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Startup Showcase: Her Just Desserts Are Just That

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 Junita Flowers. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on July 28, 2018. 

There is a new trend in the way businesses are operating and interacting with their customers.  According to a recent study by Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends, “Organizations are no longer judged only for their financial performance, or even the quality of their products or services. Rather, they are being evaluated on the basis of their impact on society at large –transforming them from business enterprises into social enterprises.”

Social enterprises, according to Social Enterprise Alliance, are, “Organizations that address a basic unmet need or solve a social problem through a market-driven approach.”

Junita Flowers and her company Junita’s Jar is doing exactly that. As a social entrepreneur she is working to solve a critical problem and build a sustainable business one delicious crumb at a time. With her amazing cookies made with love she is destined to improve people’s lives.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Junita Flowers
Age: 45
City you live in: Brooklyn Park
City of birth: St. Paul
College attended: University of Minnesota

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Junita’s Jar
Website: junitasjar.com
Twitter: @JunitaLFlowers
Business Start Date: June 2018
Number of Employees: 2

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I grew up in a very large immediate and extended family, so we spent a lot of time in the kitchen making food for a lot of people. Some of my best childhood memories stem from random conversations shared while prepping food and washing dishes. From birthday treats to holiday desserts, all of the cakes, cookies and pies were made from scratch by my mother and grandmother. After college and settling into my career within the nonprofit sector, I finally had some free time to recreate the recipes from my childhood. After a brief dessert Q&A conversation with my grandmother, I realized none of my favorite recipes were written down. With a goal of baking for myself, I began visiting with my grandmother, watching her re-create my favorite desserts while I recorded the ingredients and measurements. Many years later, I began baking just for fun, to celebrate special occasions with friends. This eventually led to the beginning of my cookie company.

Q. What is your business?
A. Founded upon my favorite childhood recipes and inspired by my personal path of overcoming domestic violence, Junita’s Jar is a mission-driven cookie company producing deliciously wholesome, ready-to-bake cookie dough and grab ’n’ go mini-cookie snack packs. Junita’s Jar is dedicated to making the taste of homemade cookies easy, accessible and super convenient for every day snack time options. We are more than a cookie company. We are on a mission to create a hope-fueled movement with every cookie purchase. We want to see people live well in well-loved moments. To encourage them to exceed expectations, time and time again. To empower a world without abuse. For those reasons, a portion of Junita’s Jar profits is donated to support education and awareness initiatives dedicated to ending relationship violence.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. The Twin Cities is filled with so many opportunities to nurture, support and encourage entrepreneurs at every level along the business journey. In addition to the continuous support from my family and friends, I have received support and training from a handful of various service organizations, corporations, nonprofit organizations and networking groups.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. In 2006, I started my first cookie company, Favorable Treats, at a local farmer’s market and a few pop-up shops. I operated Favorable Treats for 12 years, however, I had to stop and restart my business on three separate occasions due to a toxic and abusive relationship. Each time that I restarted Favorable Treats, I would experience a little more growth than the previous time, but it was a painfully difficult process….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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Startup Showcase: They Left Corporate America to Carve Their Niche

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 Garrett Faust and Harrison Blankenship. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on July 14, 2018. 

In a world where trade wars are taking focus artisans can offer a unique view of successful localized manufacturing. According to Brookings Institute’s 2017 report “Five ways the Maker Movement can help catalyze a manufacturing renaissance,” artisans may catapult the next “industrial revival:” “By embracing the do-it-yourself ethos of the maker movement, communities across the country can renew a sense of local community and help rebuild American manufacturing from the ground up.”

Garrett Faust and Harrison Blankenship of Uptown Woodworks are a perfect example of that very ideal. After discovering their need for personal creativity, they made a successful departure from corporate America to create customized wood art with a local flare. Their fusion of talent, skill and curiosity define the future of the “maker-nation” and is truly an example of entrepreneurial success.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Names: Garrett Faust, Harrison Blankenship
Ages: Garrett: 27; Harrison: 27
City you live in: Garrett: St. Louis Park; Harrison: Minneapolis (North Loop)
College attended: Garrett: University of St. Thomas; Harrison: Gustavus Adolphus College

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Uptown Woodworks
Website: www.uptownwoodworks.com
Instagram: @uptown.woodworks
Business Start Date: March 4, 2016
Number of Employees: 2
Number of Customers: as of June 4: 738

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?

A. Garrett: I spent most of my childhood playing sports and doing things outdoors. I was always curious about how things were built and worked, which is probably what led me to get an engineering degree from the University of St. Thomas. During my senior year at St. Thomas, I took some entrepreneurial electives and fell in love with it. Once I graduated, I felt compelled to at least give engineering a shot since I had just spent four years earning the degree. It was when I was working for Rockwell Automation in 2015-16 that I felt the need for a creative outlet, which led me to find Nordeast Makers, the maker space that is now home to Uptown Woodworks.

Harrison: I grew up in the Lake Minnetonka area and have always been obsessed with lake life and the outdoors. My father was what I like to call a renaissance man. He was an entrepreneur, pro race car driver, private pilot, lifelong maker, hunter, world traveler, etc. He and my mother really inspired me to have a lot of interests growing up, some of which include DIY projects, being outdoors, playing the drums and a lot of drawing/designing. For the last five years, I have been doing paid social strategy and more recently doing the strategy for major brands. Once I saw what Garrett was working on, that creative side of me re-awakened. My marketing and social media experience complimented Garrett’s expertise perfectly. Two years later, we’re still having fun.

Q. What is your business?
A. Uptown Woodworks creates custom and personalized wooden wall art for both consumers and businesses. We take requests for custom wooden wall art and work with customers to design their vision. After a proof is finalized, we create the wooden wall art out of our shop in Northeast Minneapolis using laser cutters, a CNC router, as well as other typical woodworking equipment.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. Over the past couple years we have developed a network of individuals and local businesses we can reach out to when we need advice. We think the most important thing is to get involved in the community. Attending events like 1 Million Cups, and other Meetups around town are a great way to make connections. It’s amazing how this small business community wants to help one another by sharing knowledge, resources, connections and opportunities.

Q. What is the origin of the business?

A. Around Christmas 2015, Garrett was looking for creative outlets outside of his day job and found Nordeast Makers in Northeast Minneapolis. With just a monthly fee, the maker’s space gave him access to heavy duty equipment including laser cutter/engravers, CNC routers, 3D printers, and other tools. With a mechanical engineering background, Garrett quickly learned how to use the equipment. Around the same time, he and Harrison moved into a new apartment in Uptown.  One of the first things Garrett created at the maker space was a four-foot Minneapolis skyline. When he brought it home, Harrison was blown away by it. This was a light bulb moment. Harrison immediately wanted to get involved in what Garrett had found/started. They saw the State Hockey Tournament was approaching so they impulsively purchased a booth and created different variations of two hockey/tournament related designs. As they created pieces and shared them on their social channels, people began to take interest and ask for custom pieces for themselves. This started to snowball and has since turned into a sustainable business….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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Startup Showcase: Entrepreneur Meets Restaurateur with New App

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 Taranvir Johal. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on June 30, 2018. 

Talent defies age when it comes to entrepreneurship and 18 year old Taranvir Johal is proof of that. He already owns one company and has developed an app for another. With his eye on the game and his passion clear, Johal loves to “get his hands dirty.” With his new restaurant app Tavolo, he is jumping on the trend of transforming the restaurant experience.

In its first restaurant industry trends report, Skift Megatrends 2018, Skift Table says “restaurants are also looking to new technology to both enhance and — in some cases — define the in-restaurant dining experience … Touch-screen ordering, cashless transactions, and more personalization can make the experience more exciting for a guest.”

Johal has certainly taken a seat at the table and looked ahead at what restaurants need to be successful and his app Tovolo may just be the answer to fight the delivery boom.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Taranvir Johal
Age: 18
City of Birth: Queens, N.Y.
City you live in: Fargo, N.D.
High School Attended: Oak Grove Lutheran High School
College attended: University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Management

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Tavolo
Website: Tavoloapp.co
Twitter: @tavolo_app
Business Start Date: March 25, 2018
Number of Employees: 4

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I am an 18-year-old aspiring entrepreneur that loves to get his hands dirty. I am from Fargo, N.D., and fell in love with entrepreneurship while I was in high school. During my sophomore year, I attended the Yale Young Global Scholars program and met numerous individuals who were pursuing their passions. They inspired me to learn more about what I wanted to do with my life. During my senior year, I participated in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy and launched my first company, Protein+. I just completed my freshman year at the Carlson School of Management and am extremely excited to see what the future has in store.

Q. What is your business?
A. Tavolo is an application that allows users to reserve a table, order, and pay at restaurants through their mobile devices. Moreover, Tavolo provides data to restaurants regarding how specific customers tip, server ratings and reviews, turn time per table, customer preferences, and customer profiles.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. We have created an advisory board with individuals who are more experienced and have more business knowledge than us. We selected these people over the course of two months and tried to incorporate individuals who we believed could help propel our company forward.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. Our company started during TechStars Startup Weekend. Abdi Hassan, a junior at the University of St. Thomas, pitched the idea to us and (we) loved it. We ended up winning 2nd place at the event and began meeting with numerous entrepreneurs around Minneapolis who loved our idea as well. This eventually led us to speak at 1 Million Cups Saint Paul.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. Our business minimizes the time wasted while dining out at restaurants. Tavolo gives users full control of their dining experience. With the click of a button a consumer can order their food, request for a waiter, and even pay for their meal.

Q. Where did you pivot in your company’s journey? What big obstacle or hurdle did you have to overcome?
A. We initially wanted to be an application that allows users to order and pay for their meals prior to arriving to the restaurant. We eventually realized that consumers enjoy adding more items to their meal while they are dining. We decided to pivot and allow users to pay for their meals once they we done dining. We also learned that consumers dislike waiting for their server to come to their table. Therefore, we pivoted by creating a feature on the app that allows users to call their waiter simply by tapping their phone screen….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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Startup Showcase: Job Matchmakers

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 Nathan and Alex Guggenberger. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on June 17, 2018.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 9.8 million jobs are projected to be created by 2024 and, according to employee-screening services company EBI, 75 percent of that workforce will be made up of millennials.

Alex and Nathan Guggenberger have been a part of those job seeking statistics and ultimately decided to help themselves by helping others find the best fit. With 42 percent of people searching through job boards but only 14.9 percent of hires happening from those boards, Alex and Nathan thought they saw an opportunity to make job searching more efficient, holistic and ultimately give back to companies with a higher retention rate. Thus the birth of Jobiki — helping job seekers explore, discover and find meaningful work.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Nathan and Alex Guggenberger
City you live in: Minnetonka
City of Birth: Minnetonka
High School Attended: Hopkins High School
College attended: Augustana University

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Jobiki
Website: www.jobiki.com|
witter: @jobikiHQ
Business Start Date: Sept. 2, 2017
Number of Employees: 2
Number of Customers: 12

Q. What led to this point?

A. Nathan and Alex grew up together. Why? Because we are siblings. I guess you could say we have always worked together. We actually “tried” to start a business when we were in elementary school. It was called “A.B.C. Gum.” We wanted to make a brand new gum that looked like it had already been chewed. We closed up shop after the R&D (research and development) phase because the gum came out rock hard. In all seriousness though, we have always been a duo that bounced ideas off each other. With me (Alex) having a degree in business and accounting, and Nathan having a background in software development, it just made sense.

Q. What is your business?

A. We help people find meaningful work by finding a meaningful workplace. For many, including ourselves, nothing is more daunting then searching for employment. You often don’t know where to start or even what opportunities are out there. The solution for many is to apply to as many jobs as possible, hoping that they will eventually hear back from someone.

At Jobiki, we do things a little bit differently. The Jobiki job search starts with finding the right company. Our platform allows job seekers to explore company cultures through photos, videos, benefits, amenities, and neighborhood data of companies near them. Using the Jobiki filters, job seekers can discover the perfect company that fits with their lifestyle and personal brand. With Jobiki we allow you to signal interest in a company with a simple click of a button. After explaining why you want to work for that company, Jobiki will send your information and résumé to our contact with that company.  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 Crowdfunding Vanguard for Investors, Entrepreneurs

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 David Duccini. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on June 2, 2018.

According to Crowdexpert.com, “The crowdfunding industry is projected to grow to over $300 billion by 2025.”  With the new rules for crowdfunding portals, regulation crowdfunding (as opposed to rewards-based crowdfunding, like Kickstarter) has an opportunity to fill in after banks stop lending and/or before an angel or venture capitalist steps in. According to Huffington Post, “blockchain crowdfunding might just be the next step in startup evolution, helping important and interesting projects come to fruition.”

David Duccini likes to be on the forefront of problem solving, saw that evolution of crowdfunding on the rise and waited patiently as rules and regulations evolved so he could breakout his company and help business owners raise capital legally, slashing added fees and helping their dreams grow.

 

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: David V. Duccini
City you live in: St. Paul
College attended: MS, University of St. Thomas; MBA, University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Silicon Prairie Portal & Exchange
Website: https://sppx.io
Business Start Date: October 2016
Number of Employees: 1 Full time / 8 contractors
Number of Customers: 6 live crowdfunding campaigns to date / 24 investors with pre-paid credit

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I am a serial FinTech entrepreneur. I grew a Twin Cities-based Internet Service Provider from 1994-2008 through seven acquisitions and one merger before selling it off. I then launched a VOIP company in 2016 and tried raising capital locally and from the coasts. I became familiar with Small Company Offering Registration (SCOR) as an exemption from going public and I found natural synergy with blockchain-based distributed ledgers for shareholder registries in 2010. I then waited patiently for the JOBS act crowdfunding rules to kick in four years later and another two for MNvest to become effective.

Q. What is your business?
A. Silicon Prairie Portal & Exchange is a registered crowdfunding portal operator in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and nationally through the SEC and FINRA. We help business owners raise capital legally through regulation crowdfunding in the amounts of $1 million, $2 million or even $5 million depending on which exemption from federal securities law is used. This can be in the form of stock, debt, convertible notes or the Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE) instrument.

Using a smart document technology we created called “Geppetto” we are able to dramatically slash the amount of legal costs typical for a Private Placement Memorandum. Once filed and approved by the regulator we host the offering on our website as well as facilitate all financial transactions from investors to issuer. Once the campaign is successful and closed we can manage those shareholders in an “Investor Relations as a Service” model, helping with communications, voting and liquidity, first peer to peer and soon on an approved exchange.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. Cost effective capital raising at scale. All fundraising is essentially “the slow conversion of your social capital into financial capital.” Our Geppetto smart document technology slashes the legal costs from the $15,000-$25,000 range down to around $5,000 — and we think we can get it down to about $2,500.

Q. Where did you pivot in your company’s journey? What big obstacle or hurdle did you have to overcome?
A. We have not deviated from plan yet. Our biggest hurdle to date has been dealing with the legacy regulatory apparatus that is in place to maintain the status quo. There are very few “service level agreements” in government agencies and no sense of urgency.

We’re looking forward to the next phase of delivering an intra-state exchange system for exempt securities, something that has been contemplated in states like Michigan, but does not appear to have been tried yet. Under the rules an investor absolutely has the right to sell their interest in a crowdfunded offering to another resident of the state within the first six months and then in theory to anyone in the world. We will likely be the first company ever to put that theory to test….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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Offering stylish comfort for teens with autism

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 Molly Fuller. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on May 19, 2018.

 

According to the Autism Society, more than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder and the prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 to 2010. It is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the country.

A person with autism typically has sensory disorders, meaning their senses can be intensified or be diminished. Deep pressure therapy, such as hugging, squeezing, or swaddling, has been shown to be beneficial, providing a sense of calm and relaxation. While there are some products providing deep pressure therapy, many are expensive, low quality, or lack style.

Molly Fuller is out to change that. She is tired of medical products drawing more attention to the medical condition than the actual person and believes just because someone has a medical condition doesn’t mean they don’t deserve or care about style and quality.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Molly Fuller
City you live in: Hopkins
Age: 29
City of Birth: Cincinnati
High School Attended: Princeton High School
College attended: University of Cincinnati (undergrad), University of Minnesota (grad school)

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of Company: Molly Fuller Design
Website: mollyfullerdesign.com; Facebook & Instagram: facebook.com/mollyfullerdesign; instagram.com/mollyfuller.design
Business Start Date: September, 2016
Number of Employees: 1
Number of Customers: 31

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I have a background in fashion design and human factors. I always wanted to design better-looking products that served a medical purpose. In undergrad, I partnered with biomedical engineering students to redesign diabetic footwear and compression garments. I’ve worked in the health care industry, such as the Mayo Clinic, my entire career designing better patient experiences for various conditions.

Q. What is your business?
A. My business is an online clothing store that specializes in creating stylish clothing that is designed for specific medical conditions. I’m focusing first on clothing for teens with autism.

My first product is called the Charlie shirt, a stylish therapeutic compression shirt for teens with autism. The compression provides deep pressure therapy that is calming and relaxing to many people with diminished senses due to their autism. The Charlie shirt uses a high-quality power stretch super soft material that adds substantial compression while not irritating the skin. The seams and stitching are designed to feel invisible to the wearer. The stylistic detailing on the sleeves double as a fidget for tactile stimulation.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. My senior year of undergrad I decided to do a second thesis focused on medical clothing. I reached out to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and they let me observe in different units to see where there might be an opportunity to design better products. I observed with two occupational therapists in the autism unit and that’s where I saw the biggest need for better clothing options for teens.

I then connected with special education teachers to understand another perspective and saw that teachers were DIY-ing clothes for their students because the current products made the kids stand out more and be bullied. An autism distribution company happened to launch around the same time, so I reached out to the CEO and she was generous with her time and allowed me to tag-along to the AutismOne Conference with her.

There I talked with parents and professionals to gain a better understanding of their needs. I had three designs prototyped and started testing. I put the business on hold while I worked at the Mayo Clinic. By 2016, I hadn’t seen enough things change in the market and I wanted to provide a solution to these teens and families. I started designing and testing out samples again with teens across the U.S.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. A person with autism typically has sensory disorders, meaning their senses can be intensified or be diminished. People with a diminished sense of touch may exhibit arm flapping, excessive hugging or crawling under heavy objects such as mattresses or couch cushions in order to feel pressure.

Deep pressure therapy, such as hugging, squeezing, or swaddling, has been shown to be beneficial for people with sensory disorders, providing a sense of calm and relaxation. One way to provide deep pressure therapy is through compression clothing that provides a consistent firm sensory input….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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No time for family dinner? She thought: ‘What if I cook it for you?’

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 Libby Mehaffey. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on May 6, 2018.

In 2018, families are constantly on the go, and it seems eating together as a family is on the decline. According to Statista, only half of American families eat dinner with their family at home six to seven nights a week.

Studies have shown eating together is beneficial not only for children but also for the parents. According to National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse at Columbia University, teaching healthful eating habits make you less likely to develop substance dependencies, and more likely to perform better academically.  One Minnesota startup has taken this idea to heart and is looking to bring families together through healthy prepared dinners for all.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Weeknight Kitchen
Website: WeeknightKitchen.com
Business Start Date: Officially since August 2017
Number of Employees: 3 plus independent contractors
Number of Customers: 500, 75 to 100 orders on a weekly basis

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Libby Mehaffey
Age: 38
City you live in: Inver Grove Heights
College attended: University of Wisconsin, Madison
High school attended: Hastings Senior High School
College attended: University of Wisconsin, Madison

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?

A. I grew up in Hastings with a wonderful, hard-working family. My career started in Washington, D.C., working in politics where I met my now husband, Matthew, on a blind date. We moved to Minnesota in 2005. Since then I’ve done lots of interesting work including launching a local golf newspaper, working with the Secret Service at the 2008 GOP Convention and doing marketing and sales for the PGA Tour. So, when I sat down to think about what it was going to be like to go back to work — I thought — given my zest for work, my husband’s odd hours and travel schedule and my gaggle of kids, I needed to build a business that works for my family. So that’s what I did. Enter, Weeknight Kitchen.

Q. What is your business?

A. Weeknight Kitchen prepares hot, homemade, family-style meals to be shared at home. Our hope is that by preparing a hot, homemade meal we can give our clients 30 minutes of time to sit down and share dinner with their family. Our menu changes weekly and is designed to appeal to parents and kids alike — no foraged ingredients or spices you can’t pronounce — just simple, classic recipes like meatloaf and baby red potatoes or chicken chow mein.  Everyone gets the same thing — no substitutions or special orders as we stick to the mantra of “you get what you get and you don’t cause a fit.” All of our meals feed 4-6 people and cost $35 no matter what we’re serving. Clients pick up meals at corporate and residential locations between the hours of 3:30 and 6:30 p.m.

Some people confuse Weeknight Kitchen with a meal kit — which we are not. All of our meals are fully prepared and delivered hot — so there is absolutely no prep work involved. All meals are delivered in commercial catering boxes or bags that are designed to keep food safe for up to four hours.

Q. What is the origin of the business?

A. Growing up, my family ate dinner together at 5:30 almost every day. I think for many folks in my generation this was the norm. Weeknight dinner was when our family caught up about school, work, friends, and family. Dinner was never fancy – just simple meals my mom would “whip up.” Looking back, weeknight dinners were our family constant.

Unfortunately, people don’t sit down for dinner as a family anymore. Between work responsibilities, kid stuff and household chores – finding the time and energy to make dinner — and actually sit down together — well, it just doesn’t happen…..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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Helping Higher Education Improve Its Business Model

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 Vikas Mehrotra. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on April 21, 2017.

Each year, $30 billion are spent on incoming freshmen scholarships in our country. However, research indicates that several educational institutions are struggling financially and student success is questionable. Student loans continue to increase, and degree attainment rates for 4-year college are around 34 percent.

Far too many educational institutions are on probation or at risk of losing their accreditation. The loss of accreditation is a serious issue for students, institutions and the community. Senior leaders and their respective board members are under tremendous pressure because of an enrollment crisis in higher education. The business case for a quick turnaround is clear. There is a need for comprehensive end-to-end enrollment strategy and data-driven decision making to improve the business health of our universities and institutions.

MANBOAT enhances student success and increases net tuition revenue for institutions. It is an essential tool to close the college attainment rates as the demand and need for skilled talent grows higher than ever before.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Virtue Analytics LLC
Website: www.virtueanalytics.com | www.manboat.com
Business Start Date: 2013
Number of Employees: Our team size varies from project to project and consists of full-time and part-time consultants.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Vikas Mehrotra
Age: 43
City you live in: Woodbury
College attended: Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I have two decades of field experience in business, consulting, analytics with an engineering background. My love for math, consulting and entrepreneurship led me to start Virtue Analytics back in 2013. I have a Master’s of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a second Master’s degree in Engineering Logistics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before starting Virtue Analytics, I worked in strategy & operations at Deloitte Consulting and in category management at Supervalu.

Q. What is your business?
A. Virtue Analytics solves critical business problems using advanced analytical techniques and predictive modeling. We are an emerging Midwest EdTech startup headquartered in Woodbury. We are the world’s first applied intelligent and AI enabled, end-to-end platform that allows educational institutions to increase net tuition revenue and improve student success by optimizing scholarship and admission processes and decisions.

We use advanced machine learning techniques and models to solve critical business problems. Our product platform is called MANBOAT. MANBOAT is an acronym for Merit and Need Based Optimization and Allocation Tool. MANBOAT helps optimize enrollment decisions and improves student outcome. Using our product institutions are able to minimize cost over-runs and reduce student withdrawals.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. We rely heavily on our network in the Twin Cities. We recently graduated from the gBeta program and Eric Martell and Adam Choe from Gener8tor were phenomenal. Both 1MC and Gener8tor teams have helped us strengthen our local network immensely. We are also fortunate to have a strong team of advisers who believed in us right from the beginning and have continued to support us through our journey.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. A few years ago, I obtained an opportunity to work with an education institution. We were contracted to build predictive models to help their business. While working on the problem, I realized that the enrollment challenge is much bigger and decided to pivot the company from consulting to developing software to solve this challenging problem. We developed a prototype product and shared it with several industry leaders, receiving excellent feedback that gave us enormous confidence. We realized there is a marketplace for our product MANBOAT and went on to build the platform.

Q. What problems does your business solve?

A. The more substantial macro issues in higher education give rise to additional micro problems, which significantly impact a college or a university meeting its strategic goals; issues which we help institutions address strategically and mathematically. Each year post-secondary institutions increase tuition fees by 3 to 5 percent but are still struggling as businesses….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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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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