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Park Rapids entrepreneurs earn M State honors

Cindy Kelly, center, was inducted into the 2012 Business and Entrepreneurial Services Hall of Fame with her late husband, John. She attended the award ceremony Friday night with her children Alexis Peters, at left, and Conrad Kelly, right. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)1 / 2
Ed Ranson, right, receives the Community Entrepreneur award from Beth Pridday, executive director of BES. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)2 / 2

Park Rapids business owners were recognized at the 2012 Entrepreneur of the Year event Friday evening.

The annual event is sponsored by Business and Entrepreneurial Services (BES) at M State in Detroit Lakes.

Cindy and the late John Kelly, of NorthStar Orthodontics in Park Rapids, were inducted into the 2012 Hall of Fame and Ed Ranson, of Hubbard County Developmental Achievement Center, was given the Community Entrepreneur award. Other Park Rapids business owners were nominated for awards as well.

The event was also a celebration for all entrepreneurs.

"This event is a real celebration. There's so much hard work and courage and vision in this room that I'm just awe struck," said Terry Kalil, BES advisory board member, who moderated the event. "When you think about being an entrepreneur it takes a lot of determination."

Beth Pridday, executive director of BES, presented the awards.

Among the 2012 Hall of Fame inductees were the Kelly's.

Cynthia Kelly and her late husband, John, created NorthStar Orthodontics in 1975 to provide the orthodontic hardware that many people are familiar with. From the beginning, the Kelly's were involved in the community.

"In fact, Cindy's community service won her the Minnesota Jaycees '10 Outstanding Citizens' award in 1989," Kalil said.

John passed away in 2008 of an aneurysm and Cindy has continued the business tradition.

The employees are trained to meet the demanding needs of more than 1,500 dental practitioners across the United States and into Canada and Mexico.

"They're also environmentally clean, keeping in mind the beauty of our area," Kalil said. "NorthStar has produced over 1 million dental appliances since its beginning and currently has more than 100 employees. Their dedication to their community, their employees and their exemplary business practices has earned them a place in our Hall of Fame."

Cindy said many people don't know what the business is. She recalled early on "a little old lady waddled up the stairs of our business, knock on the door and she thought we could help with her bunions. We had to tell her, 'sorry, we're orthodontics, not orthopaedics.'"

When she and John were first looking for start-up capital, they needed $5,000 and that was "like the end of the world."

"I really want to thank Northwoods Bank of Park Rapids who stepped forward and obviously saw something in us," Cindy said. "It's been great to grow and great to change, which is essential to being an entrepreneur."

Their children Alexis Peters and Conrad Kelly returned to help with the family business in marketing and technology.

"Business is a wonderful way of life for many of us and I really appreciate others who are involved in the world of entrepreneurship and it's really a great way to spend a life," Cindy said.

The Community Entrepreneur award went to Ed Ranson, of the Hubbard County DAC.

"Ed is a hardworking visionary with a passion for assisting people," Kalil said. "He is a psychologist by training and he has developed exemplary services for adults with mental retardation and severe mental illnesses. Under his direction, the Hubbard County Developmental Achievement Center has grown from a small workshop with 23 clients to five sites employing 100 working clients."

His concern with keeping the environment clean and creating jobs led him to open two DAC thrift stores and a third store selling used building materials, appliances and furniture.

Over half of the budget for funding the program for adults with severe mental illnesses comes from private funding.

"His entrepreneurial and intellectual spirit, combined with the business he has created, serves many, many individuals living and working in Hubbard County," Kalil said.

Ed said it was an honor to be recognized for his work but it's not why he does it.

"There are many people who work for our organization who are a source of ideas and implementation," Ranson said. "I have to give credit to everybody who has helped me, including my entire staff."

Other Park Rapids entrepreneurs were nominated as well but did not receive the top award.

Heidi Karasch, of Black Swan Cooperage, was nominated for Emerging Entrepreneur; Meg Isaacson, of Styles by ME, was nominated for Youth Entrepreneur; and Maggie Wiederin/Molly and Luke Luther, of Good Life Café, were nominated for Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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