October 2004

Cover Story

Family matters

Though she was only 15 at the time, Lana Siewert-Olson remembers well when her father, Howard Siewert, left a lucrative job at a big printing company in 1979.

?He always said he felt like a small fish in a big pond,? she says. ?He?d bring in a job that was $200,000, but it would get bumped for something bigger. He got really frustrated working for a large company. He wanted to make a difference. He was 40 at the time, and he started rebelling a little.? Continue reading →

Letter From the Editor

Boldly go

If you think your business is tough, consider the state of the printing industry.
Ideal Printers Inc. in St. Paul, whose president is Lana Siewert-Olson and the subject of this month?s cover story, experienced the same economic slump as everyone else in the past few years. But it also felt specific pain:
? Average profits are 1.7 percent of sales, and profit leaders make 1.9 percent. ?It?s a pennies game,? says one industry observer.
? Technology changes, especially the Internet, mean abundant alternatives to printed materials. One day a printer can have a $20,000-a-month customer; the next day that customer can switch to the Web. Continue reading →

Back Page

Debbie Fors on recovering from disaster — a fire at her Dairy Queen outlet in Minneapolis

As Debbie Fors drove down 50th Street in Minneapolis, she thought it was going to be a normal day. But then she pulled into the parking lot of the Dairy Queen she and her husband manage and started to shake. Continue reading →


Intellectual property: Before market

Everyone has had that ?million-dollar idea.? At least, most people have felt like they have. But many small-business owners don?t realize the value of their intellectual property. Upsize talked to local patent attorney Mark Litman, of Mark A. Litman & Associates in Edina, to cover the basics. Continue reading →

Expansion and relocation: On radar

Jason Hoerter needed more space. His waste-disposal company, though just over a year old, had outgrown its cramped rental office in Austin, Minnesota.

Hoerter approached the city with plans to buy a site for a new building, assuming officials would catch his enthusiasm. After all, Triple J Disposal Inc. was highly regarded within the community, having recently won the Austin Chamber of Commerce New Business of the Year award. Continue reading →

Intellectual property: Beyond gizmos

The whir of an assembly line can be hypnotizing.

With Medtronic inventing its latest catheter, 3M introducing its newest line of air-cleaning filters, and a host of other local technology manufacturers constantly pushing their gadgets and gizmos into the marketplace, one could be led to believe all Twin Cities-originated intellectual property is handheld and comes in a box. Continue reading →

Alexandria: Out in front

Jason Murray and Jill Johnson are only a two-person team, but what a team they make.

Murray is the executive director of the Alexandra Area Economic Development Commission (AAEDC). Johnson is the marketing manager and business development director.

The AAEDC is a non-profit corporation. Its role is to ?serve as the lead economic development entity that responds to start-up and relocation inquiries, and to assist existing businesses with long-term goals of expansion,? says Murray. Continue reading →

Alexandria: Back to their roots

Don Wilkins remembers it like it was yesterday.

It was 1976 when he started Alexandria Pro-Fab Co. Inc. He was the sole employee and his lone assets were his $2,000 welding machine and willingness to work long hours. He worked 363 days that year, never really thinking much about the future, but plenty about how he could gain more work. Continue reading →

Business Builders


"How much is my business worth?" This is a question that is asked regularly by business owners.
While it may seem like a simple question, the answer can be quite difficult to determine. Continue reading →


You have a successful business. It is relatively unusual. It seems that every month someone asks you if they can buy a franchise. Are you ready to take that plunge? Continue reading →


So, you have technology that you think is going to set the market on fire. Your first thought: Take your idea to a trade show and gauge the reaction of potential customers. The trade show also would provide you with the opportunity to wow your competitors and show them that you are on the cutting edge. Continue reading →



Beth Woodward believes that all owners should find their own ways to market their businesses, one that inspires them and feels comfortable to them. She's always looking for innovative ways in which people market their companies. Continue reading →


A new Health Savings Account called Engage is boosting sales at Associated Financial Group, says Mickey Webb, vice president of employee benefits at the Minnetonka unit, which was purchased by Associated Bank of Wisconsin last year. Continue reading →


When Bil MacLeslie worked as a technician at the Guthrie Theatre or at rock concerts, he learned an important lesson.

?I don?t care if we don?t have guitar strings. The show must go on,? MacLeslie says, because the fans demand it. ?I remember touring with the Replacements. The fans had such an experience. They said, ?I will remember this for the rest of my life.? That made me go, that?s so cool.? Continue reading →

Venture capital

Women represent less than 10 percent of high-level venture capitalists, and they have been leaving the industry at twice the rate of men. Meanwhile, only 5 percent to 9 percent of venture capital went to women-led companies over a 40-year time period. Continue reading →


"I want to transform the fitness industry. It's so polluted," says Steve Ritz, owner of Fitness First.

He holds a master's degree in exercise physiology, and used to train professional and college athletes, including the Minnesota Vikings. Continue reading →

Owners can tap their retirement
stash to fund business with a REIP

President Bush?s tax reform act has made it more practical for entrepreneurs to tap their retirement funds in order to purchase or start a business, according to Andy Hall. He is a Minneapolis attorney who is marketing a REIP, or a Rollover Equity Investment Plan. Hall is the founder of K. Andrew Hall & Associates. Continue reading →

Attorneys move in and out of large firms, trying to make it alone

Adam Soffer and Steve Charbonnet started their own law firm, Soffer Charbonnet Law Group in Edina, in January.

They wanted to be more accessible to their small-business clients than perhaps their downtown office-tower counterparts are, Soffer says. ?I want them to come to my office and visit with me. I want that more than anything.? Continue reading →

Dear Informer

CEO offers tips for courting venture capital Continue reading →

2-minute meeting

Best Buy founder focuseson entrepreneurs with new St. Thomas building Continue reading →


Commercial Banks

For some small-business owners, choosing a bank for their business in fact involves little choosing at all: They stick with what they know best, which often is the place where they conduct their personal banking. Continue reading →