When the first boxes of books arrived for Sylvan Learning Center in Bismarck in 1995, Kari Weigel remembers her excitement as she helped her mother unpack them. At the age of 17, she was her mother’s No. 1 helper at the family business.
Weigel never expected to follow in her mother’s footsteps, but Thursday she found herself celebrating being named Bismarck-Mandan’s Small Business Person of the Year for her role at the company’s helm.
The award was presented to Weigel by the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce as part of its annual Celebrate Bismarck-Mandan awards event.
To receive the award, nominees must have demonstrated the staying power of their business within the community and increased its workforce, contributing to the local job market. Weigel will now go on to be nominated for North Dakota’s Small Business Person of the Year.
“This nomination means a lot,” Weigel said. “I’m fortunate to go to work and do what I love every day.”
Weigel had been a certified public accountant in Minneapolis before returning to buy the business from her mother. She also took risks, expanding to Fargo, Minot, Dickinson and Williston. But seeing the smiles on the faces of students as they learn to read, get over an issue with algebra, prepare to take the ACT in order to earn scholarship money or get into the college of their dreams, or prepare for a test in their professional careers after having been out of school has motivated her to stick with it.
Other award winners honored Thursday include:
• New Entrepreneur of the Year: Andrea Birst, Glance Spa & Salon
• Golden Eagle Award awarded to local businesses showing support for members of the military: Burleigh County Senior Adults Program
• Granite Award awarded to longtime, successful area businesses: Skeels Electric Co.
The Chamber also recognized the winners of its new Lemonade Day event as Young Entrepreneurs of the Year.
Macie and Isaac Grendahl, who ran M&I’s Lemonade Shack for the event meant to teach kids about running a business, were the honorees. The brother and sister pair said the event was fun and helped them toward their goals of owning their own businesses one day.
Macie said she wants to run a dance studio and Isaac wants to start an electrical company.
“My dad is an electrician and he’s like my mentor, so I want to be an electrician, too,” Isaac said.
A number of teachers were recognized as outstanding, including Brenda Tufte of the University of Mary, Benita Saur of Mandan High School, Arin Casavant of Fort Lincoln Elementary, Ryan Townsend of Simle Middle School and Jan Schmidt of Lincoln Elementary School.