Just a block off Broadway, you can find the office of a Fargo startup by the name of Tellwell.
Exposed brick walls, funky carpet design, a modern conference room and comfy couches make for a creative atmosphere as soon as you step in the room. Creativity is the driving force behind the storytellers who work here.
I met with Max Kringen ’11, founder and CEO of Tellwell. When I asked how Tellwell originated, he described a dreary November night in 2014 when he and a couple of friends were at Mick’s Office – a popular local hangout for Cobbers. Sitting in their favorite booth, they discussed their shared love for digital marketing and the need they saw in their community for better storytelling. Every company, whether a large corporation or a small startup, has a story to tell. Kringen and his friends realized this and knew that with the proper marketing and content, these stories could be told. And so, Tellwell was born.
Tellwell is a creativity-driven content agency based in Fargo with a simple goal: Tell people’s stories and tell them well. The professional storytellers at Tellwell do this by creating great content for businesses. Through blogs, branding, web design, video, and lots and lots of writing, they convey each client’s unique message.
“We go into organizations that have a big, complicated story to tell, and we boil it down to the delicious syrup – that’s what we call it,” Kringen says.
Since the beginning, all of Tellwell’s clients have come from referrals, which he believes form the best relationships, so Tellwell has never done any advertising. They also have a distinct focus on “for good” groups – the organizations and nonprofits that are doing the most good in the community. When Kringen decided to take Tellwell full time in 2015, he says the response from clients was extremely positive. They were excited about the expanded services that would come with going full time and wanted to see the company succeed.
“That really solidified to us that we were doing the right thing, that we were in the right community, and that we wanted to continue to grow our business here in Fargo-Moorhead,” Kringen says.
Kringen describes Fargo-Moorhead as a very tight-knit community with many tight-knit communities within it. He says you don’t get that same feeling in big cities.
“Right out of college I feel like a lot of folks want to get to a bigger city, they want to experience something else, and I think a lot of people need to get out before they can really appreciate what Fargo-Moorhead has to offer,” he says.
Kringen never planned on staying in Fargo-Moorhead after graduation. In fact, he never planned on being in the area at all. After growing up in Enderlin, N.D., a small town about an hour southwest of Fargo, Kringen spent his first year of college at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. He then transferred to Minnesota State University Moorhead but still wasn’t finding the environment he was looking for. Kringen was used to knowing a lot of people and saying “hi” when he passed people on the sidewalk. He finally found that tight-knit community at Concordia and finished college as a Cobber.
In addition to majoring in public relations and graphic design, Kringen certainly kept busy during his time at Concordia. He sang in the chapel choir, served on both the Homecoming and Family Weekend committees, and worked in the Alumni Relations Office. He says the encouragement of those he worked with greatly contributed to his success, and they let him take on roles beyond the basic job description.
“I’ve always been entrepreneurial by nature … A lot of those folks really encouraged me to continue to push the entrepreneurial boundaries, even on campus,” he says.
Since graduating, Kringen has continued to stay connected with Concordia. Out of Tellwell’s staff of eight, half of them are Cobbers. He says it’s easy to see the high level of education that Concordia provides to its students.
“One thing that Concordia students always bring to the table is rock solid writing,” Kringen says. “I’ve never met a Concordia student that didn’t know how to effectively communicate via written word.”
Besides writing skills, he has noticed that Concordia students have the ability to learn on the fly and creatively problem solve, which he says is something he looks for in employees. Kringen likes to skip right to the desired outcome when giving instructions, rather than focusing on the steps in between, and he knows he can count on his employees to fill in the blanks.
Kringen has also stayed involved with Concordia by serving on the National Alumni Board. He says they help shape policy, make recommendations, push certain projects, and even help students move in each fall. Kringen says the alumni board consists of the biggest cheerleaders for Concordia, and they want to make connections with current and future Cobbers.
“We’re letting students know that the community is bigger than this campus,” he says.
Community is important to Kringen and the team at Tellwell, whether it’s the widespread Cobber network or the tight-knit Fargo-Moorhead area. Kringen hopes to continue to strengthen partnerships with organizations that are doing the most good in the F-M community and across North Dakota and Minnesota. He says Tellwell wants to “help capture the spirit of what makes this region great” as the company grows.
In regard to the future of Tellwell, Kringen says that many organizations are focused solely on revenue and company growth, but Tellwell is motivated by something else.
“We want to focus on growing OUR people – so really identifying how we can be the best craftsmen and women of our trade so we can continue to tell the stories of our community,” he says.
Bailey Tillman '18 studies multimedia journalism, Spanish and film studies at Concordia.