Jill Blashack Strahan, Tastefully Simple Founder & CEO, is a top female entrepreneur and an inspiration to women across the nation. Blashack Strahan grew up on her family’s farm in rural Minnesota during the 1960s, where she was inspired by her father’s work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit. Following her high school graduation, Blashack Strahan set off to college, but after an unsettled year at the University of Minnesota-Morris, she moved back home and enrolled at Alexandria Technical & Community College (ATCC), uncertain of her career and life direction. However, this would soon change.
As an ATCC project, Blashack Strahan developed a state-award-winning business plan, leading her to discover her passion: business – more specifically, entrepreneurship. After graduating from ATCC in 1979, Blashack Strahan began managing her father’s local café and in 1989 opened a retail gift basket shop.
In 1993, she liquidated her retail business but continued to sell gift baskets to corporate and direct-mail clients. Blashack Strahan then got an opportunity to promote these baskets in a holiday crafters’ home tour. She set out samples of gourmet food items and experienced remarkable sales. When the same results occurred later, she realized the power of sampling and the idea for Tastefully Simple was born.
In 1995, Tastefully Simple became the original national home tasting party company, offering delicious, easy-to-prepare foods and gifts. It wasn’t a simple start. Blashack Strahan and her young family had no money to risk on such a venture. Determined, she bootstrapped the business with personal savings, a $20,000 Small Business Administration loan and an investment from acquaintance Joani Nielson, who became Blashack Strahan’s silent Founding Partner and served as Tastefully Simple’s Founding Partner and COO until October 2014.
Blashack Strahan spent the first years juggling the responsibilities of home, motherhood and entrepreneur – managing business tasks by day and holding tasting parties by night. She operated out of Nielson’s 1,200 square-foot shed with no running water, packing orders on a pool table.
Within eight years, Blashack Strahan grew Tastefully Simple to a $100 million company. Now in its third decade, Tastefully Simple’s innovative focus on meal and entertaining solutions has poised the company for new growth and an exciting future.
Just three years into developing the company, Blashack Strahan was rocked by tragedy. Her brother was killed in a fall, and only a few months later her husband died suddenly. Blashack Strahan was faced with raising her 5-year-old son and the decision of whether (and how) to continue a business that consumed most of her time, energy and resources. She chose to persevere, using the deaths of those she loved as inspiration to live her dreams.
Recognized as an exceptional CEO, Blashack Strahan has won numerous awards for her achievements and unique philosophies of positivity and abundance. She published a book about her life lessons and inspirational journey with Tastefully Simple called Simply Shine: Stories That Stirred the Fire.
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