Friday, December 10, 2010

My Niece, the Entrepreneurial Viking Wonder

My niece Shelby Nelson is an entrepreneurial wonder in our family.  Actually she takes after her older brother who also has that entrepreneurial talent. Shelby graduated from Gustavus Adolphus and went to Minneapolis where she landed a very good job managing pension benefits for a world wide broad band company.  I will never forget the day she called her mother and told her that she was quitting her job, selling her house and moving home to research and start her own business.

It was any parent's nightmare, I suppose.  Spending a bloody fortune financing an expensive college education was supposed to bring career and financial growth and stability for your child.  Shelby was more interested in opening a Scandinavian store in downtown Sioux Falls that celebrated her family heritage. Home she came and she spent almost 9 months working on her business plan, getting financing and enlisting all her family members in painting a storefront, and stocking shelves.

She named the store after her grandfather John Holsen and her great grandparents Rasmus and Magnhild Holsen. Rasmus and Magnhild immigrated to the United States from Norway. Actually, Grandpa Rasmus came from a tiny village called Holsen in Norway.

He and his brothers all immigrated from Norway. Tom came first in 1900, Rasmus in 1906, Louis in 1909 and Sam in 1914. The Holsen brothers were hard workers. Tom and Rasmus worked for the railroad. Louis was a cement contractor and Sam worked for a bridge company. Entrepreneurial Holsens, all of them.

The entrepreneurial spirit lives on in the Holsen offspring.Hence the store name. Grandma Magnihild came from Jaren. They met in Moorhead, Minnesota and became parents of 3 sons, Roland, Oscar, and John.

This is a picture of Shelby and Grandpa John at the opening of Holsen Hus 8 years ago.

It is hard to believe that Shelby celebrated her 8th anniversary this past October 2010. She has become a seasoned buyer, a shrewd businesswoman and a ardent genealogist of our family heritage. To say I am proud of her seems inadequate, somehow.  She works so hard with little to no time off. Retail is tough but especially so with the economic meltdown.  However, she adjusted her business model, and worked hard to grow her customer base through loyalty, a sense of heritage and with the offering of unique and genuine Scandinavian products.

Blessings come in many forms in our lives. The Holsen brothers' dreams of a new life celebrated everyday and immortalized in a little Scandinavian store in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota. A dream of a little girl who grew up to embrace a strong Norwegian heritage that she learned from her mother, passed down from her grandfather, passed down by his mother and father in a new land.


  1. Jen
    A lovely tribute to an exceptional young woman.
    Shelby has created a welcoming, unique shop, she deserves much success.


  2. Congrats to Shelby on her success.

  3. I consider it a great privilege to work for Shelby. It was my mother Helen's Norwegian
    heritage that caused me to apply at Holsen Hus after her passing in 2005. My Norwegian grandfather was Henrik Grondale, and my cousin Jan Gaare, of Koppang, Norway, exclaimed upon visiting Holsen Hus, "This is more Norway than Norway." Kimberly Utke Svanoe

  4. Very nicely said. Holsen Hus is a wonderful store, a direct reflection of the Shelby and her wonderful family, as anyone who knows all of you can attest. Congratulations Shelby. I always say the best dreamers are those who make their dreams come true. Your dream is a gift for all of us.
    Ona Reker

  5. I am Duane Holsen, son of Thomas Holsen and grandson of Ingolf (1912)