Photograph by Paul Sinkler
Dr. Kou Vang
Nine stories of big achievements from smaller enterprises.
December 1, 2007
Born of eternal optimism and a desire to be one's own boss, small businesses engender ideas, create new and cheaper products and better ways to deliver service, and form the base of our entrepreneurial economy. Sources of wealth, employment, and innovation, they advance enterprise itself.
The nine stories that appear below describe companies of substantial variety and entrepreneurs of widely varying backgrounds. As you will read, the efforts of those entrepreneurs have produced unpredictable—and sometimes unlikely—outcomes.
The stories all have this in common: Each focuses on a small Minnesota company, and each is compelling. Moreover, each provides an example of entrepreneurial insight—the ability to detect opportunities not perceived by others—combined with diligence, marketing acumen, managerial skill, and an eagerness to achieve.
Each also demonstrates that businesses needn't be large to be sources of invention and innovation, and certainly not to be interesting. In terms of their impact on the overall economy, some of the companies featured here are slight. But in sufficient quantity, such endeavors lead to great economic benefits.
We inaugurated this annual celebration of small businesses five years ago in collaboration with Associated Bank, the sponsor of Small-Business Success Stories. Last summer, we asked readers to help us identify small companies of notable achievement. We received more than 60 thoughtfully written suggestions touting a remarkable variety of companies of substantial quality. We think you'll agree that our selections are good ones.