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Startup Secrets and Sh#$ to Know: Dear Investors, Entrepreneurs Spell Love “ T-I-M-E”

Aleckson Nyamwaya has his beat on the pulse of the startup world in Minnesota.  He is an Associate at @gener8tor, contributor for @startupgrind, ambassador for @1millioncupsspl and a lover of all things tech & startups. We are pleased to have his monthly insight with our blog “Startup Secrets and Sh#$ to Know.”  Check back each month for his thoughts, observations and featured companies.

Dear Investors, Entrepreneurs Spell Love “ T-I-M-E”:
The keys to becoming a prolific angel investor

Angel investors are an integral portion of the early stage funding community!

Who makes a good or bad angel anyways? Traditionally, this boils down to two things:

  1. Good Angels are great for seed money.
  2. Bad angel are great for money and additional headaches.

Return on investment VS community development

Think of angel investing as a means for community development. By helping small businesses succeed in your community, you help create jobs, wealth and help make your community more sustainable!

Money is great! It’s the crucial first step, but that’s not it. The truth is…

Giving entrepreneurs money does NOT buy you access, its only a small part of the equation. Yes, you need it and when you want it you want it badly and you care at that moment. But a year later when you succeed, you’ll clearly remember which investors helped along the way. Support is just as crucial as a financial investment because entrepreneurs spell love T-I-M-E.  Did you spend time in making the necessary intros, were you a great sounding board etc.

Most investors (including VC’s) are not well acquainted with that reality or they have a reality of their own that makes it hard for them to spend that type of time. What will end up happening is the company will do worse, and your deal flow will dry up because surprise, surprise: founders talk to each other.

The role of an angel investor?

  1. Don’t worry about the mechanics — especially if you are starting out. Valuations don’t matter especially in the early stage. The whole point is to be helpful enough to get the company to the next milestone so they can raise more money!!
  2. Be decisive — don’t “strategically” string founders along. Make up your mind quickly and follow through.
  3. Do good. Once you invest in a company, all you should want to do is help it. Help people you haven’t invested in too. Just try to be helpful.

Conclusion

Instead of looking at angel investing as a form of high profits. Let’s change our perspective to looking at it as a way of giving back to our community.  That way, we’ll have more ownership which will lead to added value without the headaches.

For reference, check out this great article written by Paul Graham on becoming an angel investor.


You can tweet me @alecksonn or subscribe to my newsletter

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Safe Travels Are Her Mission — and Passion

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 Sheryl Hill. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on October 21, 2017.

Having access to reliable knowledge about travel safety is important for anyone planning an overseas trip. However, a 2015 survey by CMO Council and GeoBranding Center noted that 38 percent of those surveyed relied primarily on friends and family for information about travel safety and security.

Word of mouth information isn’t necessarily the most reliable. After the death of a son who was studying abroad, Sheryl Hill decided to do something about this lack of reliable knowledge, and created Depart Smart to teach travelers about travel safety and help them create action plans to deal with emergencies.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Sheryl Hill
Age: 61
City you live in: Minnetrista
City of birth: San Antonio, Texas
High school attended: Erie High School, Erie, Colo.
College attended: Saint Mary’s University, Minneapolis

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Depart Smart
Websites: http://departsmart.org and http://travelheroes.org
Business Start Date: April, 2016 (Rebranded from ClearCause Foundation, founded in October 2010)
Number of Employees: 5
Number of Customers: 6

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I am founder and executive director of Depart Smart, a world speaker, author of Walking on Sunshine, NRG a Divine Transformation-a spiritual memoir and USA Book News Award finalist. I have been featured in People You Need to Know 2012, ABC, CBS, NBC, Washington and Huffington Post, Newsweek, USA Today, and others. My husband Allen and I have been a host family to eight international youth. Our 16-year-old son, Tyler, died a preventable death on a People to People student trip to Japan in 2007. The reality of poor consumer travel safety and awareness is the passion behind our purpose. We have one surviving son, Alec, who is a biomedical engineering senior at University of Wisconsin.

Q. What is your business?
A. The only consumer-driven travel safety course to help you and the ones you love Depart Smart with an action plan to avoid risks, get help and get home safely. Most people don’t know how.

Did you know that that 911 is not the international number for emergencies? Or that Americans can be arrested in some countries for having premarital sex? Of the thousands of people who have taken a 10-point eye-opener travel safety quiz, most can’t correctly answer more than 3 questions. One travel reporter missed 9 out of 10. This lack of safety knowledge routinely puts international travelers at risk, and tragically even results in avoidable deaths. Now we’re launching a solution with our Travel Heroes Safety Certification course.

The course covers six essential international travel chapters and helps you create your custom Safety Action Plan — what you need to do to avoid risks, get help, and get home from your destinations if tragedy strikes. It takes about one hour and should be a prerequisite to travel.  It can save your life.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. I am fortunate to have a league of advisers I rely upon. We have been leaning heavily on Media Relations Inc. for publicity, Maslon for legal services, OffiCenters for networking and administration, Paul Taylor – MN Cup Advisor, AIG Travel, and Travel Leaders for counsel and partnerships.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. Our son, Tyler, died a preventable death while participating in a student program in Japan in 2007.  We published TylerHill.org to warn and inform others so it wouldn’t happen again….READ FULL ARTICLE

 

You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org.

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A Legacy of Quality

The Hill believes it is important to profile not only startups and entrepreneurs but also some of the long standing businesses that make Minnesota unique. Surdyk’s has been a staple of our community for the past 80 years. The Hill Center is pleased to have them not only as a vendor, but as exclusive bar sponsor for our upcoming 2017 gala. We had the opportunity to chat with Catering Director Emily Dunne about their legacy of quality and the steps that got them where they are today. 

When and how did Surdyk’s Catering begin?
Surdyk’s is currently a 4th-generation family-owned and operated business. We’ve been making entertaining easy since 1934, holding the 11th Liquor License issued in Minneapolis after the repeal of Prohibition. Surdyk’s Liquor & Cheese Shop has long been considered the ultimate fine food and beverage destination in the Twin Cities, and in the past decade, we’ve expanded the brand into a wine bar at MSP Airport and a full-service food and liquor catering operation. It’s an exciting time of growth for this old business!

What do you want people to know about Surdyk’s and what sets you apart?
We’ve been in business for over 80 years. Needless to say, we’ve got a bit of experience selling and serving delicious things. Surdyk’s is best known for our incredible wine shelves, but a lot of folks don’t realize just how comprehensive the selection at our flagship store is. Whether you’re looking for a funky European cheese, the most obscure Mezcal, or the newest, hoppiest craft beer, our staff is passionate, knowledgeable, and eager to help. You just can’t get that on Amazon. If I had to define the essence of Surdyk’s, it would be that over the course of 80 years, we’ve always taken pride in providing great products and a great customer experience. We believe these two go hand in hand.

What is Surdyk’s really great at?
We are really great at making entertaining easy and approachable. Surdyk’s Catering was born out of a desire to make our superb products and equally superb service accessible to the Twin Cities events market. The formula is simple: great food, great drink, and great service are the ingredients for a perfect event. Our team supports every client every step of the way, from the first phone call to the final clean up. We believe this level of service would not be possible without a genuine, insatiable love of food and drink running through the veins of every single team member.

What are you most proud of?
I’ve been here since the inception of Surdyk’s Catering, so it’s safe to say that I’m proud of a lot. I’d have to say I’m most proud of our outright refusal to compromise on ingredients. A lot of companies have jumped on the farm-to-table bandwagon, but we’ve been doing this for decades. We source the best local, sustainably produced, organic ingredients available, and all of the food we serve is made from scratch in our kitchen. We work with as many local distilleries and breweries as we possibly can. We know our vendors. Maybe we don’t brag about that enough…

What has been the largest hurdle your organization has faced and what are steps you took to turn things around?
Growth is hard! I’ve always been a big advocate of responsible growth, which is even harder. We’ve had to build our team incrementally, which has meant a lot of long days and nights for me and my core team. That said, it is so exciting to finally recognize the moment we’ve “earned” the ability to hire for a new position. Nothing makes me feel more accomplished.

What are your hopes for Surdyk’s future?
I hope we can continue to build on the incredible legacy of quality associated with the Surdyk name. I want to make the owners proud. We don’t need to be the biggest or even the most popular catering company out there, but I hope at the very least to continue to grow this business to a point that people stop saying, “What? Surdyk’s does catering?!?”

For more information about Surdyk’s Catering visit their website or join the Hill Center for our 2017 gala “A Great Northern Evening” on Friday, October 27 and see Surdyk’s quality in action.  Get your tickets now!

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“Wait Training”: My Perfect Business

Junita Flowers is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, mom and the owner of Favorable Treats. With more than 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations, she spent her career advocating for families and leading social change initiatives. Junita has learned the value of “waiting” during her years as an entrepreneur and business owner and shares her experiences with us each second Tuesday of the month.

This​ ​week​ ​is​ ​Twin​ ​Cities​ ​Startup​ ​Week​ ​and​ ​we​ ​are​ ​in​ ​full​ ​swing​ ​with​ ​all​ ​things entrepreneurship.​ ​If​ ​you​ ​have​ ​made​ ​the​ ​decision​ ​to​ ​launch​ ​your​ ​startup,​ ​I’m​ ​pretty​ ​sure​ ​you have​ ​a​ ​well​ ​drafted​ ​business​ ​plan​ ​which​ ​details​ ​everything​ ​about​ ​your​ ​product​ ​or​ ​service,​ ​the daily​ ​operations,​ ​managing​ ​business​ ​finances​ ​and​ ​startup​ ​capital​, ​and​ ​you​ ​are​ ​ready​ ​to​ ​begin.

When​ ​I​ ​started​ ​my​ ​business, ​it​ ​was​ ​very​ ​important​ ​for​ ​me​ ​to​ ​know​ ​everything​ ​there​ ​was​ ​to know​ ​about​ ​building​ ​a​ ​sustainable​ ​and​ ​thriving​ ​business.​ ​I​ ​enlisted​ ​the​ ​assistance​ ​of​ ​a​ ​business coach​ ​to​ ​help​ ​draft​ ​my​ ​business​ ​plan.​ ​I​ ​spent​ ​countless​ ​hours​ ​researching​ ​success​ and failure ​stories​. ​I​ ​obtained​ ​memberships​ ​in​ ​various​ ​networking​ ​associations​ ​with​ ​a​ ​goal​ ​of creating​ ​new​ ​business​ ​relationships. I​ ​felt​ ​good​ ​about​ ​my​ ​marketing​ ​efforts​ ​and connection​ ​to​ ​my​ ​target​ ​customer​ ​base.​ ​I​ ​was​ ​armed​ ​with​ ​a​ ​plethora​ ​of​ ​case​ ​studies​ ​and research. ​I​ ​was convinced I would​ ​avoid​ ​the​ ​typical​ ​business​ ​pitfalls​ ​of​ ​entrepreneurs before​ ​me​ ​and​ that ​I​ ​would​ ​successfully​ ​make​ ​it​ ​past​ ​the​ ​critical​ ​first​ ​three​ ​years.

One of the​ ​major​ ​things​  ​ ​I​ ​did​ ​not​ ​uncover​ ​in​ ​all​ ​of​ ​my​ ​planning​ ​and​ ​research​ ​was​ ​the​ ​reality​ ​that​ ​the main​ ​ingredient​ ​fueling​ ​my​ ​entrepreneurial​ ​drive​ ​might​ ​be​ ​the​ ​same​ ​ingredient​ creating​ ​my​ ​potential​ ​failure.​ ​​Tucked​ ​neatly​ ​inside​ ​my​ ​drive​ ​to​ ​succeed,​ ​my​ ​push​ ​toward excellence​ ​and​ ​a​ ​good​ ​work​ ​ethic​ ​was​ ​the ever-so-positive-sounding,​ ​yet​ ​very​ ​destructive concept of – ​ ​perfectionism.

We​ ​live​ ​in​ ​a​ ​world​ ​that​ ​idolizes​ ​perfectionism​ ​and​ ​it​ ​is​ ​presented​ ​as​ ​the​ ​standard​ ​of performance​ ​for​ ​success​ ​as​ ​an​ ​entrepreneur.​ ​Perfectionism​ ​sounds​ ​like​ ​a​ ​good​ ​business practice.​ ​It​ ​sounds​ ​like​ ​the​ ​description​ ​of​ ​a​ ​high​ ​achiever​, ​and​ ​I​ ​fell​ ​into​ ​the​ ​trap​ ​of​ ​waiting​ ​for perfection​ ​in​ ​many​ ​areas​ ​within​ ​my​ ​business.

But​ ​here’s​ ​what​ ​I​ ​learned…perfectionism​ ​is​ ​a​ ​fancy​ ​word​ ​for​ ​fear.​ ​Striving​ ​for​ ​perfection​ ​felt like​ ​a​ ​safe,​ ​yet​ ​lofty​ ​business​ ​goal.​ ​Perfection​ ​sounded​ ​as​ ​though​ ​I​ ​was​ ​operating​ ​at​ ​my​ ​best. Many​ ​times,​ ​I​ ​prolonged​ ​a​ ​potential​ ​business​ ​decision​ ​or​ ​sabotaged​ ​a​n​ ​opportunity​ ​by failing​ ​to​ ​move​ ​forward​ ​because​ ​perfection​ ​guided​ ​me​ ​toward​ ​stagnation​ ​and/or​ ​forfeiture.

Striving​ ​for​ ​excellence​ ​in​ ​business​ ​and​ ​waiting​ ​for​ ​perfection​ ​can​ ​seem​ ​very​ ​similar,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​had to​ ​quickly​ ​decipher​ ​the​ ​difference​ ​​​between​ ​the​ ​two.​ ​For​ ​me,​ ​striving​ ​for​ ​excellence​ ​comes from​ ​a​ ​place​ ​of​ ​gratitude​ ​and​ ​contentment.  I am grateful​ ​for​ ​the​ ​highs​ ​and​ ​lows​ ​peppered throughout​ ​my​ ​business​ ​journey.​ ​​ ​Perfection​ ​can​ ​often​ ​come​ ​from​ ​a​ ​place​ ​of​ ​lack​ ​and insecurity.​ ​Perfection​ ​creates​ ​the​ ​mindset​ ​of​ ​not​ ​having​ ​enough,​ ​never​ ​having​ ​enough​ ​and​ ​it sucks​ ​the life out.​

​Perfectionism​ ​can​ ​be​ ​overcome,​ ​but​ ​just​ ​like​ ​anything​ ​else​ ​worth achieving:​ ​you​ ​have​ ​to​ ​recognize​ ​it​ ​and​ ​then​ ​have​ ​a​ ​plan​ ​to​ ​overcome​ ​it. So ​as​ ​you​ ​prepare​ ​to​ ​launch​ ​your​ ​first​ ​business​ ​or​ ​scale​ ​your​ ​current​ ​business,​ ​ask​ ​yourself​ ​are you​ ​moving​ ​forward​ ​in​ ​excellence​ ​or​ ​perfectionism.


You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website at favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.   In addition we are pleased to have Junita join us at the  James J. Hill Center on October 26th from 9AM to 10AM  as she moderates our TAKING THE LEAD panel discussion focusing on the complex and rewarding ecosystem of women entrepreneurs.  This month’s topic will be on the “Growth Strategies and Plateau Pains ” This program is free and open to the public.  

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A Textbook-Swapping Platform that Could Change the World

Leah Kodner, Business Librarian from the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters each month for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently she connected with presenter Richard Krueger. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on October 7, 2017.

 

According to a 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the Consumer Price Index for the cost of college textbooks increased 88 percent between January 2006 and July 2016. By comparison, the average increase for all items in that same time period was 21 percent.

Richard Krueger knew that this has been a problem for many students, and he and his partners came up with Swapzit to help solve the problem. Swapzit allows users to list the textbooks or other items they want to get rid of, along with a textbook or other item they need, and Swapzit arranges a multi-party swap, giving all users the item they want in exchange for the item they no longer need.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Richard Krueger
Age: 44
City you live in: St. Paul
City of birth: St. Paul
High school attended: Archbishop Brady High School, West St. Paul
College attended: St. Mary’s University, Minneapolis

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Swapzit
Website: www.swapzit.com
Business Start Date: June 1, 2012
Number of Employees: 4 founders
Number of Customers: Over 1,000

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. Myself and the other three founders, Jake Wiatrowski, Lucas Krause and Jamie Weber, have made successful careers out of leveraging technology to automate manual processes and compiling data to gain insights and make better decisions. Most of us currently work in the Business Intelligence field.

We exist in that sweet spot between generations where we aren’t intimidated by new technology, nor do we take it for granted. We’ve seen so much innovation in our lives, from the inception of call waiting on land lines, to having access to the sum of human knowledge in the palm of your hand. We want to make a positive impact in the world, and we’ve grown up with technology being the tool to make that impact.

Q. What is your business?
A. The Swapzit business is one of identifying and retaining value. We call it “Worth Finding.” We live in a world of abundance where most people have things stored in their closets, basements and garages, and yet many of us lack the wealth to get the things we need and want. Swapzit provides a medium for people to get the maximum value possible from the stuff they have by getting them the things they actually want and need.

Swapzit is a platform which uses an advanced algorithm to identify complicated multi-party exchanges. What does that mean?

Let’s say that you’re a student that has an engineering textbook you don’t need anymore, and your next class is an art class. You could sell your textbook back to the bookstore at a 90 percent loss, and then kick in another few hundred dollars to get your art book. You could try to find a student who happens to have the textbook you want and also happens to want the textbook you have. You’ll spend days looking, and you’ll likely not succeed in finding someone.

What Swapzit does is arrange multi-party exchanges, so you send your engineering book to someone who needs it, and another person ships their art book to you. By including more than two people, sometimes up to six, Swapzit makes the likelihood of you getting your book, for just the cost of shipping, an almost certainty, and we make it extremely easy.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. Because we’re older professionals, each of the Swapzit founders has built a professional network. We’ve leveraged our networks to formally establish an 11-person advisory board of professionals who are some of the most successful in the marketing, advertising, legal, startup, and IT worlds.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. Jake, Lucas, and I met while working for a startup. We routinely talked of starting our own business. Years later, Jake and I were working on the University of Minnesota campus. We’ve all heard about the triple digit percentage increases in the cost of tuition and books. Working on campus, it was impossible for us to not think about the debt these kids were incurring. Over the course of a lunch, Jake challenged me to find a solution. Later that day, Swapzit.com was registered.

Q. What problems does your business solve?

A. The Swapzit algorithm, and Swap-Management protocols, are capable of solving many problems associated with broken markets….READ FULL ARTICLE

 

You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.JJHill.org.

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Startup Tips from the Hill

In celebration of Twin Cities Startup Week 2017, the James J. Hill Center thought they would share their top 5 tips for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

  1. Find the best data and use it
    You need solid information and data to support your start-up, whether you are writing a business plan, researching venture capital or looking for business leads. A few hot tips: IBISWorld is the best database for industry information, PrivCo is your bet for hard-to-find private company information and SimplyAnalytics is perfect for demographic information that can be used to inform you on developing into new markets. You can find all of these databases at the Hill…and they are free to use.
  2. Learn from those who have traveled the same path
    At the Hill, we provide a lot of opportunities to do just that. Meet the Expert is a perfect example of a program that connects you with experts across fields of law, marketing, digital, business development and more. Find the missing link for your start-up in this speed-dating style program.
  3. Show up
    You’ve heard it before “the world is run by those who show up.” Try out a networking event or attend 1 Million Cups St. Paul. By showing up, you’ll get the double benefit of learning more about the start-up landscape in the Twin Cities, as well as an opportunity to share your dream and find those willing to support you along the way.
  4. Look for help from those who know
    Thinking about writing a business plan, starting a non-profit, or moving your product into a new market? Try our Database Deep Dive series to take the edge off the research. These free workshops occur twice a month and will offer the best tips and tricks to navigating our databases. We love to answer questions, so come ready to dig in!
  5. Remember you’re part of something bigger
    Chipping away at a new start-up can bring up a number of feelings, but isolation doesn’t have to be one of them. Consider us your new home-base for your business. The Hill is a powerful space ripe with a rich tradition of entrepreneurial wins. Come use our free Wifi, sit and work, bring your lunch or use our resources to build your dream. Do you think you are one of the “original thinkers” that James J. Hill wanted to attract to his library? We think so. Come in and give us a try.

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

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Startup Secrets and Sh#$ to Know: Hustle Your Way Through TCSW 2017

Aleckson Nyamwaya has his beat on the pulse of the startup world in Minnesota.  He is an Associate at @gener8tor, contributor for @startupgrind, ambassador for @1millioncupsspl and a lover of all things tech & startups. We are pleased to have his monthly insight with our blog “Startup Secrets and Sh#$ to Know.”  Check back each month for his thoughts, observations and featured companies.

Hustle Your Way Through TCSW 2017

Make the most of Twin Cities Startup Week by following this networking guide.

TCSW is the premiere week-long entrepreneurship festival of the Twin Cities. Showcasing the best from the startup capital of the north! Over 100 events will take place across the Twin Cities, October 9th−15th, 2017. Everyone one and their cousins will be in attendance!!

Twin Cities Startup Week is just 2 weeks away!!! Naturally, I wrote a guide to help you navigate the week!

There are multiple events happening concurrently so this may be helpful to you if it’s your first time, if you are too busy to curate an itinerary for the week or if you just want a curated list from an insider!

For the full list of events, dates, times and locations please visit: http://twincitiesstartupweek.com/

Keynote Events

These are the events you should make time for! Especially if you are on a tight schedule and can only make it to 1, 2 or maybe 3 days out of the week!

1. Opening Night Party — Sunday

This is a high priority because it’s the kickoff party for TCSW! Everyone is attending to specifically kick off the week! Which means it will a more relaxed atmosphere, perfect for networking & making new friends.

2. MN Cup — Monday

Minnesota Cup is the largest statewide startup competition in the country! The evening will include a demo hour from our top 24 teams, recognizing our mentors of the year, presentations from the 2017 MN Cup division winners & runners-up as well as the announcement of the 2017 MN Cup Grand Prize winner. Over $450,000 will be awarded at the event!

3. Beta.MN Showcase — Tuesday

Beta.MN is an organization of friends & founders gathering together to support Minnesota’s startup community. Showcase is like a science fair for startups, with beer & music. There are no formal presentations, just local entrepreneurs demonstrating their products and services in an approachable, one-to-one setting. Attendees include founders, future employees, superfans, investors, friends, family members and anyone wanting to discover and celebrate local innovation.

4. gener8tor Minnesota’s Premiere Night — Tuesday

gener8tor is a nationally ranked, concierge startup accelerator that invests in high-growth startups! Premiere night is a celebration of gener8tor’s latest class of innovative startups!

5. Target + Techstars Retail Accelerator Demo Day — Wednesday

Techstars Retail, in partnership with Target is a three-month intensive startup accelerator focused on bringing new technology, experiences, products, and solutions to retail. Join us for Techstars Retail in Partnership with Target Demo Day in Minneapolis as our companies take the stage at First Avenue to present their businesses!

6. Minnedemo27 — Thursday

Minnedemo will feature some of the best the local tech talent has to offer. The rules are simple: 7 minutes, real working technology, and NO slides! This event attracts 700+ entrepreneurs, investors, enthusiasts etc. Please note: they are not sold out, Minnedomo has 3 ticket releases and their last one was on 10/5 at 7pm.

7. Twin Cities Startup Weekend Youth— Friday

Startup Weekend will propel students to launch creative businesses by pitching ideas, form teams around the top ideas, research their customers, and work intensely as teams to build a prototype that demonstrates the potential of their business. At the end, teams present their business and demonstrate their prototype to a panel of local entrepreneurs in a “Shark Tank Setting.”

8. Techstars Startup Weekend Twin Cities— Friday

Startup Weekend is an intense 54 hour experience, providing entrepreneurs a unique experience to create a company, product or service over the weekend. Individuals will pitch their ideas Friday night and form teams with other attendees. Wrapping up on Sunday, they’ll pitch their prototype app, website, product or service to a panel of startup judges.

9. Official Twin Cities Startup Week Awards — Join us as we close out Twin Cities Startup Week with the biggest party of the week. We will be holding our first annual Startup Awards ceremony alongside GoKart Labs.

Honorable Mentions

If you have time during the day, be sure to take advantage of the following events!

  1. Free co-working —  Take advantage of the free opportunities! Co-working spaces such as COCO are the backbone of the TC Startup entrepreneurship culture! (I myself work out of coco uptown).
  2. gener8tor office hours — gener8tor is a nationally ranked concierge startup accelerator, come meet with their Minneapolis team for office hours!
  3. Sofia Fund office hours – Sophia Fund seeks early stage, growth oriented, gender diverse entrepreneurial companies that have women leaders! Come meet with them for office hours.
  4. Angel Investing 101 — Brett Brohl, Managing partner of The Syndicate Fund is well regarded local investor!
  5. Healthcare.MN 5 year Anniversary Party — Healthcare.MN is a founding member and a strong supporter of the Twin Cities Startup scene. It’s a high quality event that attracts a great turn out! Food and drinks.
  6. Womens Pitch Fest — Female founders and women startup leaders will pitch their companies to Midwest investors and community supporters. Applications are now being taken. Entrepreneurs apply here.
  7. Muster Across America — Curated by Bunker Labs Mpls, a nonprofit by veterans, for veterans, to start and grow businesses. If you are not a veteran you will gain the military entrepreneurial edge. If you are a veteran you will gain the network to quickly grow your venture.
  8. Mpls Jr Devs — This event is for aspiring and junior software engineers to meet, learn from, and share experiences with one another.
  9. 1 Million Cups St.Paul — Developed by the Kauffman Foundation, 1MC is a community of innovators and entrepreneurship enthusiasts: Super high quality event!
  10. Mac Startups Demo Day 2017–16 Macalester students took part in Mac Startups, a student-run entrepreneurship incubator. After identifying problems in the Twin Cities community (and beyond) they developed creative products to solve these problems.
  11. Demo Night: Teams from Startup Weekend Youth – Come and see the progress made by several of the teams.
  12. Technical Architecture: Building and Scaling —Whether you are looking to start coding an application, building onto it, or scaling, technology is always changing. What works best for building something quick? What work best for scaling?. What languages work best for rapid prototyping, and what does scalable infrastructure look like these days?
  13. Saint Paul Start-up Crawl — Lets show Saint Paul some love! See where people make and create on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s brick-and-timber warmth to steam punk buzz, Saint Paul continues to drive innovation.
  14. Minimum Viable Marketing – Marketing is one thing almost every start-up struggles with — how much do you need to do, what talent do you need to do it right, and what sort of resources should you be spending? Panel + Q&A.
  15. Minnesota Start-Up Darwin Lessons — Taking a somewhat lighthearted look at some past mistakes by Minnesota companies, the presenters will talk about what happened and why and offer some tips on how your company can avoid the same fate.
  16. How to become a fundable founder— This talk will focus on the tactics a founder needs to adopt in order to be taken seriously within the startup world! Shameless plug for my event 😉

Conclusion

Twin Cities startup week is the premiere entrepreneurship festival of the twin cities! It’s a great opportunity for you to network, connect with other community members and forge new relationships!

Remember this is a once-in-a-year opportunity, so be sure to checkout the full schedule here.

See you there!

Want more hustling tips? Checkout my previous post Graduate’s Hustle Handbook To Entrepreneurship


You can tweet me @alecksonn or subscribe to my newsletter

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Adding a Little Sweetness to the Mix

Leah Kodner, Business Librarian from the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters each month for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently she connected with presenter Scott Dillon. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on September 23, 2017.

TripAdvisor’s 2014 “TripIndex Cities” puts Minneapolis as the ninth most inexpensive city in the United States to have a night on the town. However, the average cost of two cocktails is still listed at $20. While not prohibitively expensive, $10 cocktails are not a thing that many people can afford to consume on a regular basis.

Scott Dillon was interesting in saving money by making his own cocktails, so he took a cocktail class and learned about shrubs. Shrubs are drink mixers made from apple cider vinegar, fresh fruit, and cane sugar. He was hooked and began making his own shrubs, and The Twisted Shrub was born.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Scott Dillon
Age: 43
City you live in: Edina
City of birth: Richmond, Va.
High school attended: Midlothian High School, Midlothian, Va.
Colleges attended: University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: The Twisted Shrub
Website:www.thetwistedshrub.com
Business Start Date: October 2015
Number of Employees: 1, soon to be 5
Number of Customers: 40 retail stores in the Twin Cities area, plus Amazon Prime

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I spent 19 years in sales at General Mills before being let go in the downsizing efforts in 2014. So, with the support of my wife and family, I had the amazing opportunity to have a harmless mid-life crisis before deciding what to do with the rest of my career.

So I dabbled in many different hobbies (took magic lessons from a local magician, ushered for the Twins, passed Level 1 of the Master Sommelier certification process, to name a few) while trying to decide what to do next. One of my goals was to make better cocktails at home. I’ve grown tired of paying $12-$15 for high-end cocktails at bars so we signed up for a cocktail class at Parlour Bar in Minneapolis to learn about how to make better drinks. It was at this class where I first heard of shrubs.

I fell in love on the spot and decided I would never work for a company again. I was going to figure out how to start my own food company. Long story short, we launched The Twisted Shrub at the Linden Hills Farmers Market just 118 days after that fateful cocktail class. We are now on Amazon Prime and in 40+ retail stores across the Twin Cities with plans to accelerate in a significant way over the next six months and beyond.

Q. What is your business?
A. The Twisted Shrub specializes in the hand-crafted production of shrubs, also known as drinking vinegars. Shrubs have been around for centuries as a method to preserve fruit using vinegar and sugar. In the 1700s, the Colonials made shrubs from leftover fruit at the end of the harvest. They used the shrubs to flavor drinks in the winter months for sustenance and to provide people with necessary vitamins and nutrients until the following spring growing season.

We use just three simple, all-natural ingredients to make our shrubs: apple cider vinegar, fresh fruit, and 100 percent cane sugar. That’s it. We take our time, too: every batch of The Twisted Shrub takes two days to craft. Shrubs are drink mixers that create intensely complex, delicious, zing-filled cocktails and sodas without any muddling or infusion. For cocktails, simply add equal parts shrub, spirit, and soda water. For sodas, add three parts sparkling water to 1 part shrub for a refreshing, non-alcoholic quencher.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. The Twin Cities is chock full of amazing resources for startups, especially in food and beverage. Notably, AURI (Agricultural Utilization Research Institute) and GrowNorthMN have both been instrumental in helping us understand the resources available and steps to take in order to take an idea and make it into a business.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. Simply put, I wanted to make better, more interesting drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) in the comforts of my own home. Shrubs empower you to do that in just seconds.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. The Twisted Shrub provides an easy, fuss-free way to craft exceptionally delicious, complex, zing-filled, better-for-you cocktails and sodas at home at a fraction of the cost….READ FULL ARTICLE

 

You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.JJHill.org.

 

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Strong Data for Minority Own Businesses

There is very strong data to support investment in minority owned businesses in Minnesota. Data from the 2012 Survey of Business Organizations and the Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs 2015 reveal these important insights.

1) Minority business created more jobs than the largest employer in Minnesota: The Mayo Clinic, the largest MN employer, employed 39,000 jobs, estimate of DEED. Minority owned businesses as a group in comparison, employed over 70,000 people with an annual payroll of $1.7 billion.

2) The number of minority businesses grew faster than non-minority businesses: While the number of minority businesses grew by 53 percent during the period 2007-12, the number of non-minority businesses declined by 3 percent.

3) Minority business job growth increased at a higher rate than non-minority businesses: While minority businesses achieved a 68 percent growth in jobs during the period 2007-12, non-minority business jobs grew by only 10 percent.

4) The number of minority female owned businesses grew faster than female owned businesses: While the number of minority female businesses grew by 78 percent during the period 2007-12, the number of non-minority businesses grew by 19 percent.

5) The number of minority veteran owned businesses grew faster than veteran owned businesses: While the number of minority veteran businesses grew by 130 percent during the period 2007-12, the number of veteran businesses grew by 6 percent.

6) The fastest growing industries for minority firms were mining, utilities, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, management and other services: The number of minority owned firms in five out of 18 industries more than doubled between 2007 and 2012.

Most of minority businesses are at the critical stage with sales between $100,000 and a million dollars. Policy attention is needed to help them grow. Our study of African immigrant entrepreneurs revealed that they needed most help with marketing and new product development apart from access to capital. Female entrepreneurs had unique needs compared to male entrepreneurs. Most of these entrepreneurs received very little help from public or non-profit organizations.

Research shows the minority economic status improves when minority entrepreneurs are successful as the wealth base of the community expands.

Bruce Corrie is Professor of Economics and Associate Vice President for University Relations at Concordia University-St. Paul.

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“Wait Training”: It’s All Good

Junita Flowers is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, mom and the owner of Favorable Treats. With more than 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations, she spent her career advocating for families and leading social change initiatives. Junita has learned the value of “waiting” during her years as an entrepreneur and business owner and shares her experiences with us each second Tuesday of the month.

“You don’t have the skill, talent, or ability to run a business!” were the words that rang out after a failed business planning discussion. I was devastated. Although the words were jarring to my ears, it was that level of discomfort that pushed me to transform my business from “just another cookie company” to a mission-driven, for-profit cookie company committed to doing good and making an impact.

While “giving-back” or funding social, cultural and environmental causes isn’t a new concept, more and more entrepreneurs are choosing to define their business success based on equal parts profits earned and purpose supported. Social entrepreneurship is all about doing good. From large scale operations to one-person startups, there are some common drivers that many social enterprises share. My top three are mission, meaning and money.

  1. Mission: Defining my business as a for-profit, mission-driven cookie company allows me to live out my life’s purpose both personally and professionally. Connecting my company’s why we do good things with the how we do good within our community allows us to be an active contributor in creating the good we wish to see and experience in our world.
  2. Meaning: Consumers want to feel good about the purchases they make. They want to make purchases that align with their values. I have the opportunity to connect my customers to a product they love and support a cause they care about. By focusing on meaning, my customers and I become partners in doing good.
  3. Money: At the core of it all, money funds mission! The ability to generate a profit to take care of my family and invest in my community creates a business model that keeps on giving. If my business does not make money, I have limited my ability to make an impact. Building a business from scratch, experiencing each financial milestone and busting your hind parts to reach profitability…is all good.

My company makes good cookies. “We do good things” is Favorable Treats commitment to delivering a delicious, scratch-made product, while making an impact. I recently had the opportunity to share my business journey and inspiration for Favorable Treats on the award winning podcast, Social Entrepreneur, listen by clicking here.

I would love to hear from you. How are you using your business for good? As a consumer, how important is a company’s mission when making purchasing decisions? You can send your reply here.


You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website at favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.   In addition we are pleased to have Junita join us at the  James J. Hill Center on October 26th from 9AM to 10AM  as she moderates our TAKING THE LEAD panel discussion focusing on the complex and rewarding ecosystem of women entrepreneurs.  This month’s topic will be on the “Growth Strategies and Plateau Pains ” This program is free and open to the public.  

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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.

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