Though it’s only officially been in business for five years, Faribault’s Lighthouse Strategic Solutions is already turning heads and winning acclaim from its peers.
The firm, which provides consulting services for small and mid-size businesses, is one of three finalists for the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism’s 2020 Business of the Year Award. It’s joined by two much larger businesses, Daikin Applied and Jennie-O Turkey Store.
The firm was founded in 2015 by Kate Tonjum and Lisa Sammon. The two friends were longtime business professionals with more than 25 years of experience, and brought different areas of focus to the venture.
“We decided that we’d be better together,” said Tonjum. “We’ve continued to do what we do best but combine our talents and strengths to better support organizations in operations, financial services and HR.”
For Sammon, the focus has always been on the “numbers” side of the equation. She graduated with a degree in finance from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and built a career in the world of commercial real estate lending.
More recently, she shifted into the world of church and school administration. Before partnering with Tonjum to form Lighthouse, she served as Director of Business Administration at Faribault’s Divine Mercy Catholic Church for close to 12 years.
Sammon is also a Gallup-certified strengths coach who has facilitated the Faribault Futures program for the last four years. Since 1998, the program has taught community building and leadership skills to budding leaders in the Faribault area. During the course, topics such as inclusive leadership, teamwork and conflict management are addressed. Participants are pushed to identify their own strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to become more self-aware.
While Sammon designs the curriculum, Chamber Special Projects Manager Kymm Anderson is responsible for coordinating the program. Anderson was quick to praise Sammon’s effective leadership of the course.
“She’s done an outstanding job,” Anderson said.
Since Lighthouse was formed, Sammon has taken on the task of providing management services with a particular focus on schools and churches. Lighthouse currently provides services for more than a dozen, mostly located in the Twin Cities metro area.
On the other side of the business, Tonjum brings a wide breadth of experience in human resources and public relations. Having launched her career in hotel development with Marriott International, her experience is rooted in the hospitality industry.
Tonjum then moved onto a new startup called GrandStay, helping to open hotels across the country. She left GrandStay to provide management services for three local businesses Southern Heights Dental, Crossroads Surgery Center and Richie Eye Clinic.
“I was really excited to be able to expand my talents in the f=Faribault community beyond the GrandStay,” she said.
Lighthouse’s business solutions side remains primarily focused on those three businesses, with Tonjum providing key help particularly in the field of human resources. She said that helping those businesses to succeed and grow is her focus.
“They are big practices, and we are focused on growing them from within,” she said.
Mike Richie of Richie Eye Clinic said that for small- to medium-size businesses like his, management and administration is always a challenge. Given their limited budgets, he said that coordination is often the only way to afford high quality HR and administrative staff.
“The concept of Lighthouse is a good one, that we spent a lot of time trying to figure out,” he said. “We opted to share the talent.”
Richie had praise for both the people skills of Tonjum and the leadership development. Thanks to their assistance, Richie said that his business and others have been put in a position to succeed.
“They’ve become a phenomenal asset for small- and medium-size businesses who otherwise couldn’t afford that management personnel,” he said.