When I found out I’d be travelling to Minot, North Dakota, I felt an immediate chill in my Floridian blood. But something very special was happening in Minot: our President, Stein Ove Fenne, was being inducted into the Scandinavian American Hall of Fame.
As the Tupperware community knows very well, Stein Ove fully embraces his Norwegian heritage. Many have received emails, and some lucky few a handwritten note, with his *big Norwegian smile* reference. He has toured high-achieving Sales Force qualifiers through his native land. He also believes strongly in the importance of the Scandinavian management model, which fosters innovation and engagement in a non-hierarchical culture.
The Hall of Fame awards are part of the Norsk Høstfest: an annual festival celebrating Scandinavian culture and heritage. In its thirty-ninth year, it’s the largest of its kind in the country, with tens of thousands in attendance each year.
Luckily, upon our arrival that morning, it was a beautiful 70° F, with the sun shining down on the city where preparations were in full swing. The three ladies behind the desk at our hotel even sported Viking helmets and long braids.
The first event on the itinerary: a luncheon packed with local businesspeople, politicians, organizers of the fest and all of the fest’s special guests. Stein Ove was the keynote speaker. But before he could even make it into the ballroom, he was stopped to do a quick spot for the local news. As one of only three inductees this year, he was clearly the man of the hour.
During the luncheon introductions, a delegation of thirty people from Stein Ove’s birthplace of Voss, Norway, stood and waved hello. Their presence was a happy coincidence for Stein Ove, making him feel even more at home. As the luncheon drew to a close, it was his turn to speak. He talked about moving to the U.S. at sixteen, moving back to Norway to purse a military career, then coming back to the U.S. to pursue the American Dream. His story and, no doubt, his success, elicited a standing ovation.
From the luncheon, we jetted to another hotel so he could speak at his YDream Seminar for Tupperware Sales Force Members in the area. Though the fifty people in attendance made up a smaller group than usual for a YDream, the mood in the room was electric. Everyone clearly felt very special to have Stein Ove in their fairly small town in North Dakota.
Throughout his two-hour seminar, I watched the faces in the audience. I saw smiles, tears and moments of recognition and resolve. One slide of his presentation shares his email address and he asks everyone to send him their stories and their new commitments. Another slide reads: “the real important person is the one that makes everyone else feel real important.” It’s clearly his guiding principle, not just today, but every day.
At the end, he hugs each and every one of them goodbye. I was reminded of a photo of Brownie Wise, the original home party pioneer and the Tupperware Home Parties VP throughout the fifties. She was greeting each person at a similar event, sixty years ago.
Stein Ove embodies a lot of what Brownie Wise set in motion for our company, and a generation of entrepreneurial women. He oft repeats her quote that “If you build the people, they’ll build the business.” He carries a transcript of her 1953 Manager Seminar, reading from it during his own seminar and other special moments.
I saw genuine moments over and over again between Stein Ove and each Sales Force Member he met, the way he leaned in and listened. The way he often saw more in them than they saw in themselves, as Brownie did. “Building people” means seeing beyond sales to help them make their lives better: it’s what we’ve been doing for nearly 70 years.
It’s why three of the tables at the Scandinavian American Hall of Fame gala dinner were made of up Sales Force Members cheering him on. Business Leader Stormi Proulx and her amazing organization, Harmony Sales, have such a wonderful presence in this community. Business Leader Melissa Tschosik and retired Business Leaders Ken and Karlene Elfstrum also made the four hour drive from Fargo. Ken and Karlene haven’t missed the Norsk Hostfest in 25 years! Ken’s Norwegian grandparents settled in the area and the farm is still in the family, so the fest is a wonderful time to gather with family and celebrate heritage. And on this night, Ken and Karlene also gathered with their Tupperware family.
As Stein Ove’s name was called, Stormi led our tables in singing a round of “Tupper Feeling,” as has been done by inspired Tupper audiences for decades, celebrating our Tupper heritage. It was a fun juxtaposition with the Viking wind instruments being played throughout the night.
After the dinner, and the akavit, all the Tupperladies and gents gathered around Stein Ove for photos and congratulations. One of the sweetest surprises came when Dolores Kizima, a Tupperware Consultant for 54 years, began speaking Norwegian with Stein Ove. “My parents spoke it at home, but I don’t have anyone to speak it with anyone anymore. I love to whenever I have the chance,” she said.
There were a lot of moments that made Stein Ove nostalgic for home, like when a man from Voss told him that he knew Stein Ove’s father, and even remembered Stein Ove as a child. But what was clear to me was that because of his tireless dedication to really building people, the genuine connections he creates and the inspiration he shares, whether he’s in Minnesota or Minot, Orlando or Voss, with his Tupperware family around him, he’s always home.