TwinWest honors exceptional business leaders

Plymouth’s Bauer Design Build named Entrepreneur of the Year

Mike Bauer of Bauer Design Build in Plymouth speaks after winning the TwinWest Entrepreneur of the Year award during the awards luncheon May 18. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Kristen Miller)

The TwinWest Chamber of Commerce recognized three business leaders during the 2017 Business Awards luncheon May 18 at Marriot Minneapolis West.

The chamber presented three awards, including the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year, the Young Professional of the Year, and Community Builder of the Year.

The entrepreneur award “gives much deserved credit to those who take the risk of starting and running business enterprises.” Candidates are judged on business strategies, business acumen and community involvement.

The finalists included Susan Michaletz of PoppedCorn in Minnetonka, Carol Wickoren of My House Fitness in Hopkins, and Mike Bauer of Bauer Design Build in Plymouth, who was named the award winner.

Patty Sagert, TwinWest board and awards task force chair, shared how Bauer “exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit” within the TwinWest Chamber.
“Through the application and interview process it became clear to our committee that Mike is genuinely committed to delivering on his promises to his employees and his customers. His longevity and growth are a tribute to Bauer Design Build’s values of client focus, integrity, relationships, leadership, transparency, and community,” Sagert commented.

The commercial general contractor is celebrating one year in its new location at 14030 21st Avenue North, Plymouth, after moving from Delano.
“I think it’s our passion to always do what’s right and looking out for our clients’ best interest. It’s not about doing the obvious. It’s about going above and beyond,” Bauer said in an introductory video. “I think one of the things that sets us apart is our team. I truly have been blessed to have the group of employees we have. Our culture is about looking out for our clients’ best interest and doing what’s right. It’s truly a collaborative effort.”

“This certainly is an honor,” Bauer said in accepting the award. “As an entrepreneur I do have to say … I have total appreciation for anybody who starts up their own business, because it’s not easy.”

Laela Erickson of Think GREAT speaks after earning the young professional of the year award during the awards luncheon May 18. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Kristen Miller)

The young professional award gives credit to younger business professionals who have demonstrated “exemplary professional accomplishments and have a proven commitment to his or her company and professional development though leadership, academics, and/or volunteerism.”

This year’s award went to Laela Erickson, director of strategic growth at Think GREAT, a Twin Cities based consulting firm focused on accomplishing corporate goals through leadership, team building and sales training.

The award finalists were Nathan Agre of Smith Schafer & Associates, a CPA firm in Golden Valley; and Amanda Frake, a physical therapist at NovaCare Rehabilitation in Plymouth.

Dan Narr, executive director of Gilda’s Club Twin Cities, speaks after the Minnetonka-based cancer support center earned the Community Builder of the Year award. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Kristen Miller)

TwinWest Chamber also recognizes a local nonprofit that “exemplifies the ideals of stewardship and citizenship by contributing to the positive development of the west metro community” with its community builder award. This year’s recipient was Gilda’s Club Twin Cities, which offers cancer support at its Minnetonka clubhouse. The finalists were Hammer Residences of Wayzata and Memorial Blood Centers.

Soaring to new heights
Stick to the winners, be different, and don’t do just one thing, were the three lessons Nico Kieves Wyrobek, CEO of Northstar Balloons, shared during her talk at the awards luncheon.

In a room filled with blue, white and gold balloons in the shapes of stars and chain links, Wyrobek talked about her family’s history in the balloon industry, which led to her founding Northstar Balloons.

Wyrobek spoke about the journey of the company and how her parents started out in the balloon industry during a time when there wasn’t an industry.

They were living in Europe when her father began selling imported balloons as a street vendor. With an entrepreneurial spirit, they moved to Minneapolis, where they founded Anagram Intl. in the late 1970s.

The business was sold to Amscan in 1998, which later became part of the Party City Holding Co.

Wyrobek’s father continued working for the Amscan entity until 2002. In 2007, the family was approached by a former competitor, and worked as a contract manufacturer until 2012 when they began selling their own product under the Northstar brand.

As a “reformed” lawyer, Wyrobek took over the balloon enterprise in 2007. While it was supposed to be a contract manufacturing business, those “best laid plans didn’t work out,” Wyrobek said, noting the economy’s collapse didn’t make “the best environment to start a new business.”

“It’s really hard to build a business, but when you double down, you can do it,” she said.

“You have to show up every day and you have to do something different,” Wyrobek said as the key to the company’s success in the balloon industry.

To do that, they came out with a line of balloons with letters and numbers that nobody else was doing, she said. “We perfected it.” Soon, they went directly to the retailers, where their balloons have taken flight.

“We built a team that was really purposeful,” she said, which was both veterans and newcomers to the balloon industry. “It drove in us this concept of never being beholden by what was in the past, and that let us do some really great things in the market.”

One of those concepts was “not being your mom’s balloon shop.” Rather than selling the typical cartoon balloons seen at a child’s birthday party, Northstar Balloons delved deeper by selling a different product.

Northstar Balloons CEO Nico Wyrobek spoke about soaring to new heights in the balloon industry during the TwinWest Business Awards luncheon May 18. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Kristen Miller)

They went for the elegant and modern decor seen at high-end weddings and used for signage.

“[It’s] not just your mom’s birthday party for a little kid,” she said.

She showed examples on Instagram, where the company has nearly 41,000 followers, and the ways in which people are using their balloons.
“They use them in a way that the balloon has never been used,” Wyrobek said, which she sees as a testament to the business.

From one entrepreneur to a room full of professionals, Wyrobek advised others to “stick to the winners.”
“It’s not what everyone else makes … we innovate this product,” she said, which led to her second lesson “it’s OK to be different,” she said, referring back to the traditional balloon industry.

The third lesson – “never do just one thing,” she said. With their printing press for balloons, the company has diversified by printing other products. She gave the example of dog food bags, which the company makes for the Costco brand of dog food.

Ten years later, Wyrobek proudly announced Northstar Balloons came out of the first quarter of 2017 “far better than any other quarter.”

This year’s 2017 TwinWest Foundation High School Scholarship recipients were honored during a program prior to the TwinWest Business Awards May 18. (Photo courtesy of Randy Hoepner)

High school scholarship recipients
Seventeen west-metro high school students were awarded a total of $25,000 in scholarships from the TwinWest Foundation, including the legacy scholarship, a $5,000 scholarship given to the top applicant, which went to Mina YuAn of Wayzata High School.
Other award recipients:
Isaac Schrof, Minnetonka – $2,000
Vincent Callahan, St. Louis Park – $2,000
James Libbey, Benilde-St. Margaret’s – $2,000
Samuel Schini, Minnetonka – $2,000
Derek Onserio , Providence Academy – $1,000
Lillian Smith, Benilde-St. Margaret’s – $1,000
William Drew, Wayzata – $1,000
Shivjot Singh, St. Louis Park – $1,000
Taylor Hemmesch, Providence Academy -$1,000
Jeffrey Week, Minnetonka – $1,000
Michael White, Robbinsdale Cooper – $1,000
Shelby Kieffer, Robbinsdale Armstrong – $1,000
Mark Racchini, Benilde-St. Margaret’s – $1,000
Elisabeth Johnson, Minnetonka– $1,000
McCrae Mower, Minnetonka – $1,000
Abdihamid Badri, Robbinsdale Armstrong – $1,000

Contact Kristen Miller at [email protected]