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The Great Northern

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Last Friday we wrapped up Twin Cities Start Up Week in Minnesota.  It was truly inspirational to see all the interest and support for the empowerment of our economic ecosystem.  We decided it was important to give a nod to our entrepreneurial legacy, James J. Hill.

Entrepreneurs have been around since the start of time.  Think about it, at some point someone got sick of eating raw meat and thought, “I wonder what would happen if I rubbed two sticks together,” and poof – there was fire.  It probably wasn’t as simple as that but it is important to realize that these visionaries change our culture and economy.  People who have a dream, a passion and the motivation to stick it out can change history.  That is exactly what Mr. Hill did in the 19th century with his realization of the Great Northern Railway.

This railway was the only privately funded and successfully constructed transcontinental railroad in the history of the United States. Running from Saint Paul, Minnesota to Seattle, Washington it was the dream and passion of James J. Hill that made it happen.  His savvy business sense, smart partnerships, and innovative ways of engaging the public gave him the title of Empire Builder.  He used one of the first public relation campaigns to create interest and support in the railroad. Using contests to incentives he engaged the public on how the future of the railroad would not only shape their economic prosperity but changed the method of how people traveled. His vision put St. Paul, Minnesota on the map.

The Great Northern Railway is only one of the many amazing contributions that Mr. Hill gave to his community and our country. The James J. Hill Center is another perfect example of his forward thinking ability. His idea to build a location that was a meeting place of resource and learning is still celebrated today.

On November 11, 2016 we will once again be tipping our hats and toasting our legacy at our annual Great Northern Evening.  Join us to celebrate the legacy of Mr. James J. Hill and to support the economic empowerment of our local entrepreneurs.  Be a part of the Legacy and JOIN US on November 11th from 7pm to 10pm!

A Great Northern Evening – Tickets on Sale Now

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To the Dreamers…

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“Great things never come from comfort zones”

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-

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There Are No Stupid Questions!

Many sticky notes with questions like who, what, when, where, how and why, and a question mark, all posted on an office noteboard to represent confusion in communincation

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!

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What did people do before Google?

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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.

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The Hill Team

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Startup Showcase: OurOldNumber.com

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
  • Website: Ouroldnumber.com
  • Business Start Date: Dec. 30, 2014
  • Number of Employees: 1
  • Number of Customers: Dozens

Read the full article!

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Startup Showcase: Sitters on Call

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.

Read the full article here.

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Startup Showcase: Instruments in the Cloud

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.

Entrepreneur snapshot:

Caitlin Marlotte heads Vega Productions, which runs Instruments in the Cloud. (Photo courtesy James J. Hill Center)
Caitlin Marlotte heads Vega Productions, which runs Instruments in the Cloud.

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

Company snapshot:
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.

Read the Q&A here.

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Startup Showcase: Monkey with a Mustache, LLC

By Lee George


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.

Jerry Belich
Jerry Belich

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.

Entrepreneur Snapshot

Founder: Jerry Belich

Age: 34

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.

Business Start Date: January 2014

Number of Employees: 1

Number of Customers: 600+

Website: http://jerrytron.com

Twitter: @j3rrytron

Read the Q&A here.

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Startup Showcase: Fresh Vine

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.

Paul Prins is founder of Fresh Vine, Minneapolis. (Courtesy photo)
Paul Prins is founder of Fresh Vine, Minneapolis. (Courtesy photo)

Entrepreneur Snapshot

Founder: Paul Prins

Age: 31

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.

Business Start Date: 2011

Number of Employees: 2

Number of Customers: 130 Nonprofit Accounts

Website: https://freshvine.co/

Twitter: @FreshVine

Read the Q&A here.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE:

Patrons with accessibility needs please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit.

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