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First mother, then daughter: Smead CEO has spent 53 years in family business

Sharon Hoffman Avent, CEO of Smead Manufacturing in Hastings, was recently inducted into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of Smean Manufacturing

The first woman inducted into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame was Ebba Hoffman in 1977. Her daughter, Sharon Hoffman Avent, CEO of Smead Manufacturing Company of Hastings, recently duplicated the honor.

Avent's grandparents started Smead Manufacturing. When her father died, she said her mother had two options. "She could sell the company, or she could come down here and go to work. She went to work."

Avent said she was proud of her mother's work, especially because she raised two children at the same time she attended all the meetings and events needed to run a business.

The ceremony for the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame was held July 26 in Minneapolis. Her son, Casey Avent, president of Smead Manufacturing, introduced her.

"My son went up to the podium first and gave a little speech," Avent said. "When I walked up there, and he was waiting for me, that was a special moment."

The Hall of Fame Class of 2018 included Avent and four men.

"Evidently they don't have a lot of women inducted," Avent said. "I think there are going to be more and more women now. There are more women in business, and they are doing very well. I was very proud to go and represent women."

In addition to success in business, Avent has been involved in many community activities. She has served on the boards of the Minnesota Historical Society, Regina Healthcare, Shattuck-St. Mary's School where she was named Trustee Emeritus, and Hastings Public Schools Foundation where she served as president. She has received awards from the Hastings Public Schools and the Hastings Chamber of Commerce among others.

"I like our business," Avent said. "It is full of wonderful people, and I really like our employees. I guess I wouldn't have stayed here if I hadn't liked them. It has been a family vision to keep this business going for as long as we can."

That vision has helped her achieve success in business. "I think you have to have a plan," she said, "but you have to have a plan that everyone can work with. You need to listen to your employees and other people around you."

Sometimes that means making changes. A few years ago, several people told her that paper was going to go away, and she would need to find another business. She disagreed.

"Paper will be here in some form or fashion," she said. "We can change. Maybe it won't be the same as before. The world is going to go around, and we can't stop it."

Avent, who has worked for Smead Manufacturing for 53 years, is proud of being inducted into the Hall of Fame. "To be awarded this award was really something, and our employees were really excited."

Steve Gardiner

Steve Gardiner taught high school English and journalism for 38 years in Montana and Wyoming.  He started working at the Republican Eagle in May 2018.  He focuses on features and outdoor stories.  

(651) 301-7872
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