Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography and Paul Flessland
We like to think of the Fargo business community as a giant puzzle and the people who comprise it as the different but equally essential pieces. Take one person, one company, or one industry away, and the picture becomes incomplete. Faces of Fargo Business is our chance to piece that puzzle together each month and celebrate the countless people who make this such a great place to work.
Business Relationship Manager, Wells Fargo
In 2005, Sara Hanstad was at a unique crossroads.
She’d just spent the last decade-plus of her life traveling to some of the most picturesque places in the world as a professional snowboarder, and it was time to figure out what was next.
So she went back to school—three times, in fact, for a bachelor’s, Juris Doctor and master’s—and, in 2013, landed a job with Wells Fargo.
Originally from Fergus Falls, Minnesota, Hanstad did the extreme sports thing for a dozen years hanging up her board at age 28. Now, she spends her days working as a business relationship manager in Wells Fargo’s Downtown Fargo office.
“I think I have the most amazing job because I spend all day making people happy,” says Hanstad, who says her career goal is to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. “I’m reassuring business owners that financial decisions they’re making are fiscally prudent, and I get to make my clients feel as important as they are by spoiling them a little, too. Because they are my clients after all.
“From a more personal perspective, I’m so lucky to work for a company that lets me be me out in the community. I’m able to be active in things I’m passionate about, and it’s not lost on me that my employer’s vision and values are what make that possible.”
One of the things she’s passionate about—in fact, the thing she says she’s most passionate about—is working with rescue dogs.
“My parents live year-round in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, so I travel there quite a bit throughout the year. When I’m there, my absolute favorite place to be is called Isla Animals, which is the local dog rescue,” says Hanstad, who, along with her husband, Trevor, is the mom to four rescues herself. “It’s where I volunteer almost every day. Dogs are a huge part of my life, and they have a big part of my heart. Dogs and dog-related causes are always at the top of my priority list.”
Something else that’s been making its way up that list is an issue that impacts far too many not just in this area but across the country.
“I’m becoming more and more involved with helping to fight addiction in the FM community,” says Hanstad, who stays active with the Fargo Community Coalition, a teen-focused anti-addiction group. “Addiction is something that’s had a profound effect on my family, and, as a result, is something I’m very passionate about.
Hanstad says she keeps her schedule full with a variety of causes and wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I think the Fargo community is incredibly giving, and I hope to be a contributing part of that for many years to come,” she says.
Owner & Designer, Rebekah Scott Designs
Entrepreneurs are nothing if not resourceful.
When Rebekah Scott was launching her handbag-and-accessory business in the early 2000s, she was having trouble getting going. So she improvised.
“I knew I needed fabric to sell some purses but didn’t have any cash flow,” says Scott, owner of the eponymous Rebekah Scott Designs based out of Valley Springs, South Dakota, a small town about 20 miles northeast of Sioux Falls. “So I paced around thinking of various solutions and one thought came to mind, ‘I have really cute curtains!’ And there I was, cutting my curtains into handbags!”
Fast forward nearly 15 years, and Scott is not only running a thriving e-commerce business with a staff of 20, she also hosts a weekly podcast and even wrote a book, “Equipped to Execute: Guiding Moms To Joyfully Impact Family and Business.” If the title’s a bit of a mouthful, it’s instructive in understanding what motivated Scott to start her company in the first place.
“I wanted to stay home, raise my babies, and sew in my happy place,” says Scott, who’s been sewing since she was four years old and using Kleenexes and a stapler to create things for her Barbies. “And I wanted to offer that opportunity to other women trying to navigate the minefield of motherhood and career. I wanted to prove you can do both roles together.”
Along with her team of fellow work-from-home moms, Scott refers to herself as a “mom-trepreneur.”
“We employ women eager to work and sew good seeds in a growing America,” says Scott, who returns repeatedly to this metaphor of seeds and growth. “With good water, plenty of help, and continued support from good roots, Rebekah Scott Designs became a federally trademarked direct-sales brand.
“Each year, the seeds have taken on new sprouts—new employees who have helped us create more and more variety for our customers and helped us do it better and more efficiently.”
Scott says that while she remains in awe of what she and her team have built over the past decade and a half, it’s her four little ones that keep her grounded and reminded of what this is all about.
“They continue to inspire me, put smiles on my heart and allow me the grace to balance all the roles I’ve been blessed with,” she says.
For the seventh year running, you can catch Rebekah Scott Designs at the Fargo Street Fair July 13-15.
Rebekah Scott Designs | ShopRSD.com
President & CEO, Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau
Charley Johnson has played an active role in the FM area for years. From a career in broadcasting to becoming the head of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, he says he’s thankful for the opportunities to see this community blossom and grow.
Johnson graduated from Concordia College in the early ’70s and began his career in broadcasting at a Grand Forks radio station. Soon after, he moved to Fargo, where he had a job at KQWB Radio.
“The following summer, I started working in the news department at KXJB Channel 4 and ended up working the next 36 years as an anchor, news director and eventually general manager of Channels four and 11,” Johnson says.
In 2010, after five ownership changes and 15 years, Johnson left those stations. He took about six months off and returned to television news as a co-anchor and producer of the 6 and 10 p.m. news at WDAZ-TV in Grand Forks, commuting more than 160 miles each day.
“After 18 months of commuting to Grand Forks four days a week, I was kind of surprised to be the successful applicant for president of the CVB,” Johnson says. June 2012 marked the start of this position and the beginning of a new career for him.
At the CVB, Johnson, along with the full- and part-time staff, are responsible for marketing Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo as a destination to visitors of all kinds, from all over the region and the world. And when he says “all kinds,” he means it. They focus on everyone: individuals, couples, families, tour groups, meetings, sports tourists, and international travelers, among others
“We work hard to attract them all,” Johnson says.
In order to host all of these people, the CVB Board and the Fargo Dome Authority are currently working to promote the idea of building a convention center in Fargo.
“We recently revealed the results of a study that looked at pros, cons and costs associated with four samples sites for such a facility,” Johnson says, “and we hope it will promote an active discussion that could lead to a real project soon.”
As Fargo continues to develop and brings in more people—not just traveling here but moving here—Johnson continues to be thankful for this area.
“I’ve had the privilege of living in this community long enough to see it grow from a small city to a thriving, vibrant, and increasingly diverse metropolitan area,” he says.
“For the first 35 years, I was lucky enough to have a reporter’s front-row seat to all that was happening here, and I relished every minute of it,” Johnson says. “Now I’ve been given the unusual opportunity—so late in life—to start a new career, which allows me to be involved in some of what’s happening in that community. I don’t take that for granted.”
Outside of the CVB
Johnson is a member and current chair of the Moorhead Economic Development Authority, a multi-year United Way “Campaign Cabinet” volunteer, an usher at Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead and is again helping with fundraising for his upcoming Concordia College homecoming anniversary year. Along with his wife and a few friends, Johnson is in a band. They call themselves the “Moving Parts” and play Americana music at the Troll Bar in the Sons of Norway. He also has three children and five grandchildren, including two sets of twins, saying, “I could probably include the grandchildren in the ‘extracurricular’ category as well.”
Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau | FargoMoorhead.org