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Collection Curiosities: Book Sets

Among the many interesting items one finds when combing the shelves of the James J. Hill Center’s library collection are several dozen book sets. Included are biographies; histories of places and events; personal papers of presidents, diplomats, explorers and businessmen; and government records. Publication dates reach as far back as the early 1800s (some before the birth of Mr. Hill himself).

The oldest? Sparks’s American Biography, a ten volume set originally published in 1834. It set out to include, according to its editor, “all persons, who have been distinguished in America, from the date of its first discovery to the present time,” with the hope that it “would embrace a perfect history of our country.” Though the more familiar faces of this early period of American history are absent, it sheds light on others who were believed important at the time. Beginning with John Stark, an American officer in the Revolutionary War, it tells of other early war heroes as well as physicians, inventors, engineers, and even a little-known signer of the Declaration of Independence. These individuals represent some of the most notable figures of the 18th and early 19th century, many whose lives began nearly three hundred years ago or more, and, perhaps, were those whom Mr. Hill might have admired or even emulated.

Written by Alex Ingham, Business Librarian, James J. Hill Center. 
If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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“Wait” Training: Failure Happens

 

The waiting period between the date you finalize your business plan and the date your business is profitable and thriving, can be described as the heart and soul of the entrepreneur’s experience. You’ve completed the research, your financial projections are solid, you’ve secured the necessary capital to prepare for your official launch date and you are ready to hit the ground running. But what happens when the lived experience looks nothing like the researched plan? What happens when failure after failure seems to be the only predictable constant? Well, my best advice is: failure happens…expect it, embrace it and excel beyond it.

Let’s be real…in today’s culture, the thought of failure is romanticized. There are books, blogs and business features focused on the “art of failure” which oftentimes project a straight line from failure to success. While such depictions make for good reading, they rarely get to the reality of failure.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve experienced many painful failures balanced by notable successes in the pursuit of building a profitable and thriving business. While my business plan is the foundation upon which my business is built, the failures and missteps are critically important to the success and longevity of the business venture. Failure is inevitable. You have to decide if it will suffocate your dreams or resuscitate the possibilities. Below, I’ve listed my three-step process of dealing with failure as an entrepreneur.

  1. Expect it!
    Being a true Minnesotan, I plan for failure much like I plan for road construction. I know it’s coming, it has the potential to make life very frustrating, it may temporarily throw me off track, but it is necessary to improve the overall condition.
  2. Embrace it!
    My southern grandmother had a saying, “bought sense is better than given.” This piece of advice means we often value things that cost us something, more than we value things freely given to us. Failure is an opportunity that costs us something. Whether a financial setback or human heartache once we embrace the reality of failure we can reset, learn and get ready start again.
  3. Excel beyond it!
    Plastered on my wall are notes to self that list my goals and vision statement. Failure can easily take our thoughts down a rabbit hole of negativity. In order to excel beyond a failed experience focus on the long term goals rather than the immediate disappointment. Failure happens. Use it to your advantage and excel beyond the original plan!

I’d love to hear from you. Tell me about your process for excelling beyond failure. Contact me at bit.ly/FavTreats.

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They’ll help local investors buy local (businesses)

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 Patrick Saxton. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on July 30, 2017.

MNstarter

Equity crowdfunding allows entrepreneurs to sell private securities in their company to investors. These offerings are usually restricted to large “accredited” investors who meet certain wealth and income standards. Now, Minnesota has made it possible to sell these securities to any resident of Minnesota. The MNvest law, which went into effect in June 2016, makes it legal for businesses to release equity crowdfunding offerings to Minnesota residents regardless of their wealth. Patrick Saxton saw the opportunities that this new law provided and formed MNstarter to help businesses launch successful equity crowdfunding campaigns.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

  • Patrick Saxto
  • Age: 35
  • City you live in: White Bear Lake
  • City of birth: Blue Earth, MN
  • High school attended: North St. Paul
  • Colleges attended: Graduate of Metropolitan State. Attended University of North Dakota, Drake University, and Century College

COMPANY PROFILE

  • Name of company: MNstarter
  • Website: www.mnstarter.com
  • Business start date: September 2016
  • Number of employees: 5 co-founders and 1 intern

Q&A

What led to this point?
I worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs, first as a business analyst in the benefits division, then as the primary Information Security and FISMA policy writer for 23 regional offices. I spent my remaining time in government working at the Small Business Administration (SBA), helping entrepreneurs start and grow their small businesses and working to expand SBA’s reach in Minnesota. I am now working as a software engineer and completing my degree in computer application development at Metropolitan State University.

What is your business?
MNstarter is a public benefit corporation whose mission is to grow Minnesota companies through local investment. MNstarter is a registered MNvest portal operator and advocate for capital crowdfunding.

MNstarter offers free access to the MNstarter.com MNvest crowdfunding portal along with best practice guides for self-service capital crowdfunding campaigns. It also offers access to the MNstarter Resource Library, which is an organized group of “resource partners” who can work directly with entrepreneurs to navigate legal, finance and marketing considerations to get their capital campaigns set up.

Where do you go for help when you need it?
We go to the MNstarter Resource Library and the folks at MNvest.org, the outreach and advocacy group for the MNvest legislation.

What is the origin of the business?
MNstarter was started after I watched a 1 Million Cups presentation at the James J. Hill Center by Zach Robbins and Scott Cole. I went back to our office and started to talk about the MNvest law and over the next few weeks we had a core group of us that were ready to make MNstarter a real company. About three months after we started, Judy Wright, our fifth and final founder, found us on the internet and emailed us the same week we had decided to go looking for a finance specialist to round out our group. Since then, the five of us have been working to help Minnesotans find ways to meet their business and investment goals.

What problems does your business solve?
MNstarter solves the need created by new Minnesota MNvest legislation that permits intrastate investment crowdfunding through securities offerings exempt from Securities Act registration. The MNVest law allows companies to sell equity in their companies to Minnesota residents. Minnesota residents not considered “accredited investors” have equal opportunity to invest in these offerings. Under most federal rules, non-accredited investors would not have this opportunity. This creates a larger pool of possible investors. It also gives all Minnesotans the opportunity to invest locally.

MNvest went into effect in June 2016, and requires that these MNvest “offerings” must be made online through a “MNvest Portal” registered with the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Lots of times we hear “buy local”. At MNstarter, we like to say, “buy local (businesses).” CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE


Interviewer: Leah Kodner
Business Librarian, James J. Hill Center

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. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit 1millioncups.com/stpaul.

 

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Soft Skills Revolution: Finding Soft Skill Value

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.

FINDING SOFT SKILL VALUE

I used to have a hard time finding my keys. Then I bought this little plastic disk that my phone can make beep. They’re usually sitting right on the counter, hidden in plain sight.

A recent survey of 2.6 million employers reported that 59% have difficulty finding candidates who are proficient in “soft skills.” I believe that soft skilled people are really not that hard to find. They just need to tag their skills with the equivalent of that beeping disk.

Making your own soft skill set “beep” out begins with understanding why they’re “soft”, what are the skills and the value to employers.

The Soft
Among the most sought-after soft skills are the “4 Cs”: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity.

The term soft skills was originally defined by the Army in 1972 as

“Job functions about which we know a good deal are hard skills and those about which we know very little are soft skills.”

From the beginning soft skills have been associated with misunderstanding.

One of the biggest insights to soft skills is how little we know about them and ourselves. Studies like Sage Journals “Perceived Versus Actual Transparency of Goals in Negotiation” have shown how we believe others see us and what they actually perceive are statistically unrelated. The only accurate way to gauge how you’re being perceived is to ask someone else.

And yet, as Seth Godin points out “what actually separates thriving organizations from struggling ones are the difficult-to-measure attitudes, processes and perceptions of the people who do the work.”

The Skills
In that aptly titled post, “Let’s Stop Calling Them ’Soft Skills,” Godin argues that the term should be avoided:

“We call these skills soft, making it easy for us to move on to something seemingly more urgent. We rarely hire for these attributes because we’ve persuaded ourselves that vocational skills are impersonal and easier to measure.”

He feels that they are more accurately understood as “real skills” because of their impact on businesses:

“…when an employee demoralizes the entire team by undermining a project, or when a team member checks out and doesn’t pull his weight, or when a bully causes future stars to quit the organization — too often, we shrug and point out that this person has tenure, or vocational skills or isn’t so bad. But they’re stealing from us.”

He then goes on to list nearly 100 different skill sets in five categories that make up his first draft of real skills.

The Value
Godin’s argument carries significant weight when you consider how reliant the economy is on soft skills. Three decades ago 83% of the value of an S&P 500 company was in its tangible assets—real estate, equipment, inventory. Today 87% of the value is in intangible assets—ideas, brand, or stories.

Companies that had paid workers to build value with their labor now pay them to create with their minds. The majority of companies’ value can no longer be delivered by trucks. Instead, the majority of worth is created, transmitted and maintained through soft skill mastery.

Developing mastery is also hiding in plain sight. The process is the same one practiced by athletes, artists and entrepreneurs.

More on that later. I have to find my phone.

To be continued….

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

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Startup Secrets and Sh#$ to Know: Tips To Get Rich Quick!

Aleckson Nyamwaya has his beat on the pulse of the startup world in MN.  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.

Tips To Get Rich Quick!

There are many ways of getting rich, but even fewer legal ones. As a middle class american, getting rich has always been part of the dream – along with a “white picket fence.” So how do you get rich quick in the next 4–7 years?

“The key is to get on the cap table of high growth startups”

High growth startups are companies such as Snap, Blueapron and Uber on the earlier stage and Google, Facebook and Amazon on the later stage. Imagine if you had equity in the companies listed above from when they were just infants, you’d be a millionaire!

Below I’ve identified four ways to get on the cap table of high growth startups so you can not only get rich, but also quickly! This guide is for both non-accredited and accredited investors alike.


1. Entrepreneur

The surest way to make money quickly, and by quick I mean 3–5 years, is by launching your own company and becoming an entrepreneur! Along with making money, you would hone in on essential entrepreneurial skills needed to thrive in the future. Beware, entrepreneurship is hard, you will fail, but that is how you succeed. If you consider yourself risk averse, 2 & 3 are still viable options for you!

2. Employee

Joining a high growth startup is a great method to get on the cap table especially if you consider yourself risk averse. As an early employee, you will have the opportunity to not only invest in early employee stock options, but you will also have the opportunity to gain expertise in your field allowing you to lead your division as the company scales (i.e. VP, CMO, CTO, etc)! This can be difficult though because the most meaningful (unicorns) startups tend to huddle in silicon valley or Stockholm. You’d have a difficult time in other cities such as New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Austin or Boston.

3. Consultant

If you don’t want to be an employee, you have the option of selling your services as a consultant. A tactic I’ve seen work is to get paid in half cash and half stock options that vest month over month. Be careful though because if done wrong, people will think you’re a “culture vulture” in sinking your teeth into startups. Start with value first by offering high quality unsolicited services. You can easily hit singles and doubles over 5 years of consulting for equity!

4. Angle Investing

With the advent of REG D equity crowdfunding, anyone can angle invest, non accredited and accredited alike! A great way to start is by joining a syndicate on angels list led by an experienced angel! WARNING Invest no more than 5% of your net-worth and be ready to LOSE IT ALL!


Good luck in your journey of chasing the good ol’ american dream! I hope this article was able to shed some light on new paths of attaining your goal!

If you found this useful, please share so others can get this information!


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

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Startup Day Across America: Get Involved

James J.  Hill Center has been supporting Minnesota innovators for 96 years by connecting business, entrepreneurs and community to research, knowledge and network.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, firms less than one year old created 1.7 million jobs, or 60% of total employment growth, in 2015. More than half these jobs were from firms with fewer than 10 employees.  The startup companies we support are involved in a variety of industries including technology, retail, healthcare, food and beverage, education and more.

On August 1, 2017, members of Congress have been invited to celebrate the ingenuity and entrepreneurship taking place right in their own cities. Startup Day Across America connects elected officials with startups in their communities so they can learn about the challenges new companies face and meet the business leaders building the future.

This bipartisan, bicameral effort also raises awareness and helps generate support for startup communities across the country.  Last August marked the third annual Startup Day and Minnesota’s Senator Al Franken participated.

Each startup organization has withstood the challenges and obstacles of entrepreneurialism, and many continue to grow, foster job creation and improve our economic ecosystem.

August 1st is an important day for all entrepreneurs – successful, new, struggling or persevering.  This is a time when you get to show them what is needed, what steps should be taken and what change needs to be made.  This is a time for your voice to be heard and celebrated.

If your startup is interested in participating, contact your local representative and request a visit. Work with Startup Day 2017 and make it happen.  We don’t get opportunities like this all the time.

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A Safe Space to Grow

Pew Research Center’s fall 2016 analysis on Internet and Technology finds that “people think that libraries are a major contributor to their communities in providing a safe place to spend time.” There are few public “safe spaces” out there that provide a welcoming, neutral and resource filled environment like libraries. So how does this translate to a space like the James J. Hill Center, where entrepreneurs come to network, research and build their business?

The Hill is historically known as the James J. Hill Reference Library. Regardless of the name change, the heart of the organization has been, is and always will be the library. We are one of those “safe spaces” dedicated to creating a place where business professionals and innovators can make mistakes, test ideas and take risks – a place to grow.

Walk in the door, and you’ll experience the business neutral environment – you don’t need to have an established business to use our resources. We are that safe space for the seed level start-up, and even before then in the exploratory phase. According to Pew Research, there is an increase in the need for those experts or guides (we like to call them librarians!) to identify information that they can trust – in 2016, 37% of people said that libraries play a role in helping to identify this trusted information, up from 24% in 2015. This will only grow, as Google provides a starved environment for data you can bring to a board or potential investor, and boards and potential investors demand more data to support risk taking opportunities.

Starting a business or changing careers can put you in murky territory, but our business librarians at the Hill Center are here to help. Our librarians are on-hand to navigate not only the exclusive databases that can be accessed here for free, but also to help seek out other free resources that can be accessed from anywhere. The Hill is a safe space to try something on for size, reach for your dreams and find your potential – and as your guide we promise to give you our honest, expert opinion.

Written by Lindsey Dyer, Director of Library Services, James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Allowing Gift Cards to Keep on Giving

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenter Tori Utley. As seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on July 15, 2017.

Gift cards have long been staples of holidays, birthdays, and graduations. Giving gift cards can be a good way to give cash in a way that appears more planned and thoughtful than simply a card with a $20 bill in it. However, many gift cards go partially or wholly unused. A 2015 survey of Canadian consumers by Ipsos found that 28 percent of respondents regularly left money on gift cards, with reasons ranging from not knowing the remaining value of the card to the inconvenience of carrying cards around.

Tori Utley, coming from the nonprofit sphere, realized the potential value of connecting this wasted gift card money with charities and nonprofits in need of funds, and she created Tinua to do just that.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Tori Utley
Age: 24
City you live in: Rochester
City of birth: Sacramento, Calif.
High school attended: Byron High School, Byron, Minn.
Colleges attended: Liberty University, Lynchburg, Va.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Tinua
Website: http://www.wearetinua.com/
Business Start Date: 2017
Number of Employees: 3
Number of Customers: None yet

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. My background is in counseling and psychology — I’m a licensed alcohol and drug counselor in Minnesota. After working in treatment centers and working with a few human services nonprofits, I experienced a growing interest in the nonprofit sector. I started working for Mayo Clinic on the side but grew passionate about business, went for my MBA, and ended up working in both fundraising and product development at Mayo Clinic full-time. From these experiences, I launched two organizations — More Than An Addict, a nonprofit, and Tinua, a tech startup. My background is diverse with many experiences that don’t seem to mix together; however, it’s been the perfect blend of experiences to help me with what I’m working on today.

Q. What is your business?
A. Tinua is a tech startup building a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform where gift card funds can be donated to charitable causes. We’re building an infrastructure that can be licensed by nonprofits and giving platforms to accept gift cards as a form of donation. We’re launching our mobile app this month to test our platform, though we hope to eventually integrate our technology with giving platforms and donation software so people can donate gift cards wherever they choose to give.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. I’m grateful to have wise mentors who have helped me get to where I am today. I’m also a member of a co-working space in Rochester called Collider Coworking, where we have community managers and other entrepreneurs willing to share advice, resources and connections.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. I was at Starbucks in 2015 and had 17 cents left over on my Starbucks card. There was nothing special about that day because I’ve had unused gift cards for as long as I can remember, but it got me thinking about how many times I’ve thrown away gift cards with a balance — even a small one….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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The Evolution of Embossers

Of the many changes that our library has seen over the past century, one that is easy to overlook is the way we mark our books. When we first opened, our librarians embossed each new book they added to the collection. Labels on the embossing stamps show we were still embossing books into the early 1970’s. Sometime thereafter, we began instead to mark our books using ink stamps.

We recently uncovered several of our old embossing stamps, and our librarians are going to start using them again. There are several benefits to embossing as opposed to ink stamping. Firstly, inks can negatively affect paper, making it degrade over time, whereas embossing only adds an indent or small holes to the paper and therefore does not cause as much long-term damage.

Secondly, embossed books are harder to steal than books stamped with ink, because the skilled thief can laboriously remove traces of ink, but the only way to remove traces of embossing is to remove the embossed page itself. And finally, aesthetics. Embossed books look and feel nice. There is a timeless feel to them, something that brings to mind classic libraries with beautiful old books. In addition, an embossed stamp looks the same every time, whereas ink stamps often appear messy.

For all these reasons and in deference to our history, we are going to bring our embossing stamps out of retirement. Stop by sometime to see some of our new materials, embossed as of old!

The story of these tools and the epic building will be further explored in the Cabinet of Curiosity Tour every third Thursday at 10:30AM. Go back in time in this one hour tour, up and down the catwalks and through the vault in a nooks and crannies inspired experience.  Our June tour sold out, so get your tickets early!


The oldest embosser, which creates a raised impression of our corporate seal.


The corporate seal created by the oldest embosser.


The newest embosser (really a perforating stamp), with a 1971 note instructing librarians to stamp the page after the title page of a book.


The perforated stamp.

The ink stamp currently used by librarians, which marks the date as well as the name of the library.

Ink stamps create a less aesthetically pleasing stamp than embossers or perforators.


Written by Leah Kodner, James J. Hill Business Librarian. If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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“Wait Training”: How it all Started

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 is starting a blog series with the Hill, called ‘Wait Training’. Over her career, Junita has learned the value of “waiting” with her business and is looking forward to sharing her experiences.


I’ve known I wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was a little girl. I didn’t know all it entailed, but I was always intrigued with the idea that if something didn’t exist, an entrepreneur could just create it. I had several business ideas throughout my childhood, each always associated with food or coffee.

I began my ‘official’ entrepreneur journey in 2006 when I launched Favorable Treats, a Minnesota-based mission driven cookie company. Though the idea of a cookie company is founded upon my best childhood memories, the road to success has been shaped by my most difficult experiences as an adult.

My journey as an entrepreneur is best described as one of resilience, patience and strength. Due to a tumultuous marriage, I stopped and restarted my business three times over ten years. I’ve learned the value of personal hardship, which provided the unexpected benefits of lessons and training that positively impacted my business.

Through this blog, I will share the ups and downs of starting a business, and what it takes to be successful in the hopes that I can translate some of my “waiting” into “training.”  I will share the resources that have helped me, the bumps along the way, the characteristics I have found important to acquire and big decisions made during this process.  All of these stories and personal anecdotes are meant to inspire, invigorate and build this incredible ecosystem of small businesses and entrepreneurs we have surrounding us.  So, join me on this journey and check in the second Tuesday of each month for a little bit of ME and some WAIT TRAINING. 

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 August 10th 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 “Financials of Business.” This program is free and open to the public.  RSVP NOW

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IMPORTANT NOTICE:

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

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

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