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Surrender Salmon: A Family Business

From left to right: Blake, Mark, Grant, and Bryce.
From left to right: Blake, Mark, Grant, and Bryce.

Grant Niver graduated from Augsburg in 2013 with a degree in Communication Studies. He credits the decision to make the transition to Minnesota from his home state of Alaska as the top three decisions he has ever made. “Moving allowed me to experience living in a new state and I met my wife down here,” Grant shared. He also has strong family ties in the state with both his parents growing up in Prior Lake. Although he only spent two years at Augsburg, he developed lasting friendships and discovered his entrepreneurial drive through the courses he took. “In the more advanced communication classes, we talked a lot about marketing, business, and how to build your brand,” said Grant. And it was in these classes that the idea to start a business with his family began. 

Starting when he was 11 years old, Grant has fished in Bristol Bay, Alaska on his family’s boat, Surrender. “I would always get seasick growing up, so fishing was never a favorite activity of mine,” he reflected amusingly. As he found his sea legs, Grant’s passion for catching fish (specifically salmon) and educating others on sustainable fishing grew. “One year, I brought back around 200 pounds of salmon for friends and family in Minnesota and it grew progressively from there.” Surrender Salmon was established in 2017 with the goal of bringing the world’s best wild salmon to Minnesotans, directly from the fisherman. Grant’s father, Mark, runs the boat and Grant and his two younger brothers, Blake and Bryce, make up the crew on deck.  

Freshly cut salmonSUSTAINABLE FISHING

Sustainability is a core tenet to the Surrender Salmon business. “We work closely with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.” Grant said. Bristol Bay is heavily regulated since it is the world’s largest sustainable salmon run. It accounts for roughly 75% of the world’s sockeye salmon supply. “They literally count each and every salmon that escapes up the river to spawn in the lake. Once they reach the targeted “escapement number”, the fishing season is open and we are fishing around the clock.” There is a short window to catch fish, and a typical run is from mid-June through the end of July. Flash freezing the salmon within 12-24 hours of catching it is crucial in making sure it stays fresh for consumers for up to two years. “If you’re buying salmon in the Midwest, it’s best to buy frozen and even better to know who caught it,” Grant said. On top of sustainability, all of the packaging they use to ship their salmon is 100% recyclable! 

 

OPERATING A SMALL BUSINESS

A picture of the Niver family boat, Surrender.
The Niver family boat, Surrender.

Surrender Salmon previously worked with local businesses such as Lunds & Byerlys in 2018-2019, as well as other local restaurants, but they have since switched to e-commerce. “It was a hard pivot to make, but it has allowed us to have a more robust business where we could be in more control,” Grant said. Since transitioning to online-only purchases, they have been able to expand to nationwide shipping. “Our first shipping with FedEx is something I am extremely proud of. We’ve come a long way since tabling at farmers markets, gyms, and hand-delivering all of our orders,” Grant said. “Starting a business can feel insurmountable, but for anyone interested in pursuing this path, I recommend two things: 1) find a good mentor, and 2) find someone you can trust as a business partner. Having those resources will make a huge impact.” In fact, one of Grant’s high school friends, Stuart Krueger, moved to Minnesota in 2016 and has taken the lead on helping Surrender Salmon’s marketing and reach. “We definitely would not be where we are today without him.” 

 

Now that Grant’s business has grown in recent years and he has found himself shipping salmon to some Auggies, he is thrilled to share his family’s story with more people in the community. “I am so grateful to Augsburg and I’m appreciative of any opportunities to pay it forward and make more connections by raising awareness about what Surrender Salmon is all about.” 

Measured Impact

Grazzini-June16
Frank Grazzini ’96.

Growing up with an entrepreneurial father planted the seed in his mind that running his own business could make a lot of sense—and was doable. But the idea really took root in his adult life, when Frank Grazzini ’96 realized, after 12 years of working for larger corporations, that this work wasn’t a very good fit for him. He’d much rather create something new than fine-tune an existing structure. So he switched gears. In fact, starting a new business seems to have become a way of life for him, and he sees himself as a serial entrepreneur of sorts. He is now involved in his fourth early-stage business (his third technology start-up), with the potential to scale into a much larger business. The down side? He’d much rather start a new remodeling project than mow the grass!

At Prevent Biometrics, his latest venture, Grazzini is working with two other co-founders and the Cleveland Clinic to commercialize a groundbreaking technology to monitor and measure the force of head impacts to athletes (both male and female) in sports such as football, lacrosse, hockey, and soccer. He says that if a concussion is treated early, it usually results in a full recovery; if not, there is a much greater risk the athlete will suffer permanent neurological damage, even CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) or Second Impact Syndrome, which can cause death.

In spite of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s estimate that over half of all sports-related concussions in the U.S. (approximately 3.8 million each year) are never identified, response has been slow. But now, there finally seems to be a growing awareness that the problem must be taken seriously, as indicated by laws in all 50 states, as well as recent statements by professional sports league representatives. Though some would make the case for ending football altogether (most notably, Dr. Bennet Omalu, whose exposure of the widespread consequences of NFL injuries was dramatized in the recent film, Concussion), Grazzini believes that better monitoring of injuries, plus a few changes to the rules, would likely be sufficient to keep football a healthy sport for kids.

PreventBio graphicPrevent’s head-impact monitor, currently being tested by athletes, has been in development for six years and is expected to be officially released for sale in December 2016, though various inquiries to the company have already been made by researchers in the military and the NCAA for earlier sales. Continue reading “Measured Impact”

Auggie Alumni in the Classroom: Bill Koschak ’91

Bill Koschak Auggies are everywhere, including back in the classroom!  Last week, Bill Koschak ’91 came back to speak to the seniors in the Business and Religion Keystone class led by Lori Lohman & Josh Miller. His topic? To speak about his vocational journey, his career path, and advice he would give students today.

Koschak had much to share about his journey from entry level job to partner at KPMG, to vice president of finance at General Mills, and now chief financial officer at YA Engage (formerly known as Young America). He noted he was especially thankful for his adviser, business professor Stu Stoller who first encouraged him to look into public accounting. Koschak made sure Stoller would be in attendance so that he could personally thank him.

Additionally, Koschak shared that he has had three strong mentors in his career who were instrumental to his career growth. These mentors were workplace leaders he admired for their management style, ethical behavior, and focus on work-life balance. He made a point to engage with these leaders and check in with them regularly. What started as occasional meetings turned into mentoring relationships that opened up many doors. He challenged the students to seek similar relationships as they start their careers.

Koschak is one of many alumni who have been invited to share their experiences with current students. If you are interested in speaking in classrooms or sharing your stories, contact Volunteer & Alumni Engagement Manager Katie Radford ’12 at radford@augsburg.edu.

Designing Sustainability

Glover-for-webWhen Stephanie Glover ’04 was only five, her mother gave her a copy of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree—in French—another of many attempts by her parents to expose her to other cultures and encourage her to try new things. Throughout her childhood, many of her friends came from different backgrounds, and diversity of experience became a given.

That way of life was reinforced at Augsburg, where she discovered that the wide cultural swath of her classmates’ backgrounds was a significant enhancement to her education in International Relations, as was her study abroad, in Aix en Provence, France.

Later, after a four-year stint of teaching in France and South Korea, Glover decided to volunteer in the Republic of Georgia—an experience that she now views as life-changing. Armed with very little knowledge about the country, she spent about a week in foreign language training, then made her way to the home of her host family, high in the Borjomi Mountains. They spoke little English, and Glover’s Georgian was shaky at best, so early days were challenging. But transformation lay ahead.

Trips down the mountain took about an hour, and consequently were infrequent. The host family owned cows, chickens, and pigs—and they grew some crops, so the food Glover ate during that year was primarily homemade and natural. She came to an appreciation for an organic lifestyle, and felt a growing concern for the impact that eating and buying habits have on the environment. Her experience in the Borjomi Mountains would eventually inform her career choice.

Continue reading “Designing Sustainability”