Greater St. Cloud has always been home to me, but in my last few years at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School, I, along with my peers, subscribed to the notion that we needed to get out of this area to achieve bigger, better things.
So, in the fall of 2014, I followed my ambitious 18-year old heart 113 miles south to Minnesota State University, Mankato. Even though I never wanted to admit it to my parents and friends, I definitely experienced my first case of homesickness. But, I promised myself I’d stick to it, and I did just that.
Although I was eager to learn and take advantage of every opportunity before me, I struggled to define what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I liked business, so I attended various networking events and spent countless hours sifting through internship possibilities, but nothing seemed to pan out. This was when I decided to choose uncertainty, or the path everyone seemed to steer clear of.
Growing up in the St. Cloud area and spending lots of time at the lake with friends, I had a deep passion for water sports. So, during my sophomore year in Mankato, I decided my first company was going to be a water sports apparel brand. After putting my vision down on paper, I created an attractive, Minnesota-style apparel brand called WakeMN Apparel Co.. Lucky for me, this was 2015 and the peak of the ‘Minnesota clothing’ hype.
I pitched WakeMN to various local retailers and, eventually, secured placement in six retail stores, with Scheels at Crossroads Center in Waite Park being the first major retailer to carry us. On top of brick and mortar stores, we built a large social media audience to influence online sales. Over the course of three years, WakeMN’s catalog grew from two products to more than 30 items.
Trying to manage WakeMN while finishing my last two years of college was a major challenge. Today, I consider it one of the hardest tasks, physically, mentally and emotionally, that I’ve ever done. Nonetheless, after pouring countless hours of blood, sweat and tears into my first company, and seeing my plans and ideas come to life, it’s safe to say I became addicted to entrepreneurism.
After graduating college in 2018, I moved back to the St. Cloud area. The success of WakeMN had garnered attention from peers and business professionals in the community, and before long, other local companies, organizations and events began asking me to assist with their marketing needs.
I worked on everything from website development and social media management to photography, videography, graphic design and more. As the creative services requests increased, I decided to bring on a few other entrepreneurial-minded teammates to create a full-blown creative marketing agency called REV Branding Industries.
Last fall, three years following the start of WakeMN, I also successfully launched River Brothers Outfitters with my new business partner, Jorgen Dahl. Our vision for River Brothers Outfitters is to make a lasting impact on young hunters based in the Midwest through what we call ‘forging their own legendary traditions’ in the outdoors that they can pass onto future generations. We also promise to donate 2% of our revenue back to local conservation groups in the Midwest.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” From the outside, it sounds rather ridiculous, but I can truly say that, after turning every single passion of mine into a career, life is much easier when you love what you do.
Entrepreneurialism has been a wild ride so far, and the best part is that it’s only just the start. I’ve moved all three business back to Saint Cloud after recognizing the tremendous opportunities here. Although we have yet to open a brick and mortar location, I have big dreams and am excited to plant my roots here in Saint Cloud.