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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.” 

Corporate Coach

HawksHeadShotAs one of the first 30 employees at Rollerblade, Inc., Lisa Svac Hawks ’85 was tasked with producing some of the first competitive in-line skating events across the U.S. to showcase the “blades.” Though she had never run a race, her job was to put people on skates, help them get in shape, and encourage them to have fun. She was part of the team that drove in-line skating into the cultural forefront as one of the fastest-growing sports of the time. When she and some ex-Rollerblade execs later launched and marketed “snow skates” in the U.S., these Sled Dogs caught on and were featured in a Newsweek story. The exposure and marketing resulted in Hawks’ traveling to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, to work with the Norwegian Military Ski Team that would put on a dramatic display of the snow skates during Opening and Closing ceremonies.

This marketing success convinced Hawks that she had found her niche in marketing and communication, and that her decision to forego the field of broadcasting—even after an internship at the local ABC-TV station—was the right one for her. At each step in her career since then, new positions seemed to call out her desire to “build” something—whether in terms of products, experiences, relationships, a fine-tuned team, or an unusual market launch. She loved finding undiscovered opportunities, using good communication tools, and assembling a good team—and she still loves the challenge and fun of doing it.

She uncovered such an opportunity at Paper Direct, a high-end specialty paper company, where she was given 45 days to convince the leadership that her alternative idea to existing market launch plans could work. She did so, and the company followed her lead toward specialty retailing to small businesses, setting up distribution networks all across the country at outlets that sold computers and printers.

Hawks later landed at Musicland, where she led the full gamut of communications—investor relations, public relations, employee communications, earnings releases, annual reports, investor reports, etc. Soon after, when the company was acquired by Best Buy, she was invited to take a leadership role in Best Buy’s communications department. She enjoyed some “phenomenal” experiences over the 12 years she worked there, including launches that involved The Rolling Stones, Bill Gates, Usher, and other pop culture figures. Continue reading “Corporate Coach”

Helping the Young to Do Better and Be Better

Joshua HarrisGrowing up in Chicago, Josh Harris ’08 hadn’t heard of Augsburg before, but when Auggie Coach Aaron Griess recruited him to play basketball, he discovered a smaller school in a big city, diverse, with a sense of community—and it all appealed to him. What he ended up taking with him upon graduation, however, was beyond his expectations.

Today, Harris is working with other community leaders in Baltimore on many initiatives, including one to build a network of individuals, businesses, and organizations who can provide internships, scholarships, and mentorship opportunities for high school students, many of whom may be less than hopeful about their future. He believes that young people who have already enjoyed some level of professional success are those who can best effect change in the likelihood of success for other young people, particularly African-Americans.

Working primarily through Alpha Phi Alpha, a community-service-oriented fraternity, Harris serves as managing editor of The Sphinx, the APA’s journal about what is happening in the African-American community, and how their members impact the world around them. APA has 703 chapters worldwide (both undergraduate and alumni). The fraternity is noted as historically the first inter-collegiate fraternity founded by African-American men. Harris joined while still a student at Augsburg. The fraternity claims alumni such as former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and currently has eight members in Congress. Continue reading “Helping the Young to Do Better and Be Better”