Her T-shirt Line is For Wearing, Caring and Sharing

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 Lori Myren-Manbeck. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on November 18, 2017.

According to Forbes, there are five reasons Social Entrepreneurship is the new business model: “It connects you to your life purpose, keeps you motivated, brings you lasting happiness, helps you help others and is what today’s consumers want.”

Lori Myren-Manbeck with her company Inclusivi-tee is doing just that. By combining her passion for change, her belief in social justice, her love of the earth and her support of the arts, she is spreading and sharing a positive message of hope to all and giving back in the process.


Name: Lori Myren-Manbeck
Age: 53
City you live in: Eden Prairie
City of birth: Maquoketa, Iowa
High school attended: Sibley High School, Sibley, Iowa
College attended: Grinnell College for bachelor’s degree; University of Rhode Island for Ph.D.


Name of company: Inclusivi-tee, PBC, Inc.
Business Start Date: March 27, 2017
Number of Employees: We have 5 board members, including myself, and several paid consultants.
Number of Customers: We currently have about 50 subscribers and are also working with several organizations/businesses to design shirts for their brands or for specific events.



Q. What led to this point?
A. I decided to start Inclusivi-tee in late 2016 when I realized that I needed to do more to make a difference and support causes I felt passionately for. I could not simply sit by and expect someone else to do the work. Since working on Inclusivi-tee, I have become stronger, more passionate and better informed. I have met amazing, diverse, wonderful people and challenged myself in ways I never thought possible. No matter what happens in the future, this is a journey I had to take.

Q. What is your business?
A. Inclusivi-tee is a quarterly subscription-based T-shirt club in Minneapolis. We have pledged to promote equality, conservation and social justice through the sale of beautiful wearable art. In addition to selling T-shirts and donating 100 percent of profits to progressive local and national nonprofit organizations, Inclusivi-tee spreads its mission through social media outreach and participates in marches, rallies and other events that make the world a more inclusive and accepting community.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. I have been very fortunate to receive consistent help during the formation of Inclusivi-tee, starting with the unwavering support of my husband Ray Caron, my sister Bobbi Boggs and my best friend, Negebe Sheronick. Beyond this initial support the most important thing has been asking for assistance even when doing so is difficult. I have a wonderful board of directors, including Negebe, Bobbi, Katherine Manbeck, my daughter, and Shalette Cauley Wandrick, a Minnesota native and activist. Additionally, when I was creating a business plan I had help from BJ Van Glabbeek and Roger Cloutier who had the business knowledge I lacked. I turned to Clockwork to complete Inclusivi-tee’s website and am working with Lola Red on public relations.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. I first conceived of Inclusivi-tee in mid-November 2016 as a direct response to the continuing and increasing divisiveness I was witnessing. I wanted to create a company that consistently promotes and supports social and earth justice. T-shirts were chosen as our medium because they are accessible to everyone and provide a perfect canvas for our positive, hopeful message. Because art is an important barometer of social justice and the art community is negatively impacted during times of oppression, we choose to pay artists to create our beautiful shirts…..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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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.


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.


Name of company: The Twisted Shrub
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. 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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The Evolution of Embossers

Of the many changes that our library has seen over the past century, one that is easy to overlook is the way we mark our books. When we first opened, our librarians embossed each new book they added to the collection. Labels on the embossing stamps show we were still embossing books into the early 1970’s. Sometime thereafter, we began instead to mark our books using ink stamps.

We recently uncovered several of our old embossing stamps, and our librarians are going to start using them again. There are several benefits to embossing as opposed to ink stamping. Firstly, inks can negatively affect paper, making it degrade over time, whereas embossing only adds an indent or small holes to the paper and therefore does not cause as much long-term damage.

Secondly, embossed books are harder to steal than books stamped with ink, because the skilled thief can laboriously remove traces of ink, but the only way to remove traces of embossing is to remove the embossed page itself. And finally, aesthetics. Embossed books look and feel nice. There is a timeless feel to them, something that brings to mind classic libraries with beautiful old books. In addition, an embossed stamp looks the same every time, whereas ink stamps often appear messy.

For all these reasons and in deference to our history, we are going to bring our embossing stamps out of retirement. Stop by sometime to see some of our new materials, embossed as of old!

The story of these tools and the epic building will be further explored in the Cabinet of Curiosity Tour every third Thursday at 10:30AM. Go back in time in this one hour tour, up and down the catwalks and through the vault in a nooks and crannies inspired experience.  Our June tour sold out, so get your tickets early!

The oldest embosser, which creates a raised impression of our corporate seal.

The corporate seal created by the oldest embosser.

The newest embosser (really a perforating stamp), with a 1971 note instructing librarians to stamp the page after the title page of a book.

The perforated stamp.

The ink stamp currently used by librarians, which marks the date as well as the name of the library.

Ink stamps create a less aesthetically pleasing stamp than embossers or perforators.

Written by Leah Kodner, James J. Hill Business Librarian. 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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Bridging Digital Divides

On May 16th and 17th of 2017 the  James J. Hill Center was happy to house an important conference presented by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.  The conference was on Digital Inclusion.  It was an eye opening experience to understand the full scope of our digital world and the work that needs to be done to ensure all people have access and opportunity to grow in our continually growing digital community. We felt NDIA was an important organization for others to know about and took a few minutes to chat virtually with their Director, Angela Siefer.

What do you want people to know about NDIA and what sets it apart?
NDIA is a unified voice representing digital inclusion programs across the country. This role is unique. It is why we exist. Local digital inclusion programs are doing the incredibly hard work of  increasing home broadband access, running public broadband access labs, teaching digital skills and getting appropriate devices into the hands of the most disadvantaged among us.

NDIA does this through:

  • Developing and empowering a community of practice of digital inclusion programs in our communities.
  • Discussing the full definition of digital inclusion, related challenges and solutions with decision makers and partners.

How did your organization begin?
In the spring of 2015, representatives of local digital inclusion programs and national digital inclusion advocates launched the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA). We did so because federal policy was being discussed that would impact the work of local digital inclusion programs yet the expertise of these programs (even the existence of these programs) was not part of the discussion. NDIA currently represents over 250 affiliates, most of whom are community based organizations, libraries and local government entities with digital inclusion programs.

What do you feel has been NDIA’s biggest impact so far?

  • Developing definitions of digital inclusion and digital equity that have furthered an understanding and increased awareness of programming gaps.
  • Influencing federal policymaking (including the modernization of Lifeline).
  • Influencing local policymaking, particularly through Digital Inclusion Trailblazers.
  • Strengthening programs through information sharing online and at our annual gathering Net Inclusion.

What has been the largest hurdle and / or success your organization has faced?
NDIA is a bootstrap startup nonprofit program. Starting with nothing has been both a challenge and a strength.

What advice would you give to businesses and organizations regarding digital inclusion efforts?
Look for potential partners.  The most impactful programs are those that work collaboratively in their communities and have trusted relationships with the individuals they are serving.

What do you see for the future of our digital world?
Technology will keep changing and more digital divides will develop. We as a society can shrug our shoulders or we can work together to create solutions that strengthen our communities.

To read more about NDIA and their continued efforts to increase a unified voice for digital inclusion please visit their website at digitalinclusion.org.  

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The Hill Reference Round-Up

Blue Prints to Business Plans…

September at the Hill was buzzing with visitors from students to entrepreneurs researching blue prints to business plans.  It is a prefect example of the vast amount of resources our Reference Specialists have at their fingertips.

Here are some examples of who, what and why people visited us! 

  • Over 110 researchers welcomed in September.
  • Most researchers were from Minnesota, and a few traveled from Wisconsin.
  • Several researchers this month came to use our resources to help them develop their business plans.
  • The majority of our visitors in September self-identify as entrepreneurs.
  • A student from the U of M studying architecture viewed historic building blueprints for a course project.
  • One researcher explored sales data and patent information related to exercise equipment.
  • We often welcome job seekers, but had one unique researcher this month, who works to support individuals with severe mental illness and conducted job searches on behalf of those individuals to locate potential workplaces near their homes to accommodate transportation limitations.

We look forward to seeing you at the Hill.  Contact a Reference Specialist today!

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Vinyl is Back, Baby!

Well, maybe not all the way back.

But there was a nice little article in the Star Tribune yesterday, that commented on the 2012 Nielsen Soundscan results, and highlighted the fact that vinyl record sales have now increased for five years in a row. In 2012 vinyl sales hit 4.6 million, rising 17% over 2011.

However, vinyl was still only 2.3% of all physical album sales.

Nielsen is, of course, a familiar name in audience surveys and measurement. Nielsen Soundscan measures U.S. point-of-sale purchases of music product, while Nielsen BDS tracks U.S. radio airplay and music streams, and the Nielsen / Billboard 2012 Music Industry Report provides all sorts of great data on the music industry. Not only are music purchases at an all time high, up 3.1% from the previous record high (2011), but country music showed the greatest gains as a genre, up almost 38% in digital album sales.

You can take a look at more music data at http://tinyurl.com/aogwgqn. 

Thanks Nielsen!

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ReferenceUSA Part II – Consumers/Lifestyle

The ReferenceUSA database provides us with two useful tools: the Company Database, which I briefly reviewed in my last post, and the Consumer/Lifestyles Database, which I will look at today.

While the ReferenceUSA Company Database contains over 14 million company records, their Consumer Database claims 262,625,721 records of individuals within the U.S. (The current U.S. population is 315 million so I guess a few people – perhaps the privately held? – are flying under the radar.)

The first thing everyone does in the Consumers / Lifestyles database is look to see if they are listed. That being accomplished, the most obvious use for the Consumer / Lifestyles database is to create a list of consumers that meet your search criteria, and in this database you can search by  a person’s name, phone number, area code, or a variety of geographic terms, such as county, neighborhood, or a map-based polygon. If your prospective consumers would be part of the shrinking middle class, you could narrow your search by estimated home value or household income, and if you have some lifestyle criteria you would like to add into the search there is a list of 19 broad classes, each with more detailed subclasses.
It should be noted that not all people have their lifestyle interests identified. For example, looking at my own record, it’s a clean slate. I apparently have no interests. Thus, because I have no recorded interests, my record will not turn up on any lifestyle searches. (Which is just the way I like it.) So the results of a lifestyle search will probably be smaller than would be an accurate count. In addition, for those people that ReferenceUSA does have information on, they rate lifestyle interests for individuals on a 0-9 scale, but when you search on a lifestyle, you only get back people that scored six or better.

Because the lifestyle search returns a limited result, you would probably want to use it on a large geographic area. For example, a search on the Fulton neighborhood of Minneapolis, (5,591 records), with an estimated household income of $30,000 to $79,999, and found 376 records. Adding the lifestyle option of “sports – baseball”, gave back just 2 records. Marking all sports options came back with just 20 results, which seems pretty small in a neighborhood of 5,591 records. But when I change the geographic criteria from the Fulton neighborhood to the Minneapolis St. Paul Metro area, my results jump up to 85,000.

It might be good to keep in mind that these lifestyle search criteria are linked together with an “or”. For example, if, under purchase behavior, you select “senior-oriented products” and also “Internet Purchaser” you are getting combined results, and not a list of people who purchase senior products on the net. However, when you download this list, you can download all the ratings for the fields, so you could, in a spreadsheet, filter for those high in both categories.

The Hill Library also subscribes to the “Consumer Snapshot” portion of the database, which is a nice tool for visualizing data.  For this, let’s say we are looking for individuals who purchase senior orient products in the 651 area code. Those two factors result in 10578 hits.

Using the “Consumer Snapshot” feature, you can add a number of other, more personal, criteria into the mix, such as age, sex, marital status, or type of occupation. Because this data is a bit more sensitive than other criteria, the database does not provide you with a list of people that meet those criteria, but it does allow you to display a chart or a table illustrating those records, and I find this very useful when paired with some geographic criteria. In this example, for people in the 651 area code who purchase senior products, I wanted to look at where these people in the 50 – 65 year old range lived – thinking that they might be purchasing products for aged parents, and I had this data displayed by five digit zip code. The resulting table then clearly displays the zip codes that are highest in the different age ranges selected, the zip codes I might want to focus on. Mousing over the chart gives you a display of the zip code and the count. This information can also be downloaded in a spreadsheet, for those who like to crunch the numbers.
The ReferenceUSA database provides us with access to some great information on companies along with some useful new ways of constructing our searches. On top of that, we now have access to a great new database of consumer information. The search interfaces are very userfriendly – stop in some time and try it!


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We are pleased to announce the completion of our elevator renovation at the James J. Hill Center. This project was financed in part with funds provided by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society and the F. R. Bigelow Foundation. It will greatly increase our ability to serve 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 our brand new elevator!