Next week is Twin Cities Startup Week a celebration of the “startup capital of the north,” Minnesota. A great time to recognize innovation, creative thinking and economic empowerment. After reviewing some of the startups that have presented at 1 Million Cups St. Paul (every Wednesday 9AM at the Hill) we were impressed by the variety of individuals who made up these organizations, and the creative implementation of each idea.
We started to wonder what characteristic these entrepreneurs possess…these ground breakers, these innovators. We were surprised to find it was not the usual traits that often define a successful business person (i.e. professional, competitive, ambitious). The traits instead were holistic, passionate and creative – not typically the words used in day-to-day corporate environments.
Entrepreneurs are described as the artists of business, the breakers of the mold and the dreamers of our time. They come in all shapes, sizes, ages and races. Their services and products vary from small to large, specific to broad, for niche groups or the entire world. They are for profit and not for profit (some profitable, some just surviving). But all of them have one thing in common. They all start as a dream.
These risk takers go beyond their comfort zone and strive to create a new world. They are the inspiration behind new ideas and revolutions that shape our daily decisions and define our economic future.
After reading about these innovators of change, we wanted to thank them for their willingness to jump, to believe in an idea, to keep an open mind, flexible heart, a passionate belief AND the confidence to persevere when it doesn’t work the first time. We all can learn from them. We all can be a little more entrepreneurial every day.
“If it is still in your mind, it is worth taking the risk”
– Paulo Coelho, lyricist & Novelist-
You can imagine the vast array of questions a resource library gets asked in one day. In my brief time sitting at the JJ Hill Centers front desk on a Wednesday afternoon I was asked, “Can I look up every address I ever lived at?” and “Do you have a book that would show me where to find all the award emblems that can be given to student in school?” Our reference librarians can almost always find an answer and if not, they can point you in the right direction. We are a business reference library and we cover every business imaginable, which leaves us with a vast database of facts and details that people quickly discover can connect them to more information than they may have thought.
But, is there ever a question that is too off the chart to answer? In short, no. In December 2014 the Gothamist reported on a discovery found at the New York City Library. A reference librarian was cleaning house and found a large box of old reference questions from the 1940s and 50s. Questions varied from “What is a life span of an eyelash?” to “What percentage of bathtubs in the world are in the US?” to “Where can I rent a beagle for hunting?” Amazingly enough the system back then was the same as today and a reference librarian called them back with an answer. There were of course question where answers could not be found, but the fact that people asked gives a wonderful nod to the trusted resource a reference library held then and still does today.
Here at the Hill we believe there are no stupid questions. So, if you can’t find it when you search online and you want to dig deeper, contact us. As the esteemed and highly respected Carl Sagan once said “There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every questions is a cry to understand the world.” Come learn with us!
The first patent filed under the name “Google, Inc.,” was on August 31, 1999 – 17 years ago. It was initially started as a research project for “watermarking systems and methodology for digital multimedia content.” It has since become the primary tool for all things people question, wonder and need to know, BUT what did we do before Google and is there a human need to reconnect, be certain and have a trusted “human “source?
The James J. Hill Center is considered the oldest free reference library in the nation and still holds some of the most relevant business research in the country. Reference desks did not become a service until the late 1800’s. The Boston Public Library in 1883 was the first library to hire librarians whose primary purpose was reference and research. Over this century reference services grew to be a trusted direct personal assistant to readers seeking information. The invention of the computer, web and Google has drastically shifted that perspective but not eliminated it. As more time is spent in front of our computers and listening to automated voicemail there has been another shift.
A recent article on the New York Public Library (NYPL) proves reference desks are still a vital and growing way to find out anything from the odd and mysterious to the most challenging. The NYPL receives 300 inquiries per day and one of the number one comments is “Thank God I’ve reached a human being.” At the Hill though the numbers are smaller, the reaction is the same. Business researchers have access to databases and materials that are not easily accessible. This is not to say that reference librarians do not use the web to search for answers but they are experts at sifting through content, picking what is relevant and getting a trusted response, backed up with facts and put in one place.
So the next time you jump on Google and type in “Business Plan Templates” – why not consider coming to the Hill to ask an expert or research some of the most successful businessmen in history figured out. Reference libraries hold the backbone to our past and are the seed for our future.
The Hill known for connecting business, entrepreneurs, and community welcomes Danika LeMay, Lily Shaw and Maggie Smith to round off the team that will drive the mission and build the brand.
The James J. Hill Center is pleased to announce the addition of three new members of the Hill team that will support Executive Director Tamara Prato. The existing staff has been joined by (pictured left to right) Danika LaMay, Director of Reference Services; Lily Shaw, Director of Marketing; and Maggie Smith, Community Engagement Specialist.
“With the support of this incredible team I will have the ability to execute my vision to provide the community with unique entrepreneurial programming, cultural experiences and access to a dynamic Reference Library, which in turn will support the growth and economic development of the region” states Tamara Prato.
Danika LaMay most recently worked as Course Reserve Coordinator at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Libraries, where she helped instructors make course materials easily accessible to their students and had the opportunity to collaborate on innovative cross-unit and cross-campus projects. Danika is excited to bring her dedication to the user experience and make a positive difference.
Lily Shaw joins the team from Twin Cities Diversity in Practice where she oversaw the communications and programming of high quality diversity and inclusion initiatives for leading Twin Cities Legal Employers. Lily is excited to collaborate with her team and promote invaluable and unique opportunities for the community.
Maggie Smith spent the past 3 years working as the marketing and communications manager for the local health non-profit Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota. As the community engagement specialist for the James J. Hill Center, she is excited to work with the community to spread the word and advance the mission of the organization.
About the James J. Hill Center – Opened in 1921, the James J. Hill Center supports the legacy of one of America’s greatest entrepreneurs. Today, the Hill is focused on supporting business, entrepreneurship, and community with the goal to build sustainable and lasting relationships that enable economic prosperity by providing services, programming, and cultural events. Learn more at jjhill.org or find us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
James J. Hill was perhaps the richest Minnesotan ever. The railroad baron and financier known as the Empire Builder may have been worth more than $6 billion in today’s dollars when he died about a century ago.
He founded a grand namesake library in St. Paul to help other entrepreneurs succeed. Now, the library’s leaders are adjusting its mission and purpose for the internet age.
Back in the day, people routinely came to the Hill library for business information they couldn’t find themselves. (For example, you can find a 1930 request for a count of animals slaughtered in Austin, Minn., the two previous years.)
But with the internet and smartphones essentially putting a library in everyone’s pocket, the Hill library has been trying to stay true to its founder’s charge of helping people launch and grow businesses.
Part of that evolution is hosting weekly events for entrepreneurs at the library, or James J. Hill Center as it’s now called. Entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and get advice — and a grilling — about their plans.
Libraries aren’t typical venues for entrepreneur elevator pitches, but this is dead-center in the vision of new Hill Center Director Tamara Prato.
“I want to continue to create that ecosystem for entrepreneurs and small business owners as a resource of information, as the place where they can meet with other like-minded individuals,” she said. “And provide programming to help propel new businesses, small businesses and that entrepreneurial spirit that Mr. Hill had.”
The Hill Center is also doing something even less likely for a library — investing in businesses. The center helped found and is a large initial investor in a new fund, Hill Capital Corp.
Hill Capital is focused on small business development in the region. The same types of business development and job creation for the area in a way that Hill did 150 years ago,” said Barry Gisser, vice chair of the Hill Center board.
The center has sunk $75,000 into the fund, a mere half percent of the library’s assets, and only a tiny slice of the $10 million or more that Hill Capital Corp. hopes to raise from local sources.
Hill Capital President Patrick Donohue said the fund isn’t likely to invest in businesses only at the idea stage. Instead, the fund is aiming for established businesses with millions in revenue that are having trouble getting funding to expand.
“The idea is that we make a number of investments into businesses throughout the region and we play the odds, where some won’t do well,” he said. “Hopefully, most will do as we expect. And then some will hopefully do exceptionally well.”
While the center’s leaders push its services outside the walls lined with decades of paper editions of Forbes, Fortune and The Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, the stately building remains a draw for some.
The library offers access to expensive databases — free of charge. They’re a big help to Robert Mayo, whose assessment firm calculates the dollar value of a business.
“Definitely, a valuable set of resources there, as as well as if you’re ever stumped or don’t know how to analyze something or find something, they’ve got great librarians willing to help you,” he said.
Do you still remember your old home number, the one you had before cellphones became commonplace? Maybe you’re still using it for your landline because you know that number by heart and so do your friends, your family, your doctors, and everyone in your network.
Despite our reliance on cellphones, many people also keep their home numbers because it’s simpler to have that one household numbers for years. Jeff Swenson’s solution to that is called OurOldNumber.com.
OurOldNumber forwards calls to your home number to the cellphones of your household members, allowing the caller to choose which person they’d like to speak to. It even lets multiple conversations occur on that line simultaneously.
Name of company: Our Old Group, LLC dba OurOldNumber.com
By Krysten Alberg, James J. Hill Center Marketing Coordinator
As many parents know, trying to arrange child care while working can become a full-time job on its own.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, among the 34.4 million families with children under the age of 18, 88.7 percent had at least one employed parent in 2014.
Employed parents must ensure their children are cared for while they are working (or need a night off), and calling sitter after sitter is time-consuming and frustrating.
Sitters on Call aims to streamline the logistics of accessing child care by coordinating sitters’ availability schedules with parents’ needs. Rather than call their sitters, parents can quickly access a calendar of all their child care providers’ schedules and can arrange for a sitter with just a few clicks. Sitters on Call makes it simple for parents to connect with sitters they already know and trust.
By Krysten Alberg, James J. Hill Center Marketing Coordinator
Quality music education doesn’t come cheap. With even used musical instruments costing anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars, cost is a major barrier to students’ access to music education.
Vega Productions believes in musical equality for all, and so it developed Instruments in the Cloud, a site that allows owners of once-loved but no-longer-in-use musical instruments to donate those instruments to music programs in need.
Name: Caitlin Marlotte Age: 38 City you live in: Minneapolis City of birth: Minneapolis High school attended: Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities College attended: Indiana University-Bloomington and University of Wisconsin-Madison
Vega Productions, makers of Instruments in the Cloud Website: http://instrumentsinthecloud.org Twitter: @vegaproductions Business Start Date: January 2015 Number of Employees: 1 Number of Customers: 275 music educators and 280 musical instrument donors
Caitlin Marlotte is executive director of Vega Productions and co-founder of Instruments in the Cloud. She joined Vega Productions in 2015, taking over for founder Mark Gehring, who moved on to start GNDWire Records.
Caitlin is a violinist and apprentice violin maker, and has focused her career on development, marketing, and strategy in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.
Before leading Vega Productions, Caitlin worked at Twin Cities Public Television.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 29 industrialized nations’ high school students perform better than U.S. students in math. And according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2018, 92 percent of traditional STEM jobs will be for those with at least some postsecondary education and training.
Jerry Belich, founder of Monkey with a Mustache LLC, and developer of The Choosatron, says that his programmable storytelling device is not about saving the world but about making education fun.
Teachers and employers alike are engaging in developing new ways to educate and train a workforce that will need STEM education to do its work. Through programming and storytelling, Jerry’s company and product introduce users to STEM education, and they have fun doing it. He may not be saving the world, but he is preparing its future workers.
Founder: Jerry Belich
City you live in: Minneapolis
City of birth: Duluth
High school attended: Centennial High School, Circle Pines
College attended: Bethel University
Jerry Belich grew up around the Twin Cities. A lifelong storyteller, he studied computer science, theater and film in college. Jerry’s opportunities helped him marry technical and creative work into a single form. After creating The Choosatron, Jerry’s career took the sharp turn he had been waiting for. Now he is a game designer, story and narrative writer, and inventor.
Company Snapshot:Monkey with a Mustache, LLC
Primarily, Monkey with a Mustache is providing game design and development services. This work is realized in the form of code, script and dialogue writing, hardware development, and product development in any of those areas. The Choosatron is the first manufactured product, and one that continues to develop along with the company’s related work. The Choosatron Deluxe Adventure Matrix is a Wi-Fi connected Choose Your Own Adventure-inspired story printer, blending digital and analogue storytelling. It uses an inkless thermal printer, like a receipt machine, to print stories. The user can select options via a touchpad to choose where the story goes. It is designed to be easily assembled by kids into a small interactive game box, and encourage social reading, learning, and play. Users can interact with pre-loaded stories or create their own.
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S. These organizations hold an immense amount of data about their constituents, donors, volunteers and other stakeholders. And their effectiveness often relies on effectively keeping track of all of these records.
There are numerous nonprofit databases created to assist other nonprofits in managing this data. In a crowded market, Minneapolis-based Fresh Vine focuses on simplicity to differentiate itself.
Founder: Paul Prins
City you live in: Minneapolis
City of birth: St. Louis Park
High school attended: Eden Prairie High School
College attended: UW Stout
To run Fresh Vine and help nonprofits succeed, Paul Prins harnessed his lifelong experience participating in social programs like the Boy Scouts of America, youth sports, collegiate organizations — and observing his mother’s involvement with leading the programs he was in. Through this experience he saw a need for a system that allowed organizations to manage information easily and to leverage it to meet their goals. This idea formed into Fresh Vine.
Company Snapshot: Fresh Vine
Fresh Vine is nonprofit membership software used to manage rosters, receive and track donations, and manage events and email campaigns.
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.