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Anderson recognized as ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’

MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Entrepreneurs organization recently awarded Chippewa/Choctaw, David Anderson, its most treasured honor – Entrepreneur of the Year – before a standing-room-only crowd of Midwest businessmen in an impressive formal ceremony in downtown Minneapolis.

Better known as “Famous Dave,” the barbecue restaurant king, Anderson greeted the chamber gathering of several hundred corporate and business leaders with the leadership chants he appears to have patented as a part of his motivational lectures.

“I feel happy … I feel heal-thy … I feel terrific!” exclaimed the roomful of executives, who stood next to their banquet chairs flailing their arms, as Anderson made them do it a second time. Once satisfied that they exhibited the appropriate amount of energy, he launched into his acceptance remarks with a personal account of his struggle in life.

“My story is no different than any other entrepreneur in the world,” he stated as he described his early years as an Indian boy looking up in the night sky at millions of stars and wondering if he would grow up to simply be one of millions, or if he had a chance to make a difference in the lives of others.

Anderson was introduced earlier in the award ceremony as an “enthusiastic advocate of the American dream” by Steve Schussler, founder of Rainforest
Cafe and T-Rex: A Prehistoric Family Adventure. The audience was treated to personal tales of their auto trips together during which they talked for hours about their ideas and plans. Young entrepreneurs need a sounding board, and the two served that purpose for one another. Anderson and Schussler supported each other in their enterprises.

“Dave was my first investor and wrote a check for $250,000 that would start the Rainforest Cafe,” Schussler divulged to the audience.

“He gives lectures to everyone around him; he really believes in what he does, he has passion, and gives things away. … I am very proud of you, Dave,” Schussler added before motioning him to the podium.

“As a kid, I didn’t think I could succeed: then I heard [Hilary Hinton] ‘Zig’ Ziglar,” Anderson recalled. Anderson recounted the renowned motivational speaker’s expert use of storytelling, in this case about an articulate farmer, to drive home an invaluable lesson about life.

“If you have dreams,” he continued, “it will launch you to work hard in your life.”

At 19, Anderson joined the local chamber of commerce, attending every meeting. He didn’t realize it then, but businessmen were watching him even though he was continuously turned away by banks for requests of a $10,000 loan to resource his small florist business. Anderson didn’t know at the time what assets or collateral were, nor did he know anything about a business plan. Finally, a banker who observed him sell his entire inventory in one day gave him the check for $10,000.

“And right now, I’m working at raising $137 million to create a huge water park paradise and meeting resort north of Chicago,” he revealed to the audience.

“Can I get that done?” he questioned the entrepreneurs in the audience, as if expecting them to respond.

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“Wait until you see Key Lime Cove,” Anderson gleamed, uncovering a well-kept secret about the creation of his next great venture. The indoor water park resort is being billed as a destination paradise situated near Six Flags with a people market of 25 million.

Additionally, he’s conceptualized a new restaurant with exterior and interior designs, booths, decor, cookers and service displays. This will be used to get an actual feel for the new enterprise. Anderson spares no length to which he will go to create a profitable business.

The Minnesota Entrepreneurs organization defines an entrepreneur as “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise or business usually with considerable initiative and risk.” The organization views entrepreneurs as hard workers or workaholics, risk-takers, and achievement oriented. F.H. Knight said the entrepreneur is the economic functionary who undertakes responsibility of uncertainty, which by its very nature cannot be insured, capitalized or salaried. As such, they must be high-achievers, optimistic, reward-oriented, with a desire for excellence.

Previous Entrepreneur of the Year winners include Curt Carlson (worth $1.2 billion and head of Carlson Companies), Carl Pohlad (78th richest man in the United States, worth $2 billion, and former owner of the Minnesota Twins), Leann Chin (founder of the Leann Chin restaurants) and Irwin Jacobs (investor and chairman of Genmar Holdings).

Anderson reminded the audience that they, too, were special people. “We know what it’s like to believe in something that no one else does,” he confided.

“I pawned my wife’s jewelry,” he admitted as he described the lean years of a struggling career in enterprise development.

“I was so poor, I went to Kentucky Fried Chicken and licked other people’s fingers,” he joked as the audience responded with howls of laughter.

During the question-and-answer session following his talk, a young man shouted a question to him about what it was like working in Washington, D.C., for the president.

“It was very eye-opening,” he stated, then added, “and very frustrating.”

“With a $2 billion budget and 10,000 employees [in the BIA], I asked my immediate subordinates, ‘Where’s the employee orientation program?’” he continued. His staff reported that there were no personnel or human development programs, but once a year they have an employee update on policies and procedures.

“Then they wonder why they don’t get things done … we were gridlocked in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

Following the speech, dozens of entrepreneurs formed a line to purchase a signed copy of Anderson’s book, “Famous Dave’s LifeSkills for Success.”