What’s In A Name

“In the business world, sometimes there’s a lot of deep thought and pressure that goes into finding the right name,” says Steve Kirby, founding partner of Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Bluestem Capital. “In our case, we were lucky. It just came to us.”

The name Bluestem, Kirby says, was chosen to pay homage to “the native monarch” of all the prairie grasses—Big Bluestem, a hearty plant that can grow anywhere from three to 10 feet tall. “In the northern U.S. prairies, when you have a hard snow, all the non-native grasses get crushed and the [resident] animals lose their homes. Really large areas can be decimated,” Kirby says.

Big Bluestem, however, is a native grass, whose roots dig deep into the earth and whose shoots continue to stand tall and flourish no matter how bad things get. “It survives when the environment gets tough, and we thought that was the kind of message that we’d like to send across to our LPs. We will not be overwhelmed and we will not cut and run.”

Founded in 1989, Bluestem Capital acquires control or minority stakes in Midwestern U.S. businesses in alternative energy, business services, manufacturing, real estate and retail. “The size of our ownership stake really doesn’t matter to us,” Kirby says. “The main thing we’re concerned with is making sure that the entrepreneur who’s running our portfolio company has nothing to worry about but running the company.”

To date, Bluestem has raised a total of 12 investment vehicles and, at the end of the year, plans to beginning raising its thirteenth. Bluestem Growth and Income Fund III LP is targeting up to $40 million, and already has a real estate deal in the hopper, Kirby says.