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James J. Hill Center Statement Regarding Current Closure

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Author Archive

Catering to Success

Thao Moore is the chef and co-proprietor at local catering company, Green Mangos. She followed her passion for food and studied culinary arts at The Art Institutes International Minnesota and has experience working in the catering and restaurant industry. You can follow Thao on her culinary and life adventures through her blog, Small Bites. We had the opportunity to talk with Thao about her experiences running a business over the last 10 years.

What is your organization and when and how did it begin?
My husband Tom and I own a boutique catering business and started it in 2007. My employer at the time was relocating to another state so I decided it was time to follow my dream.

What do you want people to know about Green Mangos and what sets it apart from other catering companies?
We are passionate about what we do and we believe it shows in our food and service. When you hire us, you work directly with the owners and not a sales person. For us, it’s about quality and not quantity.

What has been the largest hurdle and/or success your organization has faced?
Since I have an Asian background, it’s hard to not get stereotyped into one style of cuisine. Over the years we’ve overcome that stereotype because we’ve now catered for many different people from all over the world.

What advice would you give to others interested in the catering businesses?
It’s never easy to start any business. Catering can be especially competitive, especially when you’re competing against large caterers. Focus on your vision and see it through. It’s extremely hard work, but the hard work will pay off.

What is your favorite part of catering at the Hill Center?
I love how the venue transforms from a reference library during the day to a magical event space at night. It almost appears to be two separate venues, which is why the Hill Center is great for both Corporate and wedding events.

What do you love most about Saint Paul, Minnesota and having your business here?
St. Paul has such a rich and diverse history. This is a great fit for us because we are a diverse company. St. Paul is a natural niche for us and our business.

 

The James J. Hill Center mission honors the legacy of its founder by continuing to support entrepreneurial spirit in the 21st Century. We offer research, programs, and networking for each stage of business development. Our efforts also include services to the broader community through the hosting of cultural and artistic programming and events.  Visit us in downtown Saint Paul at 80 West Fourth Street, off the corner of Market and Fourth.  

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Selling the Arts and Crafts of Good Cheese

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenter Alise Sjostrom. As seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on June 3, 2017.

Americans love cheese. Multiple surveys by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that Americans’ cheese consumption continues to grow.

Yet though it’s a long-established staple of our diets, cheese also continues to be trendy.

The National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot 2017 Culinary Forecast” lists the top up-and-coming trends on restaurant menus for 2017, as predicted by professional chefs. In the survey, 59 percent of respondents list artisan cheese as a hot trend on restaurant menus. This refers to cheese handcrafted by skilled cheesemakers, as opposed to being mass-produced.

Artisan cheese is unique, with more variety in texture and flavor. Having grown up on a dairy farm, Alise Sjostrom already had an appreciation of good cheese. Armed with her dairy farm background and studies in dairy marketing, she decided to launch her business, Redhead Creamery. Redhead Creamery not only produces a selection of artisan cheeses but also offers customers a firsthand view into the dairy farm and cheesemaking facility, giving them an added understanding of the process that goes into creating their food.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Alise Sjostrom
Age: 31
City you live in: Brooten, Minn.
City of birth: Sauk Centre, Minn.
High school attended: Sauk Centre High School
College attended: University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of Company: Redhead Creamery, LLC
Website: www.redheadcreamery.com
Business Start Date: 2014
Number of Employees: 3 full-time, 2 part-time, and 1 summer intern
Number of Customers: With a distributor and direct sales, we are in 100+ retail and restaurant locations. During summer time, we see hundreds of people a week at our farm in our cheese shop and on our farm tours.

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. Since I was 17, I have been known as “Cheese Alise,” as I took on a passion for cheesemaking early in life. Now I’m three years into my full-time life as an on-farm cheesemaker working hand in hand with family. I grew up on the farm where I now live in west central Minnesota. After visiting Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese as part of the National 4-H Dairy Conference Tour, I came home to tell my parents that I was going to make cheese on the farm someday. After getting some good advice to focus on marketing for the time being and learn cheesemaking later, I decided to focus on dairy marketing in college, and then joined national food broker Acosta for a year after graduation. I then followed my husband’s job to Vermont, the hotbed of artisan cheese, where I got a job at Grafton Village Cheese Co. and visited nearly two dozen farmstead plants in the northeast. We moved to Wisconsin after two years, where I worked at Crave’s. After a while we moved back to my hometown to join a goat cheese dairy and I began working on my own farm. Our family milks 200 cows and uses 8 percent of their milk for the cheese plant.

Q. What is your business?
A. My business is farmstead, artisan cheese production. We make artisan cheeses ranging from Ridiculously Good Cheddar Cheese Curds to a clothbound cheddar, Little Lucy Brie, and North Fork Whiskey Washed Munster. We have an on-farm cheese shop where you can view the cheesemaking facility, try some delicious cheeses, and purchase other locally made products that pair well with cheese. Our dairy farm tours are on Saturdays at 12:30 p.m.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. I often reach out to other cheesemakers around the country and to the suppliers of our cultures and other supplies when I need help. The cheese industry is full of knowledge and the willingness to share it.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. I grew up on a dairy farm, and I decided when I was 10 years old that I would always find a way to come home to my farm. At the age of 17, cheesemaking became my way of coming back home. Through tours and experience at other cheese companies, we developed our business model, which continues to evolve….READ FULL ARTICLE

 

You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit 1millioncups.com/stpaul.

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She Wants to Open People’s Eyes to the Importance of Sleep

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenter Sarah Moe. As seen in the Pioneer Press, Startup Showcase on May 20, 2017.

A 2017 report by RAND Europe notes the startling cost of sleep deprivation among the working population. In the United States alone, sleep deprivation costs the country $411 billion annually. This cost comes from lost work (1.2 million days per year) and decreased productivity while at work.

Clearly, improving their employees’ sleep is an issue that corporations should take seriously. Sarah Moe, in her career as a sleep technician, saw this problem firsthand, and she came up with a solution: employer-sponsored sleep-health education. In 2015, she launched Sleep Health Specialists in order to address this need.

ENTREPRENEUR  PROFILE

Name: Sarah Moe
Age: 34
City you live in: Minneapolis
City of birth: St. Paul
High school attended: Tartan Senior High School, Oakdale
College attended: University of Wisconsin, River Falls, and Minneapolis Community and Technical College

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of Company: Sleep Health Specialists
Website: www.sleephs.com
Business Start Date: April 2015
Number of Employees: 3
Number of Customers: Unknown

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I actually grew up wanting to be a nurse. I always loved the idea of helping people feel better. As I got older though, I realized my fear of blood was not going away so I looked into other medical fields that would allow me to help in that same capacity. I found the Polysomnography program at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and decided to take a class just to see what it was about — I had never heard of the job of a sleep tech before. I was hooked after one hour — sleep was the most fascinating thing I had ever learned about.

After graduating with my degree in Polysomnographic Technology and passing my boards, I became a Registered Polysomnographic Technologist and performed overnight sleep studies for years. Working with those patients to solve their sleep issues were some of the best years of my life. There is no way to describe watching someone walk into a sleep lab sad and fatigued and walk out refreshed and full of hope. I loved every night. I was then asked to return to MCTC as an Adjunct Professor where I began teaching the future generations of RPSGT’s the in’s and out’s of sleep medicine. It was then that I had the idea for Sleep Health Specialists.

Q. What is your business?
A. Sleep Health Specialists provides sleep health education to local businesses and corporations. Basically, we work with companies to address their employees’ sleep concerns, creating healthier, happier, and more productive teams.

Our services include classes, training, and seminars revolving around sleep. In our workshops, employees will learn everything they need to start achieving the kind of sleep that will allow them to be their best selves.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. I have needed quite a bit of help to create a successful business. With my health care background, starting my own business was daunting and confusing at best and seemingly impossible at worst….READ FULL ARTICLE

 

 

You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit 1millioncups.com/stpaul.

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Aiming to Make Scheduling Meetings Simpler

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenter Keith Resar. As seen in the Pioneer Press, Startup Showcase on May 6, 2017.

A 2010 study by meeting scheduling tool Doodle entitled “Second International Study on Scheduling Trends” found that professionals spend an average of 4.8 hours per week scheduling meetings. That amounts to 10 percent of a typical 40-hour workweek.

Scheduling meetings takes time, and time is money. Especially for professionals in the sales realm, those extra hours wasted on scheduling represent time that could have been spent going after more sales and commissions. In an age when technology is an increasing part of our lives, it’s surprising that so many people still schedule their meetings the old-fashioned way, over the phone and email.

Having worked in sales himself, Keith Resar understood how much of his time he wasted coordinating calendars in order to schedule and re-schedule his meetings. From this frustration came the idea of Appointment.one, an online meeting scheduler that finds availabilities in potential meeting attendees’ calendars and helps select a time that works for all parties. Appointment.one also builds in the necessary buffer time required to travel to and from off-site meetings. Using Appointment.one, professionals can spend less time scheduling meetings and more time attending them, increasing productivity manifold.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Keith Resar
Colleges attended: Carleton College and Carlson School of Management
City you live in: Minneapolis

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Appointment.one
Website: http://Appointment.one
Business Start Date: March 2016
Number of Employees: 1
Number of Customers: Hundreds of customers across all platforms

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I began with a technical background before spending years in business development and sales. In my career, I found there just weren’t enough hours in the week to do what I needed to do, due primarily to too many no-show appointments. Trying to schedule and reschedule appointments was making it difficult for me to maintain my sanity. That’s where the idea for Appointment.one was born.

Scheduling meetings within an organization is easy since free/busy information is widely available to employees of that organization. However, this disappears immediately when looking between companies. When I wasn’t able to connect with someone via phone to sync up calendars I was wasting my time with endless back-and-forth rounds of email tag.

Q. What is your business?
A. Appointment.one is a web service that takes the guess work out of scheduling appointments, interviews, and product demos.  Once the entire team’s calendar is visible, phone tag and double booked meetings become a relic of the past.

Appointment.one is the new norm for scheduling professional appointments. Whether you’re selling, recruiting, or giving product demos — to name a few — scheduling meetings is the most frustrating part of your job. Once you’ve eliminated the friction from phone-tag and double booking, then everything changes.

Sharing your personal Appointment.one web link with contacts to schedule meetings, rather than suffering through email-tag, gives real-time visibility into the whole team’s calendar. Besides the basics — enabling colleagues to self-schedule appointments — our AI engine optimizes multiple schedules, balances personal/work calendars, and guarantees you’re never on the hook to drive across town for back-to-back meetings.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?

A. The metro area has a strong network that helps sound out technology, marketing, and other core contributors to entrepreneurial success. Outside of that, I heavily reference my personal network that is highly represented with sales professionals, freelancers, and others who have the same problem: too much friction scheduling meetings….READ FULL ARTICLE

 

You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit 1millioncups.com/stpaul.

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A Food Service That Thinks Inside the Box

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenter Frank Jackman. As seen in the Pioneer Press, Startup Showcase on April 22nd, 2017.

Subscription box services are gaining popularity in the U.S., especially among millennials. The 2016 Connected Shoppers Report by Salesforce Research found that meal kits and grocery subscription box services are the most popular type of such services among all generations, beating out clothing and beauty product services.

Meal kits make sense. They take the work and time out of planning meals, buying ingredients, and preparing those meals. Instead, individuals subscribe to the service, and the ingredients they need are delivered to their doors, along with an easy-to-follow recipe.

Frank Jackman and Mike Stalbaum were interested in capitalizing on this trend while also adding their own twist: a local focus. Both men wanted their new business to support their communities, and the best way to do that was to use only local ingredients and recipes created by local chefs. To further help the community, they donate a meal to a local hunger relief program for every meal delivery made. This local focus is reflected in the name of their business: Local Crate.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Frank Jackman
Age: 29
City you live in: Chanhassen
City of birth: Bellflower, Calif.
High school attended: Russell-Tyler-Ruthon High School, Tyler, Minn.
College attended: Minnesota State University Mankato

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Local Crate
Website: www.localcratemeals.com
Business Start Date: November 2015
Number of Employees: 3 full-time and 7 part-time
Number of Customers: Our ship radius reaches 77 percent of the population in Minnesota

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. My co-founder, Mike Stalbaum, and I met while working for a large food manufacturer with a broad reach into the lives of almost every household in America. The projects we were working on day-to-day and the food products we were creating left us unfulfilled with our careers. As our plan started to materialize we were aligned on creating a locally responsible company which meant sourcing as many products as we possibly could from Minnesota, working with Minnesota chefs, and giving back to local hunger relief efforts that have an impact in our communities.

Q. What is your business?
A. Local Crate is an online, direct-to-consumer meal-kit delivery business. Local Crate delivers fresh, local, pre-portioned ingredients and local chef-designed seasonal recipes weekly to your home or office. Plus, for every delivery, Local Crate donates a meal to our local hunger relief partners.

At Local Crate, we want to cultivate local responsibility while truly connecting people to real food and creating a unique culinary experience at home.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. Through our time spent in the Techstar’s Food+Tech program at Land O’Lakes and The MN CUP, we have gathered an amazing network of advisers along with our current partners that have been with us since day one. All these people are able to help and advise us when we need it.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. Mike and I have a true passion for food and for the story behind the food we eat every day. We feel that over time people have lost their connection to food and it has just become a convenience play. We believe…READ FULL ARTICLE

 

You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit 1millioncups.com/stpaul.

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This is Not Your Grandfather’s Golf Shirt

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenter Matt Stang. As seen in the Pioneer Press, Startup Showcase on April 8th, 2017.

A 2016 article in Forbes entitled “The State of the Golf Industry in 2016” notes that golf is gaining popularity among the younger generation, with 6.3 million millennials playing golf annually.

Matt Stang noticed that these young golfers are not interested in buying expensive golf apparel that is often intended for an older market. He created Swannies to capture this younger market, selling affordable golf apparel that appeals to a younger market.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Matt Stang
Age: 25
City you live in: Minneapolis
City of birth: White Bear Lake
High school attended: White Bear Lake High School
College attended: University of Minnesota

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Swannies
Website: www.swannies.co
Business Start Date: June 2015
Number of Employees: 8
Number of Customers: 500

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?

A. After attending the University of Minnesota, I spent two years in management consulting in Boston. I felt a strong desire to do something I felt more passionately about. After brainstorming the idea for Swannies on the side and garnering initial traction, I launched the company in 2015 with two college friends.

Q. What is your business?

A. Swannies is a lifestyle apparel brand for young and casual golfers. We’re creating modern golf essentials to replace the stuffy, elitist perceptions of the game’s past. Our goal is to change the image of golf by building not just an apparel company but a lifestyle brand.

Our products appeal to young and casual golfers. The Swannies brand and team — being young, casual golfers ourselves — appeals to this group from three key angles:

Price: our products are on average 40% cheaper than most of our major competitors’.

Style and Selection: modern lifestyle designs and clothing to be worn both on and off the course.

Branding: targeting younger golfers whom we believe are currently being unrepresented.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?

A. I surround myself with people that are smarter than me and have different skill sets. That way assumptions are being challenged and new ideas constantly arise…READ FULL ARTICLE

You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit 1millioncups.com/stpaul.

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A Heads-Up Approach to Motorcycle Safety

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenter John Henry. As seen in the Pioneer Press, Startup Showcase on March 25th, 2017.

According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, there were 4,586 motorcyclists killed in collisions in 2014. Though this number is down from a peak in 2008, it is still high.

After witnessing a motorcycle crash firsthand, John Henry decided to find a solution. He learned that many car and motorcycle crashes happen because of ineffective brake lights which only light up when the brake is applied and not when a car is decelerating for other reasons. Because of this, drivers may not know that the vehicle in front of them is slowing down, leading to increased risk of collisions.

Henry created the Heads Up Braking System, attachable brake lights that respond to deceleration, not just the application of the brake pedal.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Innervision by Henry Inc.
Website: www.innervisionbyhenry.com; www.headsupbraking.com
Business Start Date: Started in 2000. Conducted a soft launch of its first product in 2016.

ENTREPRENEUR  PROFILE

City you live in: Minnetonka
City of birth: Cocoa Beach, Fla.
High school attended: Boca Ciega High School, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Colleges attended: University of Minnesota, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?

A. I started Innervision by Henry in 2000. I received my first patent for safety devices for recreational and sports vehicles and their drivers in March 2003. A second patent was granted in 2005 that expands on the first.

Prior to founding Innervision, I served in the U.S. Army. I am very proud of my military experience and very committed to contributing in this area.  My inventions will enhance U.S. military capability to provide increased safety in a variety of ways.

After completing my bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota, I joined Best Buy, where I held a sales management position and was responsible for developing many of the earlier sales management procedures for the company. I went on to work at the University of Minnesota Medical School as associate administrator, responsible for operations and grants. While working full time at the university, I earned a Master’s degree in education and management. I held leadership positions in a number of university organizations and was promoted to director of minority affairs in the College of Human Ecology.  One of my major accomplishments while at the university was the development and implementation of minority student retention programs and mentoring programs at the university and within the Twin Cities community.

As a top pharmaceutical sales person for Bristol Meyers Squibb, I sold over $18 million for the neural science division, honing my sales skills. I left Bristol Meyers Squibb to devote myself full time to Innervision, the development of its product line, and my patent ventures.

Q. What is your business?

A. Innervision is the result of my creative application of technology to address critical safety issues beyond just vehicles, their drivers and riders. The first of 10 new products, the Heads Up Braking system (HUB system) is one of most advanced wireless braking light systems for motorcycles, ATVs and snowmobiles. Vehicles often decelerate through dynamic engine braking or down shifting…READ FULL ARTICLE

 

You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit 1millioncups.com/stpaul.

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Small start up with a BIG dream

Amanda Carlson is the Founder and CEO of Rookiework.  In celebration of Women’s History Month we had the opportunity to ask Amanda about her success so far.   

What is your business and how did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
Rookiework is unique as our entrepreneurial journey began with the dream and idea of a way to help other small business owners make their dreams a reality and a success.

Rookiework is a small start-up business, based in Minneapolis, MN, with a big dream: making small businesses competitive against large corporations. We believe in entrepreneurship and innovation, and we love small businesses and start-ups. Our contribution to the success of small businesses is to create a mutually beneficial relationship between them and talented students with complementing skills, and to give them the tools they need to succeed. We might just help some students pay for their education along the way.

What do you want people to know about you and your business and what sets it apart?
Rookiework is a very unique business where our success comes when we are able to help other small business owners affordably achieve their goals while helping college students.

Small businesses cannot afford the same luxuries as large corporations, and are often forced to perform non-core functions, such as web design or advertising, on their own. At the same time, talented students with these skills are struggling to pay for school and are forced to work in minimum-wage jobs. We believe talented students and small businesses can help each other. A student can provide services at a much lower cost that a consulting agency, and they would love to work with their talent and passion. Rookiework exists to create this partnership and help it succeed.

What or who has made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
To this point I would say the willingness of other small business owners that have overcome obstacles sharing their experiences and suggestions has made the biggest impact thus far. I believe networking in the small business community is the key to entrepreneurial success.

How does your entrepreneurial spirit contribute to the Twin Cities business ecosystem and community?
I believe our entrepreneurial spirit within Rookiework has and will continue to help grow the business community within the Twin Cities as we are here to help other businesses have access to an affordable tool to complete projects. We also help students within our community gain skills, experience, and funds. These are both beneficial to our local economy.

What has been the largest hurdle and/or success you have experienced as an entrepreneur?
The largest hurdle we have faced and we are actually working on still overcoming is getting our mission and name out into the community affordably. We are continuously brainstorming affordable ways to get our business known but as an entrepreneur it is a unique problem we face; to grow our business in an attainable manner. We continue to take leaps and strides to this hurdle and getting our name out there through perseverance.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
I would say follow your dreams and work hard. Take all the advice you get and apply it in your own way to what you want to achieve. Being an entrepreneur is not easy and will take a lot of work no doubt, but every drop of sweat sleepless night is worth it.

What is it about Minnesota and how has it managed to keep you here?
We are very fortunate to be here. The Twin Cities in Minnesota is an extremely unique and successful economy with a vast array of opportunity. That is what drew Thomas to this market when he had the concept originally. I personally am a Northern Minnesota native and believe we have an endless list of benefits available to us here. We are Minnesota nice and helping others as a business and will continue to grow here to create more of these stories.

Amanda presented Rookiework at 1 Million Cups in 2016.  For more information on 1 Million Cups or to present your start up at the James J. Hill Center please visit jjhill.org or apply now.

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A Voice at the Table

In celebration of Women’s History Month we have asked groundbreaking female leaders in our community to share a piece of their story.  Rebecca Noecker is a community builder, an advocate for social justice, a wife and mother, and a proud resident of Saint Paul’s West Side.
In 2015, Rebecca was elected to represent Ward 2 on the Saint Paul City Council.  She is the youngest member of the Council and the first woman to represent Ward 2. 

For most of my life, I’ve been lucky enough not to think about gender.

Growing up, I took for granted the fact that my mother and father were both physicians, that they split the housework evenly, that no one would be there when my brothers and I got home from school. My mother’s mother also worked full-time, as an economist and a high school history teacher, while raising three children. In my young worldview, being a woman was no disadvantage at all.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize what an unusual environment I was raised in, and how the self-confidence that was baked into me by all the male and female role models around me helped me make my way in a world that still rewards traits that are typically male.

This has become especially evident to me in the world of politics and in a city like St. Paul where “old boys’ clubs”, like landmines, are all over and often invisible – until you’ve stepped on one.

At work, I’m surrounded by thoughtful, eloquent, socially aware women, many of whom occupy leadership positions. But even in the relatively progressive climate of City Hall, I sit through many meetings in which men do 95% of the talking – and not because of the quality of their ideas. At a recent meeting, after the two men in the room had left early, I looked around at the half-dozen smart women at the table – none of whom had yet said a word. “Okay,” I said. “Now that the men are gone, let’s hear from everyone else.” The best ideas of the meeting were generated in the next 30 minutes.

These experiences are making me more aware as a leader—and as a mom. I’m raising my two young boys not to take gender equality for granted, to recognize their responsibility to fight for it every day.

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A Budding Business in Replaceable Earbuds

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenter Bharat Pulgam. As seen in the Pioneer Press, Startup Showcase on March 11th, 2017.

In October 2016, the Consumer Technology Association found that 40 percent of people it surveyed planned to give headphones as a gift — making it the most popular technology gift of last year.

Headphones vary widely in quality, size, and price, and earbuds remain popular. Though often cheaper than larger sets of headphones, earbuds are also often noticeably flimsier, with many consumers buying, breaking, and ultimately discarding several pairs a year.

Bharat Pulgam noticed this problem and realized that when earbuds break, it is usually because only one component has broken, and the rest of the product still functions. He created mXers Audio in response to this problem. mXers Audio creates affordable, customizable earbuds that are easy and inexpensive to repair, making earbuds less of a disposable product.

 

Entrepreneur profile

Name: Bharat Pulgam
Age: 18
City of birth: Hyderabad, India
City you live in: Maple Grove
High school attended: Wayzata High School
Colleges attended: Will be attending the University of Minnesota in the class of 2021

Company profile

Name of company: mXers Audio
Website: https://mxersaudio.com
Business start date: January 2015
Number of employees: 8
Number of customers: 20+

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?

A: My team and I are a group of students committed to solving the problems that we and our peers face every day. Our company started with a simple problem we refused to ignore: Why do we pay for a whole new set of earbuds when just one part breaks? After breaking earbuds of our own, we finally found a solution: fully modular earbuds. Modular earbuds are earbuds that you can put together and take apart piece by piece. With modularity, you are only a snap, twist, and bam away from earbuds that look and feel as good as new.

We took this concept to the Catapult Incubator Program in Chicago, a four-month intensive business development program, which empowers young entrepreneurs to start a company from nothing more than a good idea. The company went from concept to reality within four months. We ended our first incubator with a successful pitch to a panel of investors, who provided valuable support and advice.

After returning to Minneapolis we began working with a new team and began the process of product development. The incredible support that our team has received paved the way for our successes. We’ve been able to leverage an incredible network of friends and family, raise money, and have been able to achieve support from business professionals. From patenting to incorporation, mXers has a significant network of investors and industry practitioners in the Twin Cities area.

Q. What is your business?

A. mXers Audio is an LLC that is solution-oriented and is dedicated to giving back to the community, encouraging youth innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area…READ FULL ARTICLE

 

You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit 1millioncups.com/stpaul.

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Patrons with accessibility needs please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit.

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