Family Business Awards Finalists

Twin Cities Business and its sponsor partners also recognize these successful Minnesota family businesses and the values they perpetuate.

JNBA Financial Advisors

Founded: 1978 Location: Bloomington Family members involved in the business: 2 Employees: 21 Category: Emerging

A woman in what was in 1978 a male-dominated field, Judith Brown was a pioneer in offering fee-based, client-focused financial advice for parents planning for their children’s college educations and their own retirements. In 1996, her son Richard, who had had no plans to join the firm, came on board and took over the day-to-day operations while his mother recovered from health issues. He is now the CEO; his wife, Kim, is the company president. Richard Brown and JNBA have twice been named to Barron’s national list of top 100 independent advisors, among other awards. 

Family values“Continue a vision that was started many years ago, but do it a way that is innovative enough to be successful through challenging times.” 


Liberty Diversified

Founded: 1918 Location: New Hope: Family members involved in the business: 3 Employees: 1,600 Category: Legacy

In 1983, Mike Fiterman became CEO of a $20 million box and burlap bag-making company started by his grandfather. During the next 26 years, he transformed the company into a $500 million producer of corrugated cartons, plastic-extrusion products, health care equipment, office products, and high-tech machine tools. He also took Liberty Diversified Industries into global markets, and in 2009 renamed the company Liberty Diversified International. The company introduced its Seeyond architectural room dividers at the 2011 Neocon architectural show, where they won a new-product award. 

Family values: “We have always heard loud and clear that being involved in our business was not an obligation and not a birthright, but rather a responsibility to embrace.”


Madden Brothers, Inc./
Madden’s on Gull Lake

Founded: 1929 Location: Brainerd Family members involved in the business: 4 Employees: 360 seasonal, 40 annual Category: Family-Focused

Jack Madden started as a golf course operator on Gull Lake near Brainerd in 1929, eventually purchasing property that became the basis of the Madden’s on Gull Lake resort. The second and third generation of the Madden and Thuringer families (the latter married into the Maddens) now operate the 1,000-acre resort, which comprises 287 lodging units, restaurants, and a spa, as well as a wide variety of outdoor and indoor activities (including golf). 

Family values: “Family and business are one—our hearts and souls are here on Pine Beach Peninsula.” 


Mrs. Gerry’s Kitchen

Founded: 1973 Location: Albert Lea Family members involved in the business: 4 Employees: 141 Category: Women-Led

Founder Gerry Vogt’s husband, a salesperson for an Albert Lea–area meat company, asked his wife if she would supply salads to sell on his route. Vogt started with three: cole slaw, potato, and macaroni. All were hits. The family company now operates out of a 85,000-square-foot building and distributes 120 products in 15 states, selling 24 million pounds of salad in 2010. Two of the Vogts’ children are also involved in the business. 

Family values: “Our intent is to provide a faith-based, caring environment for our employees . . . . We strive to keep family issues in the family and business issues in the business.” 

Sparboe Farms

Founded: 1954 Location: Litchfield and Minneapolis Family members involved in the business: 2 Employees: 650 Category: Global

Robert Sparboe hatched the idea for his family’s egg business in 1954, when he founded the Sparboe Chick Company. Sparboe Farms now has eight egg farms and processing plants in Minnesota, Iowa, and Colorado. It’s run by Sparboe’s granddaughter, Beth Sparboe Schnell; Beth’s daughter Britta also works for the family company, which sells eggs and egg products to supermarkets and restaurants worldwide. 

Family values: The Sparboe family’s philanthropic activities including donating eggs to food shelves.