Thompson was born and raised in Bismarck, ND and graduated from Century High School in 1998. Upon graduating, Thompson enlisted into the North Dakota Army National guard with 1st Battalion 188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment. At that time, he attended Bismarck State College for a couple years. In 2001, Thompson moved to Fargo and attended NDSU and joined the Army ROTC. That same year, he also met the love of his life and future wife, Melissa and married in October 2004. Thompson was honorably discharged as a Sergeant from the North Dakota Army National Guard in 2004 and graduated from NDSU and was commissioned as an officer that same year.

2007 and spent 15 months there. Thompson was eventually honorably discharged as a Captain in October 2008.

Thompson decided to go full-time with Army upon graduating, serving with the 5th Battalion 5th Air Defense Artillery at Fort Lewis in Washington. His unit deployed to Iraq in March

I worked for UPS briefly as a seasonal driver. But while I was discharging and out processing from the Army, I applied for a job at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Fargo. I

In 2014, Thompson decided to attend barber college and graduated from Moler Barber College of Fargo the following year. He was hired by Everett’s barbershop in 2015 where he did his apprenticeship. "I learned a lot working at Everett’s," said Thompson. "Both hair cutting techniques and how a barbershop is ran." What was your first job once you finished your service?

worked there for six years as an administrative assistant for the social work executive and the returning Veterans program. I mostly worked with Veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. What led you to military service? I didn’t know what I wanted to do after I graduated high school. I also had relatives who served that influenced me. Did you take advantage of military benefits when starting your business? I didn’t use any. I probably should have researched that more. I know there are a lot of really good resources and programs out there. I did however use the Post 9/11 GI Bill which paid for Barber School and it also provided a monthly housing allowance while in school, so that really helped me out. What skill that you learned in your military service do you use most in your business career? It is a hard to single out one as there were many procedures used. On a daily basis, I would say discipline, time

management, attention to detail and interpersonal skills. Similar to other branches and civilian businesses, the Army uses what’s called an AAR (after action review). Meaning, what was supposed to happen, what did happen, and how it can be done better are all reviewed. I’d say I use that daily. Always trying to improve whatever I can in areas that can be. Improving your foxhole/fighting position as they say. You come away with valuable interpersonal and technical skills that help you work both independently and as part of a team. All of the skills learned during active duty, national guard, and reserves are good attributes and a solid foundation for an entrepreneur. Would you have been able to start a business without your military experience? Why or why not? Yes, I believe I could have. The foundation that my military career provided me led me down the road I am currently on and without this I wouldn't be who I am which has led me to now.

What words of encouragement do you have for a fellow veteran nervous about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship – or maybe a veteran who started a business and is struggling? I think a big one is to try and minimize the amount of money you borrow in loans, if you can. Also, remember what you learned during your time in the military throughout the years in your unit/units, whatever branch you served in. You started with basic training/ boot camp and followed with school training. Then, at some point you were promoted and put in charge of people and equipment. Along the way, you maybe attended other specialty schools, leadership schools and you learned a lot and gained more confidence. Remember that! At one point you were nervous to do all of that, same with starting a business. Use those fundamentals you learned while you were serving. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help and support. There are a ton of benefits and programs for Veterans. The Fargo Veterans Hospital/Regional Office is a good resource as well as your County Veteran Service Officer. Remember, it’s not how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get back up.

tell. Working with the business community helps you maintain a structure, team mindset and camaraderie you had when you were serving. You build new relationships with other business owners of which may include other veteran-owned bussiness owners, electricians, postal workers, law enforcement and fire fighters just to name a few. Networking and building these relationships can help give you that sense of belonging and purpose. A community of like-minded business owners that have went through the process of starting a business, have that experience and can be a valuable resource to one another. Someone to bounce questions off of and learn from. There is camaraderie that comes with that. What are some things you would've done differently with your business career if given a second chance? Well, I've only been open for six months. I did open during a pandemic which isn't ideal. I am so thankful for all the support I have received. I just would like to say thank you to all the customers that come and keep coming back to Trev's Barbershop.

I was nervous myself to make a career change. I didn’t make my decision to attend barber college until two years after visiting the school and getting my application. I was nervous about leaving the paid time off, retirement and benefits. However, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Especially starting and owning my own barbershop now. I love what I do. Many veterans struggle with finding a sense of purpose when reintegrating into the civilian world. How can getting involved in the business community help with that reintegration process? Many Veterans have a difficult time simply returning to "normal" life and adjusting back to being a civilian which is a hard concept for some people to grasp. You also miss the brothers and sisters you lived a time of your life with. Every Veteran has their own story to


MAY 2021

Trever Thompson BRANCH United States Army YEARS SERVED 10

Founder of Nine-Four Coaching

Sarah Skedsvold grew up in a small town in western North Dakota where she learned there was always a place on the team for someone who worked hard and was committed, and a leader doesn't have to be a star Skedsvold took that hard work and commitment to the North Dakota Army National Guard where she learned that a group of people, committed to each other, can deliver on the seemingly impossible After her time in the Guard, Skedsvold became a CrossFit Coach here in Fargo. "It taught me the value of being a beginner and surrounding yourself with people you aspire to be like," said Skedsvold. Sarah Skedsvold's company, Nine-Four Coaching, allows people to challenge their own beliefs through outdoor mindfulness practice, play and podcasts.


MAY 2021

Skedsvold currently partners with Nature of the North and Thunder Coffee, locally, and Team Red, White and Blue, regionally, to provide outdoor mindfulness experiences, getting people out of their heads and into the woods.

What was your first job once you finished your service? I was an associate coach at Icehouse Fit here in Fargo. What led you to military service?

She also hosts a podcast, Nine-Four Radio, providing tools and empowerment for people to ask deep and different questions of themselves with the intended result of achieving something that is uniquely meaningful. "I know what it's like to work and sacrifice to achieve a dream that isn't worth the price," said Skedsvold. "I help folks who are there now and help head off others from ever getting there, through outdoor mindfulness practices and play."

Honestly, I was looking for a team to belong to after high school, do meaningful work, and the college benefits were pretty appealing too. Did you take advantage of military benefits when starting your business? I didn't take advantage of many businessrelated military benefits. I definitely maxed out college benefits while I was serving and I continue to rely on trusted mentors I met during my military career.

What skill that you learned in your military service do you use most in your business career? Finding common ground with all different kinds of people. It never ceases to amaze me how people who seem to be complete opposites can always find something in common. Would you have been able to start a business without your military experience? Why or why not? I don't think I would have been able to start a business without my military experience. My experiences inspired me to dream big, gave me the tools to create an actionable plan, the confidence to start, and the resilience to make adjustments and keep going. What words of encouragement do you have for a fellow veteran nervous about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship – or maybe a veteran who started a business and is struggling?

because it makes even the most selfsufficient individual be a member of a team, and there is an often unexpected alchemy that results from that teamwork. The civilian world doesn't force teamwork in the same way, and without the intention to find community, a wildly independent veteran entrepreneur can find themselves fighting the doubt and hardship, that are common in the business world, alone. Getting involved in the business community offers a way to build a support system and rediscover the unexpected alchemy that results from teamwork. What are some things you would've done differently with your business career if given a second chance? In the early stages of building Nine-Four Coaching, I would have talked to my family and friends; reached out to veteran and small business resources and approached complementary businesses to partner with. I am continually relearning the lesson that I can go fast and burn out alone or I can go far with others. I choose to go far.

Know why you are starting, or remember why you started. If you can't, talk to someone you trust and respect, who respects and trusts you enough to ask tough questions and gives you space and time to find your answers. Many veterans struggle with finding a sense of purpose when reintegrating into the civilian world. How can getting involved in the business community help with that reintegration process? A lot of veterans wear self-sufficiency like a badge of honor. The military is great

Sarah Skedsvold BRANCH North Dakota Army National Guard YEARS SERVED 20

Owner of Blitzkrieg Blasting, LLC

Jim Letzring started in the North Dakota National Guard in August of 1986. In 1990, Letzring graduated from Jamestown College and moved to Gillette, Wyoming where he worked in the oilfield and coal mines. He married in 1991 and had a daughter named Kyndra that same year. He would later get divorced. In 1999 he went on to Officer Cadet School and was commissioned in 2000. In July of 2013 he remarried to Shawnda and retired from the Guard that same year. He moved back to North Dakota in 2015 and started Blitzkrieg Blasting, LLC in 2020 which does mobile dustless sandblasting, surface preparation and rust and paint removal. "I was looking for something different from the 30 plus years of land surveying," said Letzring. What was your first job once you finished your service? Land Surveying What led you to military service? I wanted to learn construction equipment and mechanic sills. I also wanted it to help pay for school.


MAY 2021

Did you take advantage of military benefits when starting your business? Not right away but, I have since been certified as a SDVOSB (Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business). What skill that you learned in your military service do you use most in your business career? I think the ability to plan has been instrumental in my success. Would you have been able to start a business without your military experience? Why or why not? Probably not because I wouldn't have had the self-confidence and drive to at least give it a try. What words of encouragement do you have for a fellow veteran nervous about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship – or maybe a veteran who started a business and is struggling? If you want to start a business, just go for it and give it a try. You'll never know how it would turn out if you don't do it. If you can, start out on the side, if

possible, while working a regular job. This is what I currently do. Many veterans struggle with finding a sense of purpose when reintegrating into the civilian world. How can getting involved in the business community help with that reintegration process? Being able to run your own business gives you a personal sense of accomplishment. My business is slow right now but when I do get a blasting job done and the metal is there all clean and ready for whatever coating, I feel good. What are some things you would've done differently with your business career if given a second chance? I would have started sooner by looking for a used system like I did a year ago.

Jim Letzring BRANCH Army National Guard YEARS SERVED 27

Owner of FargoDIYGarage

Chris Partridge is the Owner of FargoDIYGarage in Fargo ND, a garage where people can rent space to work on their cars, trucks and motorcycles. Partridge claims he was never someone who knew exactly what he wanted, so he bounced around a bit, doing all sorts of jobs from fast food to telemarketing to automotive sales and service. He also worked as a railroad conductor and engineer, a Navy weapons technician and even managed a salvage yard for a while. One thing stayed constant though, Partridge always remained fascinated by vehicles, all of them, the great ones and the bad ones, land, sea or air. "I love fixing or maintaining something myself and the feeling of accomplishment when I am done, especially if I save a little money along the way," said Partridge. "I like many military people, discovered the Base Auto Hobby Shops and I fell in love with the idea. I have been waiting to open my own version for 20 years. My name is Chris and I finally own my dream." What was your first job once you finished your service? Car sales at a Toyota dealer in Colorado.

What led you to military service? An intense curiosity about the world and underwhelming grades my first time in college. What skill that you learned in your military service do you use most in your business career? Leadership, dependability, courage and self confidence. Would you have been able to start a business without your military experience? Why or why not? A business yes, but not this business. I got the idea for my business from my time in the Navy. What words of encouragement do you have for a fellow veteran nervous about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship – or maybe a veteran who started a business and is struggling? Do it, jump in, failure is part of the process. You rarely get it exactly right the first time, but you need that experience to steer yourself to success. You miss every shot you do not take.

Many veterans struggle with finding a sense of purpose when reintegrating into the civilian world. How can getting involved in the business community help with that reintegration process? I still struggle with that from time to time. Making people happy makes the struggle so worth it to me. What are some things you would've done differently with your business career if given a second chance? Start very small and build. Every dime counts, so start as small as you can and grow as your demand grows. If you build to satisfy a demand that is not yet there you are paying for space, products and equipment you don't need.

Chris Partridge BRANCH Navy YEARS SERVED 6



Owner of Alloy Engineering LLC

Keith Homstad grew up in Grand Forks, ND. During his military service, he spent time in Ft. Sill in Oklahoma, Ft. Bliss in Texas, Ft. Polk in Louisiana, Iraq, and Ft. Louis in Washington. Homstad finished his degree in Mechanical Engineering from UND and worked in Tennessee and Massachusetts before moving back home and switching gears into manufacturing engineering and consulting. What led you to military service? I needed a challenge and to see more of the world before going to college. Did you take advantage of military benefits when starting your business? Yes, I used the Veteran Business Outreach Center and participated in the ND Veterans Entrepreneur Course. What skill that you learned in your military service do you use most in your business career? The inability to quit.


MAY 2021

Would you have been able to start a business without your military experience? Why or why not?

world. How can getting involved in the business community help with that reintegration process?

Yes, but I would not have been able to graduate with a BSME. The military gave me a relentless drive to complete what I started.

It's important to build relationships and find a new struggle to put your energy towards. Starting a business is a very productive way to do both.

What words of encouragement do you have for a fellow veteran nervous about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship – or maybe a veteran who started a business and is struggling?

What are some things you would've done differently with your business career if given a second chance?

The best advice I ever received was, "You get what you want by helping others get what they want." When in doubt help someone. Also, there will never be a perfect moment to take the leap. I spent years hiding behind the idea that I needed more experience or a larger network. It took me a long time to realize that the experience I was looking for would only come after I was on my own. Many veterans struggle with finding a sense of purpose when reintegrating into the civilian

I would have started earlier and I would have made sure to stay in contact with previous employers and co-workers.

Keith Homstad BRANCH Army/ Army National Guard YEARS SERVED 8

Owner of Art by Heather

Krause’s life-long passion and love for art as a hobby has evolved into a journey of self-discovery and a determination to pursue art as a fulltime business. Krause’s diagnosis with Spinocerebellar Ataxia in 2009 and Ankylosing Spondylitis in 2017 inspired her to challenge herself through her artistic expressions, with an emphasis on abstract and fluid art conveying emotion through color and movement. As a fluid artist or pour painter, Krause sells her pour paintings online or at art shows. She also does custom commissioned pour paintings. "I've had clients from California to Florida," said Krause. "Before COVID, I was offering classes at my studio in downtown Grand Forks which are currently on hold." What was your first job once you finished your service? I was a videographer/editor.

What led you to military service? I've always felt drawn to service and had great respect for those in service and their sacrifice. Did you take advantage of military benefits when starting your business? Yes, I worked with the VBOC, the SBA and participated in the Veteran Entrepreneurship Boot-Camp What skill that you learned in your military service do you use most in your business career?

nervous about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship – or maybe a veteran who started a business and is struggling? Use to tools the military provides now, there are so many possibilities. Many veterans struggle with finding a sense of purpose when reintegrating into the civilian world. How can getting involved in the business community help with that reintegration process? Have a clear business plan and dream that you can achieve that's realistically attainable.

Drive and tenacity Would you have been able to start a business without your military experience? Why or why not? Yes, I think so but I don't know if I would've built my business so fast without having that experience. What words of encouragement do you have for a fellow veteran

Heather Krause BRANCH Army YEARS SERVED 3.5



Owner of Ripollsworkshop LLC

Courtney Ripoll-McBride is the owner/ operator of Ripollsworkshop LLC. With her business, Ripoll-McBride works as a financial coach. She is also currently in the process of launching bookkeeping services for small businesses. In addition to her entrepreneurial efforts, Ripoll-McBride is a stay-at-home mom and a full-time student in her final year of Accounting. "I love helping families and small businesses find ways to put money back in their pockets," says RipollMcBride What was your first job once you finished your service? I became a full-time student, then a stay-at-home mother. What led you to military service? I decided to join the service right out of high school versus going into college. One of my decision points was I came from a military family and I wanted to be able to maintain the same path of service as my family members. Did you take advantage of military benefits when starting your business? Yes, VBOC has been so helpful with connecting me with resources to


MAY 2021

further my business. I also took advantage of the Boots to Business Program. What skill that you learned in your military service do you use most in your business career? In the military, I was in the IT field. Now, I have transitioned to finances. The skill I would say that I use the most is collaboration and working with other people from all walks of life. Would you have been able to start a business without your military experience? Why or why not? I benefited from my military experience by building a foundation of dedication and confidence. Which helped to work towards my goal of opening my own business.

the way. Always remember to use your resources. I strongly recommend looking into networking with other veterans and veteran groups that have similar goals. Many veterans struggle with finding a sense of purpose when reintegrating into the civilian world. How can getting involved in the business community help with that reintegration process? The business community is an amazing community to join, network and meet with people who have similar goals as you. I would recommend quickly establishing yourself in the field that you are joining in order to keep up the same passion and energy moving forward.

What words of encouragement do you have for a fellow veteran nervous about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship – or maybe a veteran who started a business and is struggling? There are so many great resources out there that are available to you to utilize while starting or opening your business. Don't give up, there are going to be some bumps along

Courtney Ripoll-McBride BRANCH Air Force YEARS SERVED 3.5

Kayla Goebel Owner of Strong Roots Q. Tell us a bit about yourself. A. My name is Kayla – I live, breathe and work in the prairies of West Fargo, ND. By day, I am a Graphic Designer for a local fitness company, and by insanely early mornings and late nights – the Owner & Chaos Coordinator of Strong Roots, a small gym in West Fargo dedicated to bringing confidence, empowerment, strength, and wellness to the community. My partner and I have an eight-year-old daughter who is obsessed with hockey and Hamilton, and two rascal dogs named Bear and Francis. Q. How did you get involved in your work?

Kayla Goebel fell in love with Crossfit right away, but she felt like there were people who were being left out of the community. So, she built one herself. Now she owns Strong Roots, a small gym with a big mission. By McKenzie Schwark


MAY 2021

A. A little over six years ago, someone introduced me to a CrossFit workout at a local gym. Between the community and the workout, I was completely hooked! Over my years in CrossFit, I felt that two groups of athletes were missing in this community; bodies that looked more like mine and anyone who would have a hard time with the $150/month (minimum) cost for membership. Opening Strong Roots in 2019 grew my dedication and passion for empowering all bodies to move and taught me to be flexible about how a gym membership looks. Looking ahead, I’d love to have a Non-Profit or formal system to keep costs down to help introduce more people to the positive community and environment at Strong Roots.

Q. What’s the Strong Roots mission? A. Inclusivity. Accessibility. Community. If you are someone who isn’t into accepting all people right where they are, you might want to find a different community. We believe that our strengths lie in recognizing, loving, learning, and celebrating our differences. Remaining available to all communities, flexible with membership cost and options, and creative with how to help every body move to the best of its ability is at the heart of where Strong Roots began. We believe that community makes us better, whether in fitness or in relationships. What we can do alone can be made better together. Q. How have you been staying connected with the Strong Roots community during this time when we’re all mostly apart? A. It’s been a weird year, but we stayed connected with zoom workouts (we had members adopt dumbbells and other equipment until we could open our doors again), book clubs, outdoor workouts when the weather was nicer, and a few outdoor gatherings like skating with our friends and family at The Lights Hockey Rink in West Fargo. We’ve tried to stay creative, flexible and responsible and smart. Q. What is your favorite form of self-care? A. It’s hard for me to pick between therapy or a consistent workout routine. Neither form of self-care is as relaxing as a massage or pedicure but both have helped me stop negative self-talk and make me a better person, but they also help me appreciate who I am, right where I am. They help me find the balance between my business, my full-time job, family, and everything else in life. Both call out where I am short or where I need to examine my weaknesses, and both have helped me stop negative cycles and turn them around into more positives for my daughter and me.w

Q. How have you been moving this year, and what have you been recommending for those who are feeling bogged down by quarantine and chilly weather, but want to keep moving? A. I do whatever we have programmed at Strong Roots about 4-6 times a week, at the gym. I have also been enjoying some of the bike classes available via the Peloton App. Since we’ve had a mild winter, I’ve enjoyed going ice skating more outdoors. If you feel bogged down with :: gestures wildly :: ALL OF THIS going on, I would encourage you to take a moment before doing movement to see what your body needs most right now. Don’t get caught up in what you think you should do for a ‘good workout’, but rather find what you will want to keep doing. Is it a simple walk around the mall or a local track? Do you need some community and a good sweat session? Do you want something relaxing like some YouTube yoga from home, or a bodyweight session and some time to meditate? If I talked with someone, I would want to explore why they want to keep moving and different options and ideas to get them moving. Q. What do you think women need most right now? A. That’s tough – so many situations are different. I think what most women need right now is a brief moment to themselves, to take stock of how they are doing emotionally, mentally and physically. Not only a moment to take stock, but also a moment for them to decide where they want to go from there and how. Maybe those moments include something relaxing, or maybe those moments include blaring Missy Elliot on your way to work, or connecting with a fellow badass woman who can remind us to fix our crown and keep walking with our shoulders held high.







ohn Machacek, Chief Innovation Officer for the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, has worked with countless startups throughout our community over the past seven years. He knows their ups, their downs, but most of all, he knows the questions to ask them. Here are John Machacek’s 10 questions for Jim Rohde, Founder and CEO of JOHO.

BY John Machacek PHOTOS BY Hillary Ehlen and Nolan Schmidt


MAY 2021

1 Tell us your JOHO elevator pitch? JOHO allows community banks and credit unions to integrate, report, analyze and decide on daily vital information from a single source of truth. Our JOHO OneSource™ platform is the fastest reporting and analytics solution available to help financial institutions achieve superior operational, financial, and regulatory success.

2 In a nutshell, what is the value of your solutions to banks and financial institutions? Data, not oil, has become the world’s most valuable resource. For banks and credit unions to survive and thrive, they need daily access to relevant information to make quick, informed decisions. JOHO integrates data from any source and provides users reporting and analytics in a common, interactive and secure cloud environment. JOHO manages the entire process so you don’t have to purchase new servers, hire new staff, or learn multiple report-writing tools. JOHO provides an easy, affordable, and effective SAAS solution that is up-and-running in a few weeks. Also, our JOHO Guarantee allows you to opt out with no further obligation if we do not meet or exceed your expectations.

3 How do you and the prospective client get the engagement process started to assess your solutions?

About John: John Machacek has been helping local startups with the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation since prior to his position with the GFMEDC. Before joining the team, Machacek was the VP of Finance & Operations at United Way of Cass-Clay and a business banker at U.S. Bank.

All banks and credit unions have deposits, loans and many regulations to follow, but each business has specific challenges and issues. Whether talking with a C-level executive, or an accounting, marketing, or compliance manager, we can setup a 15-minute call to discuss your unique situation and begin developing a plan. They identify the problem; JOHO delivers the solution.

4 Are you able to share an example with me of a successful client engagement? I recently visited a bank in Cincinnati that has been a JOHO customer for three years. We conducted a half-day meeting with their executives to discuss our partnership and their feedback on JOHO and our solutions. While they were extremely pleased with the reporting, analytics, and customer service and response times, the automated Board Report Package solution we built received the most accolades. What previously took weeks to compile, print and deliver now takes just a few hours. The CEO said the new process has saved him 8+ hours per month plus the “unmeasurable” reduction of stress and aggravation. The CFO has worked with JOHO to automate his reporting and has, “eliminated all Excel spreadsheets. Other employees have saved days of time and can simply upload their respective documents to be combined into the Full Board Report. The Board of Directors has secure access to the JOHO cloud solution via iPads and can email questions days before the monthly meeting. During a recent board meeting, the CEO was able to display and search an electronic version of a previous month’s board meeting notes, and resolve an issue right there… a process that would have previously taken several days and numerous emails to resolve.





You mention Microsoft Azure. Between having a large Microsoft campus here and interacting with businesses, I hear the word Azure often. What can you tell me about utilizing Azure for JOHO?

After working for a bank, I now better understand all the various departments and operations of a financial institution. Are there particular areas you help or are your sweet spots?

Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing service for deploying and managing applications and services such as JOHO OneSource™. It’s a game changer for our development, sales, and deployment process because our employees can “spin-up” new servers in minutes and manage multiple clients without the risk associated with VPN logins. Our clients don’t have to invest any additional time, money, or stress into their existing network or duties, and can start reporting on their data in days, not months. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and regulations are an ongoing concern for our customers, so knowing that Azure data centers are probably more secure than most business networks is reassuring to them and external auditors.

Data is an asset and reporting and analytics are vital to every financial institution’s success. While we can provide value to all financial institutions' departments and personnel, we work with banks and credit unions to solve their specific concerns. We can automate Call Reports, Month-End, and Board Report packages or focus just on Deposit or Loan dashboards and reports. We can deliver strategic, tactical, and operational reports for specifics executives (CEO, CFO, COO) or focus on departmental (Loans, Deposits, Operations, Accounting, Marketing, Compliance) reporting. Our “secret sauce” is that we can deliver any reporting you need to solve your specific problem.


MAY 2021

Jim Rohde, Founder and CEO, JOHO Photo by Nolan Schmidt

7 With all those facets to their business, can it be difficult for them to know where to start the process with you? Yes, when I started the company, my research indicated that banks and credit unions have a ton of data, aren’t using it properly, but were planning to invest in doing so. The reality is financial institutions, by their very nature, are conservative and can be slow to change. Our initial focus was to deliver a “Taj Mahal” solution (many integrated data sources and reports all at once), but the upfront costs were high with a long sales cycle. We’ve rarely had a prospect not love a demo of the product, or question the investment, but their staff and IT departments already have hundreds of on-going projects, so a reporting and analytics initiative can seem overwhelming. The good news is JOHO manages 95% of the entire process… we meet with executives and employees to understand their needs and then create a project roadmap where we handle server and software setup, project management, data loads, report development, training and ongoing support. With JOHO, you can start small and build an a la carte enterprise-wide solution over time and at your own pace.

8 As I’ve been working with you through my economic development role, you’ve talked about the gratitude for the various programs and people, and wished you got more engrained into the ecosystem earlier. Do you have any particular advice for other entrepreneurs about navigating the available support? Network, network, network… ask questions… do your own research… and KNOW YOUR SKILLS! I’m a graduate of Innovate ND, and have worked with many of the state and local programs and people at NDSU RTP, GFMEDC, NDSBDC, Bank of ND, ND Commerce, etc. I’m a “recovering” CPA with an MBA and a very strong financial and technical background, but I still learn things every day from the contacts I’ve made. Setup lunches and coffee meetings with as many people as you can. Most entrepreneurs are willing and happy to meet and share their experiences, good or bad. Whatever your background or skillset, solicit feedback and surround yourself with people that complement your skills and free up your time. For example, I have the education and skills to be JOHO’s CFO, but not the time. I’m not great at sales and marketing, lead generation, or cold calling, and even though it’s part of my job, I find great people with these skills and don’t try to force myself into those roles. Finally, live your dream!

9 If you could go back in time to Jim from several years ago, what hindsight advice would you give yourself? When I founded JOHO, I didn’t have any delusions that it would be easy, but the challenges were far greater than I could have ever imagined. Looking back, I wish I would have spent more time early on looking for external support, funding, investors, and advice, specifically around sales and marketing and alternative financing options to help grow the products and company the “right” way rather than trying to everything in a grassroots manner.

10 What can we do as a community to help JOHO succeed? If you are an entrepreneur, interested in data and analytics, a fintech guru, or just want to see local community businesses succeed, then I ask you to check out our website, like our social media posts, and share our story. If you are a bank or credit union executive or employee looking to improve your operations, financial, or regulatory success and gain a competitive advantage, give JOHO a call to discuss how we can help. johodata.com 865-351-0645



Bethlehem Gronneberg Founder and CEO, uCodeGirl | Bush Foundation Leadership Fellow | PhD Candidate in Software Engineering | Inspiring Speaker



One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.” — John C. Maxwell We had an inkling it was a perfect match from the start. Everyone involved thought the same - the mentor, the mentee and the matchmaker which happens to be uCodeGirl. During the 3rd annual Crack the Code: STEM Mentorship for Girls, Natalie Peterson’s love of animals, her passion for Science and her desire to study Veterinary Medicine in college had informed uCodeGirl to pair her with Dr. Carrie Hammer,


MAY 2021

the Director of Equine Science at North Dakota State University. “I wanted to write and share with you that uCodeGirl had set the ball rolling on many incredible opportunities for Natalie,” wrote Natalie’s mother, Amanda Peterson. “We are so thankful for this ongoing mentorship from Carrie and the encouragement from your program. She is well on the road to reach her goal.” “A mentor is a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction.” -John C. Crosby.

About uCodeGirl

The vision of uCodeGirl is to inspire and equip young women to become the future face of innovation in technology. uCodeGirl is uniquely designed to inspire, engage and equip young women with computational design thinking skills, leadership traits, and an entrepreneurial mindset. uCodeGirl strives to remove roadblocks and bridge the gender gap in technology so that young women can confidently pursue opportunities suitable for the 21st century. By building confidence, enhancing skill sets and tapping into their intellect and curiosity, uCodeGirl helps young women chart a pathway to the T of STEM careers. More information here: www.ucodegirl.org | @ucodegirl |


Her mentor, Dr. Hammer, was equally excited to share her passion for science and love of animals. Their connection empowered Natalie in numerous ways, inside and outside uCodeGirl’s mentorship program. Their relationship continues to provide Natalie with incredible resources to achieve her goals. “Dr. Hammer had graciously offered to be Natalie’s mentor when Natalie applied for an Ann Bancroft Foundation Let Me Play Grant. Natalie excitedly received the grant later that fall. Dr. Hammer had kept in touch with Natalie while she used her award to take weekly private horseback riding lessons this summer. While Natalie participated in uCodeGirl’s STEM Mentorship program in 2019, her science group studied pollinators. With the help of Dr. Hammer, Natalie applied and was selected

to be a part of the Buzz Lab Internship at the Plains Art Museum that combines studies of pollinators and art. Natalie and her mother were ecstatic to see this awesome connection between the two experiences. We are thrilled to hear about this amazing connection between Natalie and Carrie. We are cheering for Natalie as she continues to chart her path to STEM career. Natalie has big dreams of being a vet, rescuing animals, and riding horses. She provides an incredible example of the positive impact that a mentor can have in your aspirations. Natalie also proves that uCodeGirl can provide experiences that are inspiring to girls of all interests from technology to zoology.



hether you are starting a new business, growing an existing company, or just trying to recover from a pandemic, knowing your customers is vital to success. If you don’t understand your customers, you won’t know whether your product or service solves their problem or is something they actually will spend money on. And you won’t know whether your marketing messages and channels will be effective in reaching them.

BY Paul Smith

Conducting market research provides key insights to help answer those questions. Yet, as I assist clients in developing business, marketing and financial plans, one of the most important yet often neglected steps is market research and analysis. Sure, doing effective market research requires some time. However, doing market research


MAY 2021

up front can save a lot of time, money and headaches later on.

What is market research? Market research is simply the process of gathering, analyzing and interpreting data about your target market and the industry as a whole. It helps you identify and define your ideal customer, their problems, buying habits, potential market size, competition, overall industry trends and conditions which may impact your business. Market research generally consists of primary and secondary research. Primary research is the collection of direct first-hand information from your potential or existing customers. This is the type of research you should do when validating your business idea. Primary research includes interviews, focus groups, brand awareness and customer satisfaction interviews. Secondary research essentially covers everything else. It includes internal sources of information such as financial statements, commercial sources such as industry reports and public/government sources such as census data.

Neither primary nor secondary research is better than the other; they simply serve different purposes. To get a complete picture, a mix of primary and secondary research should be used. When you’re first starting out, focus on conducting primary research to validate your business. Compare those findings to secondary resources such as industry trends and local market reports.

How to do market research? 1. Identify your target market Your target market is simply your “ideal customer:” someone who has the problem that you solve and is willing to spend money on your solution. Ask yourself these questions: Who are they? What common traits do they share? These might be demographic traits such as age group, gender, income levels, or locations. Or they might be psychographic traits or groups of people who have similar interests or spending patterns. In reality, your business may have several potential target markets, but it’s usually

best to limit your analysis to two or three. This is what’s called market segmentation. You might end up with slightly different marketing messages for each market segment or even customize your product or service for each segment.

want to look for industry reports and read trade publications for your specific industry identified by the North American Industry Classification System Code (NAICS). 4. Document your findings

I would recommend that every business create a buyer persona or avatar for each target market. A persona is a description or profile of a person who embodies the key aspects of your target market and helps to convert your dry research into a living, breathing person.

The final step is to document your findings. The form and shape the documentation takes will really depend on how you plan on using it. If you are seeking to secure funding from a bank or investors, you may need to write a more formal market analysis.

2. Talk to your potential customers Once you have identified your target market, you need to get out and actually talk to people in your potential target market. This is perhaps the most important step in the entire process. Online surveys and other research can be helpful, but they are no substitute for actually talking to potential customers. You’ll gain more insight into your customers and how they make buying decisions by actually talking with them, preferably in person. That’s why participants in the Innovate ND grant program are now required to complete 90 potential customer interviews during the first three phases of the program. You may be tempted to skip this step or take a shortcut by interviewing only family and friends. After all, it’s intimidating to talk to strangers, even for the bravest among us. Nobody wants to hear that her idea doesn’t really solve the problem or that the perceived problem really isn’t a problem at all. But isn’t it better to discover this information before investing a lot of capital in developing and marketing your product or service? This single step can mean the difference between success and failure. Before you conduct your interviews, be sure to have several closed and open-ended questions ready to go. Interview questions can be broken down by the following categories: customer segmentation, problem discovery, problem validation, product discovery, product optimization and ending interviews. A great resource to help formulate your interview questions is The Ultimate List of Customer Development Questions, by Mike Fishbein. https://mfishbein.com/the-ultimate-list-of-customerdevelopment-questions. 3. Find out if your market is big enough

What are some sources of market data? Finding market research data really depends on the market you are targeting and the industry you are in as defined by your NAICS code. Here are several free sources for market data: • U.S. Census: If you’re opening a business in the U.S., the U.S. Census site is a goldmine of information. Check out the Census Business Builder to get not only population data but data on how much people spend in a given area on your type of business. • Bureau of Labor Statistics: A great site for information on specific industries: hiring and expense trends as well as industry sizes. • Consumer Expenditure Survey: Program provides data on expenditures, income, and demographic characteristics of consumers in the United States. • Business Source Premier: Includes market research reports, industry reports, country reports, company profiles and SWOT analyses. (Available online through the Fargo Public Library) • Reference USA: Offers detailed information on 14 million U.S. companies, making it faster and easier to find new business opportunities, research executives and companies, find news articles, locate addresses and phone numbers, conduct market research and much more. (Available online through the Fargo Public Library). In addition, there are some excellent private subscription-based sources of data. Fortunately, the SBDC has access to several of these best in class tools (along with the expertise to help clients interpret and apply the data):

Once you have identified and validated your target market, you need to do research to figure out if your market is large enough to sustain your business. If there aren’t enough potential customers who are willing to buy your product or service, then you may need to reconsider your offering.

• Vertical IQ: Provides easy-to-digest industry insights, trends, financial metrics, and risks.

To figure out if your market is big enough, use the attributes you defined in the target market step and then figure out how many people meet your demographic and psychographic criteria in your desired service area. Some helpful resources are listed at the end of this article.

• Esri Business Analyst: Provides a suite of GIS-enables tools and data for customer profiling and trade area market analysis.

If you are targeting an established market, you can do industry research based on how much people buy the existing offerings. In this case, you

• Bizminer: Provides industry financial benchmarks and local market analysis.

• SBDCNet Business Snapshots: Includes a great collection of industry profiles that describe how industries are growing and changing, who their customers are, and what typical startup costs are. Check out their list of market research resources, sorted by industry.



Paul Smith is Fargo Center Director of the ND Small Business Development Centers (ND SBDC). The ND SBDC helps North Dakota small business owners to start, manage and grow their companies through providing free, professional business advising services, technical assistance and training in a range of areas such as business planning, market research and financial analysis. Last year, the program assisted nearly 1,400 clients through nine service centers located across the State. The Fargo Center is located in the NDSU Research and Technology Park. For more information, please visit ndsbdc.org.

Conclusion The more you know about your customers the easier it is to meet their needs and to target them with appropriate messaging. Effective market research can help you avoid costly mistakes, both in the startup stage of your business and later on when making critical business decisions.

If you need assistance or have questions, please seek out help from the ND SBDC or another local SBA resource partner such as SCORE, the Women’s Business Center or Veteran’s Business Outreach Center of the Dakotas (VBOC).

Academic Insight


everal weeks ago, I had a conversation with a student in one of my upperlevel business classes. I was asked to share some career advice that would help the student be successful in their new managerial role after graduation. Ever since that conversation, I’ve been thinking more about my personal work experiences, the experiences of others and various academic and practitioner resources that I’ve read over the years on this topic. I posed the following question to myself: If I could go back in time and give advice to my younger self on being a first-time manager and supervisor, what advice would I give?

BY Shontarius D. Aikens, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Management at Offutt School of Business at Concordia College 94

MAY 2021

Please be advised that there is not enough space in this article for me to share all of my thoughts. But what I’ve attempted is to identify five key takeaways. And while the target audience of this article is nascent managers and supervisors, perhaps there may be some useful information for individuals who are experienced managers and supervisors. So with that, let’s get started. #1: Understand your talents and strengths. Each person is born with natural talents that can be used in their professional careers. The key is to learn about them early on and to develop them into strengths. It wasn’t until later on in my career when I was introduced to (and became a believer in) self-assessments that helped me to learn about and to affirm my unique talents and strengths. This also helped me to understand the importance of surrounding myself with people who had talents and strengths in areas that I struggled. So, take the time to know and truly understand your talents and strengths. The Gallup Corporation’s Clifton StrengthsFinder and


5 Pieces of Practical Advice for Nascent Managers and Supervisors Strengths Based Leadership books are excellent resources to start with. #2: Ask questions to understand the work environment. In the book The 27 Challenges Managers Face, Bruce Tulgan indicated that new managers have a huge learning curve. The process of becoming accustomed to new organizational policies and procedures, the workplace culture, and the dynamics of organizational politics can be intimidating. My recommendation for new managers and supervisors is to be inquisitive during the first months on the job and to ask lots of questions. Become a master at posing the following statement: “I’m new here, and I’m still learning how things operate. Help me to understand how this process/procedure works.” #3: Build strong relationships with your employees. As an employee, you are evaluated and compensated primarily based on your individual performance. When becoming a manager, you are evaluated and

To submit questions you would like answered in future editions of “Academic Insight”. Email Dr. Aikens at: saikens@cord.edu

compensated based on your individual performance as well as the collective performance of the employees you supervise. Building strong positive working relationships with your employees is important because academic research indicates that positive supervisor-supervisee relationships typically lead to better employee performance. In the April 2020 issue of Fargo INC!, I discussed in depth a framework that new managers could use to understand the complexity of manageremployee relationships and to be proactive in developing positive manager-employee working relationships. #4: When communicating, understand the importance of channel richness. Channel richness is defined as, “the amount of information that can be transmitted during a communication episode.” Some channels of communication (e.g. face-to-face communication, telephone) are considered to be high in channel richness, while other channels (e.g. reports, letters, emails) are considered to be lower in channel richness. The ability to communicate effectively and efficiently becomes even more important when one becomes a manager. Yes, the central message is important. But what is also important is the manner in which the message is communicated and received. As a manager, it is important to develop the ability to match the message with the best communication channel (according to the channel richness needed) to reduce instances of miscommunication and misunderstandings. To learn more about this, conduct an internet search using the terms “communication richness” or “media richness.” One can

easily find illustrations and diagrams that list the different communication channels on a continuum of high to low channel richness and that discusses the advantages and disadvantages of using each. These resources can help managers learn to become more intentional about choosing the best method of communication in various situations. #5: Establish personal ethical standards at the beginning of your career. During an episode of Inside the Actor’s Studio, comedian Dave Chappelle was asked about his decision to walk away from a multimillion-dollar deal to continue his popular sketch comedy show on Comedy Central. Chappelle’s decision was based on advice he received from his dad prior to pursuing a career in the entertainment industry: “My father told me ‘Name your price in the beginning. If it ever gets more expensive than the price you name, get out of there.” It is important to understand your core values and to establish your personal ethical standards at the beginning of your career. Having a strong foundation in this area is needed to stay grounded when faced with various moral temptations and ethical dilemmas. It will also help you to determine when it may be necessary for you to leave an organization. This is extremely important for managers, since the decisions that managers make can affect the reputation and success of the organization and subsequently the livelihood of the employees.

Profile for Spotlight

Fargo INC! May 2021  

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded