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All About Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Girls are Powerful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Investing In Women to Transform Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Beautiful Solutions to Everyday Problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An Online Plan to Modernize Age-Old Shipping Industry

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

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

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

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

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

COMPANY PROFILE

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

Q&A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q. What are you most proud of?
A. Besides my 33 year marriage and three adult children it would be the speed by which we were able to launch Basin Commerce and start generating revenue quickly….READ FULL ARTICLE

 

You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org.

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It All Adds Up: Finding My Why

Junita Flowers is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, mom and the owner of Favorable Treats. With more than 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations, she spent her career advocating for families and leading social change initiatives. She shares her thoughts and experiences with us in her monthly blog series “It All Adds Up.”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

 

 

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‘Philanthropreneur’ Develops a New Platform for Giving

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

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

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

 

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

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

COMPANY PROFILE

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

 

Q&A

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

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

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

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

Q. What problems does your business solve?

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

We also make corporate giving easier for brands by managing all of the charity disbursement, payroll deductions, volunteer tracking, and tax receipts in one platform. We have found many businesses are still doing this manually and it is very taxing on the individual or team who is required to manage the program….READ FULL ARTICLE

 

You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org.

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His Tap Runneth Over — to Your Doorstep

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 Isaac Tut. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on January 27, 2017.

What if a good beer could arrive at your door like a pizza? According to the Brewers Association, the craft brewing industry contributed $67.8 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016. That is a lot of beer. Minnesota alone has about 110 craft breweries and they appear to be growing at a steady rate.

This increase in beer selection is changing the consumer palate, however the ability to access those craft beers is not always the most convenient. Isaac Tut and his college roommate thought this presented an opportunity. What if instead of running to the taproom they ran for you? Thus was born “Running Tap” — the first craft beer delivery service providing a selection of beer straight from the barrel to your living room.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Isaac Tut
Age: 28
City you live in: Minneapolis
City of birth: Akobo, South Sudan
High school attended: Northfield High School
College attended: St. Olaf College and University of Minnesota

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Running Tap
Website: www.running-tap.com
Business Start Date: June 2017
Number of Employees: 10
Number of Customers: 500-600

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?

A. I was born in South Sudan, a region that had been engulfed in war for about 60 years. I lived in a refugee camp in Ethiopia until I was 11 years old. In 1999, my family and I got accepted by the UNHCR, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, and gave us leave and status to enter the U.S. We were really lucky because only 1 percent of families in refugee camps ever get relocated. After being relocated to Austin, Texas, close family friends from Minnesota drove all the way down to pick us up and bring us to Minnesota to live.

After years of assimilating into the American culture, I learned English and excelled in school, landing me the opportunity to play soccer and run track at St. Olaf College, while doing my studies. Once done with my undergraduate degree in physics and mathematics, I continued my education at the University of Minnesota and later graduated in Aerospace Engineering.

I worked at Seagate Technology as an application and design engineer for about two years and decided to quit in 2016 in pursuit of a startup company with an old college buddy. After six long months of legal research, market development, and working with (state alcohol authorities) on the business plan and getting approval, Running Tap officially began to operate and deliver craft beer to customers roughly seven months ago. We are super excited with the results we have seen so far, and the customers are more than delighted to hear that they can order craft beer at the convenience of their home or office. The service can be thought of as a consolidation of the brewery experience into one delivery at the customer’s discretion.

Q. What is your business?
A. Running Tap is Minnesota’s first taproom delivery startup that aims to be more than an online liquor store, they aim to be the place for those looking to get good beer and get it at the leisure of their comfort place. Place your order online and our delivery team will pick it up fresh from the taproom and bring it to your door.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. We are a small team of five people, plus the driving team. We talk amongst ourselves for solutions, and sometimes look to friends and family for help.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. It all started with my college buddies working late and trying to get beer delivered. Assuming it wouldn’t be much different than ordering anything else online, we were surprised at the hoops we had to jump through, and frustrated that none of our favorite local brews were available….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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Leveraging the Hill

The James J. Hill Center is continually appreciative to the individuals that visit and discover the amazing resources we have to offer. In an ongoing effort to spread the word about what resources are available at the Hill and how they can be used, we have decided to share some of our patron’s stories on how they have leveraged the Hill for their success. Thanks to Ross Manthei for sharing his insight on our “not-so-secret” resources. 

How did you hear about the Hill and when did you start coming?
About 10 years ago I was talking to my best friend about his new sales job and this “secret resource” he found that he was convinced was going to “push him over the top” with quality info on his prospects.  I was doubtful at first and thought the James J. Hill Library (now the James J. Hill Center) was actually (perhaps) tucked inside the James J Hill house on Summit (by the way…it’s not).  I decided to check it out because I heard it was great for entrepreneurs to help them get kick started with their events and remembered what my friend told me.

What is your business or career?
Like most, I try to be the Dos Equis man with having many different interests and sometimes needing to dial that in.  I work in sales for a financial institution today consulting with middle market companies on payment products as well as payment technologies to help their businesses.  It requires a large amount of inside research to have relevant & intelligent conversations to which why I’m thankful to James J. Hill.  Outside of that, I have an baby care line of products that I’m launching called “Giggles and Poo,” am launching a podcast called “The Journey with Ross” and would like to also try my hand at stand-up comedy.  As I said, a  Renaissance millennial man – ha!  Honestly, I just like laughing and helping people.

How have you leveraged the Hill center resources and how are they unique?
I have used the business reference librarians let’s say probably more than most (Jessica is awesome) to help with things like what databases to use for researching things like info on private companies (Privco), prospect lists (A-Z databases) and also have leveraged the new business start-up networking.  Plus, the library is just a beautiful and quiet place to hang if you’re doing work.

How has the Hill been critical to your success?
It’s saved me thousands of dollars to get data and also a lot of frustration in the trust of data.

What recommendations do you have for other researchers and entrepreneurs?
There’s many places claiming to have “free” information when in fact they’re just trying to “sell you something.”  At the end of the day, James J. Hill Center is a secret gem that is perfect for a deeper level of research than you would normally get at a community library.  I’m sure those people can be helpful and are fantastic; however, I’ve never met so many people willing to help without tons of long lines!

The other piece of advice that I would share is mentoring is key.  There are many events at James J Hill Center where you can meet many other people who are very generous with their knowledge.

What is the one thing that makes you keep coming back to the Hill?
The willingness to help, the amazing free access to resources and the beautiful space!

The James J. Hill Center connects business, entrepreneurs and community to research, knowledge and network. Visit us Monday through Thursday from 8:00AM to 4:00PM to find out how we can help you succeed. 

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West Meets East Africa in Frozen Food Venture

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 Matt Glover and Mariam Mohamed. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on January 13, 2017.

According to IBIS, world frozen food production is a $35 billion dollar industry with $1.7 billion in profit. Burt Flickinger, managing director of New York-based Strategic Resource Group says “Frozen foods are going through a new renaissance this decade … we’re seeing a move away from traditional frozen entrees to popular ethic food.”

Hoyo, a local Somali food company, is certainly jumping on that bandwagon and is quickly discovering its audience. With a passionate mission to create needed jobs in their community and grow a greater appreciation and access to authentic Somali cuisine, the partnership of Matt Glover and Mariam Mohamed has flourished. They are not only filling the gap but our appetite, with delicious ethnic cuisine.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Matt Glover, Mariam Mohamed
Age: Matt, 35; Mariam, 59
City you live in: Matt, Minneapolis; Mariam, Shoreview
City of birth: Matt, St. Paul; Mariam, Mogadishu
High school attended: Matt, White Bear Lake High School; Mariam, Banadir High School
College attended: Matt, Ohio State University; Mariam: Fresno State, State University of New York, Syracuse

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Hoyo
Website: www.hoyosambusa.com
Business Start Date: July 15, 2015
Number of Employees: 8
Number of Customers: Currently selling in 16 Stores

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. Matt: I received a philosophy degree from Ohio State University and a Masters in Global and Cultural studies from Bethel University. I have always loved travelling and interacting with people from other cultures. I lived for a year in Rome and spent time in east and Southeast Asia. Since moving into the Phillips neighborhood my wife and I along with our three young children have had the opportunity to engage more deeply with members from the Somali community. It has been an honor to hear their stories and to learn about the wonderful things their community has to offer. In particular we have enjoyed their food and we began exploring ways to make it more prominent in the U.S.

Mariam: I received a master’s degree in plant science, Fresno State, California; Master’s degree in Statistics from Syracuse, New York.

Q. What is your business?
A. We are a Somali food company. We hire Somali mothers to make food they have been making their whole lives. We then package and distribute those products to grocery stores and delis throughout the Twin Cities. Our primary product is Sambusa, a triangular pastry filled with spiced beef or Lentils.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. We have an advisory board of seasoned business veterans that are committed to our success. Partners in Food Solutions, a nonprofit affiliated with General Mills that mobilizes professional expertise to help food startups in emerging markets, has been a tremendous help for us.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A.  I, Matt, started a consulting company that consulted ethnic restaurants on western service standards. I was introduced to Mariam and her husband Ali for advice on working with Somali restaurants. My wife and I also had a desire to help create a more equitable job market for Somali mothers. When Mariam heard about our consulting business and our desire to empower Somali woman, she immediately identified a frozen Sambusa company as the perfect opportunity. I agreed that this sounded like a great idea and asked if she would consider co-founding it with us. She agreed and we enlisted her sister who is known as one of the best Somali cooks around. We have since used her recipes and techniques as our products.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. First, Hoyo solves the problem of lack of access to authentic Somali cuisine. Our vision is to make Somali Sambusa as common as tacos in western cuisine. In order to do so we will make Sambusa available everywhere. This is also giving Somali woman a tangible way to share a piece of their rich culture.

Second, we are providing a vehicle for employment for women who have not yet worked in the United States. By developing a product our employees have been making their whole life, we are a launching point into the greater workforce by providing skill training and career history….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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