Anne Beiler started selling hand-rolled
soft pretzels at a farmers market in Downingtown, Pa., in 1988.
Beiler and her husband, Jonas, both Spirit-filled believers, were trying
to raise money to open a non-profit Christian counseling center for
the Amish-Mennonite community in which they had both been raised. The
dream for the counseling center was fulfilled as Auntie Annes
Hand-Rolled Soft Pretzels® became an international corporation.
In just 13 years, the company has grown from one pretzel store to a
projected 709 worldwide locations by the end of 2001. Beiler credits
her focus on people and her faith in God for Auntie Annes success.
In part, the company mission statement reads, "We strive to make
everything we do pay tribute to God who has entrusted us with this task."
Pentecostal Evangel Editor in Chief Hal Donaldson recently met
with Beiler at her corporate headquarters in Gap, Pa.
Evangel: Your upbringing has
strongly influenced your life. Tell me about it.
I grew up in Lancaster County, Pa., on a farm with five brothers
and two sisters. My parents were Amish. We had a horse and buggy and
no electricity until I was almost 3. When we joined an Amish Mennonite
church we could have a black car and electricity and tractors on the
farm. Mom and Dad provided for us very well and took us to church every
Sunday and taught us obedience to God and the fear of God. Jonas and
I were married in the Mennonite church when I was 19 and he was 21.
We later received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which changed our
Evangel: Tell me about that experience.
Beiler: I went to a womens
Bible study and Jo Ton, a woman from Indonesia, gave her testimony.
She said to me, "Have you heard of being filled with the Holy Spirit?"
I was 21 when I received the Baptism. My husband, my two sisters, their
husbands and then my whole family experienced the infilling of the Holy
Spirit. The baptism in the Holy Spirit brought me into a relationship
with Christ I had never experienced before.
Evangel:Tell me about
Beiler: LaWonna and LaVale
are 30 and 25 and have made us grandparents. Our middle daughter, Angie,
would be 27. Angies death began a journey that was profound and
also very difficult for Jonas and me.
Beiler: She was run over
by a farm tractor when she was 19 months old. Had it not been for Gods
grace and mercy, and the wonderful godly husband who loved me as Christ
loves him, I never would have climbed out of depression. I believe Angela
was sent to me and my family for many reasons, but a key purpose was
for me to become the kind of person that Christ wants me to be. I experienced
emotional pain, anguish of soul and deep depression as a result of her
Evangel:Out of your ordeal
Jonas wanted to start a counseling center. Thats what prompted
you to start Auntie Annes. Did you have immediate success or were
there doubts along the way?
Beiler: Our success came
only after Jonas added his ingredients to our existing pretzel recipe.
The first tray out of the oven was an instant success. People would
take a bite of the pretzel, stop, and then look at the pretzel in amazement.
Soon we were doing about 1,500 pretzels a day, and the lines were long.
An Amish girl, about 18 years old, kept telling us we should go to the
Harrisburg market. I went to look at Harrisburg and thats where
we started the second store. I had a lot of fear, but God clearly said
to me, "Fear not, for I am blessing you."
I said, "OK, Lord, then Ill
take You at Your Word." We built nine stores in 1989. From 1990-95
we worked on our corporate infrastructure.
The spiritual aspect of it was so
powerful. I didnt have high school or college degrees, so I had
to rely on the Word of God. I dug into the Book of Proverbs and we based
and built our business on its principles. God encouraged me along the
way. I remember in June 1990, I was sitting in a church service on missions
Sunday, and I saw myself rolling pretzels and Jesus standing there.
It wasnt a vision; it was just a clear impression from the Lord.
Jesus spoke to my heart and said, "I want you to use Auntie Annes
as a vehicle for missions." There was a big smile on His face and
I understood clearly for the first time Gods purpose for Auntie
Annes. I knew I was to put everything I had into Auntie Annes
and Jonas was to do the counseling part. We both understood clearly
what our roles were. Along the way, God has totally directed us.
Evangel:How has Auntie
Beiler: We had the celebration
of our 700th store on November 9. Were in 10 countries and 43
states. England will be our next country. We also sell household kits
as a fund-raiser, and were in the process of using that to support
Speed the Light.
Evangel:What advice would
you give to people, women in particular, who want to pursue a business
Beiler: I dont push
my way into places simply because Im a woman. As a woman of God,
if I find my place in Christ, I dont have to be pushy and make
my own way, but rather, God simply opens doors and I walk through them.
Its the same with a man. We make too big a deal out of genders.
If you like who you are in God, then everywhere you go youll be
comfortable. When I realized that God called me to this, I was out of
my comfort zone. But God helped me to become comfortable with myself
first and then He helped me to be comfortable with His call on my life.
With God, I can go anywhere and nothing intimidates me.
Evangel:Do you think
that a lot of people never pursue a God-given dream because its
out of their comfort zone?
Beiler: If you stay frozen
in fear, you will never accomplish what God wants you to accomplish.
There were times when I was emotionally and physically overcome by fear.
The Psalmist says, "When Im afraid, I will trust in You."
Its OK to be afraid, but you cant stay there. God is patient
with us and He comforts us. Every time I saw a door opened to me, Faith
would say, "Go through the door," and as I did I saw that
God had gone before me.
Evangel:How have your
core values contributed to your success?
Beiler: They are the reason
were successful, even though they require sacrifice at times.
People who came to us franchisees and employees in the
early days knew nothing about the franchising industry. We knew very
little ourselves, but we learned together. During the first 3-5 years
we actually bought equipment back and paid off some franchisees
loans. Our accountant told us we shouldnt do that. But I had to
sleep at night. If you do what is right and go the second mile for people,
God will bless you.
Consistently solid ethics are vital
in business. If you say youre going to call someone back today,
then do it. If you say you cant do a deal, dont make up
stories. Always tell the truth. Simply telling the truth is probably
the most impacting principle of Auntie Annes.
Evangel:What are your
core values in giving and tithing?
Beiler: The Bible says to
give with good measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing.
The measure in which you give is the same measure God uses to bless
you. More specifically, Ive found that tithing brought about a
dimension of giving in my life that started the incredible journey of
blessing. For the work of Christ to be completed requires money. Tithing
is something everybody can do.
Evangel: So, when people buy
Auntie Annes pretzels part of that is giving back to Gods
Beiler: Yes. A percentage
of our profits goes to the Family Information Center, which is a center
for hurting families. There are many opportunities for us as a company.
I believe God has greater things in store, and its all about the
work of the Kingdom.
Evangel:Tell me about
prayer in your company.
Beiler: Every Monday we
have prayer time, and we also pray before all of our business meetings.
Evangel:What brings you
joy and satisfaction?
Beiler: Giving and watching
people grow professionally, spiritually and emotionally.
Evangel:How do you maintain
a spirit of humility and stay grounded?
Beiler: I know where I came
from, and I keep looking back to remember. Im a country girl from
the farm. I know what its like to work hard. Ive experienced
plenty of pain and things in my life that have been unpleasant and I
know that God is my Source. I stay focused on Him and He keeps taking
me places where Im forced to depend on Him for my every need
emotionally, spiritually and for wisdom.
Beiler: God has a plan for
our lives. We can have confidence in Him that He will take us where
He wants us to go. We dont have to become fearful and wonder what
Gods will is. It will come to us and unfold over time. We need
to trust Him for our futures. Each day we must do what is at hand and
be faithful in the little things.