Born in Bowlus, Minnesota in 1915, Ethel Selinski’s formal education ended when she completed eighth grade. She married at age 16 and began working on the production line at the Sanitary Sausage Company in Northeast Minneapolis. Tragedy struck when her husband drowned, leaving her, at age 28, with two young daughters. By that time Ethel had moved off the production line at Sanitary Sausage and into the front office as a bookkeeper. Her position put her in close contact with the company’s founder, Otto Arnold, who became her second husband in 1948. When Otto died in 1958, the grieving Ethel was stunned to learn the company was in dire straits – $185,000 in debt and less than a week away from bankruptcy. Drawing on her experience as a production worker, shrewd business savvy and unwavering commitment to quality, Ethel returned the company (later re-named Ambassador Sausage Company) to profitability within three months and out of debt within a year.
Ethel’s company had 75 employees working two production shifts to produce over 48 varieties of fresh and prepackaged sausage products, including spice sausage for restaurants, bratwurst, and their famous old fashioned hot dogs. When Ethel sold the company in 1991, it had $5 million in sales and was the only remaining independently owned sausage company in the Upper Midwest. Ethel’s business outlasted all 18 of the competitors who were operating when she began working at her husband’s company.
Ethel became the first woman to serve on a bank board in the Twin Cities when she became a member of the Board of Directors of Northeast State Bank in 1967. She was an active supporter of the community, particularly of the canine unit of the Minneapolis Police Department. At age 73, Ethel was named the 1989 Small Business Person of the Year by the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce. Ethel died in 2000.