When Casey Steele decided to combine her love of baking with the desire to own a business, she knew she was in for a lot of work. Her friends and family offered up encouragement, but she felt uncertain about business planning. Then her dentist referred her to the SCORE mentoring program. SCORE mentors provide free, confidential counseling to small business owners nationwide. Casey was able to connect with a mentor who helped her find answers to the tough questions, provided her with relevant information, and stayed with her as the business changed and evolved. Learn how Casey turned her dream of owning her own business into the first kitchen incubator in North Dakota.
Shannon Gangl, owner and CEO of the Best Western Seven Seas Hotel & Water Park in Mandan, has been selected as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2011 North Dakota Small Business Person of the Year. This annual award recognizes exceptional business owners who demonstrate the entrepreneurial spirit in starting and growing a successful business. Nominated by the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce, Gangl was selected following a statewide competition.
The owner of the Best Western Seven Seas Hotel & Water Park began his career in the hotel’s kitchen, a teenager washing dishes after school. Shannon continued to work at the Seven Seas while in college pursuing a degree in education to later become a teacher and coach. During this time, he learned that the hospitality industry was both challenging and rewarding.
His work ethic and abilities afforded him multiple promotions and he was offered the Executive Chef position at the age of 20, his sophomore year in college. Shannon decided at this point he was going to be a hotel owner, changed his major to hotel management and never looked back. He became the hotel’s general manager at the age of 25, a partner at the age of 28 and the sole owner at the age of 34. Not only does Shannon now own the Best Western Seven Seas hotel, he owns several others in Bismarck and Fargo.
When the concrete walls of the Seven Seas were erected in 1972, there was no thought given to wiring the place for Internet. But most customers today see high-speed Internet access as a necessity, not a luxury. Adding reliable and secure internet service to the hotel was one challenge Shannon overcame with the help of SBA financing.
Shannon said he realized the hotel was a market leader in attracting conferences and meetings, but was lacking in what he calls the “transient family travelers.” So in the summer of 2006 with the help of SBA’s 504 Loan Program, he embarked on a $2.5 million water park expansion. Since the expansion and addition of the water park, the hotel’s leisure customer business has more than doubled. With the extra space, their meeting and special event/banquet business also is increasing. This growth has allowed them to add 80 more employees in the past year (90 since Shannon became the owner).
Giving back to the community has always been a focus for Shannon. His businesses routinely support local high schools, colleges, and community events. Helping area youth continues to be one of his greatest passions and he has coached girls basketball traveling teams for the past four years.
Shannon, along with other top entrepreneurs from across the nation, was recently honored at the SBA's National Small Business Week events, May 16 - 20, in Washington, DC.
According to recent statistics, many of the newly retired and soon to be retired are starting their own businesses instead of embracing the standard idea of retirement. A 2004 AARP study on self-employment found that about one in three self-employed workers age 51 to 60 made the transition to self-employment at or after age 50. Dave and Chris Angell became part of this growing trend when they started their home-based business following retirement from careers in the field of education.
For more than 30 years, Dave has enjoyed photographing wildlife and nature. A few years before he retired as a biology and ecology teacher at Bismarck High School, Dave and Chris contacted SCORE for advice on growing this hobby into a business.
Supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration, SCORE is a volunteer organization made up of current and retired business owners, offering free and confidential business advice through one-on-one mentoring.
Working with Duane Sorby, their SCORE counselor, they put together a business plan that would guide them in the creation and growth of Angell’s Images. Started in 2003, Angell’s Images offers nature photographic prints along with greeting cards and hand-crafted frames.
Startup was slow, but they never gave up and sales have been growing steadily each year. They currently market their products online through their website, through Pride of Dakota, and at many art and craft shows in the region.
Because of their support of other home-based businesses, Dave and Chris have been named the 2011 North Dakota Home-Based Business Champions of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). This annual award recognized individuals who have experienced the rewards and difficulties of owning a home-based business and have volunteered to improve the climate for other home-based businesses. Dave and Chris were selected after a statewide competition.
In recognition of the small business community’s contribution to the American economy and society, the President of the United States designates one week each year as National Small Business Week. This year it is May 16-20, 2011. Leading up to that week, the SBA presents several awards honoring the nation’s entrepreneurs and small business champions.