The 2015 Inductees represent a wide range of generations and impact. All were selected because of their stature in their era and their accomplishments. These amazing women represent the entire state of Minnesota, more than 150 years of Minnesota history, and amazing contributions to our State’s economic success.
The following 8 women are the newest Inductees into the Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame:
Angie Miller was born in Goshen, Indiana. She married Dan Bastian and raised their two children while also working as a nurse for 28 years. In 2001, Angie and Dan bought a kettle online and began popping corn at local events to teach their children the importance of hard work. They were also hoping to earn extra income for their college funds. They decided to gift the Minnesota Vikings players and coaches with bags of Angie’s brand kettle corn after a long day at training camp. The team was so impressed that they invited Angie’s to become the team’s official kettle corn. It soon became the Official Kettle Corn of the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Timberwolves. Their strong business partnerships skyrocketed them from being a local sensation into one of the fastest-growing natural popcorn brands on the market.
Angie left her nursing career to immerse herself in innovation in 2010. A mere two years later, her products populated retail shelves in 49 states and had become the nation’s second-best selling kettle corn. The company had grown to 180 employees. By 2013, sales were $50 million and the company was producing more than 80,000 bags of popcorn daily. Today the Mankato-based Angie’s Artisan Treats, LLC produces nearly 350 different products and has 260 employees. Angie’s products are now sold in natural food, grocery, club and mass retail outlets nationwide, as well as in Canada, South Korea, Mexico and the Caribbean. Angie’s products are found on the shelves of major retailers including Target, Sam’s Club, Costco, Walgreens and Whole Foods.
Angie is a member of the exclusive Committee of 200, an invitation only membership organization of the world’s most successful women entrepreneurs and corporate leaders. She and her husband have also won the Star Tribune Top Workplaces honor twice and the Girl Scouts recently honored Angie as a pioneering Trailblazer.
Born in Guangzhou, China in 1933, Leeann, then known as Wai-Hing Lee, was one of six children born to parents who owned a grocery store. She worked there with her father who influenced her with his quiet strength that guided her through the difficult times in China. Her aunt convinced Leeann’s parents to allow her to attend high school to study accounting, which was highly unusual at that time. Leeann married Tony Chin and the couple immigrated to the Twin Cities in 1956 after the Communists came into power.
Leeann took in sewing to help support her family while she raised their five children. Her clients encouraged her to teach them how to cook the Chinese tidbits she served during their visits. Leveraging her strong work ethic and keen culinary skills, Leeann decided to open a restaurant after observing there were no restaurants serving high quality Chinese cuisine. In 1980, at age 47, Leeann obtained financing from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Actor Sean Connery became an early investor after falling in love with her food at a party she catered. Her restaurant was an immediate success and the business grew rapidly. She sold her company and name to General Mills in 1985 for a planned nationwide expansion but bought the enterprise back in 1988. She built Leeann Chin Chinese Cuisine into a brand name that encompassed restaurants, catering, cookbooks and television appearances. At its peak under her leadership, Leeann’s substantial restaurant chain had revenues of $40 million, and approximately 1,200 employees in 33 locations.
Leeann was inducted into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame in 1986. In 1988, the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO-MN) named her the Minnesota Woman Business Owner of the Year. She received the Minnesota Entrepreneurial Success Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration in 1996. Leeann died in 2010.
Esperanza Guerrero was born in Managua, Nicaragua. After her father left the family, her mother Gertrudis supported her three young children by selling real estate and renting out part of the family home. Esperanza’s favorite childhood game was to pretend that she had a store. At the age of 15, she started a bakery business with her mother’s friend specializing in wedding, birthday and special-event cakes. Following her college graduation, Esperanza worked as a banker. She fled her homeland in 1978 to escape the Sandinista revolution. She arrived in Minnesota with no money, no visa, and no job.
After several years working as an international lending agent with First Bank Systems (now part of U.S. Bank), Esperanza was hired to be the President and CEO of the Minneapolis-based Metropolitan Economic Development Agency (now known as MEDA). In 1986, she established Milestone Growth Fund, a venture capital fund licensed by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a Small Business Investment Company. Esperanza raised more than $26 million in capital that was invested in 76 minority companies. This attracted over $200 million in additional financing for minority small businesses and helped create more than 1,000 jobs in the last five years of her tenure. Today, she and her husband, Larry Anderson, operate Guerrero-Anderson, Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in creating exceptional boards for privately held companies.
Esperanza has been widely honored by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Bush Foundation and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. In 2003, she was the first recipient of the “Immigrant Achievement Award” from the Minnesota International Leadership Institute. In 2009, Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest named her to its Business Hall of Fame. Twin Cities Business Magazine recognized Esperanza in 2010 as an Outstanding Director for her board service to M&I Bank, making her one of the few women to ever receive this prestigious honor.
Marie O’Brien Slawik
Born just after the turn of the 20th century, Marie O’Brien grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. Despite a difficult childhood, Marie learned basic business principles from her mother who operated a small wedding catering business. In 1938, after several years of coaxing by Harold Slawik, Marie joined Slawik Motors as vice president. Within a year, Marie consolidated Slawik’s diverse real estate holdings into a formal corporate structure and used her financial savvy to refinance the company. In 1940, Harold and Marie were married.
Throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s, Marie led the company into rapid acquisition of mixed-use buildings. She diversified the business to include more real estate, and was instrumental in the success of their Midway Ford dealership. The era was personally challenging as Marie twice battled – and beat – cancer. Tragically, this mother of three suffered a heartbreaking loss when their 12-year-old son, Skipper, was killed in a boating accident in 1958. In 1961, Harold and Marie began construction on what would eventually become Har-Mar Mall in Roseville, Minnesota. A year later, she co-founded Roseville State Bank. Harold died suddenly before the construction of Har-Mar Mall was complete. Following his death, Marie continued the mall’s development and successfully launched it in 1963. She became the first woman Ford dealer in Minnesota, despite Ford’s policy at the time requiring widows to liquidate or sell their dealership within one year.
For the next three decades, Marie forged her own path by assuming sole control of the business and continuing to grow it. She received numerous awards over the years. In 1985, Marie was inducted into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame. She was a generous philanthropist and the two foundations she established continue to this day to award educational scholarships. Marie eventually owned nine companies. At the time of her death in 1989, Har-Mar, Incorporated had 250 employees and revenues were $63.5 million.
Pamela Smith Garrett
Pamela Smith was raised in Forest City, Iowa, and was exposed to the world of business at an early age, working in the retail business owned by her parents. She started her first business at the age of 10 by taking in ironing from her neighbors to earn spending money. She later worked at the McDonald Corporation’s Minneapolis Regional office as the Local Store Marketing Director. She balanced career and family as a busy mother of three and stepmother to two children.
In 1978, Pamela’s then-husband founded a speech pathology company. She came into the severely struggling business in 1980 without specific knowledge of the rehabilitation industry, but with exceptional management acumen. She focused on stopping the hemorrhaging financial losses and established a business plan that successfully turned the failing business around. Pamela purchased ownership of the company and expanded the Edina-based business into Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center (CRC). CRC was one of the first large physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech-language pathology service companies in Minnesota history.
In 1993, the company was selected by Inc. Magazine as “one of the Best 36 Small Companies to Work For in America” and Pamela was honored as a winner of the prestigious Blue Chip Enterprise Initiative Award. In 1994, Pamela became the first woman to ever be awarded “Boss of the Year” by the St. Paul Chapter of Jaycees. She was named the Minnesota Woman Business Owner of the Year by NAWBO-MN in 1995. Pamela served on the board of directors of NAWBO-MN. She was elected as a delegate to the 1995 White House Conference on Small Business. By the time CRC was sold in 1996, revenues had reached $6 million and the company had 125 employees serving clients in 85 locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Pamela currently operates Wisdom Coaching in Arizona to consult and advise others in their new adventures.
Dorothy Staugaard Dalquist
The daughter of a Danish immigrant, Dorothy Staugaard was born in Sioux City, Iowa where her father established a company that built spare parts for the cars being manufactured by Henry Ford. In 1946, twenty-one year old Dorothy and her new husband, H. David Dalquist, co-founded Nordic Ware in St. Louis Park, Minnesota after David’s return from service in WWII.
Nordic Ware initially produced ethnic kitchenware such as the Rosette Iron and Ebleskiver Pan. In the 1950s, their product innovations resulted in the introduction of the Bundt pan and the first use of Teflon in cookware. Dorothy’s keen business insight proved essential to the success of the growing business. She worked behind the scenes testing products, arranging photography, demonstrating the pans, suggesting new product ideas, and interfacing with sales representatives, customers and food editors across the country. Dorothy developed the recipes that made the Bundt pan make sense to the world. She wowed Pillsbury executives with her Bundt recipes, resulting in a long-standing partnership with Pillsbury, and later General Mills, to mass-produce Bundt mixes. She authored cookbooks, managed the finances – and raised four children.
Dorothy and her husband set out to provide Americans with jobs, and to produce innovative products of quality and value. Today Nordic Ware has 500 employees and sells 350 products in 25 countries. These products are found at nearly every retailer in America that sells kitchenware products, from Walmart to Williams Sonoma. Nordic Ware’s products, including an original Bundt mold, are now in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Institute's Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Dorothy is currently Founder and Chairman of the Board for Nordic Ware and its parent company, Northland Aluminum Products, Inc. Dorothy was a Girl Scout leader for her daughters and she served on the boards of numerous community organizations including Bethesda Hospital and the HealthEast Foundation.
Maureen Steinwall, PhD
Maureen grew up as the daughter of a small business owner. In 1965, her father started Steinwall, Inc., a Coon Rapids-based custom thermoplastic injection molding company. Maureen started her own public accounting practice when she was just 20 years old. After completing her MBA, she took a job at Honeywell. Finding that she preferred a small business focus, she joined her father’s company in 1983. When Maureen was named president of the company in 1985, some employees and customers were angered that the job had gone to a woman.
Maureen bought Steinwall, Inc. from her father in 1987 at the age of 33. That year the company sales reached the $1 million milestone and she had 24 employees. Her revenues have grown to $22 million and today she has approximately 150 employees. The firm manufactures over 1,500 products for her customers which are then shipped worldwide. Her prestigious customer roster includes John Deere, Intron, Bosch, Danfoss, Banner Engineering, Wagner, and Dri-Steem.
Maureen has received numerous awards for her leadership and business accomplishments. In 2011, Maureen was named the U.S. Plastics Processor of the Year. The honor distinguished her from among 3,000 competitors and she became the first woman to ever receive that prestigious award. Maureen was recently inducted into the Plastics’ Industry Hall of Fame. She has served on the boards of directors for a wide variety of industry associations and local community non-profits. She has taken an active leadership role in education and workforce development efforts, including serving as a Labor Secretary Appointee to a Federal Committee on Apprenticeship. A believer in life-long learning, Maureen obtained her PhD in Organization and Management in 2006. In addition to running her company, she also teaches doctorate level classes for the University of Phoenix and Walden University to continue to stretch her thinking and enhance her management toolbox.
Kathleen was born in Topeka, Kansas. In 1981, she was working for a collection company when she learned that only the men in the office needed to sign non-compete agreements while the women were not. She realized that her accomplishments would never be recognized due to her gender and that she could not advance in her career working in an industry solely owned and operated by men. So Kathleen decided to become an entrepreneur – a highly unusual decision as at that time.
Kathleen founded the Coon Rapids-based Diversified Adjustment Service, Inc. in 1981. It became Minnesota’s first female-owned and operated collection agency. Since its inception, the company has grown to become one of the leading receivables management firms in the country. Kathleen has resourcefully competed in an industry that is still primarily male-dominated, and she successfully grew her small operation into the large, nationwide business it is today. It remains one of the few agencies in the nation led by a woman. Her company now has 110 employees who work with such prestigious customers as Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, Xcel Energy, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), CenterPoint Energy, Hennepin County Medical Center, Park Nicollet Clinic and Methodist Hospitals.
Kathleen has gained recognition throughout her industry and is known for her practical, no-nonsense business tactics and collaborative leadership style. She is also a generous philanthropist. In 2004, Kathleen was named the Minnesota Woman Business Owner of the Year by NAWBO-MN. By 2008, the company was the largest certified Woman-Business Enterprise collection agency in the nation, serving both consumer and commercial collections in all industries. The company has been consistently ranked for years as one of Minnesota’s largest women-owned businesses by the Minneapolis – St. Paul Business Journal. Kathleen’s company has also been recognized as among the largest woman-owned businesses in the United States by Working Woman magazine.