Speaker compares two companies he co-founded
What's the difference between starting a furniture company and a hat store? Besides the obvious, people have to ask Crosby-native Scott Molander, who co-founded both types of companies. "The similarity is you're scared to death," Molander said. M...
What's the difference between starting a furniture company and a hat store?
Besides the obvious, people have to ask Crosby-native Scott Molander, who co-founded both types of companies.
"The similarity is you're scared to death," Molander said.
Molander, who graduated from Dickinson State University in 1988, is the keynote speaker Friday during the DSU Strom Entrepreneurship Conference.
He co-founded Hat World, Inc., and The Simple Furniture Company, both of which are based out of Indianapolis.
"Hat World jumped right away," Molander said. "Hat World consolidated (an existing industry) where there is only one place to stop."
Hat World, Inc., as its name suggests sells exclusively hats. Molander said before Hat World, there were many stores that sold hats along with jerseys or other sports equipment.
The Simple Furniture Company, however, is what is called a blue ocean strategy.
"We're really creating our own market, which is the scary part," Molander said. "Are people going to like it or not?"
Molander so far has been lucky, or smart, because he said people have been responsive to the products.
The Simple Furniture Company sells furniture that requires no tools or equipment to erect.
With The Simple Furniture Company, Molander is also shifting the company's strategy, another difference from Hat World.
Molander is launching a green-friendly line of furniture called In Modern that uses formaldehyde-free plywood. Molander said more often regulations are being put in place to prevent the chemical from being used in plywood.
"It makes sense; you do the best you can with what you have," Molander said. "It's like how our grandparents reused everything and the three Rs."
Molander and co-founder Glenn Campbell sold Hat World, Inc., in 2004, with more than 800 retail stores in place. However, Molander still helps the company in some aspects.
Friday's events at the Strom Entrepreneurship Conference also include a panel of people sharing their young entrepreneur success stories.
The panel includes the president of the Young Professional Network in Bismarck, the owner of Mr. Delicious Cheesecake and owners of Rock 30 Games, which sells used video games.
Aaron Bank, owner of Mr. Delicious Cheesecake in Bismarck, opened his place of business a year ago this month.
"In the store, we have a 26-seat dining room, with almost kind of an old sweet shop feel," Bank said.
Bank also sells his cheesecake to seven different restaurants across the state.
Though the dessert shop has so far been a success, Bank said he never intended to be a baker or to be one in Bismarck.
Bank, a Bismarck native, graduated from the Florida Culinary Institute with degrees in both culinary arts and food and beverage management. Upon graduation, he moved back to work with his dad, who is also in the food industry.
"I loved working in a hot kitchen; I loved the heat and the pressure and the fun of a big, busy night," Bank said.
But when he took a job at East 40 in Bismarck, Bank saw his cheesecakes get better and better.
"(Mr. Delicious Cheesecake) is almost an inexpensive way to learn the business side of it all," Bank said. "There are not huge financial risks, but there are definitely still risks."
With the help of his management degree and some fatherly advice, the 24-year-old was able to open up his dessert shop.
"If it works in Bismarck, why wouldn't it work anywhere else?" Bank said.
While Bank said he may stay in the business for the rest of his life, he said he could also see himself getting back into a hot kitchen at a resort.
Bank said one secret to his success is simply listening to and watching the reactions of patrons.
Andrew Zoller and Eric Walth founded Rock 30 Games in Bismarck in 2003, both within a year of graduating from Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D. They have since opened their used video game stores in Jamestown and Grand Forks.
"The teamwork thing is easier to deal with since each of us is using our individual strengths to meet the same goal," Walth said.
Zoller said he works more on the customer relations side of things, as well as with company expansion. Walth does more accounting issues, along with technical support.
Zoller said the business started as a way to earn a few dollars in college. He said he would buy games online and then sell them.
When they decided to open a business, the two agreed to try it for six months and see how it went.
"The other side was pure storage; our games were taking up an entire basement," Walth said.
Zoller said once he opened the stores he hasn't had time to shop for games online anymore.
"About 95 percent comes in from customer trade-ins," Zoller said. "I can't remember the last time I had time to buy online."
Like Bank, Zoller and Walth are also Bismarck natives, who didn't expect to return home after graduation.
Though Walth is hoping to start a master's degree program at Indiana University in August, he's going to use a web-based program to stay in Bismarck to help with Rock 30 Games.
Both said the key to their success is about customers.
"It's about treating people right," Zoller said. "We just opened the Grand Forks store, and within a month, we had regulars."