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.