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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.” 

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”