Prairie Sky Breads:
A Successful Dakota Business Lending Borrower
Dec 15, 2021
The story of Travis Gerjets and Prairie Sky Breads began in his Nana’s kitchen when he was a child.
His grandmother was known for her breads, rolls, and other sweet baked goods and as she grew older, however, Travis worked to master her traditional recipes and techniques for years to come.
Little did he know that those moments with Nana would become more than just a way to preserve her legacy, but to share it with the world.
When Travis and his wife, Brandy, moved to Minot in 2014, Travis began baking and selling his goods at the local Farmer’s Market. But as popularity grew for his Nana’s legendary recipes, he turned his baking into a business – Prairie Sky Breads - and found himself renting out kitchens, bursting at the seams with orders, and selling out every week. It was only a matter of time that he decided to officially embark on the journey towards opening a physical location to call his own.
“Having a bakery was not a plan I had in mind. But, as we sold bread at the Minot Farmer’s Market over the years, the response from…our community…was remarkable. Their support showed me that the recipes I grew up with are as delicious today as they were back then. So, we started Prairie Sky Breads to continue to share those recipes with you for years to come.”
– Travis Gerjets
Travis and Brandy invited two of their good friends, Jazmine and Zach Schultz, into their business venture and began looking for financing options for a new production kitchen and café space. They got in contact with Dakota Business Lending and utilized two unique financing tools: the SBA 504 and Main Street loan programs. With the 504, in partnership with United Community Bank, Prairie Sky Breads was able to lease the perfect space and transform it into a great production kitchen and café seating area they dreamed of. The Main Street program allowed them to purchase the necessary equipment needed to meet their demand.
By February of 2019, their new physical location was open and ready for business! “We are not independently rich individuals, so the idea that we could ever afford to open a bakery like this on our own would never be able to happen,” explained Jazmine. “The program was tantamount to our success and being able to bring this idea to life.” The business partners also worked with professionals from SCORE, the local SBDC, and the Business Development Center for planning and financial assistance throughout the process.
The Nana-inspired, homemade baked goods are not the only thing that separate Prairie Sky Breads from other bakeries in the area. The café also serves as a coffee shop and offers several lunch menu items and homemade pizza nights. One of the business partners, Jazmine, is known in the community for her interest and talents in art and music, which the team works to incorporate into the atmosphere and mission of Prairie Sky Breads. The entire bakery is sourced by local artists, from the furniture and décor to the music playing in the background, and they also offer community events such as live music and arts and crafts.
“Yes, we need to make money, but Travis and I [Jazmine] have put a lot of time and energy around the community aspect of the business. We built the business as a way to get to know people and build relationships, and that’s exactly what our shop and atmosphere represents. It’s always been about the people more than anything.”
The road hasn’t always been easy for Prairie Sky Breads. Just a few weeks after their grand opening, the bakery had to have a “grand closing” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team was forced to adapt their bakery into a completely different business model and make some major changes to their business plan, including to-go and curbside options. (Read more about their response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.) However, their success and the support they have received has remained steadfast through it all.
Because of this overwhelming support, Prairie Sky Breads has placed a strong emphasis on giving back and supporting the community who has been there from the beginning. “We have felt a lot of love and support from the folks who have been following our journey this entire time,” shared Jazmine. “We’re pretty fortunate to have a strong base of people and community who have supported this dream from the start and helped us push forward.” The bakery partners with many local nonprofits and organization such as the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) to donate their food to local women and families in their homeless shelter, as well as several other community fundraisers.
For those who are looking to start or manage a business of their own someday, the Prairie Sky Breads’ team has just one piece of advice: find the right people.
“You have to surround yourself with good people. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with individuals who care about the business as if it’s their own, and work with incredible staff who always make it better. These people motivate us to be innovative and find creative solutions to grow, no matter what life throws at us.”
This article was written by Dakota Business Lending with permission from Prairie Sky Breads and is not to be edited or redistributed without permission.