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Small Business Spotlight: Ferguson Books & More

Alerus | JUN 21, 2014

About the Owner

As a business student at the Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, Dane Ferguson remembers sitting in a lecture when the instructor asked, “Would anyone in here want to open their own business someday?” At that time, Dane did not raise his hand. What he wanted was a stable job with benefits.

Following his graduation from college, Dane started his career in retail as a sales associate. One of the companies Dane was employed with had extensive education on business management. This planted the seed for his dream of becoming an owner of his own business. “I read the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad and I realized I wanted to create my own wealth by using my own ideas. At the time, the product I was currently selling was not fulfilling me and I had a desire to do something that I truly believed in,” said Dane.

In December 2009, the UND Bookstore did not renew its contract with Barnes and Noble and another popular bookstore B. Dalton had plans to close shop. B. Dalton wasn’t closing because of the low sales; at the time they were making over $900,000 in sales a year. “I recognized an opportunity. The community still had a need for a bookstore, but the big bookstores were leaving town,” said Dane.

“I saw this as an opportunity and thought this would be the time. My wife and I were just about to become parents for the first time, but decided it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up,” said Dane.

Economically speaking, 2009 was not a great time to start a business. It was just after the economic crisis; legislation was still being worked out and lending was hard to come by.

In order to present a strong business case to a lender, Dane had some homework to do. He met with Josh Klug of the Small Business Development Center to finalize projections, evaluate the market, and get a better idea of the competitive landscape.
On June 11, 2010, Ferguson Books and Media opened their doors for the first time. The original location was in the Menards Strip Mall on 32nd Ave, just off of I-29. “I was convinced we needed to be accessible to the high traffic of the 32nd Ave corridor,” said Dane. However, books take up space, and Ferguson Books & Media was running out of space quickly. Eventually, a second satellite store was opened in the Columbia Mall.

Location is everything and the move proved to be the right one. The new store is located in the Grand Cities Mall. Within 6 weeks of opening, sales at the new Grand Cities Mall location surpassed what the two stores had for sales combined.Ferguson Books and Media continued to grow and they needed a new space to accommodate their expanding book inventory and their new product line of children’s toys.Adding the new product line required a name change to Ferguson Books & More.

Dane is passionate about his business, products, and the customers they serve. “I believe in what we do. What we sell is valuable. We want to help children learn and grow.”

It’s a family business; Dane’s wife also has an active role in the store. Together they now have three children. In order to maintain a normal household, they work normal hours.

Ferguson Books & More has one full-time employee, and six part-time staff. “We have a great young and vibrant staff. I enable my staff to do a great job and I make myself available to them. I have trust in my staff that they can do what they need to do so I can spend the time I need to with my family,” said Dane.

Dane credits his success to three things: hard work, endurance, and connections. “Hard work: The difference between dreams and ideas is that you go after it and implement it. The implementation is the hard work. Endurance: In the book business, we have to work with thin margins and there are times where it’s tough. You have to be able to keep going. Connections: it’s the people you have and surround yourself with along the way. I’ve met great people that helped me to get the business started. As I continue on through my journey, it’s connections that mean the most.”

About the Business

Ferguson Books & More is a unique store that offers new and used books, along with children’s toys, music, and videos.

Every customer gets a free pre-owned book on every new book purchase. Ferguson Books & More offers all of the new best sellers and leading authors. “How we differentiate from online book sales, is if your book is not on the shelf, we can order for you and you still get to take home the free pre-owned book the same day,” said Dane.

The toys you will find at Ferguson Books & More are not always mainstream and popular. Instead, the children’s toys are unique specialty toys meant to enrich a child where they can learn and have fun. One of the unique toy lines that Ferguson Books & More offers is the Melissa and Doug toy line.

Ferguson Books & More is looking to expand into more North Dakota cities, offering franchise opportunities. A variety of events are hosted at Ferguson Books & More from author signings to kiddie days. All activities are posted daily on their Facebook page.

About the Alerus Relationship

Dane met his Alerus relationship banker, Michael Helt, at the first business after hours meeting he attended in 2010. “The first person to talk to me was Mike Helt. I didn’t know anyone and Mike came up and talked to me and my brother. Ever since then we have been good friends. At the time we were at Gate City and within the year we switched over our personal banking to Alerus.”

Soon after Dane and his wife were back at Alerus, this time for a mortgage. “Mike always knew I was going to bring my business over to Alerus. When we made the move to the new store is when I approached Mike on the business line.”
Dane and his wife now have both their personal and business accounts at Alerus. On the personal side, they enjoy the convenience of mobile banking. On the business side – it’s Mike’s relationship – online banking, strong relationship, and knowing can count on Alerus for bigger products and financing going down the road.

“He has our back on everything. For instance, we had a negative balance to one of their business accounts while I was away on vacation. What happened was we had a backorder with one of our vendors and they ran the payment without authorization from me. Mike was there for us and took care of everything.”

Dane would recommend Alerus Financial to another business starting out because of the personal touch that Alerus offers. “It’s invaluable to be able to have someone to talk to about all aspects of your business. To have that open and candid conversation — from the good to the bad things. They know what you are all about. Having that relationship helps to get you through obstacles that you need to overcome,” said Dane.

Stop By Anytime

To learn more, stop by Ferguson Books & More in Grand Forks and visit with Dane over a cup of coffee. Be sure to check out their upcoming event schedule or place a book order online from their website. Book orders can also be placed by phone at 701.738.8025!

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