Anna Hagen and Nikki Hollerich, Hagen and Oats

Anna Hagen spied a big industrial band saw collecting dust in her in-laws’ garage and was intrigued. It hadn’t been touched for some time, but she was sure she could put it to good use creating an art piece for her mantle and had an idea of what she’d do—if she could just get her hands on that saw. Anna told her husband, who talked his parents into letting them take the saw. As the couple drove home with the huge piece of machinery jammed into their vehicle, Anna called her sister, Nikki Hollerich, to tell her the news. Nikki shared her enthusiasm for the newly acquired power tool and they set a date to work on the project together.

The sisters were happy and successful in their careers—Anna as a marriage and family therapist and Nikki as director of operations for a national restaurant franchise. They tapped into their creative sides in their free time, doing all sorts of arts and crafts together. They’d grown up doing projects as a family. When friends were headed out of town with their families over summer break, the sisters were bonding with their dad fixing cars or helping him build a wood strip canoe in the garage. He’d share life lessons during their time together, encourage his daughters not to be limited by gender biases and pursue their passions, regardless of what others might think.

The art piece for Anna’s mantle started like many of their other projects together. They did a bit of research, practiced using their new tool and then jumped in, sketching and cutting out the silhouette of a buck on a large piece of lumber. After more cutting, as well as a bit of distressing, sanding and staining, the result was a one-of-a-kind art piece perfect for above the fireplace.

Their friends and family agreed. Anna and Nikki posted an image of their handiwork on social media, and the reactions were overwhelmingly positive. Those initial posts led to inquiries from people who wanted a similar piece for their home or cabin. So the sisters began making and selling them. Each time a buyer displayed a piece online, they’d get requests for more. To keep up with demand, they both began working on orders in their garages at home. While they never officially planned on launching a business, they were having a blast doing it as a side hustle and began looking for a more official space to house a full-time business.

In 2016, Anna and Nikki found a space for rent in a building in Newport, Minnesota and officially launched Hagen and Oats, a business specializing in custom wood décor and signage. Nikki left her longtime corporate job to work solely in the business. In addition to what had become their signature deer plaque, they began featuring more animals, states and well-known lakes. They added game boards as well and continued to grow their product line and the business by listening to the feedback of their customers and fans.

Today, Hagen and Oats products are available on their website and at various retail outlets throughout the Twin Cities. They participate in several pop-up shops and markets all year long. The business now occupies almost all of its original building—nearly 5,000 square feet—including a space at the front for retail sales and woodworking classes.

Anna recently joined Nikki in the business full-time and also sees clients in her therapy practice one day a week. The women lead a team of 22 employees, almost all women who hadn’t tried woodworking before joining Hagen and Oats. The sisters take great pride in challenging biases about which industries and jobs women should work in, and also about what women are capable of—like operating power tools and doing carpentry. Empowering women is foundational to their business and they love seeing its impact. “It’s amazing to see how a woman’s attitude and posture completely changes after she uses a nail gun or power saw,” Anna said.

Hagen and Oats is also committed to giving back. Their “Stainbow” collection of rainbow stained art initially benefitted victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando and today supports a number of organizations that serve the LGBTQ community. And this spring, Anna and Nikki joined four other women business owners launching Six for Good—a new retail collaborative at Rosedale Center in Roseville, Minnesota. The founders are dedicated to using their purpose-driven businesses to make a difference in the lives of others and the world.

To learn more about Anna and Nikki’s businesses, visit HagenAndOats.com and SixForGood.com.

Photo: Hagen and Oats

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