Saint John's University Entrepreneur of the Year Winner -Dan Bastian '90
Dan Bastian's quintessential Johnnie/Bennie entrepreneurial spirit started in college, but really went full throttle after graduation. Always having a passion for education, Dan traveled to Belize as part of the SJU Giles Nathe Scholarship to help start a school for disadvantaged youth. Today, in fact, the school he helped pioneer is one of the best in the country.
Fast forward a few years - Dan met his counterpart who shared the same love for do-gooding, teaching and community involvement. When Dan married Angie, who was a nurse practitioner with a Masters in Psychiatric Nursing and Gerontology, they wanted to pass that spirit down to their two children.
They just didn't really know what that was, until Dan found a kettle online used to make popcorn. They set up shop in their Mankato, MN, garage and started making Angie's recipe for kettle corn. They made a few extra bucks, put some of it into the kids' college funds and taught their son and daughter the value of hard work and dedication. That was 2001. Little did they realize, the heat that made the popcorn is the firestorm that created Angie's Boomchickapop®.
Thirteen years later, Angie's Boomchickapop is one of the fastest growing brands of natural popcorn. Distributed nationally - and even internationally - the popcorn is a simply natural, artisan snack enjoyed by millions. Still headquartered in Mankato, their facilities employ more than 200 people who help make 100,000 bags a day of small-batch popcorn.
Today the Bastians' story is the family-centered enterprise that Angie and Dan envisioned. Angie's is on the shelves of all the top local grocery retailers such as Cub Foods, Coborns, and Lunds/Byerlys as well as national grocery outlets like Whole Foods, Costco and Target. It is the official kettle corn of the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins. And the delicious taste of Angie's has caught the attention of national media - Angie's has been featured in Every Day with Rachael Ray, Cooking Light, Clean Eating and the Huffington Post.
Dan and Angie have built a successful business, but through it all have kept sight of the importance of family. Being parents is still their most important and rewarding entrepreneurial endeavor.
College of Saint Benedict Entrepreneur of the Year Winner - Kate Huebsch '84
Kate started High Point Creative 26 years ago as a way to pursue her passion for marketing communications, yet minimize the amount of time her soon-to-be-born baby would be in daycare. Technology really made Kate's dream possible so great creative could be brought to life from virtually any location - including a home office. While a rented fax line and dial-up internet access helped launch the company, now the High Point team relies on iPads and cloud file sharing to deliver reliably outstanding creative strategy and content.
Over the years, the firm expanded to meet growing client needs. Today a team of five senior writers serves the Twin Cities' robust health care industry, such as Medtronic, Optum, UnitedHealthcare, as well as financial services, such as Thrivent and Fiserv, and a range of other clients. Kate leads her team in thinking up the big ideas, creating compelling marketing stories, and helping clients win and continue to woo customers. True to Kate's founding vision, her team members enjoy the flexibility of a home office to help achieve that elusive work-life balance. This model has proven to be effective at giving each employee as much control as possible over the demanding deadlines that define a successful creative career.
Beyond her work with High Point Creative, Kate has been president of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society and helped bring free voicemail services to the Twin Cities' homeless so they can find jobs, housing and safety. (OpenAccessConnections.org). She funds an annual youth writing competition through the White Bear Center for the Arts (whitebeararts.org), and she is currently working with Children's Lighthouse of Minnesota (soon to be named Crescent Cove) to bring the first children's hospice to the Twin Cities (childrenslighthousemn.org).
College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University Social Entrepreneur of the Year Winner- Greg Lais, SJU '78
As the Founder of Wilderness Inquiry, Greg has directed the organization's growth and development since 1978, collaborating with many partners along the way to build a world-class organization that has directly served more than 385,000 people and touched the lives of millions more, including thousands of people with disabilities such as quadriplegia, Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis or traumatic brain injury, as well as families with special needs, and youth living in poverty.
In 1977 Greg and fellow SJU Alum Paul Schurke led a trip to the Boundary Waters to demonstrate that people with disabilities could enjoy Wilderness on its own terms. That trip opened new possibilities and changed the lives of everyone involved. As Greg recalls:To their parent's dismay, Greg and Paul decided to alter their respective career paths of law and journalism, and incorporated Wilderness Inquiry as a nonprofit corporation, literally starting in a garage in SE Minneapolis. They conducted many trips, and pioneered outdoor education programs and training curriculum that use the wilderness to facilitate greater acceptance of human diversity.
An endless innovator, Greg also created adaptive outdoor recreation equipment, such as one-armed paddles, special canoe seating and a device that turns a standard wheelchair into a "rick-shaw" for increased mobility on rugged trails. To this day, however, Greg maintains that the best piece of adaptive equipment is the device that exists "between our ears."
Long before the Americans with Disabilities Act, Wilderness Inquiry expanded its trip offerings to places like the Yukon, Costa Rica, and Lake Superior. Today, WI serves people from all over the world and operates in 22 states and 9 other countries. But this is not the end of the story.
In 2008, thanks to Greg's leadership, WI launched Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA) in partnership with the National Park Service and many others with the goal of introducing youth in the Twin Cities to the Mississippi River. Today, this place-based education program engages 13,000 + urban youth annually on the Mississippi River and public lands and waterways throughout the Twin Cities. Connected to school curriculum, the UWCA enriches academics and teaches essential life skills and environmental stewardship to help close the achievement gap. The program has evolved to provide incremental experiences offering urban youth a path to internships, scholarships and careers in the outdoor industry. Since its inception, the UWCA has served over 55,000 Twin Cities youth in over 900 events.
Over time, the National Park Service and others recognized the UWCA as the largest, most successful initiative of it's kind in the United States.
Born in St. Paul, Greg Lais received his BA in Psychology from St. John's and his MBA from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School. He and his wife Patti live in Minneapolis and are the parents of Roseanne and Martin Lais. Greg Lais is a social entrepreneur, innovator, and visionary. His passion for connecting people to each other and to the natural world by sharing life's many adventures is truly inspirational.