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Local Painter’s Bucket List Doesn’t Cut Corners

Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently we connected with presenter Ben Hildre. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on April 7, 2017.

The painting industry generates more than $31 billion in revenue each year, but it is estimated that only 5,500 new painting jobs will be created in the next decade. With high demand and a small labor force, there is not much time for innovation in the industry. But a company in Minnesota is looking to change that.

Bucket Tools has a new invention to cut painting time, costs and is better for the environment. Ben Hildre is looking to shake up the industry, and help his team improve and grow.

 

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Ben Hildre
Age: 35
City you live in: Athens Township
City of birth: Coon Rapids
High school attended: St. Francis High School

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Bucket Tools LLC
Website: www.buckettoolsllc.com
Twitter: @BucketEdge
Business Start Date: March 2014
Number of Employees: 2 (Hildre and partner, Sean Erickson)
Number of Customers: Goes up everyday

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?

A. I’m a creative guy who enjoys living life to the fullest. However, “real” life started a little earlier than I anticipated. I found out I was going to be a dad my last semester of high school. That kicked my butt in gear and kept me working as a painter. Over the years I kept painting and then started my own company in 2007. I invented the Bucket Edge the winter of 2014.

The Bucket Edge was created with two main goals in mind. First, I needed a tool that would help expedite or eliminate the need to tape off rooms. As owner of my own painting company, I noticed that countless man-hours and endless amounts of tape were being used at each jobsite. There was so much waste product created, which led me to my second goal. To create a product that would reduce the amount of waste put into landfills and be better for the environment. The Bucket Edge is meeting both of those goals.

Q. What is your business?

A. Bucket Edge is multi-use painting tool to cut down on costs of taping off woodwork before painting. The Bucket Edge was created to cut down on materials and time when painting practically anything, anywhere. As owner of my painting company, Bucket Painting LLC, I have already noticed significant savings. Costs have gone down almost 80 percent on tape alone. There is no need to keep buying sleeves of tape spools on every job. The savings don’t stop there. My labor costs and set up times have also decreased.

It’s almost like tape and dropcloth in one because of the length it extends off the wall. Tape only protects an inch and a half away from the wall, (Bucket Edge) gives you over 13 inches to save from paint splatters. It will pay for itself and give you money back in your pocket the more you use it.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?

A. My partner, Jessica; we have been together for 14 years. She is always there to cheer me on or pat me on the back when something doesn’t work.

Q. What is the origin of the business?

A. It is kind of a funny story. It was back during the foreclosure craze.  I painted lot of dirty houses where tape didn’t stick. One night I came home and was watching “Shark Tank” on ABC with my oldest daughter. Someone made a great deal with one of the “sharks” and Hannah looked over and said, “Dad, you think you’re so smart, create something to put me through college!” I turned to her with a devilish smirk and said “Fine I will, but I’m going to use money for a boat instead.” We have great sense of humor in my house. The next day, I show up to my jobsite and all the taping I had put up had fallen down. What my daughter said sparked the light bulb in my head. That day I drew up the first draft of the Bucket Edge….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 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org

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A Technological Step Forward for Seniors

Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently we connected with presenter Peter Chamberlin. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase  originally posted on March 24, 2017.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention every second of every day an older adult falls, making falls the No. 1 cause of injuries and deaths among older Americans.

With more than 10,000 older Americans turning 65 each day, the number of fall-related injuries and deaths is expected to surge.  Physical therapists and other health care professionals have very little information about a patient’s everyday life, which doesn’t allow for proper assessment of treatment and demonstration of improvement.

Families are also constantly worried about their loved ones living at home. Peter Chamberlain was one of those family members and wanted to ensure his grandparents lived a healthier and longer life. The creation of WalkSmart was the best step to making that mission real. Since 2016 he has been working to help provide peace of mind to generations.

 

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Peter Chamberlain
Age: 26
City you live in: Grand Forks, N.D.
City of birth: Salem, Ore.
High school attended: South Salem High School
College attended: Undergrad: The University of Portland; Graduate: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: WalkSmart
Website: Walksmart.io
Business Start Date: March 2016
Number of Employees: 1
Number of Customers: 5

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?

A. As an engineer, I have always been fascinated by how technology and innovation can solve some of the world’s toughest challenges. Every project I’ve done has been has focused on helping people, whether it was building the world’s first Hyperloop pod for fast transportation, designing a medical device to keep kids from getting hypothermia during Jaundice treatment, or starting the MIT Water Innovation Prize to reward those with innovation solutions. I saw a way that I could help my grandparents with new technology, and I took the leap.

Q. What is your business?

A. WalkSmart is about helping people maintain their independence and saving lives. People who use walkers are one of our most vulnerable and costly populations, yet few innovations have succeeded in reducing falls and improving care collaboration. With proper design and market focus, I think this can change.

WalkSmart is the world’s first smart walker attachment. It monitors motion throughout the day and night without the need for charging, (like) a smartphone, or a wearable, eliminating many of the adherence issues faced by existing devices. The device acts as a traditional fitness tracker, but it also alerts families and caregivers when a person may have fallen, had a stroke, or have a urinary tract infection. The implications for therapy, home care, and senior living are massive…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 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org

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The Truth Teller: Entering the Danger

In celebration of Women’s History Month we have reached out to a variety of female entrepreneurs to share their journey  on how they have navigated owning and building a business.

Sue Hawkes helps CEOs and their leadership teams succeed. As a bestselling author, award-winning leader, Certified EOS Implementer, Certified Business Coach, WPO Chapter Chair, and globally recognized award-winning seminar leader, Sue brings over twenty-five years of business experience to her clients. She is CEO of YESS! and has designed and delivered dynamic, transformational programs for thousands of people.

How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
My entrepreneurial journey began in 5th My best friend and I wanted to make money to buy Christmas presents for our family, so we sold macramé plant hangers door-to-door. We made over $500 and this experience showed me that if I was willing to work hard, there was no limit to my income or success. I’ve carried that entrepreneurial drive with me from age ten.

What are your current projects and or business ventures you are working on?
My current business goal is to achieve best-seller status for our book, Chasing Perfection- Shatter the Illusion; Minimize Self-Doubt & Maximize Success. Along with that, we’re launching the Chasing Perfection Companion Toolkit, which includes a success journal and workbook to accompany the book. We continue to help entrepreneurs get what they want from their businesses with EOS and our other work in communication, leadership development, communication and high performance. Our mission is to help leadership teams create the businesses they’ve always wanted while helping people become the leaders they’ve always wanted to be.

What are the most important things to consider when starting a new idea /venture or start up?
Identify your core values, core focus, including what you do better than anyone else. Focus only on that aspect and don’t get distracted by other things, or what we call “shiny objects.” Too often businesses try to be all things to all people in the beginning and that strategy doesn’t work long term, you need to be known for one thing you’re GREAT at.

As a woman in the industry what opportunities or barriers have you experienced?
I believe women have to work twice as hard in order to be considered equally. We need to be more prepared; more experienced and have better ideas in order to be seated at the table. I won’t give it much energy; I accept it and work hard to be my best. The rest takes care of itself.

What women have made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
The women who have impacted me the most are my mother, Joyce Hawkes, and mentors Rhoda Olsen, rubye Erickson and Bettie Spruill. My mother instilled good values and a strong work ethic, and my other mentors have helped me learn what it takes to be a successful woman in business; including how to dress, how to negotiate and where I’m either hitting or missing the mark. It’s been invaluable to have mentors along the way.

What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
My advice to female entrepreneurs just getting out of the gate is to find a mentor as well as a peer group. Use these networks to learn, bounce off ideas and gain support. It can feel lonely as an entrepreneur just starting out, and a peer group will help you navigate all the situations you encounter from a holistic perspective. A mentor can provide more targeted personal perspectives.

What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs that are stuck or have had their first failure?
My advice would be to evaluate what worked, leave the rest behind, and above all, to persist. Most great businesses took time and encountered problems, none of which is failure. Build in practices to maintain momentum and positivity, even when faced with challenges. There’s no failure unless you quit. Pressure is the price of being at the leadership table. Pause, don’t quit.

What is different about Minnesota and the entrepreneurial ecosystem?
In my experience the Minnesota entrepreneurial ecosystem is a very small world. I consistently uncover mutual connections with people in my network. I believe our community is eager to help each other and make useful connections to forward business with each other. I think we have an incredible business environment for those who are willing to help first and are relationship driven. I take nothing for granted and know my actions always have consequences – good or bad, people in Minnesota will know.

Has the Hill center played a role in your success as a female entrepreneur?
Yes, both directly and indirectly. I admire the work the Hill center does to forward women entrepreneurs, and believe that when individual women achieve success we all benefit and move forward. Additionally, I’ve made useful connections at Hill events and been honored to speak there as well. I’ve used Hill center for some business searches and refer clients to Hill Center for searches and as an invaluable resource in growing our businesses.

 What is your “superpower”?
I am truth-teller. I help people gracefully work through the tough stuff. I will say what’s on my mind even if it’s contradictory or makes others uncomfortable. I believe everyone has this superpower, but many choose not to use it (especially in Minnesota!). I believe being honest and upfront about situations stops them from becoming larger problems, and with courageous dialogue you will always find a solution. My ability to have and facilitate tough conversations is a large part of all of my work. We call it “entering the danger” and I work with teams to engage in healthy conflict for the betterment of the team and company.

To read more about Sue visit her website or follow her on twitter @SueHawkesYESS

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All About Family

In celebration of Women’s History Month we have reached out to a variety of female entrepreneurs to share their journey  on how they have navigated owning and building a business.

Teresa Meschini resides in Minneapolis, MN and is co-owner of Familglia Meschini. She is living her dream co-creating with her family the best full bodied, authentic, Argentinian & Chilean wines produced out of their family owned vineyards.

What is your company and how did it begin?
My husband, Eugenio and I are wine producers and importers of Famiglia Meschini wines. I fell into wine by chance.  I always enjoyed drinking it and still do. Eugenio grew up in Mendoza, Argentina and was immersed in it from a child. You could say it’s in his blood. Eugenio’s grandfather, Primo Meschini, immigrated from Italy to Argentina at the age of 14 and later began producing wine under the Meschini label. Decades later we are proud to resurrect the line. We strive to maintain Primo’s legacy of hard work and passion of wine and family. The wine business started out as an investment (our first vineyard), morphed into a hobby (drinking the wine and sharing it with our friends and family) and grew into a business as the kids got older. Our business kicked off with our first container of wine over nine years ago.

What is different about your company?
True to our name “famiglia” is Italian as a tribute to his Italian grandfather, Primo Meschin, and is a business all about family. Bella, our oldest daughter keeps our social media current and cool; Mia, designed our Chardonnay label after her favorite football team, the Minnesota Vikings; Laura and Primo, have helped with catchy bottle wording.  We have found great joy in working together. It’s about putting family first, about working with family in Mendoza and now sharing the wine with our family here in Minnesota.

What are the most important things to consider when running a business?
Have passion for what you do and you will always have energy and enthusiasm to do what needs to be done.

What resources did you use when starting your journey?
When we started it was simply to produce wines that we enjoy to drink.  That way, if disaster struck and we couldn’t sell, we would simply throw a hell of a party and enjoy the wine ourselves.  This, fortunately, has not happened and we have been very lucky that the wines sell themselves.  Our smartest move was to convert our network of friends and acquaintances (aka drinking buddies) into fans of our wines.

What or who has made the biggest impact on your business so far?
The support from the local community.  Eugenio and I have been BLESSED to have a loyal following of fans who support us by buying the wine and coming to our tasting events.  This makes it all worth it.  My absolute favorite thing about this business is when someone says to me, “I brought your wine to a dinner last weekend and told your story.”  Eugenio and I are all about family, friends, good times, long dinners, and shared stories.  Knowing that our wine was brought to do just that, truly warms my heart.

What has been the largest hurdle and / or success you have experienced as a business owner?
My biggest challenge is juggling the calendar. One of the biggest bummers of the wine business is that most people don’t care to taste wine between 9 am and 2 pm but rather in the evenings when the soccer games and school concerts occur.  So, my challenge is juggling the calendar and with Eugenio traveling 50% of the time (for his “real” job) I can’t rely on him much.  On the flip side, I absolutely adore being my own boss and it gives me great satisfaction to work alongside Eugenio promoting our own wine.

What advice would you give to other business owners just getting out of gate?
Don’t take no for an answer.  Refuse to conform to what everyone else in your industry is doing.

What is it about Minnesota and the entrepreneurial ecosystem and how has it managed to keep you here?Eugenio and I met at St. Thomas a billion years ago back when it was still called College. I’m a native Minnesotan, grew up in Rochester in a large, close-knit family.  Although we have lived abroad in both Kiev and London, we LOVE raising our kids here near family and with all that Minnesota has to offer.  Sounds cliché but we really haven’t found a better place to live.  From a business standpoint the support we get as a locally owned business is truly incredible.

Famiglia Meschini is the wine sponsor of the James J. Hill Center’s upcoming concert “Wine, Women and Song” featuring Keri Noble on Thursday, March 29th. Ticket holders will have an opportunity to participate in a free tasting before the concert. For more information visit our event page or purchase tickets for the concert. 

To learn more about  Famigila Meschini please visit their website or follow them on Facebook @FamigliaMeschiniWines

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Girls are Powerful

In celebration of Women’s History Month we have reached out to a variety of female entrepreneurs to share their journey and give insight on how to navigate building a business.

Shawntan Howell is Founder and Executive Director of Girls are Powerful dedicated to encouraging girls to embrace and celebrate their power of being beautiful, unique, smart, confident and determined. As a dedicated mother this desire started after a conversation with her daughter on self-esteem and self-worth.  She wanted to start a personal transformation movement that would engage and empower girls to embrace their unique individuality.

How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
My journey as an entrepreneur started with more of an idea / interest on how to provide a service to help others. All of my initial adventures, were founded in this concept, how do I assist others.  I found myself selling Avon, and some may not believe that this entity fits in this category but in my world, it was. However, several years later, my journey eventually led to helping someone who was very near and dear to my heart – my daughter.

What is your business?
When I am faced with a situation I use it as an opportunity to build a positive message which is how Girls Are Powerful was born in 2013. Girls are Powerful originally started by selling an inspirational line of products that included our signature tees, posters, journals, notecards and much more. Several years later, the business concept launched a non-profit that offers youth programming that aligns with our mission and vision to enhance the self-esteem of all girls by inspiring them to recognize and embrace their natural qualities of being beautiful, unique, smart, confident, determined and powerful.

What are your current projects and or business ventures you are working on?
Girls Are Powerful has several projects in flight! We are preparing to celebrate our 5-year anniversary. Our for-profit is working to relaunch the inspirational product line. The non-profit is kicking off their 2018 programming which includes are 3rd Annual Workshop Series themed “Ignite Your Imagination” and “Power Career and Self”; our 3rd Annual Mother-Daughter Event and we will be launching our very first Father Daughter Workshop.

What are the most important things to consider when starting a new idea / venture or start up?
Timing is everything. Do your homework, conduct research and understand your market. Talk to experts and learn from their experiences.

As a women in the industry what opportunities or barriers have you experienced?
When I started the for-profit nearly 5 years ago, I never found an entity that was willing to fund my inspirational product line. I was constantly told there wasn’t value in what I was doing and to go in a different direction. Although that was a difficult, I stayed true to my belief that there was value in surrounding girls with positive statements and messages that they could carry with them, so I was forced to self-fund to keep my mission alive.

What women have made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
During this journey, I have been surrounded by some great women that have helped me maintain balance but also push me forward – Junita Flowers, Tene Wells, the GRP Community & Board of Directors, and those who were around when this idea was as small as a mustard seed, Sharon Sayles-Belton and Donna Oda. There are still so many that I am thankful to have a part of my support network.

What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
When starting remember that there is power in an idea, explore it because you may be on to something. There will always be naysayers but they serve as great motivators. You will meet many along your journey, each interaction serves a purpose – so be open, be honest and trust your gut.

What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs that are stuck or have had their first failure?
Don’t give up. Stay encouraged because failure and getting stuck happens more frequently than not. Your vision has a purpose, so stay the course, (unfold it, look at it from a different angle) do your best to see it through.

Has the Hill center played a role in your success as a female entrepreneur?
Yes, I am very thankful to have found support at the Hill. The resources and events that the Hill offer’s I have found beneficial.

What is your “superpower”?
Being a visionary and optimist.

To learn more about Girls are Powerful please visit their website or follow them on Twitter @GirlsRPowerful

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Investing In Women to Transform Community

In celebration of Women’s History Month we have reached out to a variety of female entrepreneurs to share their journey and give some insight on how to navigate building a business.

Joy McBrien is a global learner who is passionate about creating opportunities for women and girls.  She is the Founder and CEO of Fair Anita, a social enterprise that strives to build a more inclusive economy for women by providing economic opportunity and dignified jobs through beautiful fair trade jewelry and accessories.

How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
I started my first jewelry business when I was about 15.  When I was 19, I worked with a group of local women in Chimbote, Peru to build a battered women’s shelter.  What I’m doing now has sort of combined these two experiences, working with survivors of sexual or domestic violence around the world to create fair trade jewelry!

What are your current projects and or business ventures you are working on?
I run a social enterprise called Fair Anita. We sell fair trade jewelry and accessories made by over 8,000 women, primarily survivors of violence.  Financial insecurity is the #1 reason why women stay with abusive partners, so when we’re able to provide fair and sustainable jobs, women are able to thrive with financial freedom.

What are the most important things to consider when starting a new idea / venture or start up?
When starting a social enterprise, it’s important to consider if your idea is actually beneficial and really needed by the population you’re trying to serve. If they’re not 100% on board, it isn’t going to work.

As a women in the industry what opportunities or barriers have you experienced?
As a young woman entrepreneur, I have found that I have to prove myself before people take me seriously.  Sometimes my work is belittled as being “cute” or “oh that’s nice, you sell jewelry,” rather than being taken seriously as a profitable business that’s doing good in the world.

What women have made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
So many women have deeply impacted my entrepreneurial journey.  Irene Fernando was one of the first female leaders I met that seemed to always lead as her authentic self—it showed me  that I could represent myself in the way that felt best to me, rather than trying to fit others’ expectations.  Anna Bottila was our first full-time hire, the best decision I ever made.  She’s so deeply committed to our mission, and our growth would not be possible without her, my “other half,” if you will. And, of course, Anita Caldas, the woman behind the name of Fair Anita. Anita taught us that when you invest in women, you have the power to transform entire communities, and she inspired a lot of our mission.

What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
If you fully believe in your idea and know what you’re doing to be right, give yourself permission to blindly follow that passion. If other people think you’re crazy, you’re on to something great.

What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs that are stuck or have had their first failure?
Good for you!  You’ve learned what it feels like to fail.  Reflect on this experience, maybe journal about it, and figure out what are your big learnings that will go forward with you.

What is different about Minnesota and the entrepreneurial ecosystem?
I love that Minnesota has a heightened focus on social and environmental mission when it comes to entrepreneurialism.  There are so many social entrepreneurs, social enterprises, mission-driven businesses, nonprofits—a wonderful mix of organizational structures, but everyone is on a mission to do good in the world!

Has the Hill center played a role in your success as a female entrepreneur?
The One Million Cups program at the Hill center is such a unique opportunity to share our work and get feedback on where we are headed.

What is your “superpower”?
I like to think of empathy as my superpower. It certainly has shaped much of the work I do today!

To learn more about Fair Anita please visit their website or follow them on Twitter @fair_anita

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Beautiful Solutions to Everyday Problems

In celebration of Women’s History Month we have reached out to a variety of female entrepreneurs to share their journey and give some insight on how to navigate building a business.

Marj Weir is a designer and innovator with extensive experience and a creative entrepreneurial background. Her mission is to create beautiful solutions to everyday problems.

How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
I started as a freelance graphic designer over 30 years ago, though I worked part time at the State for insurance and a steady paycheck. In 2004 I quit to get my product, Prep & Serve to market. My husband at the time had a great job as a chef, but later was let go. We filled out time rehabbing homes, opened Sail Away Cafe, and I also did real estate on the side.

Current projects and or business ventures you are working on?
My current products are PrepAndServe.com, EZBarBox.com and EZLightWraps.com. Last week I met potential licensing partners and investors at the International Housewares Show in Chicago. This weekend, I’m at the Minneapolis Convention Center for EZLightWraps.com in the Twin Cities Women’s Expo, then the Home and Garden Show the following two weekends.

Most important things to consider when starting a new venture or start up?
Partner with others with dissimilar talents early on – it is a long road ahead. Do research and ask yourself is there a market? Do research at the Hill! Join Meet-ups and trade groups, from competitive products or ventures. Survey people – share your ideas to get real feedback.

As a women in the industry what opportunities or barriers have you experienced?
It’s amazing to me that men totally run the housewares industry, where most products are used by women. I was told early on – ‘you need a penis to play in that field’ – they were not kidding. There is change, but slow. What I saw last week at the Housewares show are more product startups, many founded by women. Personally, I’ve had more men than women help move things forward.

What women have made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
My mother, who is very creative; my friend Angie Polacek, who co-founded a manufacturing company and invested in rehabbing homes with me; and Marie Forleo’s B School has been a great resource.

What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
Keep track of connections and categorizing them. Someone may be the person you need down the line and it is frustrating to lose track of them.

What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs that are stuck or have had their first failure?
In the entrepreneurial world failure is not looked down upon, it depends on what you learned from the experience and where you went after. Remember it is the journey, not the end!

What is different about Minnesota and the entrepreneurial ecosystem?
Still mostly male, medical and tech, but it is great to be in the Midwest, feels safe and people like to help.

Has the Hill center played a role in your success as a female entrepreneur?
Yes, I’m armed with the research to validate ideas. I’ve spoken several times at 1 Million Cups and continue to meet great connections that way.

To find out more information about Marj Weir Products please visit marjweirproducts.strikingly.com.

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An Online Plan to Modernize Age-Old Shipping Industry

Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently we connected with presenter Tom Venable. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on March 10, 2017.

According to the Inland Waterways section of the 2017 American Society of Civil Engineers Infrastructure Report, the waterway system supported “more than half a million jobs and delivers more than 600 million tons of cargo each year, about 14% of all domestic freight” and “between 2000 and 2014, the average delay per lockage nearly doubled from 64 minutes to 121 minutes.”

While delays are inevitable, freight shippers and receivers do have an opportunity to maximize their margins by making sure they limit (or eliminate) miles when a cargo container is empty. Enter Basin Commerce, offering technology to a business that currently relies heavily on low-tech solutions, to save time, money and headaches.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

CEO/co-founder: Tom Venable
Age: 56
City you live in: Excelsior
City of birth: Peoria, Ill.
High school attended: Edina High School
College attended: University of Minnesota

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Basin Commerce
Website: www.basincommerce.com
Twitter: @basincommerce
Business start date: October 2016
Number of employees: 9
Number of customers: 15

Q&A

Q. What led you to this point?
A. I have over three decades of experience starting and managing software companies all over the country. Most notably in the Twin Cities, I was SVP of sales for Digital River for most of the ’00’s.

In 2016, I met one of my business partners who was a lifelong commodities trader. Scott Stefan explained to me the inefficiencies of the bulk freight market and I explained to him the efficiencies of ecommerce techniques. So we teamed up to create the first and only on-line marketplace for bulk freight transportation services.

It is the story of a commodity guy meets an ecommerce guy in a bar one night, and thus Basin Commerce was born.

Q. What is your business?
A. Based on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, Basin Commerce aims to increase the utilization of the U.S. Waterway System for the transport of bulk materials and other heavy loads that are typically moved via rail and trucks. We do this through an online service similar to Uber or Expedia. At ibookfreight.com a “shipper” can request pricing for moving large quantities of bulk commodities from a myriad of suppliers across the country using the Inland Waterways System.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. My three co-founders and a network of trusted advisers I have built up over 30 years.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. The manual, cumbersome process of finding, buying and managing bulk freight services via barges and trucks.

Q. What big obstacle or hurdle did you have to overcome?
A. We have to overcome the hurdle of changing human behavior in an industry that has been around for over 100 years.

Q. What personal strengths or skill sets do you bring to the business?
A. Sales, leadership and the understanding of how to build a software company.

Q. What are you most proud of?
A. Besides my 33 year marriage and three adult children it would be the speed by which we were able to launch Basin Commerce and start generating revenue quickly….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 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org.

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It All Adds Up: Finding My Why

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. She shares her thoughts and experiences with us in her monthly blog series “It All Adds Up.”

If I can take a moment to be transparent with you, I can tell you that this blog post was very difficult to write. It wasn’t difficult to write because of uncertainty or lack of understanding. It was difficult to write because during the last several weeks I have found myself in that place of “in-between.” It’s that place on the road to destiny that lies somewhere between I can clearly articulate my purpose and I have experienced some measure of success and the place where I can’t reach the required next steps for business growth and the demands of business ownership feel heavy. It’s the place where I realize it’s time to move out of my comfort zone and transition to something bigger.

Although the times of transition and the seasons of “in-between” can be the source of notable discomfort and growing pains, I have discovered those times are ripe with opportunities for advancement and clarity. It is during the unsettling times of transition I come face to face with the “why” of the work I do rather than the “what” I do.

While there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” template to defining your why or discovering your purpose, the process is much simpler than we think. In the past, when I thought about purpose, I often felt overwhelmed. The mere thought of articulating my purpose felt intimidating and mysterious and for many years, I settled for a life and business filled with busyness, but void of depth and meaning. I knew there was more to life, so I decided to lean into the difficult places and begin the search within.

Over the next several months, I will share some of the highlights of my discovery through the transition of my cookie company, Favorable Treats. As I continue to strive for alignment between what I do and why I am driven to do it, I have to be comfortable with making necessary changes.

My company, Favorable Treats will soon have a new name, a new website, and a clearly defined purpose. While these changes were difficult, the reality of connecting to something bigger and making an impact is life changing and meaningful.

I would love to hear from you. How does your “what I do” align with your “why?” Please send me an email or connect with me on social media. I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation.


You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram

 

 

 

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‘Philanthropreneur’ Develops a New Platform for Giving

Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently we connected with presenters Billy Weisman. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on February 10, 2017.

In 2016, $390 billion was given to charitable causes. With the growing amount of options to give, convenient and efficient tools are needed to help individuals and organizations manage their dollars. According to Winspire, 62 percent of all donors worldwide prefer to give online. Those numbers were proven in 2017 with online giving growing 11.4 percent higher than was predicted.

Billy Weisman the creator of DoTopia believes ease that giving can change the world and has not only created a digital giving platform but an entire new kind of currency.

 

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Billy Weisman
City you live in: Split time between Minneapolis, Aspen and Miami
City of birth: Minneapolis
High school attended: St. Louis Park
College attended: University of Minnesota

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: DoTopia
Website: www.dotopia.com
Business Start Date: 2013
Number of Employees: 8

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I am a serial entrepreneur and now a philanthropreneur. As a third-generation entrepreneur, I created and operated 10 successful businesses from the ground-up. My largest endeavor, Weisman Enterprises, grew to $500 million in managed revenues by generating value for the likes of Target, Home Depot and Coca-Cola by connecting the boardroom to the street. I have always been passionate about making the world a better place through philanthropic ventures and involvement on various boards. Believing in the power that each individual can change the world, my latest venture empowers people to make giving part of their lifestyle and expand the opportunities for individuals and businesses to support nonprofits.

Q. What is your business?
A. DoTopia is a digital giving platform that connects to over 1.6 million nonprofits. DoTopia seeks to make giving more efficient for individuals and businesses by creating a common currency for common good called DoDollars. We work with HR, corporate social responsibility and marketing teams to create giving solutions and campaigns that inspire employees, foster customer loyalty and advance workplace values. Additionally, any individual is able to set up their own Personal Giving Account. Each user creates an account to manage their giving in one place. Individuals can create giving goals, print off tax receipts, gift DoDollars, and add more funds with just a couple clicks of the mouse. Our goal is to keep your giving process as easy as possible. We believe in more givers, giving more and that every gift matters.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. It truly depends on the kind of help I am seeking. For business inspiration, nature or wilderness is where I find my peace and inventiveness.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. After raising my family, growing and selling five startups, as a hobby, I personally challenged myself to create a better giving model. DoTopia is a social venture that amalgamates my passions for business and philanthropy.

Q. What problems does your business solve?

A. DoTopia provides a new and unique way to include your employees and customers in your company’s philanthropy initiatives. Corporations give away billions of dollars a year and most often a few employees have a say in where the money is going. With DoTopia, brands get more out of their philanthropic investments by driving loyalty and affinity using philanthropy as an engagement tool essentially saying: “we care about the causes that matter to YOU.”

We also make corporate giving easier for brands by managing all of the charity disbursement, payroll deductions, volunteer tracking, and tax receipts in one platform. We have found many businesses are still doing this manually and it is very taxing on the individual or team who is required to manage the program….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 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org.

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