Please tell us about yourself.
I am a senior studying finance and accounting. I am a passionate person who loves business, the outdoors, and cooking.
Why did you choose Concordia?
When I visited Concordia, I immediately knew this was the place for me. I was drawn to the numerous opportunities and experiences Concordia offers.
What campus activities are you involved in?
Tell us about your business, Amaizen Grazen.
Amaizen Grazen is a small business I started four years ago. Through trial and error, I perfected the recipe and process. I get my corn directly from a farmer and use only the highest quality ingredients to create the products. I have six hardworking employees and we supply the best kettle corn to farmers’ markets, music venues, and special events across Minnesota.
How did you get involved in making kettle corn?
I am an Eagle Scout and I participated in Boy Scouts for over 10 years. The biggest fundraiser is selling popcorn. I was familiar with the market after selling popcorn for so long. I took a class on investments and decided to take a more active approach and start a business. Because of my experience with popcorn in Boy Scouts, I decided this was a market I would be comfortable going into. I did lengthy research on the kettle corn market and developed a business plan. I met with the Small Business Development Center in St. Cloud and got the go-ahead from my advisor. I took out a loan to finance the purchase of my first set of equipment. After two successful years, my business was debt-free. My first events were the St. Joseph and St. Cloud farmers’ markets.
What are you most proud of from your experiences so far as a young business owner?
I love the wide variety of experiences I have had. Being an entrepreneur means you get to wear a lot of different hats and learn how to do things you might not have expected. A college education can give you many applicable skills needed to be successful, but the nuances that come with the real world can only be learned in it. There is no substitute for experience in the real world.
What do you enjoy the most about running your own business?
I love interacting with my customers. Whether they are trying a sample for the first time or buying their 100th bag, seeing the joy they get from my product keeps me going. Knowing I can make a difference in their lives, no matter how small, makes all the challenges worth it.
What challenges have you encountered in your business and what did you learn?
Being a young entrepreneur, I am no stranger to challenges. I have run into more roadblocks than I would care to admit. I had fires in the middle of a rush, dealt with bad suppliers, had venues break contracts with me, fired friends, and experienced a decline in business over 70% in 2020 due to COVID-19.
The most challenging thing I encountered this year was when an event did not go as well as predicted. With big events, I am always optimistic about the potential. Whether the crowd is not interested in kettle corn or the weather does not cooperate, sometimes events just do not go as planned. Accepting this and adapting to reduce the loss has been the biggest challenge yet. There is a lot to be said about learning to deal with failure in your own business. It can feel overwhelming and personal. You learn to deal with your anxieties and focus on being a good manager.
How do you apply an entrepreneurial mindset to your business practice?
Entrepreneurship is more than exploiting an opportunity and making a profit. It is a relationship built on trust, nurtured by the community, and maintained by a radical commitment to ethical business standards. I am fortunate to have personal experience in my own small business. The contracts made between vendors and our communities create a mutual commitment and build synergistic relationships. We are invested in the successes and failures of one another. Providing customers with the best product made from the highest-quality ingredients and engaging in honest transactions improves the event and, ultimately, the bottom line. The market, the community, and I are interdependent.
How do you balance academics, cocurriculars, and your business?
Being actively involved in so many things can be difficult if you do not love what you do. Having a passion for what I do gives me the drive, motivation, and energy to keep going on the long and challenging days. You learn to prioritize and keep a planner, but none of that matters if you do not enjoy what you are doing. It has also been important to surround myself with people who support me and help me grow. I could not do this without my family, friends, and business advisors. Caffeine and low expectations of sleep help, too.
In what ways has Concordia helped you grow?
Through taking the core business courses, I can better understand every aspect of my business. It has been a long-term pivotal learning experience for me. From my accounting classes, I learned how to pinpoint the costs of my inventory and better organize my records. I learned how to better understand contracts and enforce them in my business law class. Through my experience with Excel and practice in my finance classes, I learned how to model potential revenues. From my marketing classes, I learned about demographics and where to place my product to increase sales. In every class, I have had a practical, real-world application to the material.
Have you had a favorite class and why?
My favorite class is a tie between Equity Analysis and Portfolio Management. I love the complexity of the financial markets and thought it was fascinating to take a deep dive into them. Dean Mason and Dr. Carrete do a great job teaching the courses and are great mentors.
What has been the highlight of your time so far at Concordia?
Getting involved in activities at Concordia such as The Scheel Fund has given me a community of friends I rely on and learn from.
Can you tell us about your involvement with the campus fire pit that was recently installed on campus?
I came up with the idea in September 2020 after feeling isolated inside during COVID and wanting to share some sense of community while being outside. Most of my work was in partnership with the facilities and risk management offices. We spent the fall semester determining whether the fire pit would be feasible. After the go-ahead from risk management, we created a plan with a basic design, location, and budget. I received funding through the Special Projects and Initiatives Fund to build the fire pit. After a year later, it has been fulfilling to see it actualized. The purpose of the fire pit project is to create a sense of community through an inclusive space and to get students outside.
What advice would you give to a student considering Concordia?
Take advantage of every opportunity open to you.
What is next for you?
After I graduate, I am hoping to complete my CFA and CPA and advance my career in the financial services industry.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Life is short; snack well! If you are interested in ordering any kettle corn, feel free to reach out at 320.247.5424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.