A veteran saleswoman who revived a collapsing printing company she acquired in 2014 will be honored later this month as the Minnesota small-business woman of the year by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).
CEO Wendi Breuer of what is now SeaChange Print Innovations of Plymouth will receive the top award from the Minnesota NAWBO chapter for demonstrating long-term "innovation and perseverance" until she achieved success.
"Wendi is a true visionary and gets results through inspiring her team," said Mary Nutting, NAWBO board president. "She has been able to cut through barriers and achieve success in a highly male-dominated [printing] industry.
Breuer left a sales job and led an investment group that put $10 million into acquiring and investing in new equipment, printing technology and IT infrastructure at SeaChange. Sales grew 75% to $21 million over five years, as employment rose from 65 to 100.
"It truly was a leap of faith," Breuer said in a telephone interview. "I saw the opportunity to start a brand-new company. I was 44, and it was time, if I was ever going to start my own company."
Breuer said that the company had been neglected, right down to its leaking roof.
"Employees hadn't had reviews or raises for eight years. The air conditioning didn't work. Zero new-business development. It went out of business," she said. "I acquired the assets. We fixed the air conditioning and much more."
Breuer said new leadership has been the key, including in sales and customer service, new hires and a reinvigorated workforce.
"We created a culture where people are excited about their work," she said. "We started something new to meet the contemporary needs of customers. We redesigned our space with a new décor. We look more like a marketing agency."
The NAWBO judges also cited Breuer's commitment to community, including volunteering at her children's school and for Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, Girl Scouts and Toys for Tots.
Kim Bartmann, the Minneapolis-based restaurateur since 1991, will be awarded NAWBO's lifetime-achievement award. Bartmann is chief executive of the Bartmann Group, and owns Red Stag Supperclub, Pat's Tap, Tiny Diner and other establishments. She is credited with being a good employer who "supports neighborhoods and catalyzes a city," according to the NAWBO judges.
The NAWBO awards are June 20 at the Midpointe Event Center in St. Paul.