Cat McClintock
Juniper, LLC, currently resides in the old Bismarck Tribune building at Fourth Street and Thayer Avenue. (CatMcClintock)

In an alley off Broadway, downtown Bismarck, Beth Nodland turns the handle to an unmarked door.

"Let's see if we can get in this way," she says as she pushes the door into the kitchen of the Toasted Frog. I follow her in. But instead of turning right to where the staff preps for Friday night dinner, she makes her way left to a flat gray door that warns "Do Not Enter."

It's locked.

"We'll have to try something else," she says.

Nodland is an entrepreneur with a track record of successes -- both professional and personal. It takes her some effort, but with persistence she's soon able to open a door from the sidewalk along Broadway. She nods toward a blank wall as we enter. "That will be an elevator." Then she invites me up a staircase to a cavernous second floor.

Lit only by the September sun through windows that were framed in 1909, stripped brick walls hold up bare beam ceilings. The floor defiantly preserves dust, linoleum, tape, concrete and plaster from decades past, when the building was used as everything from a department store to a roller rink.

Nodland, even with her background in archeology and anthropology, is more interested in the future right now. She bought this building in March and has been rehabbing the top floor for her company, Juniper, LLC, ever since.

She points to the windows facing Fourth Street.

"This will be our conference room," she says.

She moves next to a pair of aluminum exhaust vents. "We'll wall in this area for our computer servers, but we'll keep a lot of the space up here open too," she says.

Taking over this 100-year-old structure and becoming a landlord to the Toasted Frog and Sweet Treats were just two of the things Nodland says she didn't expect when she started Juniper in 2007.

"But you have to step up when opportunity presents itself," she says.

Nodland is a Bismarck native who returned 12 years ago to start an art-based business. But life soon took her in another direction. Opportunities for her, it turned out, presented themselves in the form of North Dakota's early oil extraction industry. She had worked for, and even helped launch, other companies, so she knew what it would take. But she didn't put her own environmental consulting firm out into the field until her son was born.

Doctors diagnosed Lochan with Down syndrome just hours after his birth, and that changed everything for Nodland and her husband, John Morrison -- who also serves as Juniper's vice president. They redirected their focus onto what would best secure their son's future.

"It colors every decision we make now," Nodland says. As for founding a business in the same year, "It all fit. It made sense to do it then."

Starting Juniper meant that Nodland could stay home with her son in his early years, while at the same time nurturing her nascent company. Plus, the region sorely needed companies like Juniper five years ago.

In 2009, Juniper was one of only a handful of environmental consulting firms in North Dakota that had the expertise to research natural and cultural resources for developers. Research and reports from companies like Nodland's help those industries meet regulatory requirements and obtain the licenses they need to move forward with their projects.

Getting into the industry early helped Nodland gain a foothold before the rush to North Dakota began. Over time, dozens of international and regional companies have moved into the state to do just what Juniper does.

Nodland says she's not threatened.

"We have a loyal customer base," she says. "We know the land forms, we know the regulators, and we know the resources here. We can tell a client when something isn't going to work, and we can also suggest what will work."

Nodland says her company aims to help her clients meet their regulatory requirements the first time they submit plans to licensing agencies. That said, her passion is ultimately for preserving the best parts of our state while making way for new development -- not unlike her approach to repurposing the Fourth Street building.

"I'm deeply invested in cultural heritage and awareness in North Dakota. This work has to be done by someone, and I'd rather it be done by us, because I know with us it will be done in a moral, ethical and culturally sensitive way."

Her strategy has paid off. Juniper has increased revenues 1,000 percent in the past five years, and the company expects to move into its downtown offices in early 2015.

Nodland is a panelist in this year's Center for Technology & Business (CTB) Women's Business Summit, held October 12-13 at the Bismarck Convention Center. She'll join three other women in a discussion of "Living the Life of a Woman Entrepreneur." Learn more at

Tips for women entrepreneurs

Nodland says there is no better time for starting a business in North Dakota than right now. Her tips for women getting started:

* Get started! Youíre not an entrepreneur if youíre just thinking about it.

* Follow your passion, but also learn everything you can about finance.

* Build your network. Reach out to other business owners, especially women.

Cat McClintock is a Bismarck-based freelance writer.