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An Online, On-Demand Marketplace for Car Repair

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenter Jacob Koelln. As seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on June 17, 2017.

According to the 2017 IBISWorld report “Auto Mechanics in the U.S.,” auto repair is a $63.8 billion industry, and that figure continues to rise.

Americans own more cars than ever before, and these cars need mechanics. Because of the expense required to maintain cars, it is important that consumers are able to find mechanics that they trust to perform any needed repairs.

Jacob Koelln created his company, CheckNGN, in order to connect consumers to a vetted and trusted network of mechanics, allowing them to post projects and accept bids from these mechanics and select the one that seems like the best fit.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Jacob Koelln
Age: 33
City you live in: Minneapolis
City of birth: Appleton, Minn.
High school attended: John Marshall High School, Rochester, Minn.
College attended: Augsburg College

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: CheckNGN
Website: www.checkNGN.com
Business Start Date: February 2017
Number of Employees: 3 founders
Number of Customers: 20+ repair shops and 200+ users

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I consider myself a thinker, solver, and entrepreneur who happened to be working in a corporate setting most of my professional career. I grew up in Rochester, son of Rev. Thomas Koelln and Dr. Rebecca Koelln who always encouraged me to follow what I believe in. I started my corporate work after graduating Augsburg College with a degree in Business Management and Management Information Systems. I have worked for various Fortune 500 companies in the Twin Cities area including Target Corp., United Health Group, and Blue Cross & Blue Shield — all of which have motivated me positively to start my own business. My motivation behind the mission of CheckNGN really resonates with me, and it gives me that “all in” feeling that is difficult to re-create outside of true entrepreneurship.

Q. What is your business?
A. CheckNGN is an automotive service iOS app that connects users with local independent repair shops. We screen (or vet) shops, and then invite them to join our private network of independent repair professionals. Once they’re part of our network, they’re then eligible to receive bids, which allows them to make a connection. The business model is predicated on a two-way interactive bidding platform that creates transparency in price, quality, and communication of a car service or repair need. Although price is certainly a benefit, the real value comes from the interaction between a car owner and repair shop.  By increasing communication and being transparent about the process, users not only get a fair price, but they also develop a lasting relationship with a repair shop that they can count on.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. I’ve been blessed to have found some very helpful and purposeful mentors throughout my career, such as Aaron Eggert and David Jacobsen. Aaron and David are local businessmen, and I’ve had a personal friendship with both even before CheckNGN. We also have a very strong core team of founders….READ FULL ARTICLE

 

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

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Joseph Pyle, Librarian and the Original “Original Thinker”

Deciding who to lead James J. Hill’s brand new reference library was an easy pick – look no further than Joseph Gilpin Pyle – newspaper editor and Hill’s very own speech writer and biographer. “In May, 1915, Joseph Gilpin Pyle, a long time friend of J.J. Hill, with the guidance of Hill himself, began the work of preparing the library book lists.” With close ties, Hill was sure to have a trusted partner in Pyle to create the vision for the reference library.

When Hill passed away in 1916, Pyle maintained leadership at the library – carefully selecting books from around the world to support this general research library. Many of these books were rare and valuable, which made a trip to the James J. Hill Reference Library even more appealing for both the common and advanced researcher.

By the time the doors opened in 1921, Pyle had acquired 10,000 volumes (many of which were selected by Hill himself), which was not an easy task during the early acquisition phase of WWI. Nevertheless, the library opened its doors and was an easy sell to the people of Saint Paul. The James J. Hill Reference Library welcomed nearly 23,000 annual visitors in the early years and upwards of 60,000 annual visitors during its peak years of the early 1940s.

To be sure, Pyle’s vision of the library as the hub for the “original thinker” stands today. Entrepreneurs and small businesses trying their hand at original products and services are at the hub of action at the Hill, and our resources are still the backbone of research to get a product from seed stage to for sale on the shelf.

Joseph Pyle, James J. Hill, and the story of this epic building on the National Registry of Historic Places will be further explored in the Cabinet of Curiosity tour every third Thursday at 10:30am. Go back in time in this one hour tour, up and down the catwalks, and through the vault in a nooks and crannies inspired experience. We’ll also explore some of Pyle’s original documents, including this immaculate scrapbook of newspaper clippings that Pyle collected from 1907-1911. Our June tour sold out, 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 at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Catering to Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Good Cookies, Good Things

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 will be moderating the Hill Center’s upcoming series “Taking the Lead”, conversations dedicated to women entrepreneurs.  We had a few minutes to check with Junita to chat about her company and her commitment to supporting women on their journey toward living their best life.

What is your Business and how did your entrepreneurial journey begin? 
I am the founder/owner of Favorable Treats. We make homemade baking easier, more convenient and delicious through our frozen pre-cut cookie dough which is available for retail and food service operations in three flavors; triple chocolate chip, oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin.

What do you want people to know about you and your business and what sets it apart? 
Favorable Treats is definitely a work of heart;).  When people think of my company, I want them to think two things: we make good cookies, we do good things. Founded upon recipes that have been in my family for decades and inspired by my personal experience of overcoming domestic violence, we are a mission driven company, donating a portion of our annual profits to support dating/domestic violence awareness and prevention education programs.

What or who has made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
My family is my greatest source of inspiration. I have a ginormous family rooted in southern traditions. My family spent a lot of time in the kitchen and that is where many of my favorite childhood memories were made. Later in life, those childhood memories became a way of escape and I began baking in my own kitchen as a way of reconnecting to the times that brought me a lot of joy. From there, Favorable Treats began.

How does your entrepreneurial spirit contribute to the Twin Cities Business Ecosystem and Community?
I am a dreamer at my core and I believe anything is possible. I believe greatness lives in each of us and if there is a way that I can inspire, support or encourage someone to believe in and pursue their dream, then that becomes my task. I work hard on my own business growth which adds value to the larger business community. I will always support the work of others within our small business community through purchases, referrals and moral support.

What has been the largest hurdle and / or success you have experienced as an entrepreneur?
My largest hurdle has been to keep going. My biggest success has been that i did not quit. I’ve had to restart my business on three separate occasions as I worked through a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. While I would not have chosen the experience, that experience has added depth, renewed strength and a level of confidence that I had not ever tapped into. Creating a business rooted in the traditions of homemade baking while giving a voice to the reality of domestic violence is an amazing way to lead, live and grow.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
I’ve shared this piece of advice many times and I continue to live it:  Identify and accept your WHY for charting your course. There will be days when you don’t feel it, you can’t see it, you can’t finance it, or you have to fight for it, but if you rehearse your WHY, you will not quit! Make a promise to yourself to always DREAM about your why, BELIEVE your why, EXECUTE your why, CELEBRATE your why, then repeat!

What is it about Minnesota and how has it managed to keep you here?
I love the spirit of entrepreneurship in Minnesota. Minnesotans support their own. We take pride in being connected to the the producers of our goods and services. we take pride in supporting the financial stability of our neighbors and friends. Minnesotans are resilient and we just make things happen. We are small enough to feel like a close knit community and large enough to receive national recognition in many industries. Minnesota is simply home.

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

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Selling the Arts and Crafts of Good Cheese

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

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

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

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

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

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

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

COMPANY PROFILE

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

Q&A

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Startup Secrets and Sh#$ to Know

Aleckson Nyamwaya has his beat on the pulse of the startup world in MN.  He is an Associate @gener8tor, a Dreamchaser @powermovesdev  and a lover of all things Tech & Startups.  We are pleased to have his monthly insight on Startup Secrets and Sh#$ to Know.  Check back each month for his thoughts, observations and featured companies.

The Rise of Venture Capital in MN

And what this means for the startup community

It goes without saying, the Twin Cities startup ecosystem is less than mediocre. The good news is, there are many worthwhile initiatives underway to help change that. One of those efforts is venture capital. In late 2016 & early 2017, Minnesotans saw an increase of venture capital activity.

What this means for the local ecosystem

The bad…

MEETINGS, MEETINGS, MEETINGS. The hype will inevitably lead the community to play a game called “Startup”. Suddenly everyone becomes an entrepreneur with an “Uber for X”. This will be a result of 2 things.

  1. The new VCs are first-timers, They are too excited about their new found “Gatekeeper” role which will lead them to make mistakes as they adjust.
  2. Instead of tackling challenging problems, The Twin Cities eco-system will abuse & misuse these funds on stupid ideas that don’t deserve funding.

The Good…

In this day and age, VCs are expected to have a moral responsibility. Give back to the community in which you serve. The most valuable way to achieve this is through inspiring, mentoring and cultivating the generation of leaders. Perhaps through initiatives put in place by community leaders to develop the strong founders. Such as, mentorship, free mini accelerators, high school/college involvement, EIR programs etc.

Conclusion

My prediction is that half of these firms will fail, crashing and burning to the ground. Only time can tell, specifically the next 3–5 years. It’s important to note that, Minnesota’s early stage venture capital market is still in it’s infancy. Relative to older markets, such as silicon valley. Where firms like KPCB have reigned supreme before the 90’s to this day.

This is our golden age of entrepreneurs-turned-VCs. I am excited to see where this journey leads us.


Featured Resource:

Bunker labs: A national NOT-FOR-PROFIT 501(C)(3) organization built by military veteran entrepreneur to empower other military veterans as leaders in innovation.

Guest writer:  Aleckson Nyamwaya
To sign up for his monthly tech newsletter CLICK HERE.

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

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

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

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

ENTREPRENEUR  PROFILE

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

COMPANY PROFILE

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

Q&A

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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Aiming to Make Scheduling Meetings Simpler

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

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

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

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

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

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

COMPANY PROFILE

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

Q&A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Be Present to the Good Stuff with Chris Carlson

 A Conversation with Entrepreneur Chris Carlson

Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor,  lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros.  We had the opportunity to chat with Chris about his life as an entrepreneur and the upcoming program Soft Skills Revolution that will be at the Hill Center on June 1st.

What is your business and how did you begin your entrepreneurial career?
I think the best way to describe Narrative Pros, is to think of it as a high tech health club for soft skills. Just like you can go to a gym to feel better and improve your health, we work with people to feel better about their connections with audiences and improve their skill at doing that. Like the personal trainers at a gym, we have what you could call “connection trainers”—professional communicators from theater and business who continue to make their living from connecting with audiences. Instead of treadmills that tell you your pulse, we use audio and video tools to measure your progress. Just like we all know we have to get in shape, pretty much everyone realizes that they can be more genuine, confident and present.

My career as an entrepreneur started as an extension of my work as a professional actor and an attorney. After working professionally as an actor, I went to law school to get some more control over my career (I was sick of waiting tables). At law school, I saw how poorly trained law students were in how to communicate effectively. We spent nine months learning how to write like an attorney, but only a few weeks on how to speak like one. Ever since then, I have worked to bring my acting colleagues as well as other artists together to work with business professionals to help them connect with their audiences more effectively.

What has been the largest hurdle and / or success you have experienced as an entrepreneur?
I think that one of the most significant hurdles of entrepreneurship is the periodic isolation. One of the great things about being your own boss is also one of the hardest—you’re always on the job and you’re always scrutinizing your own work. A network of like-minded people is an invaluable resource to get feedback,  verify assumptions, and provide moral support.

How do you manage being an entrepreneur and what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
I ask myself how I manage that almost every day… I guess I would have to say it’s a combination of persistence and some sort of cultivated ignorance of the downsides. The more present I can be to the good stuff—doing what I love, having more control over how and when I work—the more I am able to put up with all the other b.s. that goes with being an entrepreneur.

There are a lot more entrepreneurs out there with a lot more experience and accomplishments, but if I had to give advice it would be just that: be present to the good stuff. Hold on tightly to your passion and vision, but let go loosely of the things that don’t matter. The best way I’ve found to do that is to go out and share what I’ve found with as many people as possible. Especially other entrepreneurs. You are not alone and can stand on the shoulders of giants when you open up for advice and feedback.

You come from a diverse background of acting, Improvisation and law.  Can you tell me how those worlds have informed what you do know?
I have come to see each of these diverse disciplines as united by the same thing: listening to, crafting, and retelling stories. Whether it’s an audience or a judge, a play or a client’s claim; many professions primary value can be traced back to their ability to connect with their audiences in a way that moves them to action.

Tell me why you think business professionals could benefit from skill sets that actors and improvisers uses?
Everyone can benefit from increasing their skill to connect better with others. Even though that’s something we do quite naturally with the people who are close to us, many people find that connecting at that level of effectiveness with people we are not as comfortable with is very difficult. The first hurdle to overcome is to recognize creativity, collaboration and communication as skills, not talents. Just like when you learned to ride a bike or tried to perfect your golf swing, these soft skills are skills that can be developed through deliberate practice.

Over centuries, actors have developed a pretty efficient system of developing their abilities to be creative, collaborate with others under pressure and connect with audiences. This is a mental and physical process that is open to anyone who wants to develop the same skills.

What is it about Minnesota and how has it managed to keep you here?
I am fiercely proud of Minnesota. I made a conscious choice about 10 years ago to remain here because of the people and the great quality of life here. Looking back, I may have missed out on some big opportunities by not moving to New York or L.A., but I have been happy with the trade-off. I have enjoyed a much steadier flow of opportunities that I can imagine I ever would have had elsewhere. And, as the world takes more notice of the excellent talent and people here, the larger opportunities are finding their way here as well.

You can find out more about Chris Carlson and his company at NarrativePros.com OR join us at the Hill as we host him and his team on Thursday, June 1st from 1pm to 5pm in a half day intensive training on Soft Skills Revolution. Learn the key steps to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

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A Food Service That Thinks Inside the Box

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

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

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

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

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

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

COMPANY PROFILE

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

 

Q&A

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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IMPORTANT NOTICE:

We are pleased to announce the completion of our elevator renovation at the James J. Hill Center. This project was financed in part with funds provided by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society and the F. R. Bigelow Foundation. It will greatly increase our ability to serve 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 our brand new elevator!

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