Member Spotlight

Jacob Manthei, President — Aster Brands Charlevoix

MY BUSINESS…MYSELF

Aster Brands is a sales, marketing and intellectual property business that invents products for the concrete manufacturing space. We sell manufacturing equipment along with a license agreement packaged as a business opportunity. We currently target three different parts of the market: Redi-Rock’s focus is commercial retaining walls; Rosetta Hardscape’s focus is outdoor living; and Pole Base’s focus is outdoor site lighting foundations.

In 2018, we consolidated our three different product lines into what is now Aster Brands. The Aster Brands name comes from the aster flower, which is what launched the Manthei family into business in the early 1900s. As a German immigrant, Constance Manthei broke her family out of poverty by building a successful aster growing business on the family farm. Today, the fourth generation of the Manthei family owns and operates five different business units in The Manthei Group, of which Aster Brands is one. Even now, we're inspired by the legacy Grandma Constance left for us. In the same way she grew and cultivated aster flowers, our team is striving to grow and cultivate opportunities in the concrete manufacturing industry.

I grew up the Manthei family business, starting in the construction business - MDC Contracting - at age 11. Growing up, the Manthei kids (we have a huge family) worked hard. Every summer, Christmas break, and spring break, the Manthei kids were working. Although none of us probably enjoyed the experience at the time, it taught us a tenacious work ethic and a pride for the family legacy.

I am a graduate of Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. My wife, Rachel Zehnder-Manthei (yes… of the Frankenmuth variety Zehnder’s) and I have two daughters: Ellie and Mae. However, our firstborn is a very snobby English setter named Chilly Dog. We live in Petoskey. 

THE FUTURE OF ASTER BRANDS IN MICHIGAN

Aster Brands has an aggressive growth strategy – to grow 6x in 10 years. It is two years in and is right on track. Everything Aster Brands does centers around its three core values: Lead the Way; Don’t Give Up; Make Time to Care. Aster Brands growth will come in 4 ways: 1) By helping our core customers sell more of what they already have; 2) By adding new accounts (we have an aggressive plan to set up accounts throughout North America, Europe and Oceania); 3) By adding new products; and 4) By adding new brands.

Northern Michigan is a great place to live, raise a family and make a career. Aster Brands is working to become a key employer. We want to be the business where everyone up here wants to work. We are a business where you can build a career, learn international business while traveling abroad, and work with smart, interesting people.

GREATEST CHALLENGE

I expect that our answer will be different than many because it isn’t access to labor. Our three biggest problems right now are: we can’t make enough, fast enough; we need to spend even more on innovation; and we need to spend more on sales efforts and customer support. I believe we can get the talent we need because we have a great place to work and a clear plan. We have wonderful problems here. Having a clear growth target like 6x in 10 years means you have to always look forward. Hiring and investing in things upfront gives you fuel for the future.

GREATEST OPPORTUNITY

Populating our team with smart, driven, capable people who want to grow and who also want to make time to care is our greatest opportunity. We are human beings, not human doings. I want to work with people who inspire me and our staff to be better people and better business people, as well. This is the only way we are going to achieve our goals. I could have said something about the economy, about growing abroad or a product innovation or something like that, but none of that matters unless we have smart, driven people who get it, want it, and have the capacity to realize the potential opportunities that we have in front of us.

WHY MY COMPANY BELONGS TO THE CHAMBER

Michigan is doing great right now and the Chamber has helped facilitate that. I would love to contribute in getting even more folks to live, work, and raise families in Northern Michigan. I think the Chamber can continue helping with that.