Sandy Hansen-Wolff, owner of AgVenture Feed and Seed Inc, sees beyond the bottom line and into the needs of her community. For her, a successful business is one that gives back to its customers, its employees, and its community. Sandy’s goal is to give ten percent of the company’s net profits away each year to various needs and causes. She has a “pay it forward” state of mind.
Ten years ago, Sandy was in a very different situation. Following the death of her husband, she struggled not only with her personal loss, but also to keep the business out of bankruptcy. She was humbled by the outpouring of help that came her way from friends, family, employees and the community. “I was overwhelmed by the heart of people,” Sandy remembers.
It took a few years, but when she could finally exhale and take stock of how far she’d come, she knew she had found a mission. Sandy recognized that both she and her business were in a better place through the generosity and support of others; she vowed to herself that she would lead a purposeful life of giving. “Giving is a goal,” Sandy says, “a way of life, a responsibility. I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to give back or pay it forward to people who may not
Financially, Sandy supports many causes in her community, some of which are related to agriculture, such as Future Farmers of America and local 4-H groups. She does this in honor of her customers. She also supports local schools by donating to sports, special events, drama club, the after-prom party, the booster club, and more.
Churches are an important priority for Sandy; not just her own church but the churches of her community.
She also gives to the city’s Kraut ‘N Wurst festival each year. When she sees a family in need due to illness or death, Sandy will be sure to help. “I once was there,” Sandy says. “So I understand how that is.”
Sandy is also generous with her time. She serves on the Volunteer Advisory Committee at St. Benedict’s Monastery, she serves on the Economic Development Board of Watkins, the board of Central Minnesota Women, she is a volunteer wish granter with Make-a-Wish and she has worked as a hospice volunteer.
One important way to give of her time is to be a good listener. Sandy says there have been numerous times when people have come to her and sat in her office to talk about a loved one who has been diagnosed with a serious illness. “That is the most awesome and humbling experience. They know I’ll listen because I’ve been there.” Sandy is always open to listening and vows she will never say, “not now, we’re too busy.”
Giving of one’s time is one of the most personal and generous acts of compassion. Sandy lights up when she mentions Make-a-Wish. The boy she’s working with is fascinated by how masks are made for movies. His wish is to work on the construction of a mask with a special effects artist and learn how it’s done with a goal of making masks himself. She tells me how great she felt when she left the boy’s home. “Sometimes, I wonder who gets more out of it, me, or the person I’m giving to.”
Currently, Sandy is working on creating a scholarship fund for people going into agriculture or an agriculture-related career. She hopes to have the fund up and running within a year or two. “We’ll probably offer a few scholarships each year.”
Especially important to Sandy is supporting the local 4-H groups and their participation in county and state fairs. “I don’t have my own children,” Sandy says, “so I kind of consider the customers’ children part of me.” She believes it’s a way of giving back to her customers while nurturing learning and life skills in children. “We always give at fair time for all of their fair projects, and that just makes me so proud. They’ve got projects that are usually about some sort of agriculture. They’re showing cattle, they’re growing a garden….”
Sandy has made it a goal to help with the expenses incurred by participants in 4-H projects. Sandy looks for need and gives on a continuing basis throughout the year. Sometimes, someone will bring a particular need to her attention or it might be a situation that she reads about in the paper. Sandy approaches giving with an attitude of faith. “I don’t look at the books, I know if we give we’ll be taken care of.”
At the end of the year, she sits down with her bookkeeper to determine if the ten percent goal has been met. Then, they decide how to fill the gap. This past year, she did something new. She asked her employees to pick a charity or organization that was important to them to satisfy her charitable-giving goals.
As a serious business woman, Sandy sets aggressive goals for company growth every year. “I think it’s our responsibility. If we grow and we’re successful at growth and we have a better bottom line, then that’s more that we can impact our community by giving back.” The focus of Sandy’s giving is local. It feels more meaningful to give to the community that supports her and her business. She wants to enhance the lives of those around her and support civic causes that matter to her customers and employees.
Giving is what Sandy has chosen as her path, giving is a priority; it’s how she has deliberately defined her life. If what neuroscience research suggests is true, that generosity feels good and lights up the pleasure centers of our brains, Sandy Hansen-Wolff must be one very happy person.
"They're out at the county fairs, supporting the kids in person, and also sending them special letters in the mail and that type of thing."
AgVenture is a WBENC Certified & TG/ED Certified Business