Photos: Art Sidner
Mankato: Bella Donna
Emily Baumann-Flitter recruited Melissa Volk to be a Mary Kay beauty consultant in 2009. Though both were Mankato East graduates, Baumann-Flitter, now age 28, and Volk 32, didn’t know each other. They had joined Mary Kay because it seemed perfect for stay-at-home moms.
“Mary Kay is competitive in terms of sales and bringing in new consultants—and Emily and I competed,” said Volk in a Connect Business Magazine telephone interview. The two became friends and enjoyed following online make-up artists and spending hours talking about new trends. But they felt hamstrung in that Mary Kay consultants weren’t licensed for makeup artistry. Last year, they earned certification from Hollywood Expressions and started Bella Donna. The company has two main services: wedding beauty services, and programs for aspiring and elite models.
As for weddings, Volk said, “We can have makeup artists come to the bride’s home or wherever she’s getting married. What we do is different from a salon because we use photo-ready makeup. Our low-end package starts at $280 for a bride and six women, and high-end at $525 for a bride and ten additional women, two makeup artists, bride hair styling, and more.”
Programs for models range from a professional mentoring service and trade-for-print modeling work for beginners to job placement for elite models. As for the latter, Bella Donna has helped area models find work doing everything from fitness videos to television ads. The company has an affiliate program in which various local businesses offer discounts to models.
“We also have a dance team performing at local bars for entertainment purposes,” she said. “Recently, after I sent an audition video, NBC’s ‘America’s Got Talent’ recently called one of our dancers for a private audition.”
Lake Crystal: Ameradon Services
In early 2010, Tom Hamberg began Ameradon Services, which offers radon testing and mitigation services. “And I’m originally from Albert Lea,” said 53-year-old Hamberg in a telephone interview. “As a kid, I remember helping start different enterprises, including making a miniature golf course complete with greens, tee boxes, and tee times. I grew up near a golf course and collected golf balls, too.” Hamberg had plenty of workers to help, including his parents and ten siblings living in a three-bedroom home. To make ends meet, his father had to work two full-time and one part-time job.
After finishing up college, Hamberg accepted a position in 1984 as finance manager of Dick Olson Motors in Madelia and soon became the general sales manager. He loved his work, but the dealership had to close down in 2009. Rather than work at another dealership, he had other ideas.
He said, “In the back of my mind, I had always dreamed about entrepreneurship. My decision to start a radon measurement and mitigation business was directly the result of my father and father-in-law both dying of lung disease.” An odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas, radon is a naturally occurring “class 1 carcinogen” and the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. Hamberg became certified and trained in 2009, and opened for business early 2010. He does multiple testings in most homes.
“The most successful means of mitigation is active soil depressurization in which we draw air beneath the home and vent it above the home’s roof,” he said. An average mitigation can run $800-$2,200, with a less than two day installation and discounts for homeowners pitching in to help. Hamberg has advanced mitigation diagnostics and systems design training.
As for Dick Olson Motors, he said, “I miss the customers and the strong relationships with some clients. But with this business, I now have regained that interaction with people.”
Mankato: Jessica Frein
When Jessica Frein was 15, her father starting a business in Iowa wanted tax advice from a lawyer he could trust. “It was frustrating,” said now 26-year-old Frein in a telephone interview, because each attorney her father contacted began the initial telephone conversation with an impersonal price quote.
“My dad started AB Consulting,” she continued. “He is an inventor and mechanical engineer. As he started wanting to patent and protect his ideas, again, he was frustrated (in not being able to find a lawyer) and eventually tried doing patent and other work himself. It was hard for me to see him unable to find people he trusted to give him the guidance he wanted.”
Frein in 2005 decided to study law after taking a family law course at Iowa State from an Iowa Court of Appeals judge. She kept “pestering” the professor and he offered her an internship with the Iowa Court of Appeals. She graduated from Hamline University School of Law in May 2010. She chose Blethen, Gage & Krause in part because Mankato was similar in size and business environment to Ames, Iowa, where she had completed her undergraduate education and met her husband.
She also liked her new firm’s associate development program. “I knew if I wanted to be a good attorney, I had to learn from good attorneys,” she said. “I was really impressed with company camaraderie during visits.” For right now, Frein is involved in business law and real estate, which includes tax law and estate planning.
She praised the amount of professional development available in Mankato, including opportunities with the City Center Partnership, Greater Mankato Growth, and GMG’s Young Professionals, which gave Frein a great way to “launch her career” and “get to know people,” she said.
What’s best about her job? “I like being the person helping to simplify and explain the law to people,” she said. “It can make someone’s life easier and better.”
Blethen, Gage & Krause