Lisa Robson, owner of Evergreen Catering and Bakery in Thief River Falls, shared her entrepreneurial story at TREK on December 1.
Her story began in 1993, when her mom and Diana “Granny” Josephson bought “Lon’s Bar and Pub.” Soon after purchase, they renamed it the “Evergreen Eating Emporium.”
Because they were bootstrapping the business without a lot of cash for operating, Lisa agreed to work in the business for tips. “It was a very scary venture,” Lisa said. “I had worked in retail and service industries in the past, but fine dining with no guaranteed wage made me nervous.”
She knew that the life lessons she had learned up to that point would help her navigate this new opportunity, but there were many ups and downs, including a few tears along the way.
“One day I decided, ‘you’ve got this Lisa,’ and I was not going to let others win my battle. I’ve made my share of mistakes, along the way, but I’ve learned that people like to do business with people who make them feel good.”
Lisa is fond of a quote by Albert Einstein that says, “imagination is the preview to God’s coming attractions,” and she has done a good job of applying that philosophy to her business strategies.
In 1999, she started a food service within Digi-Key. Later, she added a food line at Arctic Cat. Lisa said, “if we hadn’t trusted our gut and made the phone call, we would not have had the opportunity to grow as a company.”
In 2011, Lisa purchased Evergreen Eating Emporium from her mother, who was getting ready to retire. “I made many sacrifices in order to accomplish this big step, but felt in my gut that it was the right thing to do.” Steps for purchasing the business included paying off (and canceling) all her credit cards and selling her Suburban to improve her cash situation and provide a little more fluidity.
As her business grew, she “counted her blessings,” but with those blessings of growth came additional decisions. She was running out of space. With the need for more square footage, she decided to build a new facility in 2014 that became the home of Evergreen Catering. At that point, between Evergreen Emporium and the catering business, she had 51 employees, and her plate was full.
In 2018, she made the difficult decision to sell Evergreen Eating Emporium and focus her attention solely on the catering at Digi-Key and Arctic Cat. To strengthen her financial position and increase her stability, she added a bakery to the mix, and the business was renamed “Evergreen Catering and Bakery.”
It has definitely been a journey, but Lisa’s hard work and strong customer service focus have contributed greatly to her success. Twenty-seven years after her story began, when asked what recommendations she would give to someone thinking about starting a business, Lisa had three suggestions: (1) find a mentor; (2) keep an open mind; and (3) trust your gut.
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