Andrea Stordahl ’05, Owner/Operator, Minnesota Rust and McIntosh Properties LLC
Why did you choose Concordia and how did that impact you?
In high school, college wasn’t necessarily a goal after graduation or even on my radar. However, I had a friend who had decided to go to Concordia the previous year and, after seeing how much they enjoyed it, I decided I might enjoy it as well. It’s the best decision I ever made.
What is your favorite Concordia tradition?
My favorite tradition is the Concordia class ring. No matter where I go, I can see that ring and feel connected to home. I’ve met people throughout the U.S. and Mexico just by seeing that ring.
How did your Concordia experience prepare you for life after college?
Concordia offered a well-rounded education allowing me to try different things until I found my passion. Concordia emphasized the importance of being an active member of your community, offering many opportunities to volunteer and serve people around you. This perspective helped me realize life was more than a career and a paycheck but about making a difference.
What have you done since graduation?
After graduating, I continued the path of service work by becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA. This position allowed me to work with people from all walks of life and I also met my husband. I was hired full time with Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity in different capacities and eventually worked in several other positions in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
What motivated you to start your business?
When my husband and I started our family, I became a stay-at-home mom. We wanted to live a slower-paced life and moved to my husband’s hometown of McIntosh, Minn. I noticed there were many vacant buildings in town, so I decided to open a shop called Minnesota Rust. After moving downtown, it really hit me that I was the only business on that side of the entire block and it was honestly a bit depressing. After thought and consideration, we decided to focus our life and energy on revitalizing the community.
We wanted to create a place where we could take pride in, and our kids could make memories and want to come home to, so McIntosh Properties LLC was born. We currently own six properties. Four are rented out to awesome, women-owned businesses (Howard Soap Co., The Red Poppy, The Beauty Room, Minnesota Rust) and several additional spaces are being developed for new businesses.
Please tell us about your current work.
Minnesota Rust is currently working on expanding our design services and developing a website and e-commerce that will launch this fall. Minnesota Rust is an active member in The Shoppes of McIntosh, which was created to promote McIntosh retail shops and pool resources for marketing, events, sourcing, staffing, etc.
McIntosh Properties is currently working on opening a café in one of our buildings to add to the small-town experience in McIntosh. We are also currently renovating several spaces for new businesses that want to move into downtown McIntosh.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is connecting with people from all walks of life. I get to meet people at the shop through sourcing trips, business projects, and everywhere in between. I love that I get to do something new every day to keep my work interesting and exciting. It is incredibly fulfilling to see people enjoy what we have worked for.
What skills are necessary for success in your industry?
- Developing personal relationships. This includes developing and maintaining relationships with customers, community members, businesses, and entrepreneurs, etc. Whether people are visiting my shop or coming to McIntosh as a destination, I need to make sure I am taking the time to get to know them and asking questions to understand what they are searching for.
Research. It’s incredibly important to stay on top of market and consumer trends. I constantly read and research current information to gauge our performance, competition, and target customer wants. This includes visiting and supporting other small businesses, traveling outside of our immediate area, and reading current publications and market studies.
Adaptability and flexibility. This was never more true than with the COVID-19 mandates. We had to adapt or sink. In order to cope with all of the changes this past year, we needed to find a way to bring our shopping experience to the customer instead of the other way around. This was a challenge for me. I expanded my knowledge and tried new things because I was willing to try and step outside my comfort zone in order to save our business.
Follow your gut. This is probably the most crucial skill I’ve had to develop. Knowing when to move forward or when to stop. When to change or when to stick to my guns. When to follow trends or when to set them. These decisions aren’t always based on knowledge but rather on a feeling that can be scary to learn to trust.
What do you wish you knew in college that you know now?
There are so many things I wish I knew in college. If I’ve learned anything, it is that nothing ever follows my plan. There is always something more significant going on beyond my understanding, and it’s important to adapt and embrace change because, no matter what, change is inevitable. You need to do what fulfills you, what pushes you every day to keep working at your passion. That is what college is all about.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I don’t necessarily like to plan that far in advance, but I would like my businesses to be thriving, my family to be healthy, and my children to be experiencing the beauty of being part of a community.
How has the value of community at Concordia reflected your life and work in McIntosh?
The value of community that Concordia taught me has been extremely important in shaping my life. The community volunteer experiences Concordia offered taught me that life is so much bigger than just me. Through these experiences, I discovered my passion for service and realized that one person can make a difference.
How has an entrepreneurial mindset helped you as a small business owner?
I always tell people that I’m an accidental entrepreneur because I’ve never thought of myself as such. I’ve always looked for opportunities around me and imagined “what could be” and “if only ...” and now, as a business owner, I can seize those opportunities and use them to improve my businesses.
What challenges do you face as a business owner and how do you overcome them?
There are always challenges to being a business owner, so it’s vital to embrace change and constantly adapt. One of the biggest challenges in my specific area of business is making sure that we are continuing to create an experience that sets us apart and attracts people from outside our immediate area. We want to make sure that when people come to McIntosh they leave knowing that it was worth the trip, tell their friends, and plan to return.
What advice do you have for current students or someone considering Concordia?
To current students: Take it all in during every class, every experience, every relationship, and be grateful for every opportunity Concordia offers. It doesn’t get better than that.
For those who are considering Concordia: It is the place that shaped my future. I can’t even put into words all the ways in which it changed my life and my perspective. So many important things happened during my time at Concordia and I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.