DCTC Alum Daniel Mahowald Honored

Daniel Mahowald

Named 2011 Burnsville Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year

Daniel Mahowald, co-owner of the Cornerstone Copy Center in Burnsville, Minn., and a graduate of Dakota County Technical College, was named the 2011 Burnsville Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year. When the winner of the award was announced during an annual holiday reception in December, the ceremony unfolded like a game of 20 questions.

  • This person is a product of the ‘60s.
  • This person grew up in the New Market area.
  • This person is a seventh-born child and has five brothers and five sisters.
  • This person enrolled in DCTC ( known then as the Dakota County Area Vocational-Technical Institute) right out of high school.
Daniel MahowaldThis person turned out to be Daniel Mahowald, who received the honor 25 years after his mentor, Ron Lund, was similarly recognized, making it the first time the award has gone to two non-family representatives from the same business. With his wife, Joyce, Lund started Cornerstone Copy Centerin Burnsville in 1981.

Mahowald dabbled in printing in high school as extra credit, prompting one of his teachers to recommend a technical college in Dakota County. He took his teacher’s advice and earned a two-year degree in graphic design. His printing career was set in indelible ink.

“Dakota County Technical College brought me a knowledge of printing,” Mahowald said. “I learned a lot from the college.”

Mahowald eventually found his way to Cornerstone, was hired on the spot and started the next day. “In 1987, I worked for six dollars an hour, working four hours each week. It was awesome,” he said. “I was excited to have a job in printing.”

He started as a copy boy and worked behind the scenes while Lund ran the company and served as a mentor. He eventually took over the production and pricing responsibilities. By the time Lund sold the company in 2001, he was well positioned to purchase it with a business partner and Cornerstone vice president, Warren D. Mosier.

The team quickly jumped on the digital bandwagon and bought equipment to stay ahead of the curve. “When we took over, we embraced a lot of the digital technology,” Mahowald explained. “As you get older, it’s hard for anyone to embrace new technology and stick money into it.” Within a few years, Cornerstone tripled their business and began looking for a new, larger home.

Daniel Mahowald with his familyNoting the importance of family in his life, Mahowald has followed two guiding principles from his parents throughout his life. The first is from his father: “Don’t put your eggs all in one basket.” So in 2004, Mahowald and Mosier built their current building and acquired Ross Printing, a small printing company in Apple Valley, Minn., to begin offering full printing services ranging from promotional items to offset printing.

“If we had emphasis in just one area we wouldn’t be as strong,” explained Mosier. “It’s been good for us to have the blend of print work, copy work, and binding work.”

Not long after the expansion, the economic decline began taking a toll on the printing industry and many of Cornerstone’s business customers, but Mahowald and Mosier managed to keep things afloat.

“It’s an interesting experience—one that most people don’t like, but it’s an experience,” said Mahowald. “If we can make it through, that’s what really matters.”

What are his keys to success? Mahowald finds his customers to be the most significant aspect of his business. “You’re going to be rewarded in the end to do something the customer has asked. That’s the most satisfying part of the business,” he said.

He also has a passion for the challenging and ever-changing printing business. “We are always producing something, but it’s always different—a different direction, angle or a different customer,” Mahowald said. “I love the business because it’s not square and not round. It’s customer-centric, a challenge and fun.”

The second aphorism Mahowald has followed throughout his life comes from his mother, who said, “Is it true, is it kind, and is it necessary?”

Kris Nielsen, a graphic designer at Cornerstone, has been with the company six years. She described Mahowald as caring towards his employees, his customers, and his work. “He has instilled in all of us to go that extra mile for people,” Nielsen said. “I think that’s why Cornerstone is such a ‘cornerstone’ of Burnsville—because of that level of care and customer service.”

Mahowald has also extended his mother’s advice into the community by giving back 5 percent of the company’s profits through discounts and in-kind donations. “It’s a nice way to help out people. There’s a lot of need out there,” he said.

Paul Schwamb, production manager at Cornerstone, said the award was long overdue because Mahowald embodies what the Business Person of the Year stands for. “He is committed to the community and believes in giving back to the people who make his business successful,” Schwamb said. “He’s a wonderful boss and a dear friend. I love what I do, and to be able to do it with Daniel has truly been a lot of fun.”

Even though his employees knew Mahowald would get the award, he was truly surprised. “I think of people at the end of their career when they get this award,” he said. “I really thought maybe when I’m sixty and more accomplished. I just didn’t think it would be right now.”

Mahowald is excited to be part of the committee selecting the 2012 Burnsville Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year. The committee includes award recipients from the past 30 years. Mahowald has set the bar high, but explained some of the qualifications he deems crucial. “People who are giving, are leaders, and that make a difference.”

To learn more about Graphic Design Technology at DCTC, contact:
  • Mary Belanger
    Graphic Design Technology Instructor
  • DeAnn Engvall
    Graphic Design Technology Instructor
  • Connie Larson
    Graphic Design Technology Instructor
  • Peter Skoro
    Graphic Design Technology Instructor