jjhillLogo
Error: Only up to 6 widgets are supported in this layout. If you need more add your own layout.

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

 

Continue Reading

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

Continue Reading

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

Continue Reading

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

Continue Reading

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

Continue Reading

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

Continue Reading

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

Continue Reading

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

Continue Reading

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

Continue Reading

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

Continue Reading

IMPORTANT NOTICE:

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

Blog and More!

X