Charlevoix, Mich.: In spite of its rural, resort town roots - a Northern Michigan business has set audacious goals to expand internationally. With an aggressive growth plan in place and a recent merger on the books - Aster Brands growth trajectory continues as international expansion heats up.
Aster Brands is a company that licenses proven brands in the concrete manufacturing industry. Their brands include Redi-Rock International, Rosetta Hardscapes, and Pole Base. Each brand sells licensed concrete forming systems to independently owned concrete manufacturers, who then produce and sell the concrete products in their local markets.
“In 2015, we stepped back and said ‘what do we want out of the next 10 years?’ We had achieved quite a bit already, but I had recently taken over as CEO after my dad retired,” explained Jake Manthei, CEO of Aster Brands. “I was ready to grow. This is the time in my career to take some risks. I’m young, I’m motivated, and I knew that if we built the right team, we’d be able to achieve some incredible things. We set out to grow 6 times in 10 years. We’re almost 3 years in, and we’re right on track.”
In early 2016, the leadership team consolidated management of Redi-Rock, Rosetta, and Pole Base under one team and in early 2018, the formal merger and creation of Aster Brands was official. With growth of 30% a target for 2018, Aster Brands has had to make some major changes in management, processes, and location targeting. Europe has become a major market for setting up new manufacturers, especially for the Redi-Rock brand. Redi-Rock now has manufacturers in England, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Belgium, and France to name just a few locations. Aster Brands has a European Technical Manager in Spain, as well as a US-based business developer who travels to Europe regularly hunting for new accounts.
“Managing our licensed brands with one team and one common vision required some major strategic shifts, which are ultimately what Michigan Celebrates Small Business recognized with the Strategically Focused Award,” Manthei explained.
The Strategically Focused Award was presented to the Redi-Rock brand specifically, in recognition of the international growth initiative which has produced 15+ manufacturers in Europe. The award was presented at the 14th annual Michigan Celebrates Small Business gala event on May 3, 2018 in Lansing. Manthei accepted the “Strategically Focused Award” as a Michigan 50 Companies to Watch Distinguished Alumni.
Aster Brands is owned and operated by the Manthei family, which has been doing business in Northern Michigan since the early 1900s. The Aster Brands name comes from the aster flower, which is what launched the Manthei family into business. As a German immigrant to Petoskey a century ago, Constance Manthei broke her family out of poverty by building a successful aster growing business on the family farm south of town. Today, the fourth generation of the Manthei family run multiple businesses in Northern Michigan including Aster Brands, Manthei Veneer in Petoskey, and MDC Contracting in Charlevoix.
“One of the best parts of being in business in Northern Michigan is being able to provide great jobs in our community. So often I hear of kids graduating from high school and thinking they can never have a career here because they want to go into engineering or marketing or finance. All of those things are happening here in Northern Michigan; you just have to dig a little,” Manthei said.
Aster Brands will be moving its headquarters to Petoskey later this year, while retaining an engineering an operations facility in Charlevoix. “We were out of room at our location in Charlevoix,” Manthei explained. “To keep hitting our growth targets, we need to increase our staff as well. The new space on Parkview Ave. in Petoskey will allow us to grow for quite a few years into the future.”