jjhillLogo

“Wait Training”: My Perfect Business

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 has learned the value of “waiting” during her years as an entrepreneur and business owner and shares her experiences with us each second Tuesday of the month.

This​ ​week​ ​is​ ​Twin​ ​Cities​ ​Startup​ ​Week​ ​and​ ​we​ ​are​ ​in​ ​full​ ​swing​ ​with​ ​all​ ​things entrepreneurship.​ ​If​ ​you​ ​have​ ​made​ ​the​ ​decision​ ​to​ ​launch​ ​your​ ​startup,​ ​I’m​ ​pretty​ ​sure​ ​you have​ ​a​ ​well​ ​drafted​ ​business​ ​plan​ ​which​ ​details​ ​everything​ ​about​ ​your​ ​product​ ​or​ ​service,​ ​the daily​ ​operations,​ ​managing​ ​business​ ​finances​ ​and​ ​startup​ ​capital​, ​and​ ​you​ ​are​ ​ready​ ​to​ ​begin.

When​ ​I​ ​started​ ​my​ ​business, ​it​ ​was​ ​very​ ​important​ ​for​ ​me​ ​to​ ​know​ ​everything​ ​there​ ​was​ ​to know​ ​about​ ​building​ ​a​ ​sustainable​ ​and​ ​thriving​ ​business.​ ​I​ ​enlisted​ ​the​ ​assistance​ ​of​ ​a​ ​business coach​ ​to​ ​help​ ​draft​ ​my​ ​business​ ​plan.​ ​I​ ​spent​ ​countless​ ​hours​ ​researching​ ​success​ and failure ​stories​. ​I​ ​obtained​ ​memberships​ ​in​ ​various​ ​networking​ ​associations​ ​with​ ​a​ ​goal​ ​of creating​ ​new​ ​business​ ​relationships. I​ ​felt​ ​good​ ​about​ ​my​ ​marketing​ ​efforts​ ​and connection​ ​to​ ​my​ ​target​ ​customer​ ​base.​ ​I​ ​was​ ​armed​ ​with​ ​a​ ​plethora​ ​of​ ​case​ ​studies​ ​and research. ​I​ ​was convinced I would​ ​avoid​ ​the​ ​typical​ ​business​ ​pitfalls​ ​of​ ​entrepreneurs before​ ​me​ ​and​ that ​I​ ​would​ ​successfully​ ​make​ ​it​ ​past​ ​the​ ​critical​ ​first​ ​three​ ​years.

One of the​ ​major​ ​things​  ​ ​I​ ​did​ ​not​ ​uncover​ ​in​ ​all​ ​of​ ​my​ ​planning​ ​and​ ​research​ ​was​ ​the​ ​reality​ ​that​ ​the main​ ​ingredient​ ​fueling​ ​my​ ​entrepreneurial​ ​drive​ ​might​ ​be​ ​the​ ​same​ ​ingredient​ creating​ ​my​ ​potential​ ​failure.​ ​​Tucked​ ​neatly​ ​inside​ ​my​ ​drive​ ​to​ ​succeed,​ ​my​ ​push​ ​toward excellence​ ​and​ ​a​ ​good​ ​work​ ​ethic​ ​was​ ​the ever-so-positive-sounding,​ ​yet​ ​very​ ​destructive concept of – ​ ​perfectionism.

We​ ​live​ ​in​ ​a​ ​world​ ​that​ ​idolizes​ ​perfectionism​ ​and​ ​it​ ​is​ ​presented​ ​as​ ​the​ ​standard​ ​of performance​ ​for​ ​success​ ​as​ ​an​ ​entrepreneur.​ ​Perfectionism​ ​sounds​ ​like​ ​a​ ​good​ ​business practice.​ ​It​ ​sounds​ ​like​ ​the​ ​description​ ​of​ ​a​ ​high​ ​achiever​, ​and​ ​I​ ​fell​ ​into​ ​the​ ​trap​ ​of​ ​waiting​ ​for perfection​ ​in​ ​many​ ​areas​ ​within​ ​my​ ​business.

But​ ​here’s​ ​what​ ​I​ ​learned…perfectionism​ ​is​ ​a​ ​fancy​ ​word​ ​for​ ​fear.​ ​Striving​ ​for​ ​perfection​ ​felt like​ ​a​ ​safe,​ ​yet​ ​lofty​ ​business​ ​goal.​ ​Perfection​ ​sounded​ ​as​ ​though​ ​I​ ​was​ ​operating​ ​at​ ​my​ ​best. Many​ ​times,​ ​I​ ​prolonged​ ​a​ ​potential​ ​business​ ​decision​ ​or​ ​sabotaged​ ​a​n​ ​opportunity​ ​by failing​ ​to​ ​move​ ​forward​ ​because​ ​perfection​ ​guided​ ​me​ ​toward​ ​stagnation​ ​and/or​ ​forfeiture.

Striving​ ​for​ ​excellence​ ​in​ ​business​ ​and​ ​waiting​ ​for​ ​perfection​ ​can​ ​seem​ ​very​ ​similar,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​had to​ ​quickly​ ​decipher​ ​the​ ​difference​ ​​​between​ ​the​ ​two.​ ​For​ ​me,​ ​striving​ ​for​ ​excellence​ ​comes from​ ​a​ ​place​ ​of​ ​gratitude​ ​and​ ​contentment.  I am grateful​ ​for​ ​the​ ​highs​ ​and​ ​lows​ ​peppered throughout​ ​my​ ​business​ ​journey.​ ​​ ​Perfection​ ​can​ ​often​ ​come​ ​from​ ​a​ ​place​ ​of​ ​lack​ ​and insecurity.​ ​Perfection​ ​creates​ ​the​ ​mindset​ ​of​ ​not​ ​having​ ​enough,​ ​never​ ​having​ ​enough​ ​and​ ​it sucks​ ​the life out.​

​Perfectionism​ ​can​ ​be​ ​overcome,​ ​but​ ​just​ ​like​ ​anything​ ​else​ ​worth achieving:​ ​you​ ​have​ ​to​ ​recognize​ ​it​ ​and​ ​then​ ​have​ ​a​ ​plan​ ​to​ ​overcome​ ​it. So ​as​ ​you​ ​prepare​ ​to​ ​launch​ ​your​ ​first​ ​business​ ​or​ ​scale​ ​your​ ​current​ ​business,​ ​ask​ ​yourself​ ​are you​ ​moving​ ​forward​ ​in​ ​excellence​ ​or​ ​perfectionism.


You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website at favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.   In addition we are pleased to have Junita join us at the  James J. Hill Center on October 26th from 9AM to 10AM  as she moderates our TAKING THE LEAD panel discussion focusing on the complex and rewarding ecosystem of women entrepreneurs.  This month’s topic will be on the “Growth Strategies and Plateau Pains ” This program is free and open to the public.  

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+
Continue Reading

A Textbook-Swapping Platform that Could Change the World

Leah Kodner, Business Librarian from the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters each month for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently she connected with presenter Richard Krueger. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on October 7, 2017.

 

According to a 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the Consumer Price Index for the cost of college textbooks increased 88 percent between January 2006 and July 2016. By comparison, the average increase for all items in that same time period was 21 percent.

Richard Krueger knew that this has been a problem for many students, and he and his partners came up with Swapzit to help solve the problem. Swapzit allows users to list the textbooks or other items they want to get rid of, along with a textbook or other item they need, and Swapzit arranges a multi-party swap, giving all users the item they want in exchange for the item they no longer need.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Richard Krueger
Age: 44
City you live in: St. Paul
City of birth: St. Paul
High school attended: Archbishop Brady High School, West St. Paul
College attended: St. Mary’s University, Minneapolis

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Swapzit
Website: www.swapzit.com
Business Start Date: June 1, 2012
Number of Employees: 4 founders
Number of Customers: Over 1,000

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. Myself and the other three founders, Jake Wiatrowski, Lucas Krause and Jamie Weber, have made successful careers out of leveraging technology to automate manual processes and compiling data to gain insights and make better decisions. Most of us currently work in the Business Intelligence field.

We exist in that sweet spot between generations where we aren’t intimidated by new technology, nor do we take it for granted. We’ve seen so much innovation in our lives, from the inception of call waiting on land lines, to having access to the sum of human knowledge in the palm of your hand. We want to make a positive impact in the world, and we’ve grown up with technology being the tool to make that impact.

Q. What is your business?
A. The Swapzit business is one of identifying and retaining value. We call it “Worth Finding.” We live in a world of abundance where most people have things stored in their closets, basements and garages, and yet many of us lack the wealth to get the things we need and want. Swapzit provides a medium for people to get the maximum value possible from the stuff they have by getting them the things they actually want and need.

Swapzit is a platform which uses an advanced algorithm to identify complicated multi-party exchanges. What does that mean?

Let’s say that you’re a student that has an engineering textbook you don’t need anymore, and your next class is an art class. You could sell your textbook back to the bookstore at a 90 percent loss, and then kick in another few hundred dollars to get your art book. You could try to find a student who happens to have the textbook you want and also happens to want the textbook you have. You’ll spend days looking, and you’ll likely not succeed in finding someone.

What Swapzit does is arrange multi-party exchanges, so you send your engineering book to someone who needs it, and another person ships their art book to you. By including more than two people, sometimes up to six, Swapzit makes the likelihood of you getting your book, for just the cost of shipping, an almost certainty, and we make it extremely easy.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. Because we’re older professionals, each of the Swapzit founders has built a professional network. We’ve leveraged our networks to formally establish an 11-person advisory board of professionals who are some of the most successful in the marketing, advertising, legal, startup, and IT worlds.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. Jake, Lucas, and I met while working for a startup. We routinely talked of starting our own business. Years later, Jake and I were working on the University of Minnesota campus. We’ve all heard about the triple digit percentage increases in the cost of tuition and books. Working on campus, it was impossible for us to not think about the debt these kids were incurring. Over the course of a lunch, Jake challenged me to find a solution. Later that day, Swapzit.com was registered.

Q. What problems does your business solve?

A. The Swapzit algorithm, and Swap-Management protocols, are capable of solving many problems associated with broken markets….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 www.JJHill.org.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+
Continue Reading

Startup Tips from the Hill

In celebration of Twin Cities Startup Week 2017, the James J. Hill Center thought they would share their top 5 tips for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

  1. Find the best data and use it
    You need solid information and data to support your start-up, whether you are writing a business plan, researching venture capital or looking for business leads. A few hot tips: IBISWorld is the best database for industry information, PrivCo is your bet for hard-to-find private company information and SimplyAnalytics is perfect for demographic information that can be used to inform you on developing into new markets. You can find all of these databases at the Hill…and they are free to use.
  2. Learn from those who have traveled the same path
    At the Hill, we provide a lot of opportunities to do just that. Meet the Expert is a perfect example of a program that connects you with experts across fields of law, marketing, digital, business development and more. Find the missing link for your start-up in this speed-dating style program.
  3. Show up
    You’ve heard it before “the world is run by those who show up.” Try out a networking event or attend 1 Million Cups St. Paul. By showing up, you’ll get the double benefit of learning more about the start-up landscape in the Twin Cities, as well as an opportunity to share your dream and find those willing to support you along the way.
  4. Look for help from those who know
    Thinking about writing a business plan, starting a non-profit, or moving your product into a new market? Try our Database Deep Dive series to take the edge off the research. These free workshops occur twice a month and will offer the best tips and tricks to navigating our databases. We love to answer questions, so come ready to dig in!
  5. Remember you’re part of something bigger
    Chipping away at a new start-up can bring up a number of feelings, but isolation doesn’t have to be one of them. Consider us your new home-base for your business. The Hill is a powerful space ripe with a rich tradition of entrepreneurial wins. Come use our free Wifi, sit and work, bring your lunch or use our resources to build your dream. Do you think you are one of the “original thinkers” that James J. Hill wanted to attract to his library? We think so. Come in and give us a try.

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.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+
Continue Reading

Soft Skills Revolution: A Breath Away

Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor, lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for soft skills training across the region and will be sharing his tips and tricks in our monthly blog Soft Skills Revolution. Come back the first Tuesday of each month and learn key steps to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

A Breath Away

There is so much in the world we have no control of. That’s why it’s always nice for me to remember that the greatest gift I can give myself, and others, is to just… breathe.

The practice of deep breathing is at the core of connecting with yourself in front of an audience. By the end of this post, you’ll be in on the greatest secret of successful performers and yogis alike.

The Pains in the…

By now, most of you know that I’m a speech coach. So it won’t come as a surprise if I trot out the fear of public speaking as a pain point (by the way, the latest poll has public speaking second to snakes).

In a bit I will cover the direct benefit deep breathing has on public speaking. First, I want to add some other pretty horrible pains most of us have faced in our life:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • depression
  • attention deficit disorder

Deep breathing has been shown to help with ALL of these.

Ancient Benefits We’re Catching Onto…

The primary benefit of deep breathing is its calming effect on the body.

People from cultures all over the world have practiced deep breathing for a millennia. How this works is only recently becoming clear to scientists according to an article in New York Times on Why Deep Breathing May Keep Us Calm. Isn’t it nice when science recognizing the benefit of something we’ve been doing all along?

The point is: breathing from your diaphragm calms your body down. And a calm body calms your mind.

The Nuts and Bolts

The key to deep breathing lies in understanding how we breathe. When I give workshops, I often ask everyone to take a deep breath in. I watch as chests heave and shoulders go up.

Many people assume since air goes into our lungs, that’s also what drives breathe. Close, but no cigar.

The diaphragm is a parachute-shaped muscle that sits under your lungs. That’s the muscle chiefly responsible for drawing in your breathe. Despite what my workshop attendees show me, it’s not the muscles around your chest.

The crazy thing is, you already “know” this. Everyone of us breathes quite efficiently when we don’t think about it. Watch someone who is extremely relaxed and you’ll see their belly move up and down more than their chest.

That’s because the diaphragm is contracting to pull in breath. The stomach and surrounding muscles get out of the way and expand outward. This is another reason most people don’t breath efficiently–people are vain. They are concerned about keeping their bellies tucked in.

Speakers, Listen Up…

Deep breathing does two important things for speakers. First, it calms them. Everyone gets nervous to some degree. Deep breathing stems the fight or flight reaction we get when we step in front of a crowd.

Second, deep breathing strengthens and supports a speaker’s voice. With adequate breath, a speaker can speak longer, louder and with greater range. You don’t have to be a performer or singer to benefit from more volume or a fuller voice.

You Can Do It!

Whether you’re a speaker or a stressed-out blog reader, you can start deep breathing now. There is nothing fancy or complicated about deep breathing. The process begins with an awareness of your breath.

  1. Put one hand on your stomach
  2. Put the other on your chest
  3. Take a deep breath in

Since you’re doing this, I will assume you are not familiar with deep breathing technique. This means that, probably, you felt your chest move as much or more than your stomach.

Here’s a cool trick I just found out while writing this: Google “deep breathing”. You should get a one-minute guided breathing exercise. I shouldn’t be too surprised since I read that Google teaches breathing to its employees.

Don’t believe me, though. Go Google it! And breathe…


Guest writer:
 Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+
Continue Reading

Startup Secrets and Sh#$ to Know: Hustle Your Way Through TCSW 2017

Aleckson Nyamwaya has his beat on the pulse of the startup world in Minnesota.  He is an Associate at @gener8tor, contributor for @startupgrind, ambassador for @1millioncupsspl and a lover of all things tech & startups. We are pleased to have his monthly insight with our blog “Startup Secrets and Sh#$ to Know.”  Check back each month for his thoughts, observations and featured companies.

Hustle Your Way Through TCSW 2017

Make the most of Twin Cities Startup Week by following this networking guide.

TCSW is the premiere week-long entrepreneurship festival of the Twin Cities. Showcasing the best from the startup capital of the north! Over 100 events will take place across the Twin Cities, October 9th−15th, 2017. Everyone one and their cousins will be in attendance!!

Twin Cities Startup Week is just 2 weeks away!!! Naturally, I wrote a guide to help you navigate the week!

There are multiple events happening concurrently so this may be helpful to you if it’s your first time, if you are too busy to curate an itinerary for the week or if you just want a curated list from an insider!

For the full list of events, dates, times and locations please visit: http://twincitiesstartupweek.com/

Keynote Events

These are the events you should make time for! Especially if you are on a tight schedule and can only make it to 1, 2 or maybe 3 days out of the week!

1. Opening Night Party — Sunday

This is a high priority because it’s the kickoff party for TCSW! Everyone is attending to specifically kick off the week! Which means it will a more relaxed atmosphere, perfect for networking & making new friends.

2. MN Cup — Monday

Minnesota Cup is the largest statewide startup competition in the country! The evening will include a demo hour from our top 24 teams, recognizing our mentors of the year, presentations from the 2017 MN Cup division winners & runners-up as well as the announcement of the 2017 MN Cup Grand Prize winner. Over $450,000 will be awarded at the event!

3. Beta.MN Showcase — Tuesday

Beta.MN is an organization of friends & founders gathering together to support Minnesota’s startup community. Showcase is like a science fair for startups, with beer & music. There are no formal presentations, just local entrepreneurs demonstrating their products and services in an approachable, one-to-one setting. Attendees include founders, future employees, superfans, investors, friends, family members and anyone wanting to discover and celebrate local innovation.

4. gener8tor Minnesota’s Premiere Night — Tuesday

gener8tor is a nationally ranked, concierge startup accelerator that invests in high-growth startups! Premiere night is a celebration of gener8tor’s latest class of innovative startups!

5. Target + Techstars Retail Accelerator Demo Day — Wednesday

Techstars Retail, in partnership with Target is a three-month intensive startup accelerator focused on bringing new technology, experiences, products, and solutions to retail. Join us for Techstars Retail in Partnership with Target Demo Day in Minneapolis as our companies take the stage at First Avenue to present their businesses!

6. Minnedemo27 — Thursday

Minnedemo will feature some of the best the local tech talent has to offer. The rules are simple: 7 minutes, real working technology, and NO slides! This event attracts 700+ entrepreneurs, investors, enthusiasts etc. Please note: they are not sold out, Minnedomo has 3 ticket releases and their last one was on 10/5 at 7pm.

7. Twin Cities Startup Weekend Youth— Friday

Startup Weekend will propel students to launch creative businesses by pitching ideas, form teams around the top ideas, research their customers, and work intensely as teams to build a prototype that demonstrates the potential of their business. At the end, teams present their business and demonstrate their prototype to a panel of local entrepreneurs in a “Shark Tank Setting.”

8. Techstars Startup Weekend Twin Cities— Friday

Startup Weekend is an intense 54 hour experience, providing entrepreneurs a unique experience to create a company, product or service over the weekend. Individuals will pitch their ideas Friday night and form teams with other attendees. Wrapping up on Sunday, they’ll pitch their prototype app, website, product or service to a panel of startup judges.

9. Official Twin Cities Startup Week Awards — Join us as we close out Twin Cities Startup Week with the biggest party of the week. We will be holding our first annual Startup Awards ceremony alongside GoKart Labs.

Honorable Mentions

If you have time during the day, be sure to take advantage of the following events!

  1. Free co-working —  Take advantage of the free opportunities! Co-working spaces such as COCO are the backbone of the TC Startup entrepreneurship culture! (I myself work out of coco uptown).
  2. gener8tor office hours — gener8tor is a nationally ranked concierge startup accelerator, come meet with their Minneapolis team for office hours!
  3. Sofia Fund office hours – Sophia Fund seeks early stage, growth oriented, gender diverse entrepreneurial companies that have women leaders! Come meet with them for office hours.
  4. Angel Investing 101 — Brett Brohl, Managing partner of The Syndicate Fund is well regarded local investor!
  5. Healthcare.MN 5 year Anniversary Party — Healthcare.MN is a founding member and a strong supporter of the Twin Cities Startup scene. It’s a high quality event that attracts a great turn out! Food and drinks.
  6. Womens Pitch Fest — Female founders and women startup leaders will pitch their companies to Midwest investors and community supporters. Applications are now being taken. Entrepreneurs apply here.
  7. Muster Across America — Curated by Bunker Labs Mpls, a nonprofit by veterans, for veterans, to start and grow businesses. If you are not a veteran you will gain the military entrepreneurial edge. If you are a veteran you will gain the network to quickly grow your venture.
  8. Mpls Jr Devs — This event is for aspiring and junior software engineers to meet, learn from, and share experiences with one another.
  9. 1 Million Cups St.Paul — Developed by the Kauffman Foundation, 1MC is a community of innovators and entrepreneurship enthusiasts: Super high quality event!
  10. Mac Startups Demo Day 2017–16 Macalester students took part in Mac Startups, a student-run entrepreneurship incubator. After identifying problems in the Twin Cities community (and beyond) they developed creative products to solve these problems.
  11. Demo Night: Teams from Startup Weekend Youth – Come and see the progress made by several of the teams.
  12. Technical Architecture: Building and Scaling —Whether you are looking to start coding an application, building onto it, or scaling, technology is always changing. What works best for building something quick? What work best for scaling?. What languages work best for rapid prototyping, and what does scalable infrastructure look like these days?
  13. Saint Paul Start-up Crawl — Lets show Saint Paul some love! See where people make and create on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s brick-and-timber warmth to steam punk buzz, Saint Paul continues to drive innovation.
  14. Minimum Viable Marketing – Marketing is one thing almost every start-up struggles with — how much do you need to do, what talent do you need to do it right, and what sort of resources should you be spending? Panel + Q&A.
  15. Minnesota Start-Up Darwin Lessons — Taking a somewhat lighthearted look at some past mistakes by Minnesota companies, the presenters will talk about what happened and why and offer some tips on how your company can avoid the same fate.
  16. How to become a fundable founder— This talk will focus on the tactics a founder needs to adopt in order to be taken seriously within the startup world! Shameless plug for my event 😉

Conclusion

Twin Cities startup week is the premiere entrepreneurship festival of the twin cities! It’s a great opportunity for you to network, connect with other community members and forge new relationships!

Remember this is a once-in-a-year opportunity, so be sure to checkout the full schedule here.

See you there!

Want more hustling tips? Checkout my previous post Graduate’s Hustle Handbook To Entrepreneurship


You can tweet me @alecksonn or subscribe to my newsletter

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+
Continue Reading

Adding a Little Sweetness to the Mix

Leah Kodner, Business Librarian from the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters each month for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently she connected with presenter Scott Dillon. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on September 23, 2017.

TripAdvisor’s 2014 “TripIndex Cities” puts Minneapolis as the ninth most inexpensive city in the United States to have a night on the town. However, the average cost of two cocktails is still listed at $20. While not prohibitively expensive, $10 cocktails are not a thing that many people can afford to consume on a regular basis.

Scott Dillon was interesting in saving money by making his own cocktails, so he took a cocktail class and learned about shrubs. Shrubs are drink mixers made from apple cider vinegar, fresh fruit, and cane sugar. He was hooked and began making his own shrubs, and The Twisted Shrub was born.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Scott Dillon
Age: 43
City you live in: Edina
City of birth: Richmond, Va.
High school attended: Midlothian High School, Midlothian, Va.
Colleges attended: University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: The Twisted Shrub
Website:www.thetwistedshrub.com
Business Start Date: October 2015
Number of Employees: 1, soon to be 5
Number of Customers: 40 retail stores in the Twin Cities area, plus Amazon Prime

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I spent 19 years in sales at General Mills before being let go in the downsizing efforts in 2014. So, with the support of my wife and family, I had the amazing opportunity to have a harmless mid-life crisis before deciding what to do with the rest of my career.

So I dabbled in many different hobbies (took magic lessons from a local magician, ushered for the Twins, passed Level 1 of the Master Sommelier certification process, to name a few) while trying to decide what to do next. One of my goals was to make better cocktails at home. I’ve grown tired of paying $12-$15 for high-end cocktails at bars so we signed up for a cocktail class at Parlour Bar in Minneapolis to learn about how to make better drinks. It was at this class where I first heard of shrubs.

I fell in love on the spot and decided I would never work for a company again. I was going to figure out how to start my own food company. Long story short, we launched The Twisted Shrub at the Linden Hills Farmers Market just 118 days after that fateful cocktail class. We are now on Amazon Prime and in 40+ retail stores across the Twin Cities with plans to accelerate in a significant way over the next six months and beyond.

Q. What is your business?
A. The Twisted Shrub specializes in the hand-crafted production of shrubs, also known as drinking vinegars. Shrubs have been around for centuries as a method to preserve fruit using vinegar and sugar. In the 1700s, the Colonials made shrubs from leftover fruit at the end of the harvest. They used the shrubs to flavor drinks in the winter months for sustenance and to provide people with necessary vitamins and nutrients until the following spring growing season.

We use just three simple, all-natural ingredients to make our shrubs: apple cider vinegar, fresh fruit, and 100 percent cane sugar. That’s it. We take our time, too: every batch of The Twisted Shrub takes two days to craft. Shrubs are drink mixers that create intensely complex, delicious, zing-filled cocktails and sodas without any muddling or infusion. For cocktails, simply add equal parts shrub, spirit, and soda water. For sodas, add three parts sparkling water to 1 part shrub for a refreshing, non-alcoholic quencher.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. The Twin Cities is chock full of amazing resources for startups, especially in food and beverage. Notably, AURI (Agricultural Utilization Research Institute) and GrowNorthMN have both been instrumental in helping us understand the resources available and steps to take in order to take an idea and make it into a business.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. Simply put, I wanted to make better, more interesting drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) in the comforts of my own home. Shrubs empower you to do that in just seconds.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. The Twisted Shrub provides an easy, fuss-free way to craft exceptionally delicious, complex, zing-filled, better-for-you cocktails and sodas at home at a fraction of the cost….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 www.JJHill.org.

 

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+
Continue Reading

Be Truly Welcoming

As we wrap up Welcoming Week (Sept. 15 -24) at the James J. Hill Center we wanted to share some of the great tools and resources we used to work towards being more inclusive, welcoming and open to all communities.

The Hill is proud to be an active member of Welcoming America.  Launched in 2009, Welcoming America has spurred a growing movement across the United States. Their award-winning social entrepreneurship model is beginning to scale globally. As a non-profit, non-partisan organization, Welcoming America supports the many diverse communities and partners who are leading efforts to make their communities more vibrant places for all.

As communities change and grow, we all need to work together to ensure that all members of our communities, both new and old, feel welcome and included.  Tools to support this idea can be so helpful.  Welcoming America has provided those tools and resources.  They connect leaders, community, government and nonprofit sectors so they can work together to provide a network of support and communication.  These connections help bring great institutions and people together to make things happen.

During welcoming week the Hill leveraged new relationships to pull together a string of great institutions: The International Institute of Minnesota, Saint Paul College, Grow MN, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, Neighborhood Development Center and many more. Through small dinners, large panel discussions and short presentations we discussed important and relevant topics such as diversity in our entrepreneurial community, the new American workforce and the needs of minority-owned businesses.  These conversations were enlightening and informative, but did show how many more steps we need to take to continue to build and grow and truly be a welcoming Minnesota.

To do this we must all get involved, join the conversation and remain open.  Here are some great tips that we have learned and initiated here at the Hill since joining Welcoming America.

First understand your local context:

1)      Look at local economic priorities and immigrant assets
2)      Look at the data that tells your local immigrant story
3)      Engage in existing programs and partners
4)      Talk with immigrant entrepreneurs

A great first step to try each of those four items is to join us at the James J. Hill Center. You can either review data through our free databases, engage in one of our topical presentations or panels or join one of our networking sessions.

Here are four things you can do on your own to support our local immigrant entrepreneurs:

1)      Be a champion
2)      Be a connector
3)      Fill in the gaps
4)      Make it your own

These steps will help us all grow and will ensure that our community and economy continues to prosper, grow and succeed. Visit the Hill or go to Welcomingamerican.org to find out more about how you can help your community become more inviting for all.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+
Continue Reading

Strong Data for Minority Own Businesses

There is very strong data to support investment in minority owned businesses in Minnesota. Data from the 2012 Survey of Business Organizations and the Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs 2015 reveal these important insights.

1) Minority business created more jobs than the largest employer in Minnesota: The Mayo Clinic, the largest MN employer, employed 39,000 jobs, estimate of DEED. Minority owned businesses as a group in comparison, employed over 70,000 people with an annual payroll of $1.7 billion.

2) The number of minority businesses grew faster than non-minority businesses: While the number of minority businesses grew by 53 percent during the period 2007-12, the number of non-minority businesses declined by 3 percent.

3) Minority business job growth increased at a higher rate than non-minority businesses: While minority businesses achieved a 68 percent growth in jobs during the period 2007-12, non-minority business jobs grew by only 10 percent.

4) The number of minority female owned businesses grew faster than female owned businesses: While the number of minority female businesses grew by 78 percent during the period 2007-12, the number of non-minority businesses grew by 19 percent.

5) The number of minority veteran owned businesses grew faster than veteran owned businesses: While the number of minority veteran businesses grew by 130 percent during the period 2007-12, the number of veteran businesses grew by 6 percent.

6) The fastest growing industries for minority firms were mining, utilities, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, management and other services: The number of minority owned firms in five out of 18 industries more than doubled between 2007 and 2012.

Most of minority businesses are at the critical stage with sales between $100,000 and a million dollars. Policy attention is needed to help them grow. Our study of African immigrant entrepreneurs revealed that they needed most help with marketing and new product development apart from access to capital. Female entrepreneurs had unique needs compared to male entrepreneurs. Most of these entrepreneurs received very little help from public or non-profit organizations.

Research shows the minority economic status improves when minority entrepreneurs are successful as the wealth base of the community expands.

Bruce Corrie is Professor of Economics and Associate Vice President for University Relations at Concordia University-St. Paul.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+
Continue Reading

Mary Times Three

Travel up to the 2nd floor of the James J. Hill Center and you will find the “three Marys” on display on the north wall.

The first oil painting, “Mamie Hill at North Oaks,” was commissioned of Polish painter Jan Chelminski in 1886, who was famous for his equestrian paintings. Mamie is the oldest daughter of James and Mary Hill, and she would have been 18 years old in this painting. Two years later, she was engaged to Samuel Hill (of no previous relation).

The next framed art is a later depiction of Mamie, a charcoal drawing by F. Adolph Muller-Ury in 1900. Mamie, whose health was fragile, died in New York on April 13, 1947, and was buried in the Hill family section of Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights, Minnesota.

Finally, there is a print of Mary Theresa Hill in her younger years. Mary was the wife of James J. Hill, and was responsible for the completion of the James J. Hill Reference Library. The Hill’s doors opened in 1921, but unfortunately both Mary and husband, James had passed by that time.

Learn more of the story behind the Hill Center, these images and the epic building in our Cabinet of Curiosity Tour every third Thursday at 10:30AM. In this one hour experience you will go back in time, up and down catwalks, through vaults and peek in hidden nooks and crannies.  Our September tour is coming up 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 our our historic collection at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+
Continue Reading

“Wait Training”: It’s All Good

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 has learned the value of “waiting” during her years as an entrepreneur and business owner and shares her experiences with us each second Tuesday of the month.

“You don’t have the skill, talent, or ability to run a business!” were the words that rang out after a failed business planning discussion. I was devastated. Although the words were jarring to my ears, it was that level of discomfort that pushed me to transform my business from “just another cookie company” to a mission-driven, for-profit cookie company committed to doing good and making an impact.

While “giving-back” or funding social, cultural and environmental causes isn’t a new concept, more and more entrepreneurs are choosing to define their business success based on equal parts profits earned and purpose supported. Social entrepreneurship is all about doing good. From large scale operations to one-person startups, there are some common drivers that many social enterprises share. My top three are mission, meaning and money.

  1. Mission: Defining my business as a for-profit, mission-driven cookie company allows me to live out my life’s purpose both personally and professionally. Connecting my company’s why we do good things with the how we do good within our community allows us to be an active contributor in creating the good we wish to see and experience in our world.
  2. Meaning: Consumers want to feel good about the purchases they make. They want to make purchases that align with their values. I have the opportunity to connect my customers to a product they love and support a cause they care about. By focusing on meaning, my customers and I become partners in doing good.
  3. Money: At the core of it all, money funds mission! The ability to generate a profit to take care of my family and invest in my community creates a business model that keeps on giving. If my business does not make money, I have limited my ability to make an impact. Building a business from scratch, experiencing each financial milestone and busting your hind parts to reach profitability…is all good.

My company makes good cookies. “We do good things” is Favorable Treats commitment to delivering a delicious, scratch-made product, while making an impact. I recently had the opportunity to share my business journey and inspiration for Favorable Treats on the award winning podcast, Social Entrepreneur, listen by clicking here.

I would love to hear from you. How are you using your business for good? As a consumer, how important is a company’s mission when making purchasing decisions? You can send your reply here.


You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website at favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.   In addition we are pleased to have Junita join us at the  James J. Hill Center on October 26th from 9AM to 10AM  as she moderates our TAKING THE LEAD panel discussion focusing on the complex and rewarding ecosystem of women entrepreneurs.  This month’s topic will be on the “Growth Strategies and Plateau Pains ” This program is free and open to the public.  

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+
Continue Reading

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!

X