Larry and Caryl Abdo pose in downtown Minneapolis

Larry and Caryl Abdo Received the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Friday, May 3, 2019

An entrepreneurial spirit runs in the veins of Larry and Caryl Abdo, who have built Abdo Markethouse into a thriving, family-run business.

Business runs in Larry and Caryl Abdo’s veins. It’s something they’ve been surrounded by their entire lives—whether it was Larry getting advice from his lawyer father, who often represented startups, and winning Junior Achievement Salesman of the Year, or Caryl working in her father’s grocery store as a child and selling candy as a Camp Fire Girl.

So it only made sense that both would end up studying business at the University of Minnesota’s College of Business Administration (now the Carlson School of Management) in the 1960s. There they met—Caryl one of the only women attending at the time—and, shortly thereafter, set off on a lifetime of entrepreneurial success in nearly every field imaginable.

That’s why the University of Minnesota is proud to name the couple as the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year award winners.

“Larry and Caryl continue to write their amazing entrepreneurial story nearly 50 years after graduation,” says John Stavig, director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School. “We are proud to recognize them as alumni role models who’ve achieved great business and personal success, while taking the time to give back by inspiring and supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

If there’s a business opportunity, the Abdos have likely tried their hand at it: Retail development. Ice manufacturing. A Renaissance Fair food booth. State Fair food booths. Parking garages. The My Burger hamburger chain. Condos. Owning and managing the historic Nicollet Island Inn. The list goes on.

“Being an entrepreneur is realizing that you have no boundaries in what you can do, what skills you can have, or what type of company you can own or industry you can be in—entrepreneurs go from curiosity to curiosity to curiosity,” says Larry.

It's all about family

Abdo Markethouse, the company run by the Abdos, is a true family affair. All four of Larry and Caryl’s children are involved in the business in varying aspects, which the couple believes makes the company stronger.

“It’s always been important to keep our family close,” says Caryl, who has occasionally been nicknamed the ‘Chief Family Officer’ of Abdo Markethouse. “You have your ups and downs, but I think having a business where everyone participates keeps the core of the family together.”

The couple has taken its philosophy on family business and turned it into an opportunity to give back through its Abdo Dinner Series. These 20+ dinner events over the past decade have brought more than 400 students and their spouses together with the Abdos to talk about managing personal relationships while navigating their entrepreneurial careers.

The couple also regularly speaks in classes and mentors students in their capacity as Entrepreneurs-in-Residence at the Carlson School. The advice they often give? Do what comes naturally.

“If you’re a dancer, put on your shoes. If you’re a singer, spray your throat,” Larry says. “But don’t try to be something you’re not. When you do what comes naturally, that’s when you find success.”

The Abdos were celebrated as the Entrepreneur of the Year award winners during the Holmes Center’s annual Founders Day event on May 7.