Northwest Minnesota business owner named Minnesota Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Garrett Larson, owner of Ronnings in International Falls, Baudette, Thief River Falls and Roseau, was named the 2023 Minnesota Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. – Though Ronnings has been open in northern Minnesota for decades, company-wide changes in the last few years have led to growth in the clothing store, says the company’s owner.
“This business is 60 years old now, but we’re doing things in the last two to three years that have never been done at the store,” said Garrett Larson, owner of Ronnings.
Larson, 29, who took over the family business in 2020, says his willingness to try new things and the mentality that change is good has helped him find success at a young age.
Larson was recently named the 2023 Minnesota Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The award is given to an individual who is the owner and operator of a small business, under the age of 30.
“Some things have been trial and error, and haven’t worked, but the mentality of not doing what has always been done, I feel like, has been a big reason this award was won,” he said.
Ronnings, which has locations in International Falls, Baudette, Roseau and Thief River Falls, sells clothing, outerwear, footwear, gifts and locally-made items.
“Succeeding in small business at any age is an accomplishment to be recognized,” said Brian McDonald, district director for the SBA in Minnesota in a press release. “It’s exciting to be able to honor young entrepreneurs like Garrett and know they are thriving thanks to some extra help they have received from the SBA and our trusted resource partners.”
Ronnings opened in 1964 in International Falls and was purchased by Larson’s family in 2001. They opened a second location in Baudette in 2003. Locations in Roseau and Thief River Falls opened in 2017 and 2019, respectively.
Larson started managing some of the Ronnings locations in 2016 after graduating college with a degree in business administration and transitioned to a corporate-level position overseeing store operations in 2018.
“When I came on full-time, I got more and more into it, just trying to improve what was already there,” he said.
Working with SBA and Northwest Small Business Development Center, he purchased all the Ronnings stock and took over as the owner and operator of the business in 2020.
Since becoming the owner of the company, he has introduced benefits for employees like an incentive program, health insurance and a 401k with 6% company match on top of increasing employees’ annual compensation.
“Getting our employees on board to try to improve the store has been a big reason a lot of our growth has come in the last two years,” Larson said.
And the business is still growing. An expansion of the original location in International Falls is planned for later this year, and construction is expected to take a year to 16 months to complete, Larson said. The company is also searching for a building to house a fifth location, possibly in Park Rapids or Detroit Lakes.
“We feel we’re ready for another one,” Larson said. “It’s been four years since we expanded to another location, so we’re doing everything on our end to get ready for another store.”
With stores in communities of less than 10,000 people, the company strives to create a store as high in quality as similar stores in bigger communities in Minnesota, said Larson.
“It’s kind of cool that they recognize something from these small, rural areas when really, for this award, it’s statewide,” said Larson.