Angie's Artisan Treats A Model Business Success Story

by Mark Remme
Web Editor

Dan and Angie Bastian didn’t set out to found a nationally known kettle corn company. The couple, hoping to earn additional income as a college fund for their children, began a new company called Angie’s Artisan Treats in 2001 and started popping kettle corn outside Mankato grocery stores in 2001.

Today Angie’s Kettle Corn is sold in 50 states and their company, still based in North Mankato, has become not only a staple of south central Minnesota but also a partner with several Minnesota-based professional sports team—the Minnesota Timberwolves, Lynx, Vikings and Twins.

Angie’s Artisan Treats is currently among 26 finalists for the 2012 Upper Midwest Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. The winner will be announced June 14. On May 9 at the Minneapolis Club, Minnesota State University Mankato and the Minnesota Timberwolves hosted an executive business breakfast featuring the Bastians, who shared their company’s story.

Approximately 100 members of the Minneapolis-St. Paul business community were at the breakfast—including guests of the Timberwolves Business Alliance and executive partners of MSU Mankato—as Dan and Angie described their journey through growing partnerships with other companies and organizations. Both MSU Mankato and Angie’s Kettle Corn are partners with the Timberwolves.

“It’s a great story of entrepreneurialism at its very best,” Timberwolves President Chris Wright said.

In 2001, Dan was a school teacher and Angie was a nurse looking to begin a new side business to help start a college fund for two children—Aunikah, 5, and Tripp, 3. After thorough research they decided kettle corn was a product they could both put equal time into producing, and they bought their first kettle online and began popping in front of stores or wherever they were allowed.

By the summer of 2002, the Bastians began popping at Vikings training camp and became a sponsor with the team. That fall, they began popping outside the Metrodome during Vikings games and by 2004 they were distributing to three Lunds and Byerly’s. They now sell in Costco, Super Targets, Whole Foods, Lunds, Byerly’s and all SuperValu owned stores nationwide, according to their official website.

Angie’s Kettle Corn distributes 80,000 bags per day and 4.5 million pounds per year.

“It’s been a slow, grinding process,” Dan said. “We’ve been able to kind of grow with it. It’s easy for us to understand and get that we’re here because we’ve been walking along every step of the way through this process. It’s still amazing. It’s not like we’re here one day and we’re there the next day. It’s been step by step to get to this point.”

At this month’s program, hosted by Wright and MSU Mankato Vice President of Strategic Business, Education and Regional Partnerships Robert Hoffman, the Bastians highlighted the importance of creating relationships with the people within their communities. Angie said connecting with the people in your town or region is an important part of the process. Without the support of the community, she said, it’s hard to grow a business.

Wright said the biggest objective in the Bastians’ message was passion. He said they became passionate about their product because their goal was to raise money for their children’s college education. Not only that, but it was an initiative they could both do together.

Dan and Angie said when it comes to starting a business, belief and partnerships are critical.

“Know your limitations,” Angie said. “Get people smarter than yourself around. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, but don’t let a mistake stay a mistake. Optimism to think that you can do something that you’re not sure you can, but you’re going to try.”

“It’s hard work,” Dan added. “You don’t always know if you’re heading in the right direction. First and foremost if you watched our business, I think you kind of have to have an unbelievable commitment to making whatever product or service you have a success.”

Wright said the Bastians’ level of commitment toward their product—at first at a small level and later as a widely-distributed product—is a prime example of how a group can achieve great results through dedication and working together.

He said it’s a similar philosophy to the Timberwolves and Lynx organizations.

“That’s part of our value system—come and play together,” Wright said. “You listen to them and their story, they talk about, ‘We were in this thing for our kids. Whatever we were going to do, we knew we were going to spend and equal amount of time on it and we’re going to do it side by side.’ That’s a powerful story in itself.”

For those thinking about starting their own business, the Bastians are an example that it’s possible to start small and build, especially in today’s economy. It’s just important to believe.

Dan and Angie are proof of that.

“[People] hear our story and they believe the American Dream is alive,” Angie said. “We’re examples of that. I’m not sure we set out to be the American Dream, but what we wanted was an opportunity for our kids.”

For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.