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A Heads-Up Approach to Motorcycle Safety

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenter John Henry. As seen in the Pioneer Press, Startup Showcase on March 25th, 2017.

According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, there were 4,586 motorcyclists killed in collisions in 2014. Though this number is down from a peak in 2008, it is still high.

After witnessing a motorcycle crash firsthand, John Henry decided to find a solution. He learned that many car and motorcycle crashes happen because of ineffective brake lights which only light up when the brake is applied and not when a car is decelerating for other reasons. Because of this, drivers may not know that the vehicle in front of them is slowing down, leading to increased risk of collisions.

Henry created the Heads Up Braking System, attachable brake lights that respond to deceleration, not just the application of the brake pedal.


Name of company: Innervision by Henry Inc.
Website: www.innervisionbyhenry.com; www.headsupbraking.com
Business Start Date: Started in 2000. Conducted a soft launch of its first product in 2016.


City you live in: Minnetonka
City of birth: Cocoa Beach, Fla.
High school attended: Boca Ciega High School, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Colleges attended: University of Minnesota, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees


Q. What led to this point?

A. I started Innervision by Henry in 2000. I received my first patent for safety devices for recreational and sports vehicles and their drivers in March 2003. A second patent was granted in 2005 that expands on the first.

Prior to founding Innervision, I served in the U.S. Army. I am very proud of my military experience and very committed to contributing in this area.  My inventions will enhance U.S. military capability to provide increased safety in a variety of ways.

After completing my bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota, I joined Best Buy, where I held a sales management position and was responsible for developing many of the earlier sales management procedures for the company. I went on to work at the University of Minnesota Medical School as associate administrator, responsible for operations and grants. While working full time at the university, I earned a Master’s degree in education and management. I held leadership positions in a number of university organizations and was promoted to director of minority affairs in the College of Human Ecology.  One of my major accomplishments while at the university was the development and implementation of minority student retention programs and mentoring programs at the university and within the Twin Cities community.

As a top pharmaceutical sales person for Bristol Meyers Squibb, I sold over $18 million for the neural science division, honing my sales skills. I left Bristol Meyers Squibb to devote myself full time to Innervision, the development of its product line, and my patent ventures.

Q. What is your business?

A. Innervision is the result of my creative application of technology to address critical safety issues beyond just vehicles, their drivers and riders. The first of 10 new products, the Heads Up Braking system (HUB system) is one of most advanced wireless braking light systems for motorcycles, ATVs and snowmobiles. Vehicles often decelerate through dynamic engine braking or down shifting…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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Don’t Tweak, Transform

James J. Hill Center Community Engagement Specialist, Maggie Smith, shares her experience at her first “design session” with 1 Million Cups. 

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a design session. If that sounds vague, it’s because it is. I honestly wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, but I was told it was a “participatory workshop, wherein diverse stakeholders co-create solutions.” Over the two-day session we used a variety of collaborative activities to break down the posed issue, and come up with viable solutions based on questions and concerns relating to the issue.

Simply put, it was a room full of strangers working together to create actual solutions to a problem that connected all of us.

A concept we heard over and over during our session was “don’t just tweak, transform,” meaning don’t just edit the existing structure to make it better, completely rethink and rebuild. This concept really resonated. As entrepreneurs, our ideas are often born from seeing a problem and wanting to solve it. Some succeed, many do not. The reasons for this are varied, but this mantra, if you will, changed my focus and lens for looking at why ideas succeed and how to ‘up’ your creative game.

It seems many solutions and ideas for startups are simply tweaks, upgrades and adjustments made to an existing platform. But what if everyone who saw a problem they wanted to solve took a step back and broke it down before building the idea back up? Our design session started with breaking down how the problem made us feel, finding themes within those feelings and then finding questions we could solve related to the themes. Questions like, “how might we create an experience that pulls people into deeper engagement?” “How might we reduce isolation and increase inclusion? “How might we make resources both educational and community focused?”

Once these questions were established, the brainstorming began. A lot of problem-solvers head straight to actual brainstorming. But next time try adding these few steps beforehand and see if you get different ideas, or if the problem/solution goes in a direction you weren’t expecting.

From there the brainstorming took a normal path. Narrowing down ideas, deciding how viable they were and road-mapping for the future.

The process was intensive and surprisingly tiring, but fun. And most importantly, it worked! Our small group of strangers came up with four solid, viable and feasible ideas.

Imagine what you could do with people you knew, and more time.

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. You can hear from new startups each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul.

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Small start up with a BIG dream

Amanda Carlson is the Founder and CEO of Rookiework.  In celebration of Women’s History Month we had the opportunity to ask Amanda about her success so far.   

What is your business and how did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
Rookiework is unique as our entrepreneurial journey began with the dream and idea of a way to help other small business owners make their dreams a reality and a success.

Rookiework is a small start-up business, based in Minneapolis, MN, with a big dream: making small businesses competitive against large corporations. We believe in entrepreneurship and innovation, and we love small businesses and start-ups. Our contribution to the success of small businesses is to create a mutually beneficial relationship between them and talented students with complementing skills, and to give them the tools they need to succeed. We might just help some students pay for their education along the way.

What do you want people to know about you and your business and what sets it apart?
Rookiework is a very unique business where our success comes when we are able to help other small business owners affordably achieve their goals while helping college students.

Small businesses cannot afford the same luxuries as large corporations, and are often forced to perform non-core functions, such as web design or advertising, on their own. At the same time, talented students with these skills are struggling to pay for school and are forced to work in minimum-wage jobs. We believe talented students and small businesses can help each other. A student can provide services at a much lower cost that a consulting agency, and they would love to work with their talent and passion. Rookiework exists to create this partnership and help it succeed.

What or who has made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
To this point I would say the willingness of other small business owners that have overcome obstacles sharing their experiences and suggestions has made the biggest impact thus far. I believe networking in the small business community is the key to entrepreneurial success.

How does your entrepreneurial spirit contribute to the Twin Cities business ecosystem and community?
I believe our entrepreneurial spirit within Rookiework has and will continue to help grow the business community within the Twin Cities as we are here to help other businesses have access to an affordable tool to complete projects. We also help students within our community gain skills, experience, and funds. These are both beneficial to our local economy.

What has been the largest hurdle and/or success you have experienced as an entrepreneur?
The largest hurdle we have faced and we are actually working on still overcoming is getting our mission and name out into the community affordably. We are continuously brainstorming affordable ways to get our business known but as an entrepreneur it is a unique problem we face; to grow our business in an attainable manner. We continue to take leaps and strides to this hurdle and getting our name out there through perseverance.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
I would say follow your dreams and work hard. Take all the advice you get and apply it in your own way to what you want to achieve. Being an entrepreneur is not easy and will take a lot of work no doubt, but every drop of sweat sleepless night is worth it.

What is it about Minnesota and how has it managed to keep you here?
We are very fortunate to be here. The Twin Cities in Minnesota is an extremely unique and successful economy with a vast array of opportunity. That is what drew Thomas to this market when he had the concept originally. I personally am a Northern Minnesota native and believe we have an endless list of benefits available to us here. We are Minnesota nice and helping others as a business and will continue to grow here to create more of these stories.

Amanda presented Rookiework at 1 Million Cups in 2016.  For more information on 1 Million Cups or to present your start up at the James J. Hill Center please visit jjhill.org or apply now.

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Mobilizing for Action with Jamie Millard

In celebration of Women’s History Month and the dynamic female leaders we have here in Minnesota we have been sharing insights and stories from some of Minnesota’s most influential and game-changing women.  Please enjoy our visit with Jamie Millard as she share’s her perspective, experience and profound beliefs regarding mobilizing a community. 

Jamie Millard is executive director of Pollen, a digital platform that breaks down the barriers of narrative, networking, and opportunity to build better-connected communities.  Jamie has been identified as a “2015 40 Under 40” by the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal, as a “100 People to Know in 2015” by the Twin Cities Business Magazine. Nationally, Jamie was recognized in the Huffington Post as one of four millennial leaders, “doing important work to move us toward a more just and equitable society.”

How do you mobilize for action?
Over the past five years, I  have poured my soul and energy into the Minneapolis / St. Paul region by working closely to criss-cross networks. With connection comes relation and empathy. And as communities begin to cross-pollinate, we connect across our differences, and we begin to unlock the potential of universal possibility. There is no better world  than one where we each focus more on supporting those around us than ourselves. A world where we each work to be in greater relation to one another. Where we live to relate the unrelated.

What is your strength as a Leader?
Ever since I was little, I have always found myself as someone who speaks when there is a void or a lack of direction. I’m good at rallying the troops and I enjoy mobilizing for action. I see leadership as knowing how to be in tune with the moods and energy of those around you—adjusting everyone to be in tune together.

What have been some challenges and opportunities being a women in a leadership role?
Work culture was designed by the white, male breadwinner. It’s not designed to value empathy—and especially not vulnerability. When leadership doesn’t reward traits that are often stronger and more centered in women, then we have to hide those parts of ourselves. Or worse, if we can’t hide those traits, then we can experience serious consequences professionally.

This is also where I see great opportunity. In dismantling the traditional internalized work culture, we can make room to build a new culture. A culture that is less capitalistic and more human-centered.

What inspires you?
My Work Wife, Meghan Murphy. We co-founded Paper Darts together and we run Pollen Midwest together. She’s my go-to work partner on any and all projects. She’s also my best friend and honorary aunt to my daughter. When women can fully support and love other women in their projects and dreams, that gives me so much life, hope and inspiration. Work Wives are the future.

What Insights & advice do you have for other women?
Ask for help and fiercely support other women. And remember, everyone cries in the car (link: http://minnesotabusiness.com/everyone-cries-car).

For more information about Jamie Millard’s visionary work visit Pollen  and sign up for their monthly newsletter or attend an upcoming event.  In addition to her work at Pollen, Jamie serves on a Greater MSP task force to address the retention and attraction of emerging talent in our region. She is also a current member, and former board chair, of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network — Twin Cities. In 2009, Jamie co-founded the literary arts magazine Paper Darts, which is now a premier Twin Cities literary institution and has published more than 700 writers and artists. 

For more inspiring conversations about ground breaking professionals in our industry review some of our previous stories at jjhill.org/blog


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A Voice at the Table

In celebration of Women’s History Month we have asked groundbreaking female leaders in our community to share a piece of their story.  Rebecca Noecker is a community builder, an advocate for social justice, a wife and mother, and a proud resident of Saint Paul’s West Side.
In 2015, Rebecca was elected to represent Ward 2 on the Saint Paul City Council.  She is the youngest member of the Council and the first woman to represent Ward 2. 

For most of my life, I’ve been lucky enough not to think about gender.

Growing up, I took for granted the fact that my mother and father were both physicians, that they split the housework evenly, that no one would be there when my brothers and I got home from school. My mother’s mother also worked full-time, as an economist and a high school history teacher, while raising three children. In my young worldview, being a woman was no disadvantage at all.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize what an unusual environment I was raised in, and how the self-confidence that was baked into me by all the male and female role models around me helped me make my way in a world that still rewards traits that are typically male.

This has become especially evident to me in the world of politics and in a city like St. Paul where “old boys’ clubs”, like landmines, are all over and often invisible – until you’ve stepped on one.

At work, I’m surrounded by thoughtful, eloquent, socially aware women, many of whom occupy leadership positions. But even in the relatively progressive climate of City Hall, I sit through many meetings in which men do 95% of the talking – and not because of the quality of their ideas. At a recent meeting, after the two men in the room had left early, I looked around at the half-dozen smart women at the table – none of whom had yet said a word. “Okay,” I said. “Now that the men are gone, let’s hear from everyone else.” The best ideas of the meeting were generated in the next 30 minutes.

These experiences are making me more aware as a leader—and as a mom. I’m raising my two young boys not to take gender equality for granted, to recognize their responsibility to fight for it every day.

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Fizzy Energy: A Passion with a Prize

Sarah Nichols is the Founder and CEO of RSVTea,  She is a powerful, poised and passionate Minnesota entrepreneur on a mission to revive the power of celebration where everyone is invited. She took an idea with fizzy energy to a full fledged business.  In celebration of Women’s History Month we had the opportunity to ask Sarah about her success so far.   

What is your Business and how did your entrepreneurial journey begin?

My business is RSVTea, a startup beverage company that makes fizzy energy teas! I started brewing the company concept when I was a Junior at Macalester College and studying abroad in Vienna, planning for a career in international relations. I was prepping for the LSATs and tired of drinking too much coffee. I needed a pick-me-up, but I wanted something healthier than energy drinks and more exciting than flat iced tea. So I decided to make caffeinated tea bubbly and better for me with natural sugar substitutes. I prototyped recipes and had so much fun sharing them with my friends, that tea became my focus, and by the end of my study abroad program, I had a recipe, the start of a business plan, and a very dusty LSAT prep book. I left that book in Vienna and returned the U.S. excited to brew and bring a new kind of tea to town.

What do you want people to know about you and your business and what sets it apart?
I am a young founder. Although I just turned 23, my age combined with my entrepreneurial spirit gives me a dynamic energy that propelled the launch RSVTea. I graduated in May 2016 and began incubating the company in the Mac Startups summer program, and now have a strong board of directors, a strong brand, a product ready for distribution, and swelling momentum. We’re on a mission to revive the power of celebration, and we’re ready to bring a new type of tea party to the Twin Cities.

What or who has made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
My big brother, Taylor. He was born with severe disabilities and has been nonverbal his whole life. Although he can’t speak, Taylor has taught me more about this world than anyone else. More importantly, he showed me how I want to make a lasting, positive impact on this planet. The motto for RSVTea, “everyone’s invited” stems from my childhood with Taylor. I grew up seeing him intentionally and unintentionally excluded- but excluded nonetheless, and I wanted to change that with an inclusivity initiative. I wanted to bring people together to celebrate ourselves for what we are and not what we aren’t. So, this is a toast to Taylor for being my inspiration to change the world, the best hugger when I’m scared I may fail, and my biggest reminder that I am a powerful, poised, and positive force in this world.

How does your entrepreneurial spirit contribute to the Twin Cities Business Ecosystem and Community?
I contribute to the Twin Cities Business Ecosystem by being a young woman professional who is engaged with her community and building a resilient, local brand. I am an example that regardless of generation, the Twin Cities are a fertile place to start a successful company. I want to make opportunities like mine more accessible and dynamic for new and emerging entrepreneurs. I am especially focused for new graduates or current college students. I am still very involved with entrepreneurship at Macalester, and I am a firm believer that linking the Twin Cities institutions of academia with entrepreneurship initiatives is a paramount addition to the Business Ecosystem.

What has been the largest hurdle and / or success you have experienced as an entrepreneur?
My biggest hurdle and success as of now was starting RSVTea. The odds were certainly stacked against me. I was young, a solo founder, a first-time CEO, inexperienced in the beverage industry, staring down the barrel of student debt, little accumulated wealth, and a woman. I faced the odds, took a bet on myself, and dove all in. There was no time for me to fear failure. Fear is crippling, but failure is something one can get up from. I certainly stumbled and fell over the past 10 months, but I persevered because I was not afraid to take the bet on myself, even with all odds considered.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
Start something for the sake of passion and not the sake of prize. Stories of Silicon Valley and Shark Tank deals give a luster and allure to entrepreneurship. But, there are times when it is not so glamorous or thrilling. There are times when things are rough, unstable, and in severe need of capital. But, if you really care about the problem you are solving, that flicker of passion will keep you navigating the dark and depressing scenarios all startups inevitably face.

What is it about Minnesota and how has it managed to keep you here?
I grew up on a farm in southern Missouri and came to Minnesota for college. Missouri is very similar to parts of rural Minnesota, but I fell in love with the Twin Cities. They are alive with countless new experiences, a swelling economy, and a cool patchwork of Midwesterners, East/West-coasters and newcomers. I consider Minnesota my home now, and I’m proud to be a T.C. Entrepreneur!

Sarah presented RSVTea at 1 Million Cups in 2016.  For more information on 1 Million Cups or to present your start up at the James J. Hill Center please visit jjhill.org or apply now

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A Budding Business in Replaceable Earbuds

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenter Bharat Pulgam. As seen in the Pioneer Press, Startup Showcase on March 11th, 2017.

In October 2016, the Consumer Technology Association found that 40 percent of people it surveyed planned to give headphones as a gift — making it the most popular technology gift of last year.

Headphones vary widely in quality, size, and price, and earbuds remain popular. Though often cheaper than larger sets of headphones, earbuds are also often noticeably flimsier, with many consumers buying, breaking, and ultimately discarding several pairs a year.

Bharat Pulgam noticed this problem and realized that when earbuds break, it is usually because only one component has broken, and the rest of the product still functions. He created mXers Audio in response to this problem. mXers Audio creates affordable, customizable earbuds that are easy and inexpensive to repair, making earbuds less of a disposable product.


Entrepreneur profile

Name: Bharat Pulgam
Age: 18
City of birth: Hyderabad, India
City you live in: Maple Grove
High school attended: Wayzata High School
Colleges attended: Will be attending the University of Minnesota in the class of 2021

Company profile

Name of company: mXers Audio
Website: https://mxersaudio.com
Business start date: January 2015
Number of employees: 8
Number of customers: 20+


Q. What led to this point?

A: My team and I are a group of students committed to solving the problems that we and our peers face every day. Our company started with a simple problem we refused to ignore: Why do we pay for a whole new set of earbuds when just one part breaks? After breaking earbuds of our own, we finally found a solution: fully modular earbuds. Modular earbuds are earbuds that you can put together and take apart piece by piece. With modularity, you are only a snap, twist, and bam away from earbuds that look and feel as good as new.

We took this concept to the Catapult Incubator Program in Chicago, a four-month intensive business development program, which empowers young entrepreneurs to start a company from nothing more than a good idea. The company went from concept to reality within four months. We ended our first incubator with a successful pitch to a panel of investors, who provided valuable support and advice.

After returning to Minneapolis we began working with a new team and began the process of product development. The incredible support that our team has received paved the way for our successes. We’ve been able to leverage an incredible network of friends and family, raise money, and have been able to achieve support from business professionals. From patenting to incorporation, mXers has a significant network of investors and industry practitioners in the Twin Cities area.

Q. What is your business?

A. mXers Audio is an LLC that is solution-oriented and is dedicated to giving back to the community, encouraging youth innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area…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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Steps Towards Confidence and Empowerment

Jenny Evans is the Founder and CEO of Powerhouse Performance.  She is a speaker, award-winning author and on-air expert on resiliency, stress, confidence and human performance.  She is obsessed with human performance and has created a career and life designed around maximizing her own potential, and helping others do the same.

My computer made the familiar ding of a new email. I clicked on the message and found a request to do a speaking engagement on women’s confidence. I speak on resiliency, and this was not the first time someone had asked me to talk about confidence and empowerment. I realized it was finally time I started listening to the Universe…and the marketplace.

After chatting with the client and getting excited about their needs, I said “Absolutely! It’s something I feel strongly about and I’d love to do it!” Then in an ironic twist, as I reflected on why others perceive me to be self-assured, I began losing confidence on what made me the expert. Confidence is incredibly personal, malleable and individualized.

For me, knowledge leads to a sense of confidence. So I created a hypothesis, jumped into research mode and conducted interviews. According to one of the most comprehensive business case studies ever conducted, companies that perform best financially have the greatest numbers of women in leadership roles. Unfortunately, only 1 in 5 senior executives is a woman. I could fill pages with statistics and explanations on the gap between women and men in business, education, politics, pay, health and finally confidence, but instead I’d like to share four important things I learned during my research.

#1: Confidence is influenced by how well we know our values and purpose.
When we lack clarity, we typically lack confidence as well. It is difficult to feel confident in our abilities when we are uncertain about why and how we make decisions. Every woman I interviewed had a strong sense of purpose and internal knowing that what they do is not only meaningful, but also an extension of their values system, who they are and what they believe. Once we truly understand ourselves, our decisions can align with our ideals. We grow in confidence as we learn to trust our internal locus rather than be swayed by external forces. We are fueled to step into uncomfortable situations, take risk and overcome fear.

#2: Confidence is shaped by what we consume.
Who we surround ourselves with and what we watch, listen to and read can make us feel either positive and empowered or inadequate and insecure. Unfortunately, much of the input we “eat” is junk, filling us with empty “calories” and making us weak. The confident women I interviewed have networks of “up-lifters”, mentors and friends that are essential forms of professional and personal support. They have a growth mindset and love to learn and try new things. In order to build confidence, we must provide our minds with nourishing input.

#3: Confidence is affected by recovery.
Our days are filled with incessant obligations and habitual time wasters. How can we feel confident when it seems we are not doing enough or not doing it well enough? Each woman talked about losing confidence when they’re feeling overwhelmed and the importance of doing things that made them feel grounded. Recovery means granting ourselves permission to refuel and recharge. Only then will there be time and space for confidence to grow.

#4: Confidence is linked to our physical being.
In particular, we can use movement in strategic ways to connect and change. Our movement needs vary from day to day and person to person, but every woman I interviewed mentioned some form of regular physical practice being essential to their state of mind. Gentle forms of movement help us center and connect to the inner power within ourselves. More challenging types of movement allow us to build grit and tenacity—if it doesn’t challenge us, it doesn’t change us.

In the end confidence does not mean you are bullet proof or infallible. It’s stronger in some aspects of our lives and weaker in others. When you build it in one area of your life, it transfers to ALL of them. It is a complex trait, shaped by both our personalities and circumstances. While I can’t completely change everything about society’s framework around women, I can help women thrive where they are until things change systemically.

To view more information on the confidence gap and jenny’s video research please visit her website or follow her on twitter @PowerhousePC #theconfidencegap.   To keep up on to date on the latest James J. Hill Center blog please follow us on Social Media.  We can be found Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Live. Give. Save. with a Purpose

Susan Langer is an observer, planner, connector,  life-long learner and a  lover of people.  She is also the CEO and Founder of Live.Give.Save, the only mobile solution that uses your everyday spending to help you give to causes you care about and save for your future.  Susan is another perfect example of Minnesota women entrepreneurs that are blazing trails for the future.  We are pleased  to share her journey as the James J. Hill Center continue to celebrate Women’s History Month with amazing Minnesota women. 

What is your Business and how did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
Live.Give.Save. (LGS) is the first all-in-one mobile platform to empower and reward consumers to spend wisely, boost retirement savings and increase giving with one-touch simplicity.  Our vision is to create a fiscally fit society by using the inertia of consumer spending habits to inspire good – for self and others – today and tomorrow. We like to say we’re the FitBit® of personal finance.

The concept was born out of my travels to Africa in 1995 and discovering the ground-breaking concept of micro-credit, making access to finance approachable, inclusive and empowering to micro-entrepreneurs in the developing world.  The concept of making micro-payments to achieve goals struck me as a way to offer US consumers a new way forward for saving for retirement and giving to the causes they care about … without changing their lifestyle.  I was marketing co-branded credit cards for First Bank (now US Bank) enticing cardholders to increase usage through points and frequent flyer miles.  Why not entice and reward folks to save for a secure future and help others in need? Micro-savings + Micro-giving = Macro-Impact.

What do you want people to know about you and your business and what sets it apart?

We believe that every person has a purpose, and that purpose drives our relationships, choices and behaviors. How we choose to manage our money reflects our priorities. Our priorities and actions today will determine the overall health and well-being of our future. When we have ready-access to relevant, actionable knowledge, we will make wiser, more satisfying financial decisions. And, we believe we will measurably transform our financial future – and that of others – when we live, give and save with purpose.

Apps like Acorns, Digit, Mint and others have made good attempts to help consumers better save and manage their personal finances through spending, yet, each have missed the mark in some way and often by simply incorporating traditional methods within new technology. Digit is the exception. What makes us different is that no one is including “giving” within their offering.  We are. Our model is designed around the philosophy of decision, action and impact. Our users will be part of a community where they will experience the impact of their decisions and actions on society. Finally, our patent-pending technology and socially-driven mobile platform builds toward a powerful branded data asset that will offer highly predictable data, providing more relevant, timely and valuable knowledge to the marketplace.

What or who has made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
Is it nature or nurture that makes one an entrepreneur? Probably a little of both in my case. My late grandfather, Svend Sorensen, would be described today as a serial entrepreneur. I tagged along with him everywhere. My father and uncle took over one of his businesses and my brother another. I was raised on taking risks. My corporate experience taught me the fundamentals of planning, management and the significance of measuring impact … always.  One of the most influential leadership books I read was Execution, The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan and the importance of distributing equal power among people, strategy and operations.

How does your entrepreneurial spirit contribute to the Twin Cities Business Ecosystem and Community?
I commute to the Twin Cities weekly for meetings with advisers, investors and prospective strategic partners. The technology scene is strong and thriving.  There are endless opportunities to attend or participate in events the help shape, inspire and challenge thinking. I love it.  James J. Hill has played a pivotal role in introducing me to the start-up culture. From presenting at 1 Million Cups and attending its many thought-leader panels, I have richly benefited from the proactive resources and seemingly infinite networking opportunities.

What has been the largest hurdle and / or success you have experienced as an entrepreneur?

I am a people person. I love meeting, listening to and learning from people. It has been a tremendous gift to meet all the amazing knowledgeable, highly-caffeinated, young entrepreneurs and sage mentors within the start-up community.  It truly is a culture unto itself.  Never dull.  That said, while I’ve had good success raising funds in my previous careers – for-profit and non-profit – this has been my greatest challenge, mystery and opportunity. So, I keep my ears perked and my eyes wide open to make sure I keep learning, growing and improving.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
You will be challenged, stretched, encouraged and discouraged at every level – and oftentimes within the same day. When you think you can’t take one more “No”, there it is.  AHHHH! Yet, all it takes is one “Yes”, or an itty-bitty win, and you’re back in the game shaking those pom-pom’s.

So, keep the faith, remain focused and be intentional in surrounding yourself with individuals who inspire and feed your mind, body and soul … because you will need to maintain mental, physical and spiritual strength to get through the doubters, the nay-sayers, the silence, the what-the-heck-am-I-going-to-do-NOW moments. I often recite my favorite bible verse to keep me sane:  “Be joyful always, pray continually and be thankful in all circumstances …” It always helps calm my sagging spirit and put things into a new perspective.

What is it about Minnesota and how has it managed to keep you here?
Live.Give.Save. was founded out of the Red Wing Ignite accelerator. We have been hugely blessed by the support we’ve received. We are launching our beta in the coming weeks and have literally had the community wrap its arms around us and say, “How can we help?”  Red Wing Shoe, the Red Wing Credit Union and the Red Wing YMCA all raised their hand in support to help us prove our concept.  When I asked the three beta partners what success looked like for them, their collective response was how they wanted to be part of bringing something good for society out of Red Wing and helping make it big. Together, we will inspire a new generation to live, give and save with purpose.  I’m not going anywhere.

Visit the James J. Hill Center every Wednesday from 9AM to 10AM for 1 Million Cups and hear from some of Minnesota’s most interesting up and coming entrepreneurs.  2 pitches  – 1 hour – free coffee – great networking.  We hope to see you soon at jjhill.org

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She Saw a Rural Need for Natural Food

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenter  Kendra Rasmusson. As seen in the Pioneer Press, Startup Showcase on February 28th, 2017.

A 2014 poll by Harris Interactive ranked consumers’ preferences in choosing food and beverages to purchase. According to that poll, 30 percent of U.S. adults prefer to buy natural foods, and 17 percent prefer to buy organic food.

For rural consumers, however, local, natural and organic food is more difficult to come by. With limited access to specialty grocery stores, these consumers often do not have the option to purchase natural or organic food. Kendra Rasmussen’s family ran into this issue when they relocated to her hometown of New Prague. Lacking access to any nearby natural food stores, she started her own: Farmhouse Market.

Company profile

Farmhouse Market
Website: www.farmhousemarketnp.com
Business start date: Oct. 31, 2015
Number of employees: 1
Number of customers: Approximately 500 customers; more than 200 members

Entrepreneur profile

Kendra Rasmusson
Age: 33
City you live in: New Prague
City of birth: Born in Shakopee but grew up in New Prague
High school attended: New Prague High School
Colleges attended: B.S. in marketing communications from University of Wisconsin, River Falls; master’s in business communication from the University of St. Thomas


Q. What led to this point?

A. My husband and I lived in Minneapolis after we got married. We had our first child and decided to move back to my hometown of New Prague. Shortly before her second birthday, our daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy. We decided to try some alterations to her diet as a means of seizure control. Now living in a more rural environment, we only had one grocery store option and it lacked some of the grocery options we were looking for. The closest natural foods store was at least 20 miles away. So we started looking into opening our open store, but our biggest obstacle was how to staff it to keep it open conveniently but yet keep operating costs low. So, we got creative….

Q. What is your business?

A. Farmhouse Market is a local, natural and organic foods market in New Prague. It is best suited for small, rural communities because of the way it operates. Farmhouse Market is primarily unstaffed yet open 24/7 to its members thanks to technology like a keycard entry system, self-checkout and remote video surveillance. It is open to the public for limited hours, as well…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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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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