Skip to main content

Entrepreneurship: A Family Tradition

Entrepreneurship: A Family Tradition

People often say something is in your blood. As if you were born to do or predestined to have a certain fate. There’s a constant debate about nature vs nurture and how people turn out the way they do. It’s interesting when patterns emerge in family history, and it makes you think about this debate.

I think I’ve always envisioned that I would own my own business someday. The type of business I thought I would start is nothing like any of the businesses I did start. I come from a tradition of entrepreneurship. We are all in different businesses, but we all built our businesses from the ground up.

It all started in Luverne Mn

My grandfather grew up in southwestern MN in a small town called Magnolia. It was a small farming community. He was smart, hardworking, and athletic. He earned himself the nickname “Magnolia Flash” for his performances in the local town ball league. Like many young men of that era was shipped off to World War II and fought in the south pacific. He returned from the war, married his wife, Marie. There was a real shortage of available housing for a new family.  So, they purchased a lot and built their own home.

Little did they know this would be the start of a career. Shortly after they finished their first home a retiring farmer came and made them an offer to purchase that house they could not refuse.  Seeing the opportunity they formed a residential construction company. They kept building houses for themselves, and people loved them so much they kept buying them before they could live there long. I believe my dad lived in 18 different houses before he graduated high school.   

The residential business grew into commercial construction as well. In their career they built over 120 homes and 15 large commercial projects. They also started a real estate business where my grandfather would build the houses and my grandmother would sell them through her realty company, Frakes Realty. They were quite a dynamic duo.

Their business was able to employee their two sons in the summertime. The wages my father and his brother made from working on their construction crews were enough to put them through college.

The tradition carries on

My dad, fresh from the construction site attended the University of Minnesota and earned his PharmD in Pharmacy. At this time the first Apple computers were just coming out and he had purchased one of the first ones. A good chunk of his studies revolved around the use of mathematical modeling of drug dosing. After graduation he and two of his friends decided to start a consulting business based on the principles they learned in that college program. They married their new computing power with the systems they had learned.

While computers at that time were very limited, they started with writing programs on calculators for doctors to calculate drug doses. This technology was innovative at the time but not widely adapted and hard to monetize. They kept the lights on doing consulting for different nursing homes to keep the lights on and their development going.

It was during this time they discovered inefficiencies and errors in nursing home dosages, and billing processes. This sparked the idea of using software to manage these issues as they were impossibly complex. They were able to sell this software to hospitals all over the United States.

The innovation continued with programs aimed at a new industry at the time, home health care. The waves they were making led them to getting purchased by a larger nursing home pharmacy organization. This company was getting ready to introduce a new IPO and the board was looking for something to add something more exciting to their mundane business. They traveled across the country to 4 cities in one day presenting this newly acquired tech before ending on the NYSE to ring the closing bell.

Not long after the IPO that company was purchased again by a larger company which spun off the software company again as its own publicly traded entity.

That company grew and expanded services into new areas including a project with former colleagues from the college of Pharmacy called “Pharmaceutical Care.  This program generated new business and three textbooks used in colleges all over the country.   Medicare found the savings in drug costs generated by the services and documented in the software were valuable enough to include in today’s Medicare Part D services.

My dad retired after 39 years in the business he started. He stuck around long enough to see it get acquired once more by United Health Care.

The common thread.

All our stories are unique in the businesses we worked in. However, our paths were very similar. We saw the opportunity, acted on it, and continued to grow and innovate in our fields. For both my Father and I, we got to see the inner workings of a business started by the generation before. Growing up and seeing the hard work it takes to be an entrepreneur was inspiring. I owe my father a lot for the lessons I’ve learned from him.

Kids are always watching, observing, and being influenced by the people around them. My childhood was immersed in my fathers business as well. Playing in his office as he worked on weekends and seeing him working all hours of the day.  My son is now enjoying the same childhood. Entrepreneurship has been extremely challenging and rewarding in my life. If my journey inspires my son to do something similar that will be the ultimate reward.

- Lets hear your family in business story! Post below or email me at


Be the first to comment.
All comments are moderated before being published.