From corporate accountant to Kona Ice entrepreneur

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Patty Bremer, a former accounting director for Boston Scientific, who lost her job to consolidation and invested about $100,000 in a Kona Ice franchise. Bremer is pictured with her daughter Haley (left), who assists, and the truck.

More anecdotal proof that small businesses are started by women, immigrants and corporate castaways:

After more than 20 years, it was time to go in early 2011 for Patty Bremer, director of finance and accounting, when the regional office of Boston Scientific merged Bremer's cardio intervention business with another business unit.

Bremer, whose husband has a good job and who had saved some money, ponied up about $100,000 to become the Twin Cities area's first Kona Ice franchisee last June, including a colorful truck broadcasting calypso music.

"It's fun, and it sure is different than what I used to do," said Bremer, who focuses on youth- and nonprofit-related events and fundraisers in the southwest suburbs.

"It's a fairly simple business model. I sure can handle the accounting. The sales and marketing and operations, I'm learning. And I was fortunate to be in a financial position to do this.''

Bremer says Kona Ice is popular at day cares, youth sports and school fundraisers. Customers get to mix-and-match flavors in three sizes that range to $4 apiece.

SOMALI IMMIGRANT EXPANDS BUSINESS WITH HER SECRET SAUCE

A Cub Foods store in south Minneapolis brings to 86 the number of area retailers selling Sadia's Gourmet hot sauces.

Sadia Korad Abdi, who immigrated with her family from Somalia in 1999, was a lifelong cook working as a housekeeper in a nursing home in 2007 when she decided to turn her avocation into a business.

The busy working mom is now CEO of an eight-person business that expects to sell more than $1.2 million worth of wholesale products this year. Made at a Columbia Heights plant, Sadia's Gourmet sauces sell for up to $5 per 12-ounce bottle through retailers and her website, www.sadiassauce.com.

Abdi, who has been expanding production briskly, grew up in war-torn Somalia, and she peddled tomatoes and vegetables to feed her siblings before escaping to America. She's grateful to business mentors, including the African Development Center, the nonprofit economic developer of many immigrant businesses, and a Minneapolis micro-finance program for taking the business from her kitchen to a commercial enterprise.

Abdi says the "secret sauce" in her products is rooted in 12 all-natural ingredients including tomatoes and peppers locally grown in Minnesota, and dates and tamarind that make the sauces tasty and high in vitamins and nutrients.

"I didn't know there would be so many people who like my product," Abdi said. "I go to farmers markets and stores to meet customers. I love that."

In gratitude, Abdi donates 10 percent of operating profit to her philanthropic partner, Minneapolis-based American Refugee Committee.

SHORT TAKES

•The Minnesota Business Ethics Awards were awarded last week to Murphy Automotive of Lakeville (small business), Western National Insurance of Edina (medium) and Schwan Food (large) of Marshall for their promoting of "ethical conduct in the workplace, the marketplace and the community."

The MBEA has recognized 38 Minnesota-based businesses, ranging in size from less than 10 employees to more than 150,000, that have exemplified ethical business conduct and practices.

"Being an award recipient signifies that a company puts top priority on ethics from leadership to the front line in everyday business conduct and transactions," said David Rodbourne, co-chair of MBEA. The program was founded in 1999 by the Twin Cities Chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals and the Center for Ethical Business Cultures (CEBC) at the University of St. Thomas. In 2009 the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants joined as a sponsor. More information: www.mnethicsaward.org.

•The CFA Society of Minnesota has organized the biggest regional-company bazaar on May 24 at the Minneapolis Convention Center since the old Piper Jaffray investment conferences of a generation ago. This is an investor conference sponsored by institutional investors, including Mairs and Power and Disciplined Growth Investors. The 35 presenters will include top brass from Medtronic, Donaldson, Best Buy, Graco. More info at www.investMNt.org.

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