Mankato entrepreneur enthralled with healthy living creates national book publishing niche.
Photo by Kris Kathmann
It’s that corner office with a view everyone purportedly wants. Linda Hachfeld has it. She’s convinced having a daily dose of natural sunshine and being able to gaze out onto trees and blue sky when looking up from her computer screen is good for her.
“This is such a nurturing, healthy environment,” says Hachfeld, a business owner, author and publisher. “I see birds, squirrels, deer and an occasional turkey. I’m a country girl at heart and nature is one of my powerful motivators.”
Her office environment on Good Counsel Hill echoes the mission of Hachfeld’s company, Appletree Press, Inc. Its stated purpose is to promote optimal health through sound nutrition and increased physical activity for children and adults. Or, as Hachfeld states on her business card, “We publish health and nutrition books to empower people’s lives.” To this end, Hachfeld has published and marketed twelve books and six pocketsize health “tools,” all authored by registered dietitians or physicians (including two university research foundations).
Healthcare professionals send manuscripts for Hachfeld to consider. Many authors know of Appletree Press, Inc. through word of mouth, the company’s visibility at the annual national Food and Nutrition Exhibition and Conference, or Hachfeld’s membership in five American Dietetics Association practice groups, the Minnesota Dietetic Association or her leadership in the regional district dietetics association. Still others find her in the Literary Market Place, or the publishers’ section of Books In Print, two national publishing references.
“It’s not unusual for me to get up to ten calls a week from people who are looking for a publisher,” Hachfeld says. “At least nine of ten inquiries are not the type of books we publish. In those situations, I refer them to the public library’s reference desk to find publishers looking for their subject matter.”
Hachfeld got a taste for publishing in 1988, and founded Appletree Press the following year. “I put my toe into the publishing lake when I served as principal author and cookbook coordinator for the book Cooking À La Heart,” she explains. “I was one of five women who diligently labored to put out this 456-page book, which took more than two years to test recipes, research and write. Surprisingly, we sold the first 10,000 copies in eight months, with money from book sales going to fund health programs for adults and children. Mankato was one of three cities in the Minnesota Heart Health program, the others being Fargo-Moorhead and Bloomington. Cooking À La Heart was sold at Lunds and Byerly’s, at bookstores and through health organizations.”
After the first 10,000 books sold, the Mankato Heart Health Foundation board ended plans to market the book. But Hachfeld saw a new beginning and went looking for a publisher. Had it not been for a conversation with a stranger on a plane, she might not have set foot on the publishing path.
“I believed in Cooking À La Heart,” Hachfeld says. “I enjoyed the marketing immensely, but I was too close to the trees to see the forest. When a gentleman on a plane asked me what I did, and I told him, he said, ‘Aren’t you already the publisher? You’re doing all the things a publisher does.’”
So Hachfeld brought forth her own proposal, guaranteeing the foundation real dollars (as opposed to a percentage) on the sale of each book. In the end, she secured the publishing rights to Cooking À La Heart, which launched her publishing firm. To streamline necessary revisions, the Mankato Heart Health Foundation board in 1993 accepted her offer to purchase the copyright to Cooking À La Heart. During that time, the Mankato Heart Health Foundation became the Council of Health Action and Promotion (CHAP), receiving more than $70,000 in royalties from the sale of Cooking À La Heart. Over the last twenty years, those proceeds have funded a play therapy center, after-school physical activities for elementary students and programs and speakers for teens and parents to encourage healthful decision-making.
The 2008 second edition (the twelfth printing) has the most revisions ever made, including the DASH Diet and the latest American Heart Association diet and lifestyle recommendations. Recipes reflect the use of monounsaturated fat, such as olive and canola oils, and advocate omega-3 fats. The latest desirable blood levels for LDL, HDL and total cholesterol are provided. One of the most relevant revisions addresses the concern about eating fish. The omega-3 fatty acid content, mercury content and ecological impact of commonly eaten fish is provided. Cooking À La Heart continues to be sold at Enchanted Forest, the Lighthouse and Barnes & Noble, on amazon.com and through Appletree’s website (www.appletree-press.com).
Appletree Press shares a building with a children’s book publisher, and a visitor could get the feeling within the offices and workrooms of the complex that answers to many of life’s questions can be found. That’s certainly true of the seven “suites” adjacent to Hachfeld’s 322-square-foot office. The suites house more than 44,000 units of inventory and serve as the company’s fulfillment headquarters, where Hachfeld packages and ships orders. One room is a reference library and serves as an “assembly” room for health “tools” such as food journaling checkbooks.
Sales have shifted from the flagship book, Cooking À La Heart, to other titles on arthritis, diabetes, breakfast, vegetarian cooking, healthy Mexican cooking, and weight management. Self-journaling tools help monitor calorie intake and type of calories, along with minutes of physical activity, are very popular with customers. Another journaling tool focuses on blood sugar control for people with diabetes, and a third, a self-enrichment tool, helps those who desire a healthier relationship with food by not counting anything. Instead, it helps people monitor hunger and satiety levels. For two of the last three years, sales from these individual tools have outpaced sales of Appletree’s bound books.
A happy customer, one making progress using one of Appletree’s products, makes Hachfeld’s day worthwhile. She says, “I get sighs of relief from customers who tell me they’ve finally found a book they can understand. One woman shared with me, ‘I love your book. I don’t have to go out to the store or buy special foods. I have most everything I need right in my cupboard.’ That woman was getting information to place an order from a Michigan hospital room, where her husband was recovering from a heart attack.”
Hachfeld recalls another phone conversation with a man from Oklahoma who ordered six copies of a carbohydrate, fat and calorie guide. When Hachfeld asked if he was using the additional copies as gifts, his response surprised her. “Hell, no! I loaned out my last book, even the ‘spare,’ and I never saw them again. This time, I’m keeping one at home, one in my pocket, one in my glove box, and the other three I’ll loan out. Let’s see if in the end I get to keep one.’”
Being an entrepreneur comes naturally to Hachfeld. She sees her childhood, the second of five children on an Ottertail County diversified dairy farm, as an appropriate training ground. “It was good preparation for running a business, she says. “We all had responsibilities in the barn before getting on the school bus and after getting off. I was in charge of milking the cows at age thirteen, with the help of two younger brothers. Our father worked away from the farm, so we accepted the expectation hard work was a natural part of the day. In the summer we had a ‘pickle patch’ and sold cucumbers to Gedney.”
It wasn’t all work and no play. “I walked the meadows and cow pastures, had a few pickle fights with my siblings and ice skated on the farm pond,” Hachfeld recalls. “In the evening, after milking, I’d climb our fresh haystack and study the stars, seeking out constellations. I dreamt of becoming an astronomer. My favorite school subjects were chemistry, trigonometry, geometry and history.”
By the time Hachfeld left the farm, first for the Univ. of Minnesota, then transferring to Mankato State, her interest had veered from telescope to microscope. “Unfortunately, chemistry majors then were driving taxis and science majors didn’t have a lot of job prospects,” Hachfeld says, “but MSU had a new program in dietetics that seemed to match my interests.” Earning a Bachelors degree in dietetics in 1976, with both a chemistry and business administration minor, she went on to earn a Masters in Public Health (with an emphasis in nutrition administration) from the Univ. of Minnesota in 1990. A member of the American Dietetics Association since 1981, she has held state and district leadership roles.
Hachfeld considers herself a generalist, having worked in clinical, administrative, community and research dietetics. “Thankfully, during my nutrition education training, we didn’t need to specialize. Since I have a natural motivation to learn many things, I tend to seek out what I need to know to help me make sound decisions. Appletree Press has been in the black for nineteen years. However, there are no guarantees year twenty will automatically turn out that way. Every January first I start with a blank sheet of paper, define my goals, sketch out a plan and then work to make it happen.”
Hachfeld credits a now-retired business instructor, Gary Schmidt, at South Central Technical College, with teaching her how to assess the financial well being of a business. “He was a phenomenal instructor,” Hachfeld recalls. “I received a $25,000 education for $500. The most important thing I learned was how to take my company’s fiscal physical. It involves ratios, performance and margins, and in the end you learn what’s working. It’s tedious, but absolutely essential. I didn’t learn this in my 1970s four-year degree. Anyone going into business should not miss this small business management course. You must understand how to measure the pulse of your business.
Hachfeld maintained her business while managing the family farm with her sister for six years. She and her sister arranged consignment and auction sales to address their parents’ medical needs, making decisions about what to do with fifty-four years of accumulation found in fourteen farm buildings. She recalls, “I was gone two days a week and every other weekend, yet Appletree Press remained in the black. Frankly, I don’t know how. This confirms there is a higher power. I had unseen help.”
Appletree Press does not rely on bookstores to sell titles. It finds niches by marketing through exhibits at trade shows, direct mailings, catalogs, in-store appearances and its website. Customers include healthcare institutions (hospital, clinics and specialty departments such as diabetes education), registered dietitians (also called medical nutrition therapists), cardiac rehabilitation facilities, state health departments, the military and other government entities, insurance companies and HMOs, corporate wellness programs and weight-loss programs.
“Then come libraries and, last, the book distributors who place the books in Barnes and Noble, Borders, Waldenbooks and Books a Million,” Hachfeld explains.
For Hachfeld, advertising is only a small part of today’s marketing. Instead of advertising in various publications, as she did early on, she advertises for a cause, like the Go Red campaign to reduce heart disease in women. This year Appletree Press is a sponsor for the ninetieth anniversary of the Minnesota Dietetic Association, contributing $500 because, Hachfeld says, “They are my customer base.” She also speaks at a variety of conferences, such as those for nursing, dietetics and food management, as well as women’s professional groups and the publishing industry.
“Publishing is not a business where you can put one foot in and one out,” Hachfeld says. “It relies on time, energy, talent and funds. I’m constantly challenged to retain this focus. I do this by planning. I write it down, act, evaluate, adjust, monitor and repeat. I’m pragmatic, so I publish to fill real needs, not ones I perceive.”
Linda Hachfeld: “Publishing fits me. I love nutrition education and I love publishing. I publish what I know and add to my knowledge with conferences, consultants and belonging to organizations and focus groups. At the end of the year, Appletree Press sends about twenty 1099 forms (an IRS requirement) to authors and contractors. I outsource certain talent such as graphic design, illustration, concept editing and content editing. Currently, I’m working with a marketing consultant on a new book series, which will address the cooking skills and nutrition needs of individuals with learning disabilities.”
Like many entrepreneurs spending long hours nurturing businesses, Linda Hachfeld doesn’t get the exercise she should. She readily admits it and offers advice to readers sharing her diagnosis of “Sitting Disease.”
“Are you sitting down while reading this?” she asks. “Well, you’re not alone. This ‘un-activity’ is cumulative day after day. It turns out the worst thing for our health is to sit all day. Next to a healthy diet, the best thing for our health is to get up and move.
“You don’t think you spend most of your time sitting?” Hachfeld challenges. “The average person sits 12 to 14 hours a day. Let’s add that up.”
• Behind the wheel of a car—1 hour daily
• Working at a desk (office or home)—8 to10 hours daily (phones, e-mail, computer, meetings)
• Mealtimes (home or restaurant)—1 to 2 hours daily
• End of the day—3 to 4 hours daily (reading newspaper, watching television, surfing the net, talking to family, balancing the checkbook, making phone calls, etc.)
“If you include seven to eight hours of shut eye, that’s an average of more than twenty-two hours of down time,” Hachfeld says. “Having grown up on an active dairy farm, I remember how good it felt to sit down. What a far cry my daily routine is from yesteryear. Toiling physically from sunrise to sunset isn’t in the cards for many of us, but non-activity isn’t good for our hearts, our waistlines or our brains. When we walk, swim or garden, our hearts grow stronger, our blood sugars improve, cholesterol and triglycerides levels drop, our bodies become leaner and our moods improve. It’s a big payoff for such an easy and accessible investment.”
Fitting in Fitness: “For me, the first hurdle is fitting in fitness throughout the day, every day,” Hachfeld says. “It can be done by walking the stairs and hallways or walking around the grounds of Good Counsel for ten-minute intervals three times each work day.”
Bottoms Up: “A simple rule I follow is ‘don’t sit when I can stand and don’t stand when I can walk. When I assemble food diaries for customers, I never pull up a chair—that’s a standing activity. When I brainstorm ideas with a colleague, I do so walking outdoors or at the mall instead of over lunch.”
Invest in a pedometer: “A step counter challenges us to keep going. My goal is to have over 10,000 steps a day. That’s five miles. I walk at malls in the winter, but I’m on the Sakatah Trail or another location I enjoy in the spring and summer. You can make a date with a spouse or friend to make sure you don’t find yourself doing something else.”
Write it down: “Food and activity diaries work. Every time I keep one I’m more mindful of everything I eat and drink. Eat less, write less. It works every time. My phone rings daily with enthusiastic, successful people who order more journals or logs because it keeps them honest. It’s also helpful to log in the daily pedometer steps or minutes of physical movement.”
Shake it up: Hachfeld recognizes that repeatedly doing the same thing the same way is bo-o-oring. “I’ve taken aerobic classes and am currently enrolled in yoga. Strength training is a new selection from my Stay-In-Motion Menu that I’m learning how to incorporate into my twenty-four hours. Learning something new, moving from incompetence to competence, is in itself rewarding. I think you can be healthy at any weight. Staying fit means staying well, having more energy, being less stressed and finding joy in life. How can a number on the scale outweigh that?”
Family: Husband Gary, a U-M Extension educator in farm business management; son Ed, a research engineer in San Francisco; daughter Alicia, a conservationist and certified EMT.
Interests: Reading, participating in the Elizabeth Kearney Women’s Leadership Development Program at the YWCA-Mankato, researching family history, Scottish terriers, and gardening and caring for backyard birds.
Most valued possession: Family photo albums—irreplaceable.
Most valued intangible:
- The freedom to be what I choose to be;
- Integrity, the heart of Appletree Press.
Most proud of: “Generating my own funds to support the things I think are important–the Science Museum of Minnesota, Twin Cities Public Television, Minnesota Public Radio and the Lancers. Also, helping women get ahead through the YWCA, W.E.B., Theresa House, the Life-Work Planning Center, and being able to work with Habitat for Humanity, VINE and my church.”
- Put forth a referendum to stop shooting mourning doves and to rescind calling them a game species;
- Establish an endowment at MSU in the names of two dietetics professors who established the dietetics program there;
- Work with Envision 2020 making sure green space is set aside for wildlife and to bring back native plants;
- Development of a new BENCHES pet shelter;
- Rescue of painted turtles while migrating over roadways to keep them from being slaughtered by vehicles.