Steve Eilertson, president of Grain Millers, Inc., was presented with the University of Minnesota Entrepreneur of the Year award on Sept. 10. The ceremony featured welcoming remarks from President Eric Kaler and also announced the winners of the 2014 Minnesota Cup, a competition that supports and encourages emerging entrepreneurs and highlights the position of the University of Minnesota as a hub for innovation.

“Steve is a passionate leader who built an enduring business based upon simple principles and relationships,” says John Stavig, professional director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School.  “We’re proud to recognize Steve as an entrepreneurial role model who has not only built an impressive company at Grain Millers, but who demonstrates the servant leadership qualities that our students aspire to. He’s turned a commodity-based business into an innovative company of passionate problem solvers that deliver premium quality for their customers.”

Eilertson attended the University of Minnesota in the late 1960s before getting started in commodities trading. He is a frequent speaker in entrepreneurship classes at the Carlson School, and is a sponsor and judge of the Minnesota Cup competition. His approach to leadership and his company’s extensive code of conduct is best summarized by his simple mantra: “We will do the right thing.  Always.”

Eilertson co-founded his first trading business at the age of 28 in the basement of a hair salon in downtown Hutchinson, Minn. He cultivated Agri Trading into a $100 million operation that he merged into Grain Millers in 1989, providing the capital that funded its expansion from two small mills to 10 state-of-the-art facilities. He has served as president for the past 17 years, during which time be built a billion dollar global powerhouse that processes as many oats as anyone else in North America. Grain Millers has also long been at the forefront of the organic movement, some years milling as much as 50 percent of organic oats produced worldwide.  Headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minn., Grain Millers has been described as “one of the better-kept secrets in the arcane world of food and feed merchandising and processing.”

About Grain Millers

Grain Millers is a global producer and marketer of food products and services. Founded in 1986, the privately held company helps customers throughout the world succeed by developing innovative ways to provide safe, consistent, secure ingredients. 

About the Minnesota Cup

In the 10 years since its inception, the Minnesota Cup competition has supported more than 9,000 participants from 74 counties around the state. The competition’s mission is to seek out, support, celebrate and promote Minnesota's newest, most innovative business ideas and connect resident entrepreneurs with leading executives, investors and the University of Minnesota.  The Holmes Center and alumni founders of the competition hope it will inspire new business ventures and drive economic growth in the state of Minnesota.