CoJack Snack & Pack:
A Successful Dakota Business Lending Borrower

Aug 20, 2021

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One could say that farming and entrepreneurship runs in Brian Engstrom’s blood.

A fourth-generation farmer, Brian’s family farming history dates back to the late 1880s. Nearly 20 years ago, he began raising dry beans with his father. Since then, he has started Engstrom Bean and Seed; transformed Jack’s Bean, a bean and popcorn company, into what is now called Colorado Jack; welcomed his daughter Chace, a fifth-generation farmer, into the business; and opened a second Colorado Jack in Valley City, ND. But that’s just the beginning…

In 2018, an opportunity arose in Devils Lake to purchase an existing food manufacturing facility. Brian saw this as a chance to start a new business entity, “CoJack Snack and Pack”, and combine two of his products and services into one facility: packing dry beans and manufacturing popcorn and other snacks. The only thing stopping him was financing.

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“We knew we could never grow and expand our facility in Valley City with the space we had. When the opportunity in Devils Lake arose, it seemed like the perfect fit. The only problem was that this was a big undertaking, and we needed more capital to make this project possible.”

To get the financing he needed to expand and open CoJack Snack and Pack, Brian worked with Western State Bank, and Dakota Business Lending to utilize the SBA 504 loan program, which offers financing at a longer term, lower down payment, and a below-market, fixed rate. They also received an interest rate buy down from the Bank of North Dakota's PACE/Flex PACE program, secured an equipment loan through the North Central Planning Council, and worked in partnership with the City of Devils Lake, Devils Lake Economic Development and Ramsey County to get this project to come together.

“This is the biggest project we’ve ever done, and there were a lot of people and moving pieces that came together to make it happen. Without the SBA 504 program, it would have been very difficult to get the capital needed to make this expansion possible.”

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Today, CoJack Snack and Pack prides itself on selling “Farm to Shelf” products and are able to grow, manufacture, and trace their products directly to the consumer – something that has been their dream from the very beginning. “For our popcorn, we actually have the ability to trace back to the exact acre the corn came from,” Brian’s daughter, Chace, explained. “Our bean plant operates in the same way, allowing us to confidently provide quality products to our consumers.” CoJack Snack and Pack’s BRC Food Safety Certificate gives them the capabilities to do this.

The manufacturing facility also places a large focus on providing support to its community – the people who have supported them since the very beginning. One way they have done this is by teaming up with Lake Region Corporation in Devils Lake and the Open Door Center in Valley City to provide safe and quality jobs to individuals with disabilities. “We know how hard it is for individuals with disabilities to have a good, structured work environment, so we wanted to offer this opportunity for them.”

The company also collaborates with many other local businesses for gifts, packages, and sponsorships within the city of Devils Lake.

Dad and Chace

Since their expansion, CoJack Snack and Pack has become widely recognized throughout the state and greater Midwest. In 2020, they received the Governor’s Choice Project of the Year award in North Dakota and have also been awarded the Community Partner of the Year award from Lake Region Corporation.

With a strong passion to raise up the next generation of leaders, Brian hopes to one day pass down the reigns to Chace and her husband, who currently farm and work for the company.

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With a strong passion to raise up the next generation of leaders, Brian hopes to one day pass down the reigns to Chace and her husband, who currently farm and work for the company.

“To have my family – the next generation – working with me every day is so rewarding. I love being able to watch my daughter and her husband start their life in the business. They are so instrumental to the company already and I look forward to stepping back and watching them run the company for generations to come.”

For more information on CoJack Snack and Pack, visit their website.

This article was written by Dakota Business Lending and is not to be printed or copied without permission.