Class of 2009
Sandy Hansen-Wolff took charge of a feed supply business after her husband died of leukemia. In 2008, she launched a national public-speaking business that now includes consulting services.
What are you doing now?
I am still the active owner of AgVenture Feed & Seed Inc. in Watkins. The business continues to experience steady growth, and we have added staff accordingly. In addition, I am busy with speaking and business consulting work and recently rebranded under my new name sandyhansenwolff.com.
How did the 5 Under 40 award affect your life?
This award placed me in the presence of others in the St. Cloud area who are great business visionaries, leaders and colleagues. Also, the recognition received from this award is still ongoing and many continue to comment on me being an award recipient.
Other big changes since you received the award?
Most of the big changes have come with business growth and new opportunities in my speaking and consultant work. On the personal side, I realized my dream of living on a lake by moving to the Horseshoe Chain near Richmond. Most importantly, I remarried after 11 years of widowhood.
What will make the St. Cloud area greater in coming years?
The area has a strong and vibrant business network that is active in creating connection. Our new economy calls for all of us to co-create initiatives to realize the results we seek. Furthermore, the area is aggressive in improving infrastructure to allow for larger events to come into the area.
Originally ran: January 1, 2010
Sandy Hansen and her husband spent their last days together between the peach-colored walls of a hospital room fighting his leukemia complications. That's when the two made a promise to share their life lessons with others.
Seven years after Randy's death, she has kept those promises — and has built two successful businesses to boot.
Hansen is the owner of Agventure Feed & Seed Inc., a feed supplier based in Watkins. She's also the owner of Rock Solid Motion, the national public-speaking business she launched in 2008.
Hansen shares her story all over the country, speaking about lessons learned as a young widow, a female in a male-dominated field and leader of a business that has found sun and shelter in the stormy agriculture industry and recession.
"We are in a period where we just endure," she said from her business on a brisk fall day.
Sandy Hansen was in her late 20s when she met her future husband, Randy Hansen, who owned AgVenture. Two years into their relationship — and two months before they married — Randy was diagnosed with leukemia.
But after he passed away, she persevered. Her unflappable faith and determination helped her move forward.
Hansen, a former insurance agent, knew next to nothing of AgVenture or the industry. But in five years, she more than doubled its revenue and profit and formed important customer and community relationships. She did that by consistently asking questions about accounting and animal nutrition, learning eagerly about agriculture and commodities, leaning on her knowledgeable staff and keeping grounded in her faith.
"I don't know that there's any tricks to the trade," she said. "It's a lot of hard work."
Today she has aspirations of making AgVenture a leader in the industry, of taking it statewide, national and even international. And her public-speaking business works hand-in-hand with AgVenture, she said. She talks to business leaders and others at conferences about overcoming obstacles, growing business and balancing work with life.
"Now I am very thankful for that period of time," she says of her first years running AgVenture. "It gives me a lot of perspective on the question, ‘How bad is it?' "
That perspective allows her to stay calm and creative amid chaos. During a recession that cut many dairy farmers' business in half, she brought on an extra staff member. Dairy farmers make up about 60 percent of AgVenture's sales.
She brought on an inside sales representative so another person could work outside sales. Her work changed from day-to-day operations to strategic growth and networking. The staff remains lean, though, and they have almost daily conversations about what's working and what isn't.
She says business leaders need to listen to their staff about what needs to change — and then make a commitment. For example, everyone said the business should use a contractor for its trucking services rather than shouldering the burden of its expenses. It saved the company money because it became a fixed expense, Hansen said.
In a business where most customers and employees are men, she felt she had to prove herself as a person with a strong identity, someone who will stand up for herself and what's right, a woman who is charismatic yet matter-of-fact. "I am not someone to be taken lightly," she said women should say to themselves. "I'm just as serious as the next person."
She is grateful for everything she has learned so far. And she still thinks often of Randy, who Sandy thinks would be beaming if he could see her now.
"It's been a journey," she said. "It's very, very bittersweet."
Education: Housing development and human relations degree from St. Cloud State University.
Hometown: Albany area.
Involvement: Member of Watkins Economic Development board of directors; member of Enterprising Women Magazine's national board of directors; Women Presidents' Organization; Quiet Oaks Hospice House and St. Benedict's Monastery volunteer; St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce special committee member; volunteer at local and statewide women's conferences.
Job: Owner, AgVenture Feed & Seed Inc. and Rock Solid Motion.
How she leads: Hire the most competent people you can to do a better job than you could ever do. Empower your staff to succeed. Keep learning, reading and networking. But go home and live your life, because you never know how long it's going to last.