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It All Adds Up: Entrepreneurship 101: You’re Always Learning

October is a month of reflection and new beginnings. It’s a month that is nestled between the leisurely days of summer and the busyness of the winter holiday season. Filled with the beautiful backdrop of nature on full colorful display, October presents a natural opportunity to simply pause.

As I pause and reflect upon what has been a successful year both personally and professionally, there are a few key lessons I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Celebrate the wins – Over the years, I’ve spent more time minimizing rather than celebrating any measure of success that I had accomplished. I viewed success as a measuring stick for what’s next rather than an assessment of progress made. That mindset was the perfect breeding ground for burnout and self sabotage. I’ve since learned that celebrating the wins is just as important as setting business targets and goals. Celebrating the wins opens the door for innovation and growth.
  2. Embrace change – Growth is great, but change has the power to maximize results. Growth has been both exciting and scary. Growth carries excitement because it is a direct reflection of a return on my investment of hard work and sacrifice. Growth can also seem scary because it naturally introduces the need for change. I’ve learned the importance of tapping into training, mentorship and other development resources to facilitate the change process. Asking for help or guidance reduces the uncertainty of change and makes the growth/change cycle manageable.
  3. Have fun – In all of the hustle and hype of entrepreneurship, somewhere along the way I forgot how to have fun. I blurred the lines of when work time ended and family time began. Because I loved entrepreneurship, I carried the work into my down time as if it were also a creative outlet or hobby. Work infiltrated every area of my life. While we know in theory that this practice is a recipe for disaster, this was still hard for me to change. This year I gave myself permission to just have fun. I created time just for play and laughter. Making time just to have fun took away some of the pressure and the stress to produce. Making time simply to have fun reminded me of why I began this journey.
  4. Rest is required – While taking time to rest may seem obvious, it is often overlooked because it is the easiest activity to push aside. Taking the time to rest can seem unproductive or insignificant, but it is quite the opposite. Resting and recharging is just as important as planning and execution. I’m learning to be intentional by scheduling time just for rest. Rest is a key ingredient which positively impacts my energy level and effectiveness as an entrepreneur and a leader.

Entrepreneurship is a journey filled with many lessons and life applications. Here’s to a journey of celebration, change, a little bit of fun and plenty of rest.

I’d love to hear from you.  Send your comments to me by clicking here.

You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website junitasjar.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

 

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A Haunted Hill?

St. Paul is known for its historic buildings, such as the James J. Hill Center. From the houses on Summit Avenue to the Landmark Center, there’s a lot of history here. With such abundant history, comes stories… specifically, ghost stories.  

One of the best-known St. Paul hauntings is at the historic Forepaugh’s restaurant. Originally built in the 1870s as a house for Joseph Forepaugh, this fine dining establishment is supposedly home to a ghost named Molly, a maid who hanged herself after an affair she was having with Mr. Forepaugh was discovered. 

Our employees who grew up in the neighborhood recall hearing stories about the Chauncey Griggs Mansion on Summit Avenue. Built for Chauncey Griggs in the 1880s, the mansion has been both a private residence—at one point owned by Carl Weschcke, who was a publisher of paranormal books and apparently had an interest in the occult—and an art school. One of historic house’s ghost stories is of a maid who hanged herself in an upstairs art studio. (Wait a second, there seems to be a trend here…) 

In 1985, our downtown neighbor, the Fitzgerald Theater, was doing renovations and discovered a balcony no one had previously known was there—and with it, a note written to a stagehand named Ben. Shortly after, tools began moving around on their own, staff began encountering mysterious cold spots, and some could even swear they saw a shadowy figure walking the aisles. 

Of course, you can’t talk about haunted St. Paul without mentioning the Wabasha Street Caves, just across the river from the Hill. These caves were a Prohibition-era speakeasy and hangout for 1920s gangsters, and supposedly, some of these mobsters still hang out in the caves today. 

The Hill Center has had a few eerie occurrences of its own. One staff person swears they’ve seen the chandelier in the Reading Room—the big one by the front windows—swinging on its own at the end of the night. Considering its weight, a chandelier like that is too heavy to sway in a breeze—if there even was a breeze, which is itself unlikely. Another previous employee would always get vertigo in the exact same spot on a catwalk, but never anywhere else. 

More disturbing, a current employee swears they once saw a ghostly apparition! One day after we were closed, our staffperson was standing on the first floor when movement on the second floor caught her eye. It was a woman in a long, black dress. As the employee turned to watch—immediately thinking, “Oh no, a visitor is still in the building!”—the mysterious person disappeared behind a column, never to reappear. While we’re not sure who such a woman would be, you can bet we’re all a little extra leery when it comes time for lights out. 

Are these stories true or just fictions inspired by historic and atmospheric spaces?

 


Written by Ann Mayhew, Reference & Support Specialist, at the 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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Startup Showcase: Helping First Responders Respond Accordingly

Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently we connected with presenter Nick Tietz. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on October 6, 2018. 

A 2017 two year study by the Ruderman Family Foundation found that “Disabled individuals make up a third to half of all people killed by law enforcement officers.” And a recent research update by the Treatment Advocacy Center reinforces that “across the United States the unavailability of appropriate psychiatric treatment has forced people with mental illnesses into unnecessary — and too often dangerous — encounters with law enforcement officers, rather than medical personnel.”

Entrepreneur Nick Tietz saw a social need here, a market, and took steps in the only way he knew how — though technology. His ongoing interest in changing lives through technology has ultimately grown into the creation of a vital app that is not only changing lives but saving them.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Nick Tietz
Age: 41
City you live in: Brooklyn Park
City of birth: Bogota, Colombia
College attended: University of St. Thomas (BA – Journalism and Mass Communication); Minneapolis College of Art and Design – Animation; U of M – Naval ROTC Program

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Vitals Aware Services
Website: www.thevitalsapp.com
Business Start Date: The Vitals app was developed in partnership with the Autism Society of Minnesota. The service was launched August of 2017 in St. Paul.
Number of Employees: 10
Number of Customers: 1,366 Individuals, 26 public safety agencies in Minnesota and Ohio

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?

A. I’ve spent the last 15 years working for myself as a business consultant, technologist, user experience designer, and serial entrepreneur. I’ve designed more than 100 apps, crafted the strategy to help redefine the public education experience at Minneapolis Public Schools, and led multiple innovation efforts at Life Time Fitness to improve the employee experience and define the health club of the future.

Additionally, I’ve spent the past decade donating my time and creative services at PACER Center, where I serve on their Marketing Advisory Board, producing communication videos and helping with the production of their annual benefit.

I’m very passionate about helping others become the best version of themselves. I am focused on building technology that change people’s lives, so profoundly they can’t imagine living any other way.

Q. What is your business?

A. Vitals Aware Services is a new company creating technology for social good. We are makers of The Vitals App.

Vitals is the first and only company to have created a platform based on community created content and apps on law enforcement/first responder phones. Avoiding costly encounters between first responders and people with invisible and visible conditions and disabilities such as autism, mental health, and other disabilities.

Our community has many members with intellectual, developmental, behavioral disabilities and other mental health conditions such as autism, high anxiety, depression, dementia, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, down syndrome, Parkinson’s, fetal alcohol syndrome, bi-polar and schizophrenia.

Q. What is the origin of the business?

A. The Vitals app was developed by co-founders (Steve Mase, Nick Tietz, G.L. Hoffman, Jim Dolan and Rob Zink) in partnership with the Autism Society of Minnesota. We made this business because we were motivated to “give back” after learning about how vulnerable populations are at risk in their communities. Our idea was to give first responders crucial information at critical times, so tragedies can be avoided.

Q. What problems does your business solve?

A. The Vitals app will keep people safe by helping them communicate critical information in real time to police and first responders.

This is a new product offering in a new marketplace that hasn’t been served well. We are solving a major pain point for municipalities, individuals and first responders across the United States and beyond. The Vitals services works across any geographic boundary and is technology agnostic. Our product has been designed to improve existing police workflows, while closing the information gap that exists today between police and individuals in the community.

The more individuals and families that have the Vitals App the faster we can create safer communities across the U.S.

Q. What big obstacle or hurdle did you have to overcome?

A. Our biggest obstacle has been raising money to build this business. We worked on the business for a year before launching it publicly. We have self-funded this business and raised about a million dollars to build the technology and get this business off the ground. We are finally into our first equity round and are seeking additional investors to help us expand faster and move into additional communities across the U.S.

Q. What are you most proud of?

A. Getting calls from caregivers, parents and individuals thanking us for making a product that has saved their lives. When you build a product, you hope that people love it. But when you get to build a product that saves people’s lives, I’m still humbled that we can impact people’s lives in such a positive way.

 

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 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org

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Business Plan Resources

Maybe the most overwhelming task that faces an entrepreneur is writing the business plan. Where to start? What data to include? While some sections, like finances and management plan, are hyper-specific to each individual venture, some sections require data that can be found at the James J. Hill Center. Let’s look at three major components: industry trends, competitor list, and market analysis.

Industry trends can be found in the Hill’s IBISWorld subscription. Within each industry breakdown, organized by both NAICS code and IBISWorld-specific specialized reports, IBISWorld provides a five-year forecast of the industry in question. The reports include some product or service segmentation, allowing researchers to learn more about the newest developments in their industry as well as projections forward.

Developing a competitor list for a business plan allows a researcher to better understand how crowded the market is and how much competition they’ll be up against once their business opens. Entrepreneurs can use the Hill’s subscription to A-to-Z Databases to make this a quick and simple task. Use this directory service to search for similar business listings by industry code, estimated annual revenue, geographic location, and employee size in order to locate your peer businesses for broader understanding of the local competitive market.

When it comes to building a customer profile or doing a market analysis, many business plan writers falter at step one: where to find relevant survey information? Thankfully, the Hill offers SimplyAnalytics, one of the premier consumer demographics and behavior databases. Look up information on household buying behaviors, types of media consumed, household demographics and concentrations by geography. You can even map this information to the state, city, or zip code level, then export a graphic to include in your business plan!

Make a Hill Introduction Appointment today at jjhill.org to learn more about the Hill’s resources and classes, and let us take some of the confusion out of finding data for your business plan.

 


Written by Jessica Huffman, Business Outreach Librarian, at the 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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Moving from Networking to Positive Mentorship Relationships that Last

Have you ever been faced with a difficult decision in your career and you desperately needed advice, but did not know who to call? Nine years ago, I began to understand the connection between networking, mentorship, and my personal board of advisors. When faced with difficult career decisions, I now rely upon my mentorship relationships that have grown into my personal board of advisors.

I first learned about a personal board of advisors while in law school. This board consists of people you trust and can turn to throughout your life when faced with difficult decisions or questions. Before I could begin building this board, I had to have the relationships in place to create it.

When I moved to Minnesota, I did not know anyone. Truthfully, I did not know where to begin in terms of creating a network. I happened to attend an event where a woman was introduced as “the most networked woman in Minnesota”. I figured if anyone could help me, this woman could.

During my first meeting with this woman she changed the way I thought about networking and mentorship. She also introduced the concept of a personal board of advisors. She taught me three lessons that I have not forgotten.

First, I needed to change the way I was thinking about networking. As a young professional, I was thinking about networking as a one-way street for me to connect with someone who could teach me something. I needed to recognize that I had something to offer as well. She told me to never leave a coffee meeting without asking, “How may I support you and your work?”

Second, whether networking or building a mentorship relationship, the foundation is relationship building. Relationship building requires a time investment. Invest the time in getting to know your new connections and what is important to them in their work. If a professional event comes up that may interest them, extend an invitation to attend together. Again, the key is not to think of this as one sided.

Third, for relationships that are thriving, consider adding those people to your personal board of advisors. I had to learn that an advisor does not need to be someone further along in their career or older. Someone starting out or younger may also serve as an advisor. What is most important is that your advisors are those you trust to be honest with you and that they can provide you with different perspectives.

I am so grateful for the people who took the time to meet with me for coffee and eventually become mentors and advisors. As a result of what I have learned through these relationships, I try to do the same for others looking to connect. You never know, your next mentee may be your next advisor.


You can read more about Tisidra Jones on her
website. She will also be moderating the panel for our event Taking the Lead: Lifting Up the Next Generation: Mentorship in the 21st Century. You can RSVP here for the event.

 

 

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Options Abound For Raising Capital

For startups, financing can be challenging, and often the biggest barrier. Each month we’re focusing on a different financing option in Minnesota for startups and featuring experts in the field. 

(This article originally appeared on BetterSMB)

by April Chen

John Funge, chief product officer of DataTribe, left, and Steven Witt, co-founder and partner of the technology venture capital firm, sat down with BetterSMB to discuss ways of raising capital for new businesses. (April Chen)

Raising capital to start a new company can be challenging, but with the right knowledge, the endeavor can be successful. Knowing the nuances of each way to raise money as an entrepreneur can help a business owner decide which is best.

For people seeking to fund a company, the best source of information is an entrepreneur who has a successful business in the same or similar industry, but in a different market, said Steven Witt, co-founder and partner of DataTribe, a technology venture capital firm in Fulton, Maryland.

“The greatest thing about being an entrepreneur is that anyone that’s been one will be of the mindset that they want to give back and help the next generation of entrepreneurs,” Witt said.

When a business uses a venture capital approach to funding, some ownership of the company is given in return for the services and capital provided by the firm. This huge injection of funding enables tremendous gains that would otherwise be impossible.

For entrepreneurs not seeking venture capital funding, there are other approaches.

One of the most risky ways to startup a company is by borrowing against personal assets. Witt did this when starting his first company, so he could pay himself a “salary,” but he came within days of having to sell his family’s second car because he couldn’t afford the car payment. Some entrepreneurs even take the extreme measure of liquidating their retirement savings, which Witt doesn’t recommend.

Another approach to raising revenue is through crowdfunding, using websites such as Kickstarter.com. Since its inception in 2009, more than 15 million people have backed almost 150,000 projects there. An advantage to using websites like Kickstarter is that the investor doesn’t get equity in the company or future profits. Instead, they get the product, or a discount, once it is released. While there may be less financial risk in funding a business using this route, if the promised product is not delivered, the entrepreneur keeps the capital but it’s almost certain this entrepreneur will never be able to sell anything again. It has the potential to ruin someone’s reputation.

“One of the top reasons these types of endeavors fail is that a supplier that the businessperson negotiated a deal with either goes out of business or changes the terms, making it impossible for the creator to deliver the product to the crowd funders,” Witt said.

The Small Business Administration can help small firms get financing by guaranteeing loans. It also licenses small business investment companies, which are private investors who can make loans, invest in a share of the company, or do both, with federal backing.

John Funge, DataTribe’s chief product officer, said the businesses that would best utilize this method are those opening a franchise where there is already a predictable model, marketing and other resources that have previously proven themselves to be successful.

“Entrepreneurs need to be really thoughtful about their life stage and their future financial obligations since startups can put extreme stress on a family and personal life. Someone in their 20s likely has more to lose than someone in their 40s who is more established financially,” Funge added.

Business owners can also seek angel investors, who are sometimes found among especially wealthy friends or family. Angels often invest on more favorable terms in comparison to traditional lenders. They often look for something in return for their investment, such as a seat on the board of directors or participation in day-to-day operations, according to the Small Business Administration.

Regardless of how an entrepreneur obtains funding, Funge said business owners should line up two professionals to help their business get the right start.

“Founders of all stripes should find an accountant and a lawyer that they can work with who specialize and can serve as trail guides for starting the company,” Funge said.

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Startup Showcase: Weaving Together a Company’s Culture and Mission

Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently we connected with presenter Rosalynn Verges. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on September 22, 2018. 

In the 2018 Forbes article “15 Best Ways to Build a Company Culture That Thrives,” John M. O’Connor from Career Pro Inc. states: “If your leaders don’t buy into cultural change and healthy cultural environments, don’t expect your employees or stakeholders to follow suit.” In a 2015 report by TruPath, turnover at companies with a poor culture is 48 percent while in contrast turnover at companies with a great culture is 14 percent.

All of this goes to show that having a company with a mission to “create great places to work” is truly necessary. That is exactly what Rosalynn Verges is set out to do with Fabric. She believes culture begins with a clearly defined message and great leaders who embody them. And with today’s unemployment levels and the “war on talent,” organizations need to be focused on their culture to attract and retain top talent.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Fabric
Website: www.befabric.com
Twitter: @befabric.com
Business Start Date: Oct. 13, 2017
Number of Employees: 3
Number of Customers: 20

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Rosalynn Verges
Age: 33
City you live in: Blaine
City of birth: St. Paul
College attended: University of Minnesota, Morris; University of South Dakota (post-graduate)

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A.  I grew up on the Eastside of St. Paul (go Knights!) and then did my undergrad at the University of Minnesota, Morris. After graduating from Morris, I moved to Sioux Falls, S.D., where I earned my Professional in Human Resources (PHR) Certification and studied organizational development, business operations and lean manufacturing through the University of South Dakota’s MBA program. I was fortunate early in my career to often have a seat at the table when it came to learning about how organizations functioned and understanding business operations. As a result, I am a process-focused person who loves figuring out the actions needed to reach a goal or produce a desired outcome. Which is probably why organizational development and leadership coaching became a logical progression for my career.

Q. What is your business?
A. At Fabric, we help businesses define who they are, what they do and how they do it. And we give them the tools to actually LIVE IT. Through developing their culture messages (their mission, vision, values and strategies) and coaching leaders on how to communicate and embody those messages, we help them gain organizational alignment. We provide workshops designed to define the most important yet often obscure areas of your business. We can help create the culture your employees deserve.  Everything we do at Fabric is centered on our vision which is to “create great places to work.” So all of our services are centered on creating healthy successful organizational culture.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. I’ve always wanted to own my own business and after 10 years in HR helping people create great places to work I knew that was where I wanted to focus my attention. Given my background in organizational and leadership development, creating Fabric was a natural fit.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. I think all organizations want to have great cultures they just often don’t know HOW to make that happen. Fabric takes the guess work out of that. We help organizations live up to their culture messages and create great places to work.

Q. Where did you pivot in your company’s journey?
A. One of the biggest pivots we made was not doing it all at once. We have a lot of vision for what Fabric can be and how we can create a community to support organizational leaders, but we decided — rather than trying to do it all at once — to start with the services we see as most valuable to leaders.

Q. What is your biggest obstacle?
A. Right now our biggest obstacle is exposure. Developing a presence can be a challenge. We know there are a lot of organizations out there who would benefit from our services, but it can be difficult to know how to reach them. We’ve found the most success by focusing on organizations that are already aligned with and understand our vision of creating great places to work…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 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org

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A Matter of Perspective

Check back each month for the Original Thinker Series as we explore local innovation in entrepreneurship, the arts, and our community one pioneering mind at a time.

Dario Otero, CEO of Youth Lens 360, has created a new kind of media production company—one that puts youth behind the camera on real world projects.

“I knew that the work was out there and that young people [were] already show[ing] up with such brilliant ideas and already knew how to use technology at a very high level,” says Dario.

Youth Lens 360 is the next step in a career Dario has spent investing in young people. As an educator, Dario felt that the classroom only allowed students to take their digital media skills so far.

“In school […] the kids don’t actually make money,” says Dario.

By contrast, Youth Lens 360 gives students paid contract experience running cameras, editing footage, recording voice over, and ultimately delivering complete products to clients.

“They’re doing real world work for money, contracting with people and starting their own companies,” says Dario. “They’ve got to learn how to submit an invoice or make a proposal or figure out how to do this work.”

Beyond the parameters of each job, Dario makes sure his young crew members are well supported. He helps with transportation, proper business attire, and lunch meetings to talk through next steps.

With the rapid growth of the gig economy, Youth Lens 360 is equipping young people with the skills they need to strike out on their own in the digital media industry—especially those who are currently underrepresented in media production.

“A lot of times when we walk into the room and we’re the interview crew—75-85% of us are youth of color and young people learning this craft—it really shocks people,” says Dario. “They love it because it’s a different style and a different approach to the interview.”

At the heart of it, Dario is an original thinker because he believes that there is intrinsic value in the perspective young people bring to a project. He does not see them as mere amateurs learning a craft but as a valuable assets that companies can tap into precisely because of their age.

“People are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to these marketing companies to go out and find young people between the ages of 14-24 to see if they like this new product,” says Dario. “We have a creative process that we can go through with companies that can help them position their product or service in a way that they may never have seen it before.”

To learn more about Youth Lens 360, view past projects, or to hire them visit their website www.youthlens360.com.


Written by Christopher Christenson, Program & Event Coordinator, at the James J. Hill Center. Have an idea of a person or organization to feature in this series? Send your recommendations to 
christopher@jjhill.org.

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An Immigrant’s Story

To celebrate Welcoming Week at the James J. Hill Center, we spoke to Jessica Sutherland, Program Supervisor at the James J. Hill House, to learn about James J. Hill’s arrival in St. Paul as a Canadian immigrant.

What was St. Paul like in 1856, when James J. Hill arrived here?

St. Paul was a frontier village by the Mississippi River in 1856, with a population of around 10,000. Minnesota was still two years away from statehood, and only two houses had been built on Summit Avenue, where James J. Hill would later build his own mansion (ironically, Hill would later purchase these first two homes and demolish them to build his Summit Avenue mansion). St. Paul’s status as the northern most navigable point on the Mississippi River made it an ideal jumping off point for people wanting to be involved in the shipping industry.

What was life like for immigrants coming to St. Paul at that time?

Life would’ve been difficult for immigrants coming to St. Paul; it was a rough town, with the arm of the law quite short, but the promise of a new beginning and more opportunities for advancement were enticing.

How was James J. Hill similar or different from other immigrants at that time?

Hill had a private school education until the age of 14, so he was likely better educated than many of the immigrants coming to St. Paul at the time. His ability to both do manual labor and write in a fair hand, figure accurately and network with the right people was an integral part of getting his first job in St. Paul. But I think all of the immigrants coming were all looking to chase the American Dream.

What was Mr. Hill’s first job in St. Paul?

Hill’s first job in St. Paul was as a “mud clerk,” which was the term for an entry-level shipping clerk who would stand in the mud at the edge of the Mississippi River and document the goods being loaded and unloaded.

What kind of business person was Mr. Hill?

I think that Hill had a public persona that was very different than his private one. In business, he was exacting, detail-oriented, hardworking, and no-nonsense. He was known for being difficult to work with because he held his employees to the same high standards that he held himself. But he also wasn’t the kind of leader or business owner who stayed in his “ivory tower”; he was very actively out on the front lines of his business.  And I also think he was rewarded with a great deal of loyalty from his staff, and with a great deal of trust from his business partners.

What can entrepreneurs today learn from James J. Hill’s story?

I think Hill’s story is about being in the right place at the right time with the right combination of skills, knowledge and ambition to succeed. Hard work does not always equate success—think of the thousands of other immigrants who worked just as hard and didn’t become millionaires.

What is the most interesting thing about James J. Hill that most people don’t already know?

That when he was home with his kids, he was “Papa.” We have very sweet letters between him and his daughter Rachel where he says, “How does it come that you have not written to your poor old papa. I hope you have not forgotten me.” As opposed to a letter he wrote to the manufacturer providing the refrigerator for his home that, “if your work does not do what you have undertaken it shall do, I will tear it out.” Again, there’s that dichotomy of the public versus private persona.

 

 

Jessica Sutherland is the Program Supervisor of the James J. Hill House. She has worked for the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) for 7 years.  For the past three years she has enjoyed supporting her staff in fulfilling MNHS’s mission of transforming lives using the power of history at the Hill House.

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Startup Showcase: Food for Thought in Helping the State’s Business Growth

Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently we connected with presenter Lauren Mehler Pradhan. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on September 8, 2018. 

According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, “Minnesota leads the nation in food patents per capita and has long been on the forefront of research and innovation in agriculture, food production and food safety.” In addition, Minnesota ranks among the top 10 in more than 20 agricultural products and is home to some of the nation’s largest agricultural and food production companies.

To accelerate this growth and build an interconnected ecosystem of support, The Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School of Business established “Grow North.” Since launching in January of 2017 the organization has already made its mark in the community and with Lauren Mehler Pradhan at the helm, sharing stories of success and lending support, the ongoing growth in the North is inevitable.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Grow North
Website: www.grownorthmn.com
Twitter: @grownorthmn
Business start date: January 2017
Number of employees: Me and two amazing interns
Number of customers: Sometimes too many to count.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Lauren Mehler Pradhan
Age: 36
City you live in: Hopkins
City of birth: New Brunswick, N.J.
High school attended: South Brunswick High School
College attended: Rutgers College

Q&A

Q. Who are you and what is your history?
A. I am the founding managing director for Grow North, a mom, a lover of food and deep believer in the impact that entrepreneurs and innovators can have on our food system. While I am originally from New Jersey, I am very proud to call Minnesota home for the last 14 years.

Q. What is your business?
A. Grow North is an initiative of the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School of Business focused on accelerating Minnesota’s ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation in food and agriculture. We offer education, mentorship, and networking programming as well as create large events like Food, Ag, Ideas Week Oct 8-12.

Q. What is the genesis of the business?
A. Grow North was inspired by a cross-section of the community coming together through the MN Cup, a venture competition out of the Carlson School, and their Food, Ag, Beverage division. The division quickly became the fastest growing division in the Cup. Community leaders started asking how they could extend support and connectivity to the community throughout the year, and so the idea of Grow North as an ecosystem builder, resource hub and connector came to life.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. We believe that startup businesses will grow and scale faster and smarter if they are a part of an interconnected, supportive, sophisticated ecosystem. To make this happen, we focus on solving the problem of connectivity — to resources, individuals and organizations. If we can help entrepreneurs and organizations get the right connection at the right time, they will spend more time growing their business — fewer clicks, fewer coffees, more growth. We also want Minnesota’s community to be connected and visible across the globe, and so I spend time connecting with leaders in other cities to drive awareness and bring best practices back.

Q. What personal strengths or skill sets do you bring to the business?
A. Minnesota has so much here to be proud of, but for some reason we do not like to talk about it. I bring a little bit of east coast straight forwardness to my work and so I happily share stories about the remarkable individuals and companies that are here to anyone who will listen. I spent 12 years at General Mills before Grow North, so I bring industry experience, connectivity and an appreciation for the complexities of our food system.

Q. Where do you go when you need help?
A. I feel very fortunate that I have found mentors in the community who have acted as sounding boards, advisers, as well as shoulders to cry on. I meet with two entrepreneurs a week not only to provide support but also to keep me honest that Grow North programming remains relevant. My interns and colleagues at the Holmes Center are great and we brainstorm ideas all of the time….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 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org

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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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