Welcome to our blog suitably titled Made in Minnesota where we explore different Minnesota-based businesses and learn some helpful tips along the way! The blog format is a Q&A, conversational style that allows you as the listener to lean in and get to know some great Minnesota business owners on a personal level. You will hear stories of big dreams turned reality, obstacles encountered and how they were overcome, things business owners would love to go back in time and change and fun little tidbits you wouldn’t otherwise be privy to! Sound like fun? Pull up a chair and get ready to meet Jeryl!
Today’s featured Minnesota business owner is Jeryl, owner of Showcraft, located in Burnsville, Minnesota. Showcraft is an exhibit-focused marketing company that implements a combination of strategic design and creativity to help their customers achieve their face-to-face marketing goals.
Welcome, Jeryl! It’s great to have you with us today.
It’s great to be here!
We’re excited to sit down with you today and hear your story. Can you start by telling us how long you’ve been in Burnsville?
Absolutely. I moved here in 1974, helped open Skyline Displays in 1980 and Showcraft in 1996. When Showcraft first opened, we were working from home and subleasing warehouse space.
Q. What do you like about being based in Burnsville?
A. Burnsville feels like home and it’s centrally located for our employees. Our office is easily accessible for our clients who fly into Minneapolis/St. Paul from out of town. I am also incredibly grateful for our healthy relationship with the City of Burnsville.
Q. Looking back, do you think you were destined to be in this business?
A. I think this business chose me. Back in 1980, I worked for an HVAC company and while preparing for a trade show with a few of my colleagues we decided we needed a booth. Instead of buying one, someone suggested we build one and we did. It turned out great! Shortly after that, three colleagues and I founded Skyline Displays. I loved the industry and enjoyed helping the company grow and develop into one of the most successful trade show/display companies in the US. After a deviation which included law school and five years of subsequent attorney work, I realized how important it is to me to be my own boss. I left the manufacturing company where I worked as in-house counsel, went back to the trade show industry and, along with two other people, opened Showcraft in 1996. I’m so happy to be back!
Q. What do you find most challenging about the business you’re in?
A. This industry moves really fast and you have to be able to respond immediately. It’s also necessary to juggle a lot of balls at all times. One thing I’m proud of is the fact that Minnesota is highly competitive when it comes to the trade show industry – we have the greatest number of exhibit companies than any other state in the US – and yet we all have a healthy respect for each other and “play well in the sandbox.”
Q. What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in your business?
A. The last recession. Some of the biggest businesses in the exhibit industry closed shop or shut down offices and our customers experienced budget cuts which impacted their budget for individual projects. Amazingly, we made it through without having to lay off even one person!
Q. What did you learn from it?
A. I think we survived the recession because we were operating quite lean at the time. We continue to stick to that mentality because it works and it helps us to grow and be profitable year after year.
Q. Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of juggling…how do you stay focused and get refocused when necessary?
A. Meditation – hands down! I meditate every single day, no matter what. I think this really helps ground me and allows me to stay focused on what’s truly important each day. I’ve also started taking more mini vacations which always helps me reenergize.
Q. If you only had $500 to spend on growing your business, where would you want to spend your money and why?
A. I’d give it to my staff. After all, they’re our #1 salesperson!
Q. What are three words you would use to describe your organization?
A. We. Are. Family. I know a lot of companies say this but we truly embrace this motto and treat our staff and our customers as part of our family. A great example of this…recently the father of one of our clients passed away in the Philippines. We arranged for 100 trees to be planted in the Philippines in her father’s honor. We just love being able to do special things for our customers and our staff.
Q. Here’s a fun question for you…if you could start any business today, what business would you open?
A. You’ll probably laugh at this but I would start an etiquette business for 5-10 year olds because I feel like our youth are really missing out on some of the most basic etiquette. I actually taught my 3 year old grandson to shake hands with people he meets. It’s so cute!
Q. What is the best advice you could give a business owner who is just getting started?
A. Two things: It’s going to take longer and will likely take more money than you thought. Plan to stick it out because the little wins are a HUGE deal. Also, celebrate each other’s victories. At Showcraft, we have a bell in the center of the office space. Employees are encouraged to ring the bell whenever they have something to celebrate! Everyone gathers when they hear the bell. It really brings our team together.
Wow, we’re so happy you could join us today, Jeryl! Thank you for sharing the Showcraft backstory with us. It’s been a pleasure!
If you would like to learn more about Showcraft, you can visit them online at https://www.showcraft.com/.