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Jesse Westrup

Class of 2011

Jesse Westrup, originally from Cold Spring, was known for creating systems that reduced costs, increased customer contact and kept inventory up to date when he was selected for the Class of 2011.

What are you doing now?

I am the vice president of operations at Bernick's in Waite Park. I have been a part of the Bernick's team since returning to Minnesota in 2007.

How did the 5 Under 40 award affect your life?

I have made many new relationships in the community since being honored by this award. Meeting other award recipients has given me a better understanding of the depth of the talent in the St. Cloud community.

Other big changes since you received the award?

I have been a part of an organization that continues to innovate, grow and thrive as we expand into new business lines since early 2012. I have had the opportunity to build and be a part of an awesome team that looks to build on an almost 100-year tradition in this community.

What will make the St. Cloud area greater in coming years?

St. Cloud continues to grow as a regional economic center in Central Minnesota. In order to compete and grow in the future it is important for the business community, the university systems, city governments and the community organizations to work together and collaborate on ideas that make the community stronger and more prosperous for everyone.

2011 Interview

Originally ran: January 8, 2012

Jesse Westrup grew up on a farm south of Cold Spring and studied horticulture in college. While his wife's career took them to California, his father worked for Bernick's and alerted Westrup to an opening in the organization.

Westrup says his father's motivation largely was to get his grandchildren back home, but it appears to have turned out well for the area beverage company, too.

Westrup has been a force for innovation with Bernick's, reworking all sales and delivery routes to reduce mileage and increase customer contact. He has revamped the company's inventory management system, leading to a decrease in how often a product runs out of stock and yet also minimizing expenses on product that goes out of date.

Other improvements he has spearheaded include retrofitting buildings with high-efficiency lights, motion detection devices and timers that have reduced utility bills and impact on the environment. He also is involved in operating a Twin Cities distributorship that Bernick's recently acquired.

What influential factor has led you to your current career?

I spent 10 years in southern California and had a young family. It was becoming more difficult to say, as we got on the plane to go back home to California, to say goodbye to my kids' grandparents. It was a heavily family-influenced decision to end up back here.

I didn't really have the intention of moving. But the opportunity was exposed to me here at Bernick's. I didn't know much about it. My boss, the COO here — John Torgerson — took a risk not knowing me, and with me not having any business connections in Central Minnesota.

It's fun to be back. I didn't know what I was coming to, but once I got in the door it didn't take long to appreciate being a part of a family-owned, local, long-term company.

We moved to California after we graduated from college. My wife went to Minnesota State University Moorhead and I went to (North Dakota State University). She got a job offer to teach ... We went out with the intention of being there for a school year.

I landed with a large, wholesale nursery. I have a horticulture degree. That was my undergrad work, so it has been interesting to say the least.

Very quickly, it became more about leadership and business and less about horticulture. It was way more about people in that environment, where 95 percent of the work at wholesale nurseries in southern California is done by Latinos. I had to learn to speak Spanish. But that was an important factor.

It influenced me a lot, going from my less diverse Central Minnesota background ... I was out there for almost 10 years. Now I'm in the beverage business.

What's the best part of your workday?

It's less about a day or a week, but my favorite part is watching people grow and develop and take on new challenges and have success. My role has changed from being less hands-on, to where ... if I don't come in during the morning, there's a tremendous amount of people all over this organization making sure that we're out selling and delivering our products and providing top-notch service.

It's about helping people develop and finding the next level of talent that it takes to adapt to the business environment and economic climate that we're in.

You have a three-day weekend with no obligations. How do you spend it?

I'd spend a lot of it with my family. My kids like to be busy. I'd say with a long weekend we'd try to go somewhere. If you just sit in the house, it's not as much fun. We get out and about and do activities.

On my own, I like competing. I've been a runner since I was 12, and I started doing triathlons a couple of years ago. No matter what I'm doing, it's got some component of that in it. Last summer, I did about 12 footraces or triathlons, including the Graniteman, the Apple Duathlon, the Earth Day Half-Marathon ... It's a life-long pursuit. I have no plans of stopping.

That part of my life keeps me balanced. I'm a better dad. I'm a better VP of operations here when I can do those things.

How do you continue to learn new skills that will keep you on the cutting edge of your business?

You learn a lot from the people around you. As you go from industry to industry, technology is more the tool that helps people and teams and organizations be successful. You have to think of that technology solution, one, as your friend. Don't be scared of it. And, two, try to leverage that to improve what you're doing.

How do you stay current? You look everywhere for things to try. I think that's a little bit of my role here is to help the organization try new things.

And it's fun to watch 7-year-olds try new things. My wife asked my son what he wanted for Christmas, and he said, "I want a phone." He said, "I don't want one like dad's. That's a Droid. I want an iPhone." I'm like, "Clearly, one, you're not getting one. And, two, when did you figure out that you like the touch screen on the iPhone better than the one I have?"

Even my daughter, a couple of weeks ago as we were driving to the Rocori football game at the Metrodome, there's giant iPad2 on a billboard. She said "Dad, your screen is too jumpy." That was her technical description of why the iPhone was better to play "Angry Birds," I guess.

I'm only 37, but I'm not 25 and I'm not 15. I think of the generation of 15-year-olds. They gravitate to technology to a greater degree than I would. For my generation, I think it's a huge challenge to make sure that we keep up.

How do you see the greater St. Cloud area in 20 years and what would be your role in it?

I think it's a community that continues to evolve from a demographics perspective. I think it has become more and more diverse, and many opportunities will come from organizations that embrace that diversity. If you took away the immigrant population changes in the St. Cloud vicinity over the last 10 years, it would've shrunk.

These changes are very significant in conjunction with changes like the manufacturing sector being under more global pressure. How Central Minnesota adapts to those dynamics will be huge.

The world is global, like never before. At the end of the day, there's going to be space for entrepreneurs out there who learn how to adapt ... they will be on the leading and cutting edge. I think that's a little bit of what Bernick's is about. Obviously, we have many years of history, but the world is changing faster and faster in our market. How can we be a leader with how we do things and what we do? There's a whole culture here of looking to say, "What's the next product going to look like that consumers are going to want?"

Age: 37.

Family: Wife, Rachel. They have 7-year-old twins, a boy and a girl.

Education: Undergraduate degree from North Dakota State University with an MBA from California State University-San Marcos.

FYI: He and his family volunteered their residence for the Zonta International Christmas House last year and helped achieve record visitor levels.

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Sponsored by:

Falcon National Bank

Central Minnesota Clinic

Initiative Foundation
of Little Falls