Photos by Hillary Ehlen
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.
ANDREW J. ABERNATHEY
Founder & President, Ritaway Capital Management
“If you go into this business wanting to waste money on cars, boats, homes, and planes, then you will most likely end up broke. And if you don’t, you should,” says Andrew Abernathey, the founder and president of Ritaway Capital Management, a Moorhead-based boutique investment partnership. “This is a business where you need to put all of your personal capital right alongside your investors’ money.”
If you’re surprised to hear something like this coming from a 20-something working in the cutthroat world of finance and investing, Abernathey won’t hold it against you. An outlook like this often takes years to develop. But then again, he’s always been a big-picture thinker, going back to his days growing up alongside his five siblings on a family farm outside Lansford, North Dakota, a town about a half hour north of Minot.
While his first couple jobs didn’t break the bank—his dad paid him $5 an hour on the farm and he made $7.25 an hour working at the local John Deere dealership in the winters—it was enough to get him started.
Abernathey saved $4,000 by his 14th birthday, the same day he jumped into the securities market. It was early 2009, and the Great Recession was in full force, but after only two short years in the market, his $4,000 investment was turned into $80,000, which he then used to launch Ritaway from the basement of his parents’ farm house.
But despite the fact that Ritaway’s funds now exceed $15 million, Abernathey is adamant about what all this money is really for.
“I like to look at it like this: The money is my vehicle I can use to help others—just like a teacher uses their knowledge to help children learn or a singer uses their voice to serenade an audience,” says Abernathey, who’s currently, on the side, part of a project to open a thrift store in Fargo that will donate proceeds back into the local community. “When my long-term goals are achieved, I will be proud to say that my ‘vehicle’ not only helped myself, my family, and my investors but others around the world as well.”
Ritaway Capital Management | Ritaway.com
Owner, Abby Anderson, Photographer
Even though Abby Anderson photographs about 20 weddings a year, she doesn’t consider those weekends routine. The Fargo-based wedding and portrait photographer has one thing on her mind that day: to create.
“Every wedding I shoot is different,” Anderson said. “I shoot every event with a fresh, creative eye so couples can have special images that are unique to their day. My style is vibrant, joyful and dynamic. I see wedding days as joyful, and because of that, I bring a feeling of enthusiasm and hopefulness to every image I create.”
Photography has given Anderson the gift of being able to understand the complexity of life and find the beauty in it. She said it has helped her notice the little things, value relationships and appreciate every day we have on this earth. It’s that mindset that helps her on wedding days. In her sessions, she is able to give couples tangible portraits that tell the story of their once-in-a-lifetime love.
Anderson prides herself on getting images to couples quickly after weddings. The bride always receives an extensive preview of their images the night of the wedding. Their full gallery is often delivered within 1-2 weeks along with a blog post to share with family and friends.
In addition to weddings and seniors, Anderson also shoots anniversary portraits because she likes to give couples a way to document the different seasons of their relationship. Her radius around Fargo-Moorhead is primarily within an hour, including Detroit Lakes.
“I believe it’s important for couples to not lose their identity together, and having a photo session is a special way of celebrating all the mountains they have climbed and storms they have weathered,” Anderson said.
Anderson and her husband had their own mountain to climb five years into their marriage, which actually led to her becoming a full-time photographer. Anderson’s husband got sick with Lyme Disease after a deer tick bite. The decision was made to sell their home and move closer to family so they could have help with their two children. At the same time, Anderson decided to turn her photography from a hobby into a full-time business.
“It has given me such joy as a creative outlet, even during a season of life that is draining and full of uncertainty,” she said.
Anderson is currently working on blogging the story of her husband’s illness to advocate for him and bring awareness to the growing impact Lyme Disease is having on people’s health in the region.
Other projects in her business include an intern program where Anderson hires two interns who assist her on wedding days and learn the ropes of running a creative business behind the scenes. Applications open up in March/April of each year. And new this fall are 1-on-1 photography lessons. Her current openings are full, but Anderson hopes to offer a Photography 101 class in 2018 for anyone in the area who wants to get more out of their personal DSLR camera.
Funeral Director, Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home
“Being able to serve the living by caring for the dead, spoke to my heart.”
Alex Rydell was given the gift of musical ability and started playing violin when he was five years old. Music became a big part of his life and he decided it made sense to pursue a career in it.
“God had other plans, as I ended up staying with a family who had a funeral home in Loveland, Colo. while on orchestra tour with the St. Olaf Orchestra,” Rydell says. “The conversation that night about the funeral profession, my father’s work with hospice and my history with the Runsvold family gave me a whole new direction and meaning in life.”
Four years later, Rydell graduated in 2007 from the Program of Mortuary Science at the University of Minnesota and began his career as a funeral director at Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home. He has known the Runsvold family since he was a child.
“I have the privilege of walking families through one of the most difficult experiences of their lives, when someone they love dies, and helping them through the transformative processes of funeral rituals and ceremonies,” Rydell says. “It takes a lot of compassion and vulnerability, but it is a deeply rewarding profession.
“I love the quote by Dr. Alan Wolfelt that says, ‘When words are inadequate, have ceremony,’ as I think that death is one of those times when words often feel inadequate. I have experienced the healing power of ceremony in its many forms. There are so many options when it comes to ways we can memorialize our loved ones, and to be able to educate and guide families to create the most meaningful and healing experience possible is something I love doing.”
Rydell is also the President-Elect of the North Dakota Funeral Directors Association and has served as an officer on the Board of Governors for many years. He is a fiddle player in the Irish band Poitin (pah-CHEEN), the house band at Dempsey’s Public House. He also plays violin in the worship band at First Lutheran Church in downtown Fargo, as well as at many weddings and funerals.
Military Funeral Honors
“The opportunity to be part of honoring someone’s life is a privilege, so when we are able to honor the life of a veteran or active duty member of the armed forces who served for us, for our country, I feel an additional sense of responsibility,” Rydell says. “These are the heroes, the people who sacrificed so much for the freedom we have today, and I think it’s human nature to want to honor that sacrifice. One of the most fulfilling parts of my work is being able to pay tribute to a veteran who has died.”
Military funeral honors are the rites that are conducted at either the cemetery or location of the funeral service to ceremonially pay respect for the faithful service the veteran or active-duty member have provided.
“Our region has the best veterans organizations around, and they are diligent about providing proper military rites for the large number of veterans in the area,” Rydell says.
Rites provided often include a color guard, a rifle detail and a bugler to play “Taps.” The flag is precisely folded into a triangle, often by active duty service members from the branch of service the veteran served and is presented to the family of the veteran.
“The military rites invoke such powerful emotion as the gravity of their service is so tangible in that moment. It feels like a final paying of respect, a gesture of gratitude for their great sacrifice.
“I will never forget the military rites at my grandpa Harry’s burial in 2013,” Rydell says. “He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy in World War II and was known for his detailed war stories as a ‘Tin Can Sailor.’ It was a beautiful tribute to a man who was so proud of his service to the country, and I was proud, as his grandson, to see the gratitude and camaraderie of the veterans who honored him that day. That was an experience I will cherish, and one that guides me in helping to honor the veterans I’m given the opportunity to serve.”
Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home | HansonRunsvold.com