Local business owner Mary Tjosvold was one of 10 Minnesota women inducted into the National Association of Women Business Owners, or NAWBO, Hall of Fame Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Tjosvold, commonly referred to as simply “Mary T,” was honored for her decades of owning and operating Mary T. Inc., an assisted living and senior living service company based on Coon Rapids. Mary T. Inc. has since expanded into home health care, rental and senior housing, human service programming, independent living services, hospice care and a music venue.
When Tjosvold found out she was being inducted, she was excited yet disappointed.
“My mother, who was my partner, just died, and she would been excited too,” Tjosvold said. “I’m disappointed to not have her (at the induction ceremony).”
NAWBO included Margaret Tjosvold as a special honoree for her contributions to Mary T. Inc. and for the way she inspired Mary Tjosvold throughout her business ownership.
Mary Quist-Newins, former president of NAWBO Minnesota, said NAWBO is an organization “by and for” women business owners.
“It’s important to not only speak to those women in business but to create a community of like-minded people,” Quist-Newins said. “Entrepreneurship can be lonely.”
One of the reasons NAWBO recognizes hall of fame inductees each year is because the organization wants other women to have role models they can look up to for inspiration, Quist-Newins said.
NAWBO highlights women who significantly contribute to female entrepreneurship in Minnesota.
This year’s theme for the induction ceremony was “Bridging the Generations,” which Quist-Newins said means women of the past, present and future are represented and honored.
“These are women who have a lasting impact,” she said.
NAWBO is a helpful resource for women looking to start their own business, Tjosvold said, because of the skills and opportunities the organization can provide.
Tjosvold opened her initial group home, Camilia Rose Group Home, with her mother, Margaret, in 1976. The home was created to serve people with multiple disabilities.
Since then, the business has expanded to Wisconsin, Maryland and Arizona.
In the ‘70s when Tjosvold started the business, she said it was much harder for women to get loans than it is now. Additionally, she didn’t have many women as classmates while she college, and there weren’t many women working in business at the time.
In 2014 Tjosvold opened Crooners Lounge and Supper Club, a jazz venue, in Fridley.
She opened the venue with her late husband, Larry Dunsmore, who was an entertainer. Dunsmore died shortly after the club opened, but Tjosvold still runs the venue to provide the community with quality entertainment and to honor her husband.
One of the lounge’s stages, the Dunsmore Room, is named after him.
Through all of Tjosvold’s business ventures, something she emphasizes is the feeling of community.
“How we treat our performers, customers and staff is all very connected to how I think about community,” she said.
Overall, Tjosvold said Minnesota is a worthwhile state for women to go into business.
This isn’t Tjosvold’s first recognition for her work. She’s received the Outstanding Achievement award from the University of Minnesota and the Local Legend award from General Mills in 2012.
In the end Tjosvold said she wants to help her staff help others.
“Our staff can say ‘I make a difference here,’” Tjosvold said.