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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 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org.

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A 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 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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Best State to Start a Business

When it comes to finding a community that supports and empowers entrepreneurs and small businesses, look no further than the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs. Nationally recognized as the place where business starts and thrives, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area has the 4th highest concentration of small businesses in the nation, making it the 3rd “Best State to Start a Business” (Entrepreneur.com).

The area’s library systems have long been important resources to enriching life. A new video series called Libraries out Loud out of Kansas City explores how libraries are adapting to the needs of today, including finding ways to support local entrepreneurs. It is not much different in the Twin Cities where in a collaborative effort to support the growing entrepreneurial population, the James J. Hill Center provides resources complimenting the offerings at neighboring libraries.

The Hill often works together with Hennepin County Library and St. Paul Public Library to provide the best business information for entrepreneurs. This has always been part of the Hill’s mission. In our first year in business, head librarian Joseph Pyle explained in the 1921 Librarian Report, that James J. Hill intended for the library to “pick up where the public library ended,” which is exactly where our mission falls today. We fill in the gaps with our unique programs and resources.

On Monday, Aug. 21 from 5:30-7:30pm, Lindsey Dyer (JJHC), Erin Cavell (HCL) and Amanda Feist (SPPL) from our three area libraries will conduct a presentation called “Fill in the blanks of your business plan: getting started with research,” hosted by George Latimer Library.  This presentation will share resources, tips and tricks to navigate the best that our metro libraries have to offer.  SIGN UP NOW to join this informational free event.

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 [email protected].

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Collection Curiosities: Book Sets

Among the many interesting items one finds when combing the shelves of the James J. Hill Center’s library collection are several dozen book sets. Included are biographies; histories of places and events; personal papers of presidents, diplomats, explorers and businessmen; and government records. Publication dates reach as far back as the early 1800s (some before the birth of Mr. Hill himself).

The oldest? Sparks’s American Biography, a ten volume set originally published in 1834. It set out to include, according to its editor, “all persons, who have been distinguished in America, from the date of its first discovery to the present time,” with the hope that it “would embrace a perfect history of our country.” Though the more familiar faces of this early period of American history are absent, it sheds light on others who were believed important at the time. Beginning with John Stark, an American officer in the Revolutionary War, it tells of other early war heroes as well as physicians, inventors, engineers, and even a little-known signer of the Declaration of Independence. These individuals represent some of the most notable figures of the 18th and early 19th century, many whose lives began nearly three hundred years ago or more, and, perhaps, were those whom Mr. Hill might have admired or even emulated.

Written by Alex Ingham, Business Librarian, 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 [email protected].

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Soft Skills Revolution: Finding Soft Skill Value

Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor,  lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for soft skills training across the region and will be sharing his tips and tricks in our monthly blog Soft Skills Revolution. Come back the first Tuesday of each month and learn key steps to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

FINDING SOFT SKILL VALUE

I used to have a hard time finding my keys. Then I bought this little plastic disk that my phone can make beep. They’re usually sitting right on the counter, hidden in plain sight.

A recent survey of 2.6 million employers reported that 59% have difficulty finding candidates who are proficient in “soft skills.” I believe that soft skilled people are really not that hard to find. They just need to tag their skills with the equivalent of that beeping disk.

Making your own soft skill set “beep” out begins with understanding why they’re “soft”, what are the skills and the value to employers.

The Soft
Among the most sought-after soft skills are the “4 Cs”: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity.

The term soft skills was originally defined by the Army in 1972 as

“Job functions about which we know a good deal are hard skills and those about which we know very little are soft skills.”

From the beginning soft skills have been associated with misunderstanding.

One of the biggest insights to soft skills is how little we know about them and ourselves. Studies like Sage Journals “Perceived Versus Actual Transparency of Goals in Negotiation” have shown how we believe others see us and what they actually perceive are statistically unrelated. The only accurate way to gauge how you’re being perceived is to ask someone else.

And yet, as Seth Godin points out “what actually separates thriving organizations from struggling ones are the difficult-to-measure attitudes, processes and perceptions of the people who do the work.”

The Skills
In that aptly titled post, “Let’s Stop Calling Them ’Soft Skills,” Godin argues that the term should be avoided:

“We call these skills soft, making it easy for us to move on to something seemingly more urgent. We rarely hire for these attributes because we’ve persuaded ourselves that vocational skills are impersonal and easier to measure.”

He feels that they are more accurately understood as “real skills” because of their impact on businesses:

“…when an employee demoralizes the entire team by undermining a project, or when a team member checks out and doesn’t pull his weight, or when a bully causes future stars to quit the organization — too often, we shrug and point out that this person has tenure, or vocational skills or isn’t so bad. But they’re stealing from us.”

He then goes on to list nearly 100 different skill sets in five categories that make up his first draft of real skills.

The Value
Godin’s argument carries significant weight when you consider how reliant the economy is on soft skills. Three decades ago 83% of the value of an S&P 500 company was in its tangible assets—real estate, equipment, inventory. Today 87% of the value is in intangible assets—ideas, brand, or stories.

Companies that had paid workers to build value with their labor now pay them to create with their minds. The majority of companies’ value can no longer be delivered by trucks. Instead, the majority of worth is created, transmitted and maintained through soft skill mastery.

Developing mastery is also hiding in plain sight. The process is the same one practiced by athletes, artists and entrepreneurs.

More on that later. I have to find my phone.

To be continued….

Guest writer: Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.

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The Hill Reference Roundup

From Georgia to NOVA…

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October at the Hill was buzzing with visitors from as far as Georgia to our own Nova Classical Academy.  They stopped in to build lists, research start ups or just catch a glimpse of history. Another prefect example of the vast array of people our Reference Specialists visit with day to day.

Here are some of the examples of who, what and why people stopped in…  

  • Our reference library staff assisted over 130 researchers in October.
  • Most researchers were from Minnesota, though one researcher this month was visiting all the way from Savannah, Georgia.
  • Several researchers this month came to use our resources to build a list of businesses.
  • It was a great month to build a list of businesses, as we began a subscription to A to Z Databases this month. Come check out this new resource, with the most up-to-date data and a user-friendly interface.
  • The majority of our visitors in October are in the start-up or growth stage of their businesses.
  • One researcher investigated digital strategy and digital disruption using our journal subscriptions to titles like Harvard Business Review, McKinnsey Quarterly and Sloan Management Review.
  • Another researcher explored demographic data related to recreation trends to help develop a marketing plan.
  • A group of about 30 students from Nova Classical Academy stopped in to view our space. As one girl gazed at the second level of the building in awe, she asked our librarians, “What do the people in those offices do?!”

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

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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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