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Author Archive

Mary Times Three

Travel up to the 2nd floor of the James J. Hill Center and you will find the “three Marys” on display on the north wall.

The first oil painting, “Mamie Hill at North Oaks,” was commissioned of Polish painter Jan Chelminski in 1886, who was famous for his equestrian paintings. Mamie is the oldest daughter of James and Mary Hill, and she would have been 18 years old in this painting. Two years later, she was engaged to Samuel Hill (of no previous relation).

The next framed art is a later depiction of Mamie, a charcoal drawing by F. Adolph Muller-Ury in 1900. Mamie, whose health was fragile, died in New York on April 13, 1947, and was buried in the Hill family section of Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights, Minnesota.

Finally, there is a print of Mary Theresa Hill in her younger years. Mary was the wife of James J. Hill, and was responsible for the completion of the James J. Hill Reference Library. The Hill’s doors opened in 1921, but unfortunately both Mary and husband, James had passed by that time.

Learn more of the story behind the Hill Center, these images and the epic building in our Cabinet of Curiosity Tour every third Thursday at 10:30AM. In this one hour experience you will go back in time, up and down catwalks, through vaults and peek in hidden nooks and crannies.  Our September tour is coming up so get your tickets early!

 


Written by Lindsey Dyer, Director of Library Services, James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library our our historic collection at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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“Wait Training”: It’s All Good

Junita Flowers is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, mom and the owner of Favorable Treats. With more than 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations, she spent her career advocating for families and leading social change initiatives. Junita has learned the value of “waiting” during her years as an entrepreneur and business owner and shares her experiences with us each second Tuesday of the month.

“You don’t have the skill, talent, or ability to run a business!” were the words that rang out after a failed business planning discussion. I was devastated. Although the words were jarring to my ears, it was that level of discomfort that pushed me to transform my business from “just another cookie company” to a mission-driven, for-profit cookie company committed to doing good and making an impact.

While “giving-back” or funding social, cultural and environmental causes isn’t a new concept, more and more entrepreneurs are choosing to define their business success based on equal parts profits earned and purpose supported. Social entrepreneurship is all about doing good. From large scale operations to one-person startups, there are some common drivers that many social enterprises share. My top three are mission, meaning and money.

  1. Mission: Defining my business as a for-profit, mission-driven cookie company allows me to live out my life’s purpose both personally and professionally. Connecting my company’s why we do good things with the how we do good within our community allows us to be an active contributor in creating the good we wish to see and experience in our world.
  2. Meaning: Consumers want to feel good about the purchases they make. They want to make purchases that align with their values. I have the opportunity to connect my customers to a product they love and support a cause they care about. By focusing on meaning, my customers and I become partners in doing good.
  3. Money: At the core of it all, money funds mission! The ability to generate a profit to take care of my family and invest in my community creates a business model that keeps on giving. If my business does not make money, I have limited my ability to make an impact. Building a business from scratch, experiencing each financial milestone and busting your hind parts to reach profitability…is all good.

My company makes good cookies. “We do good things” is Favorable Treats commitment to delivering a delicious, scratch-made product, while making an impact. I recently had the opportunity to share my business journey and inspiration for Favorable Treats on the award winning podcast, Social Entrepreneur, listen by clicking here.

I would love to hear from you. How are you using your business for good? As a consumer, how important is a company’s mission when making purchasing decisions? You can send your reply here.


You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website at favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.   In addition we are pleased to have Junita join us at the  James J. Hill Center on October 26th from 9AM to 10AM  as she moderates our TAKING THE LEAD panel discussion focusing on the complex and rewarding ecosystem of women entrepreneurs.  This month’s topic will be on the “Growth Strategies and Plateau Pains ” This program is free and open to the public.  

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The American Hospital Directory: A Hidden Gem

The region spanning from the Twin Cities metro area down to Rochester is such a hotbed of healthcare organizations and medical device companies that it’s known as “Medical Alley.” In fact, a 2015 article by EMSI notes that the Twin Cities Medical Alley has far more medical-related jobs than any other metro area in the United States, over 10,000 more than New York. Minnesota is clearly a leader in the medical industry housing such influential companies as 3M, Medtronic, the Mayo Clinic and the Medical Alley Association.

The business reference library at the James J. Hill Center is here to help professionals in the medical device industry find the information they need. We offer a highly specialized database, the American Hospital Directory.  This database can be accessed for free at the Hill Center in downtown Saint Paul.

The American Hospital Directory is a tool that medical device sales professionals find invaluable for finding detailed information about hospitals in their market. Data is collected from both public and private sources such as Medicare claims, hospital cost reports and commercial licencors. Using this directory, you can learn a hospital’s specialties, bed count, revenue broken down by services and more.

This type of research is a vital tool in the medical field.  To have the ability to compare and contrast hospitals by patient statistics, revenue and services puts you at the top of your game and on the road to success. Stop by the Hill today, have a conversation with one of our business librarians and use this hidden gem.


Written by: Leah Kodner, Business Librarian, James J. Hill Center.

If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Soft Skills Revolution: Memorization

“Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor,  lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for soft skills training across the region and will be sharing his tips and tricks in our monthly blog Soft Skills Revolution. Come back the first Tuesday of each month and learn key steps to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

Memorization – Helping Your Audience by Helping Yourself

Memorization is a misunderstood tool speakers don’t use enough. Proper memorization techniques can increase your comfort and audience appeal exponentially. The secret begins and ends with a simple question.

What does it mean?

When I work with someone on a presentation I ask them a series of questions:

What are you telling me?
How is it different?
Why should I care?

Audiences will answer those questions with or without you. Speakers who embrace this will be in a better position to play a role in their own fate. Speakers who ignore this, risk the audience missing the point.

The effective way to memorize anything begins with understanding its meaning. An actor memorizing a role begins by understanding the plot of the play.

Memorization Gets a Bad Rap

Some people think memorization is a dirty word. First, it does take work and second even some “experts” say you might sound “memorized”.

I’m here to tell you it’s an worthwhile investment. Don’t let the fear of failure or sounding “memorized” dissuade you. Understanding how memorization really works lets you adjust your focus appropriately.

I don’t recommend trying to memorize your whole speech, word for word. I do strongly recommend memorizing parts of it. The payoff is huge. You’ll be more comfortable and confident with your message and this will delight and engage your audience. The result is giving AND leaving them with a better sense of your intended meaning.

Piece by Piece

You can make the most of memorization if you approach it piece by piece. Not word by word. Think of it as a series of interconnected “meanings.”

The most important “meaning” you need to nail down is the Big Idea”. What does your speech mean to your audience? This is something you need to know so well that you can say it in your sleep. Again, if you don’t know what your speech means, how can you expect your audience to?

And if it’s hard for you to memorize, that means it is going to be hard for the audience to hear. Make the meaning clear, concise and compelling.

Brick by Brick

If you’re on a roll and ambitious, memorize the teeny, tiny bricks of meaning: the words. Think of the entire structure of memorization as a series of interconnecting lego-bricks each building on one other.  Each brick is a nugget of meaning. Get to know each of them intimately. This is the fundamental principle to mnemonic techniques:

– Chunking: Turning strings of letters or numbers into more meaningful bits
Visualization: Transforming meaning into vivid images that you can link together.
–  Memory Palaces: Taking images and placing them in a familiar location like your home.

No matter how deep you go down” memory lane” try to always memorize the first minute of your speech. Trust me, your audience will thank you and you will be helping yourself. Learn your part and play your role. You will be amazed by the results.


Guest writer:
 Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.

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Startup Secrets and Sh#$ to Know: Graduate’s Hustle Handbook To Entrepreneurship

Aleckson Nyamwaya has his beat on the pulse of the startup world in MN.  He is an Associate at @gener8tor, contributor for @startupgrind, ambassador for @1millioncupsspl and a lover of all things tech & startups. We are pleased to have his monthly insight with our blog “Startup Secrets and Sh#$ to Know.”  Check back each month for his thoughts, observations and featured companies.

Recent Graduate’s Hustle Handbook To Entrepreneurship

Are you a recent grad? Want to get involved with entrepreneurship?

What you need are friends.

Other people will call them “connections” but I think that’s a buzzword that doesn’t mean anything anymore.

To do this, you’ll need a healthy combination of online and offline hustling…

  1.  Discover and engage with them online
  2. Connect with them in person

Easy right?

Below I’ve outlined steps on how you can discover the right people and connect with them. Ask good questions and ask for advice – what would they do if they were in your position? Finally, provide value. Literally ask them how you can help!

1. What is your goal?

What is your journey, why are you doing this? What is your end goal.
Understanding your end goal will help you create a more concrete plan and will also keep you motivated when you are thinking about quitting.

2. Get on Twitter

Follow and engage with local influences on Twitter with the goal of setting up a meeting in real life. Once you set up a live meeting, you are ready for step 4.

Influences can be journalist who write about your local internship scene, meetup and hackathon hosts, current founders, entrepreneurs with exits, investors, people who lead organizations that are dedicated to serving entrepreneurs etc.

3. Live events

Other good places to meet people involved with startups/tech and entrepreneurship are Meetups, hackathons, reach out to local organizations like accelerators, venture firms, current startups, etc.

4. Share your story

Once you’ve connected with local influences and people who are where you want to be, ask them questions. Find out how they got where they are today!

– What did they do to get here?
– Share your story.
– What would they do if they were in your shoes?

At the end of the meeting ask them “how can I help you?”

5. Provide value

How will you provide value?

Are you a coder? Are you a Google Analytics wizard? Facebook ads? Salesforce? Business development? Maybe you’ve had a few projects to show for it, etc. Offering services for free is a common “get-your-foot-in-the-door-technique.”

It’s 2017, if you can Google, you have a special skill.

At the very least you can manage a social media account. So don’t even say that you don’t have any skills.

Pro-Tips

  • Checkout the business section of your local newspaper, or local entrepreneurship blog
  • Angel lists are a great place to find startups
  • If a startup recently raised money ,chances are they are hiring
  • Same with VC firms
  • Follow up with emails within 1 hour (or 24 hours max)

Conclusion

Stick to the process and you will eventually luck out and connect with someone who is gracious enough to give you a shot.

When you do, work you butt off, under promise, over deliver and go above and beyond. The last thing you want to do is disrespect and embarrass the person who stuck their neck out for you.

If you drop the ball, don’t worry it happens, do not make this a habit. Follow up ASAP and remember, actions speak louder than words.


You can tweet me @alecksonn or subscribe to my newsletter

 

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SUCCESS: Trump Your Brain

We are continually inspired by the many entrepreneurs we meet and follow day to day.  Jeff Brown is a particular favorite. He shares his seasoned experiences and thoughts regularly on his LinkedIn site.  We thought the following piece of wisdom posted last week was an important inspirational message for all.  To get more insight from Jeff connect with him on LinkedIn or swing by the Hill and see if you can catch him at a networking event. 

SUCCESS: Trump Your Brain

I hear many people talk about success but what does it really mean? Most of our ideas about what success means are not our own, they are derived from the influences of what others think. We get sucked into what other people think. Everything from television, advertising and marketing, influence what we define as success. These highly powerful forces tell how to define what we want and how we view ourselves. STOP!

I want to suggest we give up on our ideas of influenced success, and think about and make sure that they are our own ideas. Focus in on your ideas and make sure you own them. Become the author of our own desires and ambitions. You can’t always get what you want, but even worse is to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t, in fact, what you really wanted.

Build your own success by valuing YOU and what makes your heart sing. Your hearts emotion will trump your brains logic everyday.


Jeff Brown
Entrepreneur
Positively transforming your business and you by thinking differently.

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The Birth of GovDocs

Zach Stabenow is the CEO and Co-Founder of GovDocs. We had the opportunity to connect with  Zach about his entrepreneurial journey starting GovDocs and GovDelivery.  His story of success and thoughts on what is important are an inspiration for anyone taking the steps to make their dream happen.

How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
It started in a studio basement apartment in the City of St. Paul with a small desk, one Dell computer with a dial-up modem and a futon for a bed.  I was fresh out of the University of Minnesota having been in the work force (tech industry) for only two years, when the entrepreneurial bug bit me.  My mother was a school teacher turned entrepreneur who started and ran a small business during my childhood and her father had a number of entrepreneurial ventures in North St. Paul so it was probably inevitable that I would have a passion for starting my own business just based on hereditariness.  So in June of 1999, I co-founded two companies; GovDocs and GovDelivery with a close friend, Scott Burns, as my business partner.

What are your current projects and or business ventures you are working on?
I currently own and run GovDocs, which is now independent from GovDelivery. GovDocs employs 50 people and growing who have a passion for providing employment law management software, data, and print solutions to the largest companies in North America.

What are the most important things to consider when starting a new idea / venture or start up?
Focus first on addressing a small niche market that is being under served.  Then, go serve that tiny market better than anyone else in the world for years, or even a decade.  It is incredibly tempting for entrepreneurs to build a business that serves a mass market right out of start-up phase because of the attractiveness of scale, but what I’ve learned is that your business first must prove that it can be #1 or #2 at something on a smaller level before it can advance to serving a mass market.

What resources did you use when starting your journey?
Books.  I read a lot of business books and trade publications before starting my entrepreneurial journey.  The most useful books that contributed to my business learning though were the historical biographies and auto-biographies of entrepreneurs who shaped our country’s history through business.  Ironically, one of those important biographies, was The Life of James J. Hill by Joseph Pyle and I also studied Highways of Progress written by Hill himself.  I have found that the most valuable business lessons come from reading and learning from those who have come long before us who are able to offer their life-time perspective of experience, rather than a recent business fad or technique.

How did you leverage the resources at the Hill Center?
Several years ago, I decided to examine GovDocs’ potential for additional strategic expansion from our core product offering.  To know whether my market hunch had any validity, I needed more empircal data.  A business acquaintance had suggested I use James J. Hill Center’s research library databases to gather data profiles on the largest companies in the U.S. so that I could analyze their geographical locations and other attributes.  That data and analysis turned-out to be crucial to convincing me and our leadership team to pursue our next strategic expansion opportunity.  Today, we still refer to that data when analyzing how well we are capturing market share.

What or who has made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
My mother.  If she hadn’t made the entrepreneurial leap herself, I wouldn’t have had the front-row seat to see what real guts and determination it takes to risk personal failure and money and to push through all the adversity required to start and grow a business. What has been the largest hurdle and / or success you have experienced as an entrepreneur?

Getting the very first customer (or set of customers) to purchase and use our products/services has always been the biggest hurdle when entering new markets.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
Research the market you’re about to live in.  You can have a huge competitive advantage if you put effort and time in to this step.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs that are stuck or have had their first failure?
Immediately perform physical movement on activities that will inch your business forward.  Make another phone call, write another email, design another prototype, interview a prospective customer… do anything that gets you physically moving and the business forward.  This helps bring your mental determination back and it gets one more item done for the business. Then repeat that 10,000 more times.

What is it about Minnesota and the entrepreneurial ecosystem and how has it managed to keep you here?Two key reasons:

  1. Minnesota has a long and consistent history of incubating some of the most successful entrepreneurs and businesses in the world.  That history and tradition motivates me.
  2. Minnesota weather and mosquito’s make for a hardy work force to hire from and build great teams. Whether you grew up here or were a transplant, to endure -15 temperatures, snow and mosquito bites year in and year out will turn almost anyone into a consistently hard-working team member. You can’t get that Silicon Valley.

The James J. Hill Center mission honors the legacy of its founder by continuing to support entrepreneurial spirit in the 21st Century. We offer researchprograms, 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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Best State to Start a Business

When it comes to finding a community that supports and empowers entrepreneurs and small businesses, look no further than the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs. Nationally recognized as the place where business starts and thrives, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area has the 4th highest concentration of small businesses in the nation, making it the 3rd “Best State to Start a Business” (Entrepreneur.com).

The area’s library systems have long been important resources to enriching life. A new video series called Libraries out Loud out of Kansas City explores how libraries are adapting to the needs of today, including finding ways to support local entrepreneurs. It is not much different in the Twin Cities where in a collaborative effort to support the growing entrepreneurial population, the James J. Hill Center provides resources complimenting the offerings at neighboring libraries.

The Hill often works together with Hennepin County Library and St. Paul Public Library to provide the best business information for entrepreneurs. This has always been part of the Hill’s mission. In our first year in business, head librarian Joseph Pyle explained in the 1921 Librarian Report, that James J. Hill intended for the library to “pick up where the public library ended,” which is exactly where our mission falls today. We fill in the gaps with our unique programs and resources.

On Monday, Aug. 21 from 5:30-7:30pm, Lindsey Dyer (JJHC), Erin Cavell (HCL) and Amanda Feist (SPPL) from our three area libraries will conduct a presentation called “Fill in the blanks of your business plan: getting started with research,” hosted by George Latimer Library.  This presentation will share resources, tips and tricks to navigate the best that our metro libraries have to offer.  SIGN UP NOW to join this informational free event.

Written by Lindsey Dyer, Director of Library Services, James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Helping Food-Delivery Services Get a Seat at the Table

Leah Kodner, Business Librarian from the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters each month for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently she connected with presenter Luke Katuin. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on August 12, 2017.

The 2016 “eServices: Food Delivery” report by Statista Digital Market Outlook found that the food delivery market is expected to have a higher growth rate in the United States than in any other country, with a 24.6 percent increase in revenue and a 22.9 percent increase in customers expected between 2016 and 2021.

The food delivery market is hot right now. Luke Katuin felt that the growth in the industry was allowing large companies to block small, local delivery companies from the market. He created Table.delivery to unite these small delivery companies and over 9,000 restaurants under one platform, allowing users to choose from a variety of food and delivery options while getting locally managed customer service.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Luke Katuin
Age: 35
City you live in:
 Eden PrairieAge: 35
City of birth: Garner, Iowa
High school attended: Garner-Hayfield High School, Garner, Iowa
Colleges attended: Waldorf College, Forest City, Iowa, and Minnesota State University Mankato

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Table.delivery
Website: www.table.delivery
Business Start Date: November 2016
Number of Employees: 8
Number of Customers: 50+ delivery services, more than 9,000 restaurants, and even more hungry people

What led to this point?
I have spent over 20 years in the food industry. My company was a member of the Restaurant Marketing and Delivery Association, which is where we decided to band together and bring change to the evolving restaurant delivery industry.

What is your business?
Table.delivery is a food delivery platform. Table brings together all your favorite restaurants and the local delivery service teams that really focus on the customer. It’s a one stop shop for ordering, customer service and price comparison. You know what you are getting when you order on Table.

Where do you go for help when you need it?
Our company has over 20 partners that are industry experts. Collectively we have well over 100 years in the industry. Through our partners, we are able to craft our future with the best minds possible.

What is the origin of the business?
We started to notice a trend. Venture capital funded companies were expanding into our territories by collaborating with our local delivery companies to gain access to more restaurant menus. Once they had a sufficient amount, they would then bring in their own drivers and start using the data we provided them to squeeze out the local delivery guy. At our annual Restaurant Marketing and Delivery Association meeting we decided that we needed to adjust. These companies were not just squeezing us out but they were also misleading when it came to pricing and you could only contact them via social media. We felt that local teams could better provide the service that food deserves. Food is very intimate and thus should be treated appropriately. However, it was difficult to accomplish this with many local teams being spread about the country. Thus, we formed Table in order to unite these small local delivery teams. It gives us the ability to create one national presence to represent each other while keeping the customer service and last mile where it belongs, with teams that are actually in each market, teams that have been doing this for decades in some areas.

What problems does your business solve?
We noticed that large VC-funded companies were lacking in that local customer service that we all strive for. Our goal was to create a site where all of our local delivery teams can control and utilize their strengths appropriately. A site that utilizes strong and responsive customer service when it really matters, not in a day or two via Twitter  Normally when you use those larger delivery companies, you don’t even know who the last mile is being provided by. There is a general lack of information and price discrepancies. With Table we bring together the very intimate customer service focus that is desired while being up front with our partners and our prices.

Where did you pivot in your company’s journey? What big obstacle or hurdle did you have to overcome?
I think our biggest obstacle is exposure. Typically, when a service begins, they start in one central area and expand from there. We took a different route and had 40+ markets on day one. Our biggest challenge is getting the word out to everyone in all our markets without having to raise millions of dollars to do so.

What personal strengths or skill sets do you bring to the business?
I think my biggest strengths are my ability to work within a team and my refusal to give up. This has never been about one person getting rich or one company. We are the best we can be when we do things together. When you are dealing with people in multiple states, that can be difficult but I will press on, we deserve nothing less.

What are you most proud of?
We are by no means complete or have everything figured out but to get this far is amazing. When you are working with thousands of restaurants, multiple partners in multiple states, it’s a daunting task. This type of project has been attempted in the past but has always failed.  Getting this far just fuels our desire to continue our work and make this the greatest food delivery platform in history.

What obstacles must you overcome to be wildly successful?
Data will be vitally important. When going against companies that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars, we must use data to make sure we go in the right direction. Data in combination with our industry experience will help us greatly. Our greatest obstacle is getting our message and our brand out without needing to raise millions of dollars.

How are you funding your business — organically, angel or VC investments?
We are funded almost entirely organically to this point. We’re currently involved in raising $250,000. To date, we have raised about half.

What would be success for your business in the next 2-3 years?
In two to three years we should see our company expanding in our current markets. There is no reason we should not be doing exponentially more than we are at this point.

In your opinion, what does it take to be a great entrepreneur?
Perseverance is the number one thing you need. There will be many more “no’s” then there are “yesses.” This can often lead to the feeling of being alone or isolated. Every failure is a learning point and can make your successes that much sweeter.

What is your business model and how do you make money?
We are transaction-based. Every order we process at Table, we take a small portion and remit the rest to our partners.

What haven’t we asked you that we should understand about your business?
Why start a food delivery platform when there are many out there? While new technology and apps are great, the biggest thing they are missing is the managed delivery and customer service. This is what our customers recognize and what keeps them coming back.

Why do you do what you do? What is your “why,” your purpose?
This probably sounds silly, but I do this for all my delivery service partners. I have seen some of the fantastic things they do. I have watched them at conventions and on personal levels really striving to serve customers better only to be squished out by giant companies who operate in some ivory tower in another market. That can be a bit soul crushing and so I go to work every day and do whatever I can do so that they can continue being the best in the industry. It is not about how much money you have, it’s about the service you provide. Taking care of the customer, being local and engaged in your community. That’s who I fight for. That’s who I care the most about.

How did 1 Million Cups St. Paul help you? Did you get valuable feedback? Did you get connected to resources? Did you pivot because of the experience?
1 Million Cups has been great. The feedback we have gotten and the support is amazing.  I highly recommend it to every business.

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 www.JJHill.org.

 

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They’ll help local investors buy local (businesses)

Leah Kodner, Business Librarian from the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters each month for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently she connected with presenter Patrick Saxton. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on July 30, 2017.

MNstarter

Equity crowdfunding allows entrepreneurs to sell private securities in their company to investors. These offerings are usually restricted to large “accredited” investors who meet certain wealth and income standards. Now, Minnesota has made it possible to sell these securities to any resident of Minnesota. The MNvest law, which went into effect in June 2016, makes it legal for businesses to release equity crowdfunding offerings to Minnesota residents regardless of their wealth. Patrick Saxton saw the opportunities that this new law provided and formed MNstarter to help businesses launch successful equity crowdfunding campaigns.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

  • Patrick Saxto
  • Age: 35
  • City you live in: White Bear Lake
  • City of birth: Blue Earth, MN
  • High school attended: North St. Paul
  • Colleges attended: Graduate of Metropolitan State. Attended University of North Dakota, Drake University, and Century College

COMPANY PROFILE

  • Name of company: MNstarter
  • Website: www.mnstarter.com
  • Business start date: September 2016
  • Number of employees: 5 co-founders and 1 intern

Q&A

What led to this point?
I worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs, first as a business analyst in the benefits division, then as the primary Information Security and FISMA policy writer for 23 regional offices. I spent my remaining time in government working at the Small Business Administration (SBA), helping entrepreneurs start and grow their small businesses and working to expand SBA’s reach in Minnesota. I am now working as a software engineer and completing my degree in computer application development at Metropolitan State University.

What is your business?
MNstarter is a public benefit corporation whose mission is to grow Minnesota companies through local investment. MNstarter is a registered MNvest portal operator and advocate for capital crowdfunding.

MNstarter offers free access to the MNstarter.com MNvest crowdfunding portal along with best practice guides for self-service capital crowdfunding campaigns. It also offers access to the MNstarter Resource Library, which is an organized group of “resource partners” who can work directly with entrepreneurs to navigate legal, finance and marketing considerations to get their capital campaigns set up.

Where do you go for help when you need it?
We go to the MNstarter Resource Library and the folks at MNvest.org, the outreach and advocacy group for the MNvest legislation.

What is the origin of the business?
MNstarter was started after I watched a 1 Million Cups presentation at the James J. Hill Center by Zach Robbins and Scott Cole. I went back to our office and started to talk about the MNvest law and over the next few weeks we had a core group of us that were ready to make MNstarter a real company. About three months after we started, Judy Wright, our fifth and final founder, found us on the internet and emailed us the same week we had decided to go looking for a finance specialist to round out our group. Since then, the five of us have been working to help Minnesotans find ways to meet their business and investment goals.

What problems does your business solve?
MNstarter solves the need created by new Minnesota MNvest legislation that permits intrastate investment crowdfunding through securities offerings exempt from Securities Act registration. The MNVest law allows companies to sell equity in their companies to Minnesota residents. Minnesota residents not considered “accredited investors” have equal opportunity to invest in these offerings. Under most federal rules, non-accredited investors would not have this opportunity. This creates a larger pool of possible investors. It also gives all Minnesotans the opportunity to invest locally.

MNvest went into effect in June 2016, and requires that these MNvest “offerings” must be made online through a “MNvest Portal” registered with the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Lots of times we hear “buy local”. At MNstarter, we like to say, “buy local (businesses).” CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE


Interviewer: Leah Kodner
Business Librarian, James J. Hill Center

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. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit 1millioncups.com/stpaul.

 

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