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Author Archive

The Vision to Help Everyone See the Big Picture

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenters Henry Amoloja of Murol. As seen in the Pioneer Press, Startup Showcase on January 14, 2016.

Have you ever taken a group selfie, shared it on Instagram, and found that some of the people got cut out of the frame? That’s what happens when you take a photo in landscape orientation and share it on sites like Instagram, where the photos are displayed in portrait orientation. Instead of seeing the entire photo, you only see the part of the photo that fits into a square, and anything (or anyone) appearing outside of that square is lost.

Having experienced this problem, Henry Amoloja set out to create a solution. That solution: MUROL, a landscape orientation photo-sharing app.

COMPANY PROFILE 

  • Name of company: MUROL
  • Website: www.murolapp.com
  • Business Start Date: April 2016
  • Number of Employees: 4 team members: Marketing Director Tamir Hussein, CTO Ben Fossen, Business Development Specialist Jeremiah Osopko, and Creative Director Elly Olson.
  • Number of Customers: Approaching 2,000 users

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

  • Name: Henry Amoloja
  • Age: 24
  • City you live in: Maplewood
  • Country of birth: Desenzano Del Garda, Italy
  • High School attended: Roseville Area High School
  • College attended: University of Minnesota Duluth

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I was raised in Nigeria. My family immigrated to Minnesota in 2003 and I have lived here ever since. I took up football and track in high school. Playing sports taught me the value of hard work and the reward of the seeing the results. While at college at UMD, I took an interest in business courses like Intro to Marketing and Corporate Finance. I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I just had no idea what I was good at and what products or services I would selling.

I began cutting my own hair in college because I did not trust any barbers in Duluth to do a good job with my hair. I bought a clipper set and began experimenting with different hair styles on myself. Friends took notice and became coming to me for a free haircut. I eventually got good enough to start charging $5 and I saved up to buy professional clippers and started charging $10. This was a rewarding experience for me to monetize on a self-taught skill.

I had a short stint of selling custom sunglasses in college, as well. I knew I had an entrepreneurial bone in my body but I struggled to harness it to its full potential. I began reading business articles outside of school and becoming really fascinated by branding, marketing strategies, financial statements and other components of corporations.

A co-worker named Luida recommended a book to me called “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill that completely changed my life. I feel like it was exactly what I needed to fully maximize my entrepreneurial potential. I read other self-development and business books and planned to start a company when I graduated.

After college, I decided to attend a nine-month barbering program while working to support myself. When the program concluded I accepted a job at Ferguson Enterprises and was sent to North Carolina for a five-month training program. While in North Carolina, the concept behind MUROL was conceived. When I returned to Minnesota in January 2016, I worked hard on the branding and the first public announcement of what I had been working on. I added four people to the team to help with the overwhelming tasks. We launched in the app store on June 21, 2016. Held a beautiful launch event in August which brought us to 1,000 users about eight weeks later. In December of 2016, I decided to quit my sales job at Ferguson to focus on MUROL.

Q. What is your business?
A. MUROL is the first photo sharing app that allows users to capture, display and share photos on a strict landscape-oriented interface as opposed to a portrait-oriented interface.

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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 jjhill.org/1-million cups

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Two Friends Create Buzz Around Cold-Brew Coffee

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenters, Alex French and Andrew Healey of Get Bizzy. As seen in the Pioneer Press, Startup Showcase on December 31, 2016

For a variety of reasons, ranging from a lack of sleep to being overscheduled and overworked, Americans are increasingly tired. A recent poll by YouGov shows that only 1 in 7 Americans report feeling well-rested every day. For the rest of us, there’s caffeine.

Whether from coffee, tea, energy drinks or pop, caffeine can provide us with the much-needed jolt of energy we need to get through the day. At the same time, many of the pre-packaged beverages on the market include added ingredients like sugar that add unnecessary calories to the jolt.

Due to hectic schedules and a need for increased energy, Alex French and Andrew Healey turned to cold-brew coffee. Cold brew coffee is increasingly trendy, but it’s time-consuming to make at home. They started Get Bizzy in response to this demand. Unlike many other pre-packaged beverages, Bizzy Coffee is sugar- and calorie-free, and because it’s pre-packaged, it doesn’t take hours for consumers to prepare.

COMPANY PROFILE 

  • Name of company: Get Bizzy, Inc.
  • Website: www.bizzycoffee.com
  • Business Start Date: May 2015
  • Number of Employees: 4 full-time
  • Number of Customers: Thousands

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

  • Name: Alex French
  • Age: 27
  • City you live in: New Brighton
  • Country of birth: St. Paul
  • High School attended: Irondale High School
  • College attended: University of St. Thomas
  • Name: Andrew Healey
  • Age: 28
  • City you live in: New Brighton
  • Country of birth: St. Paul
  • High School attended: Irondale High School
  • College attended: University of Minnesota

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. We are childhood friends who met while going to middle school in New Brighton. We stayed friends throughout high school and college. Alex went to the University of St. Thomas and Andrew went to the University of Minnesota. Alex majored in business and Andrew in mechanical engineering. After graduating, we were both hired at large corporations and felt unfulfilled with our jobs. Bizzy Coffee was founded while we were working our corporate jobs, training for World’s Toughest Mudder — a 24-hour obstacle race, and running a group fitness company that we had started several years previously. Juggling those three things was a challenge, and we needed a way to get more energy and stamina without resorting to unhealthy energy drinks. We discovered cold brew coffee at this time, and started working on a way to make it more convenient. In 2015, Bizzy Coffee was born.

Q. What is your business?
A. Bizzy Coffee is the No. 1-selling cold brew coffee on the internet. We manufacture a Certified Organic cold brew coffee concentrate that is sold in all 50 states and Canada…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 jjhill.org/1-million cups

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Company Takes Data Security to the Next Level

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews Entrepreneur and 1 Million Cup presenter, Daren Klum with company Secured2 Corporation. As seen in the Pioneer Press, Startup Showcase on December 17, 2016

Data security is a growing issue in our society. Some of the organizations hacked in the past 5 years include the IRS, LinkedIn, Yahoo! and Target. These breaches cost companies millions of dollars to rectify and can be very harmful to consumers if their personal information ends up in the wrong hands.

Even though hackers seem to be able to breach a variety of encryption methods, encryption remains one of the most popular methods of data security. According to the 2016 Cost of Data Breach Study by the Ponemon Institute and IBM Security, there are two main data security methods applied by organizations in the United States: 52 percent of corporations use training and awareness programs to educate employees about data security, and 49 percent have expanded their use of encryption software.

Clearly, encryption alone is not enough, and yet most corporations don’t seem to be aware of other options. Daren Klum has extensive experience in information technology and software development, and he has seen evidence of the failures of encryption over the years. He started Secured2 Corp. as a better way to safely store and transmit data, by “shredding” the data so it is impossible for hackers to read.

COMPANY PROFILE 

  • Name of company: Secured2 Corp.
  • Website: www.secured2.com
  • Business Start Date: June 18, 2013
  • Number of Employees: 6
  • Number of Customers: Unlisted (note: as a security company, they want to keep that information private)

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

  • Name: Daren Klum
  • Age: 47
  • City you live in: Shoreview
  • Country of birth: Englewood, CA
  • College attended: Mankato State University and the University of Minnesota

 

Q. What led to this point?
A. I’m a technology executive, inventor and futurist who thrives on solving global challenges, developing exciting new technology and bringing the total solution to market. With a growing list of patents and patents-pending, I continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible with technology. My background includes information technology, hardware development, software development, technical marketing and corporate finance. I had the good fortune to work with Gartner, Digital River in the early days, Sprint, TW Telecom, and I founded venture-backed LiquidCool Solutions. Currently, I’m the CEO of Secured2, a data security company in Minneapolis.My abilities include idea creation, patent development, software development (coding), technology integration, technology sales and marketing, technology funding and technology investing.

Q. What is your business?
A. We are a data security software company. Through our proprietary process, we are able to shrink, shred, secure and restore data. This process makes your data unhackable…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 jjhill.org/1-million cups

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Every Cent Counts

It’s that time of year again. The holidays are approaching, the weather is turning colder and end-of-year giving messages are out. That final reminder to donate to your charity (or charities) of choice and make the tax-deductible gift shows up in your inbox.  And it works! 30% of all donations in the United States happen in December (MobileCause). But why does it work? What is it about the end of the year that pushes people to donate?

Plenty of research has been done to show people give because it makes them happier, makes them feel like they have contributed and made a difference in their community, and the tax deduction is a major incentive to give large sums. But, again, why do these matter?  The Guardian asked this same question, and came up with three slightly different – but similar – concepts, two of which I’d like to expand on.

First, the idea that charitable giving is ruled by empathy and compassion, instead of logic and reason. People donate to causes they care about because they are affected through personal experience and/or a compelling campaign. The decision to donate is pushed by these feelings.  The last months of the calendar year are focused on holidays and family, both of which drive the message of love and comfort, and in turn encourage community members donate to help those who cannot enjoy this season be it because of an illness, lack of resources or larger personal issues dictating their time. The act of giving born out of compassion and empathy in this busy and cold time at the end of the year is a very positive action for our community.

Second, the article states “charitable giving is contagious – seeing others give makes an individual more likely to give.” Donating to charity and a cause you care about sets an example for those around you, and gently encourages them to do the same. The hope in setting the example is others – coworkers, children, friends – will be inspired to give to a cause they are affected by or care about. It is the ‘pay-it-forward’ concept. It’s easy to share on your giving on social media and hope others follow suit.

Giving works and every cent counts. Giving and helping others makes us happier, gives us purpose and is tax-deductible! Donate to a cause you care about and make your money count. This season, consider donating to the James J. Hill Center and help honor the legacy of our founder by continuing to support entrepreneurial spirit in the 21st Century.

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The Key Relationship Entrepreneurs Often Overlook

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Whether you are a brand new business owner, a seasoned entrepreneur or still deciding if your idea is worth pursuing, you’ll need advice. But who to go to? The internet will have some answers. You can stop by government agencies and nonprofits – like the James J. Hill Center – to help you get started and navigate. But one of the most important relationships an entrepreneur can have is a mentor. The startup experience is full of challenges and can be unknown territory, and having a relationship with a mentor is vital to navigating the terrain.

There is no right or wrong way to have a relationship with a mentor. It can be someone you meet with on a weekly basis and closely monitor progress and planning with, or a contact you reach out to sporadically when a problem arises that you are unsure how to fix. But there are certain qualities and key characteristics a mentor should possess.

It may seem obvious, but a mentor should have experience and proven success in their own professional career. With experience comes perspective and foresight, both of which are invaluable for an entrepreneur. It is difficult – maybe impossible – to avoid making mistakes, but if you can learn lessons from a mentor’s mistakes, it’s easier to avoid mistakes or at least be prepared to handle them as they arise. A mentor with experience will also feel confident giving advice, and you can feel confident receiving it. Trust is key, and it is much easier to trust a mentor with experience and a proven track record of success or growth.

Integrity and sincerity also play a huge role in a successful mentor/mentee relationship. A good mentor will be encouraging and smart. A GREAT mentor will be honest and insightful. While compliments and soft encouragement are nice, they are not productive, nor do they set anyone up to accomplish their goals. The “tendency towards candor is so important because as an entrepreneur you have limited time to get your company off the ground and reach profitability and long-term growth” (Rob Ebrahimi, Forbes contributor). As a mentor, it is important to ask the tough questions and bring perspective on the market and the idea. Time is valuable and the conversations should be frank to ensure you and your venture are on task and on track.

Mentoring is an important relationship for both parties. The mentee receives invaluable advice and guidance and is able to expand their network and knowledge to create a company or idea to better the community. The mentor has the chance to share their experiences to better the future of a new professional and their field of expertise.  As entrepreneurs, the right mentorship relationship can set you on a positive path for success. Consider finding a mentor or becoming one to enhance your business experience.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE:

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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