From tacos to saunas, entrepreneurial family builds on business success
If history repeats itself – as appears likely – Penny Paclik’s latest business venture won’t stay small for long.
“I don’t want to say I create empires, but I tend to grow whatever I have,” said Paclik, a career entrepreneur and self-described “developer of people.”
“I think it could be huge.”
At a time when others might be winding down and eyeing eventual retirement, Paclik is as energized as ever.
The woman who started in business as a 15-year-old Taco John’s employee, who grew to oversee all the Sioux Falls locations and then owned multiple national franchises, has found what she calls the best one yet.
It’s 3 Degrees, an infrared sauna business she owns with her daughter, Tiffany Hansen.
“It’s a perfect business model,” Paclik said. “The spectrum is so large and far-reaching.”
For Paclik, preparing to franchise 3 Degree nationwide is the next chapter in a career defined by integrating family into business.
Her husband, Daryl, owns Engineered Truss Systems, which he started in 1987 following her entrepreneurial lead. Their son, Chris, is transitioning into eventually leading that business.
“I always worked two jobs until I got married,” she said. “If there’s that many hours in a day, what would you do?”
Paclik didn’t recognize it at first, but she was drawn to leadership.
As a high schooler, she read books about U.S. presidents and company CEOs – “all books of people who had ideas and decided to do something.” If a teacher was better than others, “I was drawn and intrigued by how they did things,” she said. “I think that’s where I got my thought on how important a person is and why they can do and what they can be.”
At 17, she became a supervisor, overseeing many older than her at Taco John’s. The company offered her a management position while she was going to school at Augustana University, so she withdrew to accept it.
She began to thrive on training other leaders, and the company eventually put her in charge of training for the area stores. She got a part-time job at Younkers to experience a different kind of retail.
In the 1990s, she moved into ownership at Taco John’s, becoming a partner in several new Sioux Falls locations. She later became the franchisee for Auntie Anne’s and Villa Italian Kitchen at The Empire Mall.
“I won’t do something unless it’s incredible,” Paclik said. “If you’re going to sell food, it better be the best. And Taco John’s done right can’t be beat, and Auntie Anne’s is a phenomenal product done right, but it’s hard work and labor-intensive.”
Her kids found that out too.
“They did everything,” she said. “I brought them with me. One thing I didn’t realize until now is how much they learned.”
Paclik applied her skills developing employees to her family, her daughter said.
“She took what we were and tried to help us be the best we could be,” Hansen said. “On weekends, Mom would work and Dad would take us to the truss plant and we would play our hearts out. I just felt like them working all the time was normal.”
Work conversation at the dinner table was common and never censored, Hansen added.
“It was just our world,” she said. “Other kids would play tag. And my brother and I would play Taco John’s drive-up in the basement.”
Paclik said she worked with her kids to help them become authentic versions of themselves.
“If I try to get them to do what I want, they will be frustrated and change,” she said. “It’s the same with employees.”
After college, Hansen managed Auntie Anne’s and Villa Italian Kitchen for her mother.
“She kind of threw me in there. It was sink or swim,” Hansen said.
“I had her back,” Paclik chimed in.
“I think people might have thought she coddled me, but it wasn’t like that,” Hansen said. “I wish it had been, maybe, but I learned more by being thrown in, and I figured it out. I remember sleeping in the back of the office a couple days because I was so tired.”
They have gradually sold out of Taco John’s locations, other than the one in Brandon where they live, and sold the mall restaurants in 2013.
That allowed Paclik and Hansen to focus on 3 Degrees, which they opened under a different name five years ago at 57th Street and Louise Avenue after Paclik discovered it in a franchise magazine.
“My plan was to start selling the restaurants, and I know in business you have to be on the cusp before everyone else has done a concept,” she said. “I was noticing people my age were sore or getting sick or had injuries, and it was hard to recover or lose weight.”
Once she discovered the infrared sauna business, which uses 40-minute sessions to help relieve stress and promote natural healing, she was sold.
“It’s a great product that helps people. It changes people’s lives. It was just the perfect business for us,” she said. “When I got into it and realized what it could do for people, I knew this would be our life’s work.”
Mother and daughter bought 3 Degrees from its founder earlier this year and now are starting to think about scaling it.
They opened a second location at 26th Street and Sycamore Avenue and have interest from potential franchisees.
“We’ve gotten calls from people who want it throughout the Midwest,” Hansen said. “I think it could be huge because it helps everybody.”
As a family, though, they are charting the path to growth that’s the best fit for them. Hansen now has a young family, and “they need to be able to do what’s important to them,” Paclik said.
Father and son are working through their own transition at the truss plant.
“We love it,” Hansen said. “Our 3 Degrees office is in the plant, and it’s so fun.”
The timing couldn’t be better for the family to connect to the Prairie Family Business Association. They were introduced to it through Paclik’s attorney, Carolyn Thompson.
“I was absolutely so impressed by the quality of people and how willing they were to share ideas and experiences,” Paclik said. “We have a huge organization. And our kids have to know how to handle it all. And my kids have both taught me that I can’t just do things the way I always have. I have to look at things the way they do too, and that’s often quite successful.”
Hansen and her brother are attending next month’s Next Generation Retreat.
“I was so excited to know my brother and I can go away and it’s not super long. We don’t have to take a lot of time off, and they really put a business focus on it,” Hansen said. “We can talk business and life, and connect with other people our age in family businesses. To be honest, we know a few, but most our friends aren’t in family businesses, and it will be really nice to connect with others going through the same thing.”
The family is a perfect example of how Prairie Family can add value, executive director Laura Schoen Carbonneau said.
“The Paclik family of entrepreneurs is so admirable,” she said. “We love being able to help at a critical point in their journey and know that they will be just as much of a resource to our membership as we will be to their family.”
To learn more about the upcoming Next Generation Retreat and other resources of the Prairie Family Business Association, click here.