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Startup Showcase: Her Just Desserts Are Just That

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 Junita Flowers. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on July 28, 2018. 

There is a new trend in the way businesses are operating and interacting with their customers.  According to a recent study by Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends, “Organizations are no longer judged only for their financial performance, or even the quality of their products or services. Rather, they are being evaluated on the basis of their impact on society at large –transforming them from business enterprises into social enterprises.”

Social enterprises, according to Social Enterprise Alliance, are, “Organizations that address a basic unmet need or solve a social problem through a market-driven approach.”

Junita Flowers and her company Junita’s Jar is doing exactly that. As a social entrepreneur she is working to solve a critical problem and build a sustainable business one delicious crumb at a time. With her amazing cookies made with love she is destined to improve people’s lives.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Junita Flowers
Age: 45
City you live in: Brooklyn Park
City of birth: St. Paul
College attended: University of Minnesota

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Junita’s Jar
Website: junitasjar.com
Twitter: @JunitaLFlowers
Business Start Date: June 2018
Number of Employees: 2

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I grew up in a very large immediate and extended family, so we spent a lot of time in the kitchen making food for a lot of people. Some of my best childhood memories stem from random conversations shared while prepping food and washing dishes. From birthday treats to holiday desserts, all of the cakes, cookies and pies were made from scratch by my mother and grandmother. After college and settling into my career within the nonprofit sector, I finally had some free time to recreate the recipes from my childhood. After a brief dessert Q&A conversation with my grandmother, I realized none of my favorite recipes were written down. With a goal of baking for myself, I began visiting with my grandmother, watching her re-create my favorite desserts while I recorded the ingredients and measurements. Many years later, I began baking just for fun, to celebrate special occasions with friends. This eventually led to the beginning of my cookie company.

Q. What is your business?
A. Founded upon my favorite childhood recipes and inspired by my personal path of overcoming domestic violence, Junita’s Jar is a mission-driven cookie company producing deliciously wholesome, ready-to-bake cookie dough and grab ’n’ go mini-cookie snack packs. Junita’s Jar is dedicated to making the taste of homemade cookies easy, accessible and super convenient for every day snack time options. We are more than a cookie company. We are on a mission to create a hope-fueled movement with every cookie purchase. We want to see people live well in well-loved moments. To encourage them to exceed expectations, time and time again. To empower a world without abuse. For those reasons, a portion of Junita’s Jar profits is donated to support education and awareness initiatives dedicated to ending relationship violence.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. The Twin Cities is filled with so many opportunities to nurture, support and encourage entrepreneurs at every level along the business journey. In addition to the continuous support from my family and friends, I have received support and training from a handful of various service organizations, corporations, nonprofit organizations and networking groups.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. In 2006, I started my first cookie company, Favorable Treats, at a local farmer’s market and a few pop-up shops. I operated Favorable Treats for 12 years, however, I had to stop and restart my business on three separate occasions due to a toxic and abusive relationship. Each time that I restarted Favorable Treats, I would experience a little more growth than the previous time, but it was a painfully difficult process….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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Ballet + Boxing: How to Create (a) Movement

Check back each month for the Original Thinker Series as we explore local innovation in entrepreneurship, the arts, and our community one pioneering mind at a time.

“I think it was really curiosity that brought us together,” says Zoé Emilie Henrot, the Artistic Director at St. Paul Ballet. The “us” she refers to is a partnership between her dance company and their next door neighbors: Element boxing gym. “We decided not to be cold neighbors, we decided to be in each other’s lives and that is what started it.”

In 2014, St. Paul Ballet needed room to grow and began leasing studio space from Element Boxing & Fitness. Since then the two organizations have been making waves through a dynamic collaboration which has included interdisciplinary training, co-performances, and a Knight Foundation award. “As we continue to progress, we want to become a symbol for unity,” says Dalton Outlaw, CEO and Founder of Element. “If we are all neighbors, if we all exist together, why can’t we work together?”

Both boxing and ballet enjoy rich traditions within the history of human movement. There have been other examples of cross-training between ballet dancers and boxers but the bond that St. Paul Ballet and Element share is something rare and wonderful. “If you are open to giving and receiving a lot can happen,” says Zoé. “In moving together, in figuring out how to be on stage, how to make it work, spending time together and getting to know each other – that’s created this whole community.”

The James J. Hill Center recently hosted a public screening of The Art of Boxing, the Sport of Ballet – a live experience co-directed by Zoé and Dalton. The performance allows audiences to contemplate both boxer-as-artist and dancer-as-athlete in a celebration of movement that is almost sacred in tone. “It’s not about being judged. It’s not about looking a certain way. In those moments when we are performing together it is about feeling,” says Dalton.

Next on the horizon for these two organizations is a ‘movement space’ for the people of Saint Paul. Zoé and Dalton share a vision for a place where anyone can come to experience not only the freedom to move but the freedom that comes from movement. This facility would house their studio and gym and be available for the community to gather. “We’ve talked a lot about windows, I think a lot of stereotypes come from not seeing other people or watching them move in space,” says Zoé.

What is it that has allowed such a unique partnership to develop here? What makes Zoé and Dalton ‘original thinkers’ is something very fundamental: human curiosity. Proximity only leads to partnership when we allow ourselves to be open to the other and to find value in what they bring to the table (or, in this case, the studio/gym). “It’s not just about sport or art,” says Dalton. “It’s about people.”

Catch another performance of The Art of Boxing – The Sport of Ballet at the Ordway on Sunday, April 15th. Tickets and more information available here


Written by Christopher Christenson, Marketing & Events Coordinator, at the James J. Hill Center. Have an idea of a person or organization to feature in this series? Send your recommendations to
christopher@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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Be Truly Welcoming

As we wrap up Welcoming Week (Sept. 15 -24) at the James J. Hill Center we wanted to share some of the great tools and resources we used to work towards being more inclusive, welcoming and open to all communities.

The Hill is proud to be an active member of Welcoming America.  Launched in 2009, Welcoming America has spurred a growing movement across the United States. Their award-winning social entrepreneurship model is beginning to scale globally. As a non-profit, non-partisan organization, Welcoming America supports the many diverse communities and partners who are leading efforts to make their communities more vibrant places for all.

As communities change and grow, we all need to work together to ensure that all members of our communities, both new and old, feel welcome and included.  Tools to support this idea can be so helpful.  Welcoming America has provided those tools and resources.  They connect leaders, community, government and nonprofit sectors so they can work together to provide a network of support and communication.  These connections help bring great institutions and people together to make things happen.

During welcoming week the Hill leveraged new relationships to pull together a string of great institutions: The International Institute of Minnesota, Saint Paul College, Grow MN, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, Neighborhood Development Center and many more. Through small dinners, large panel discussions and short presentations we discussed important and relevant topics such as diversity in our entrepreneurial community, the new American workforce and the needs of minority-owned businesses.  These conversations were enlightening and informative, but did show how many more steps we need to take to continue to build and grow and truly be a welcoming Minnesota.

To do this we must all get involved, join the conversation and remain open.  Here are some great tips that we have learned and initiated here at the Hill since joining Welcoming America.

First understand your local context:

1)      Look at local economic priorities and immigrant assets
2)      Look at the data that tells your local immigrant story
3)      Engage in existing programs and partners
4)      Talk with immigrant entrepreneurs

A great first step to try each of those four items is to join us at the James J. Hill Center. You can either review data through our free databases, engage in one of our topical presentations or panels or join one of our networking sessions.

Here are four things you can do on your own to support our local immigrant entrepreneurs:

1)      Be a champion
2)      Be a connector
3)      Fill in the gaps
4)      Make it your own

These steps will help us all grow and will ensure that our community and economy continues to prosper, grow and succeed. Visit the Hill or go to Welcomingamerican.org to find out more about how you can help your community become more inviting for all.

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Don’t Tweak, Transform

James J. Hill Center Community Engagement Specialist, Maggie Smith, shares her experience at her first “design session” with 1 Million Cups. 

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a design session. If that sounds vague, it’s because it is. I honestly wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, but I was told it was a “participatory workshop, wherein diverse stakeholders co-create solutions.” Over the two-day session we used a variety of collaborative activities to break down the posed issue, and come up with viable solutions based on questions and concerns relating to the issue.

Simply put, it was a room full of strangers working together to create actual solutions to a problem that connected all of us.

A concept we heard over and over during our session was “don’t just tweak, transform,” meaning don’t just edit the existing structure to make it better, completely rethink and rebuild. This concept really resonated. As entrepreneurs, our ideas are often born from seeing a problem and wanting to solve it. Some succeed, many do not. The reasons for this are varied, but this mantra, if you will, changed my focus and lens for looking at why ideas succeed and how to ‘up’ your creative game.

It seems many solutions and ideas for startups are simply tweaks, upgrades and adjustments made to an existing platform. But what if everyone who saw a problem they wanted to solve took a step back and broke it down before building the idea back up? Our design session started with breaking down how the problem made us feel, finding themes within those feelings and then finding questions we could solve related to the themes. Questions like, “how might we create an experience that pulls people into deeper engagement?” “How might we reduce isolation and increase inclusion? “How might we make resources both educational and community focused?”

Once these questions were established, the brainstorming began. A lot of problem-solvers head straight to actual brainstorming. But next time try adding these few steps beforehand and see if you get different ideas, or if the problem/solution goes in a direction you weren’t expecting.

From there the brainstorming took a normal path. Narrowing down ideas, deciding how viable they were and road-mapping for the future.

The process was intensive and surprisingly tiring, but fun. And most importantly, it worked! Our small group of strangers came up with four solid, viable and feasible ideas.

Imagine what you could do with people you knew, and more time.

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. You can hear from new startups each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul.

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Improvising Life: A Conversation with Shanan Custer


Shanan Custer is  a writer, actor, teaching artist, director as well as an improviser in the Twin Cities. Her original works includes: 2 Sugars, Room for Cream, (with Carolyn Pool) which won an Ivey Award for Best Ensemble in 2013;  Mick Sterling Presents: At Christmas  (with Jim Robinson); and From Here to Maternity (with Joshua Scrimshaw). Shanan has performed, directed and improvised all over the Twin Cities and can currently be seen performing in The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society presented by the James J. Hill Center.

How did you begin your entrepreneurial artistic career?
Shortly after I went to graduate school and started working at the Brave New Workshop as an actor/writer I began to create my own work. It felt right–more right than anything I had ever done before.

What has been the largest hurdle and / or success you have experienced as an artist and entrepreneur?
My largest success would be that I am still creating and producing after all of the highs and lows. The largest hurdle would be anything that distracts me from writing, which includes but is not limited to Netflix, books and wine!

How do you manage being a creative entrepreneur and what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
One word: resilience. Nothing will ever be perfect, every project will require you to bend and flex and and there will always be people who want to change what you do–for good or worse, but it’s still a challenge. I’ve been told that my shows “don’t fit in a tidy box” and once had a producer tell me that “two women” onstage wasn’t going to sell tickets. I believed otherwise, so I knocked on the next door and the next. If you can keep moving forward in the midst of these kinds of challenges, then you are in the right place!

You do a ton of improvisation –  how did this come to be and how has it shaped your career?Improvisation changed my life. I was more classically trained as an actor and so I never experienced the form until I started working in theater professionally, but once I did it changed how I performed and wrote as well as how I approached my personal life. The first time I improvised was in an audition for the Brave New Workshop and the rest as they say is history. I love the form and the improv community in the Twin Cities is so vibrant and is growing so fast–it’s really exciting!

What is it about Minnesota and how has it managed to keep you here?
The Twin Cities has proven time and again to be a wonderfully supportive community for so many artists. I can have a life here outside of my work and still feel free to take risks artistically. The landscape of the cities changes enough to keep me invested and I feel like I am challenged to keep up. I also really, really love snow! Please don’t hold it against me.

Shanan Custer and a stellar Twin Cities cast will be performing in The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society at the James J. Hill Center on Sunday, January 29 at 3:30 pm.  REGISTER NOW!

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St. Paul’s Got Talent: A Conversation with Eric Webster


Eric Webster has been performing on stage, camera and radio for over 25 years. As recipient of the 2010 “Best Actor in a Musical″ from Lavender Magazine he has graced such stages as the Guthrie Theater, Mixed Blood, Park Square, The Playwrights’ Center, Hennepin Stages and many more. His on camera success has ranged from his Emmy Nominated show “The Big Bad Movie” to the nationally broadcast DirectTV program “Big Events”. Eric can currently be seen performing in The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society presented by the James J. Hill Center as well as in his original radio show Shades Brigade.

How did you begin your entrepreneurial career in the arts begin?
I started my career in sports broadcasting as a play-by-play, sports talk show host.  After spending 10 years in the field of sports radio – I walked away from it, realizing that I liked playing sports, but talking about them all day was not doing it for me.  I knew I liked the entertainment and creative aspect, so I tried my hand at all sorts of things like stand-up comedy and non-sports talk radio.  I eventually landed a gig as the Stadium Announcer for the St. Paul Saints Baseball Team.  There I was allowed to create anything I could imagine.  After 6 years at the Saints with free reign and  a “Go ahead and see if it works” environment I realized that I loved that creative freedom.  My first foray into theater was the long running “Tony and Tina’s Wedding,”  that allowed me to both act and create something new every night.

What has been the largest hurdle and success you have experienced as an artist and entrepreneur?
Largest hurdle?  Selling Tickets to shows you write and produce.
Biggest success? Being a self-employed full time actor for over 20 years.

Do you think being a creative entrepreneur is different from other entrepreneurial careers?
Trying to sell something to somebody is pretty much what everybody does at their job.  I’m selling the idea of “come see what I wrote and what I find interesting.” That’s a tricky sell.  It’s hard to guarantee anybody that they need what you’re selling.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
My advice is to anybody, in any field, is become good at a lot of things.  The more you can do the more options you have to create an opportunity.

You have an obsession with old time radio shows – how did this come to be?
When I was young my parents wouldn’t allow me to stay up to watch Johnny Carson.  So they bought me one of those radios that also get TV stations, so I could listen to Carson’s monologue and the comedians he had on while I was in bed.  It also had a tape deck so I could record all the monologues.  I had all these tapes of comedians from the Carson show.  Then I started listening to North Stars Hockey on the radio and the play-by-play man Al Shaver.  It was so amazing to me that he could paint that picture in my head.  I could see the players and all of the action just because of his words.  I was then introduced to some old-time radio shows on cassette that you could buy — the “Lone Ranger” and the “Shadow” and classics like that.  I loved how I was able to participate in the final piece.  It was up to me to decide how the room looked or a person looked or what they were wearing.  It was like a I was part of the creative process.  I was hooked forever on theater of the mind.  Years later, because of the internet, I didn’t have to scour and search for old-time radio shows – they were all there online.  Thousands and thousands of episodes. I love the internet.

What is it about Minnesota and how has it managed to keep you here?
I have lived all over from Boston to Los Angeles.  I came back here and I’m never leaving.  This is the best place on earth.  You have four seasons, two major cities, you can be in the middle of the woods in about an hour drive north, the quality of living is tops in almost every category, and there aren’t a lot of things that can kill you.  We have nothing really poisonous sneaking around in the grass waiting to bite you, no hurricanes or earthquakes.  Yes, tornadoes, but if you compare it to say, Florida, well there are so many things that can kill you in Florida.  Plus, again thanks to the internet, we no longer have to be in L.A. or New York to succeed as an actor.  You can audition here for national work and you can produce that work locally.  I can make a good living in my own backyard now.  And it’s not just for acting, almost every field is now able to function in any market.  YEAH INTERNET!!!

Eric Webster and a stellar Twin Cities cast will be performing in The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society at the James J. Hill Center on Sunday, January 29 at 3:30 pm.  REGISTER NOW!

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A Conversation with Scott Schwefel

scottschwefel-8751

Scott Schwefel brings over 25 years of entrepreneurial experience. Starting in 1990 by founding Benchmark Computer Learning, which grew to Minnesota’s largest technology training company.   Scott was named to Minnesota’s 40 under 40 of successful top executives in the year 2001. He also founded Insights Twin Cities, delivering the Insights Discovery System to businesses all over the world.

How did your career as an entrepreneurial begin?

Like many baby boomer entrepreneurs, with a paper route at age 12.  Then a lawn mowing business, then after college I bought into a month old food company called Tinos, which we sold to Schwanns in 1991, then started Benchmark Computer Learning, which we sold in 2003, and then started Insights Twin Cities, which we sold in 2014.  It all started with the mindset I was taught at age 12, that is I could make choices everyday about the work I did, and to whom I would trade my skills for compensation.

What has been the largest hurdle and/or success you have experienced?  

Y2K was the hardest.  As a tech business, our revenues dropped over 40% in 2000, and we had several layoffs, but ultimately survived by buying our largest competitor Mindsharp in 2002. I learned that everything works out in the end, and if it isn’t working out, then it’s not over yet.

What is the best nugget of advice you can give fellow entrepreneurs? 

Program your mind everyday for success and resilience.  Read books, watch videos, draft and post your goals. Surround yourself with people who support your goals and dreams, and never, ever, ever give up. It is the only way you can do the work when it is the hardest, by being clear on why you are doing it in the first place.

What is it about Minnesota and how has it managed to keep you here?

I moved to Minnesota in 1982 from rural Wisconsin, and fell in love with the Twin Cities.  Just big enough, and the nicest people in the world.  Now, after 35 years here, I can’t imagine ever living anywhere else.

What do you think is the best way to empower Minnesota’s entrepreneurs? 

First, to acknowledge everyone is an entrepreneur, that truly everyone is self-employed.  It’s a mindset, not something designated on your tax form.  Everyone who works, who agrees each day to trade their skills to someone else for compensation, is self-employed.  Everyone is the CEO of themselves, and each day CHOOSES to trade their skills for compensation to an employer, to customers, to clients, etc.  Once a person accepts this reality, then they realize they are in charge of what they choose to do, and also that they can make better choices, to better their circumstances, and increase their income.  It is this mindset that enables entrepreneurs to keep driving in the face of adversity, knowing that they are making the choice to be an entrepreneur, and that success is ultimately within their ability to CHOOSE. My advice for entrepreneurs, “There is always a better way, keep looking for it, and never, ever, ever give up”

Join the James J. Hill Center on Monday, December 6th at 9AM as they host Scott Schwefel and his presentation Communicate in Full ColorREGISTER NOW.

 

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A Conversation with Mick Sterling

mick-sterling

Mick Sterling a Minnesota legend, talented artist and amazing philanthropist gave us a brief inside peek at his life as a creative entrepreneur.

How did your career in the arts begin?

I began singing when I was a small child.   It is something I always wanted to do.  My first professional job was in 1981 in a part time band.  From there, I have performed 35 years professionally as a singer-songwriter, band leader, philanthropist, event planner, film producer, columnist and author.

What has been the largest hurdle and or success you have experienced?

The largest hurdle is probably being considered as valid as an artist from out of town when you have such a presence in your home town.

How to you manage being an artist and a creative entrepreneur? 

I enjoy doing many things at once. It motivates me. I like to work with great people and I like to create events that bring people together through music and charity.   It motivates me to do both things.

You started the 30 Day Foundation –a very inspiring and amazing nonprofit – how did that evolve and how does that feed your artistic side?

The 30-Days Foundation evolved from friends and family members facing financial issues that were not in their control.   These issues were enough to seriously hamper their lives.  The situations happened within a two week period.  It gave me the inspiration to create The 30-Days Foundation for anybody in real-life financial crisis with one-time financial grant that is made payable ONLY to the service provider.  Since 2011, we have helped over 33,000 individuals and families in the state of Minnesota and hundreds more each week.    Anything creative, whether it’s planning or music is artistic for me. It drives me.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to do both.

What is Minnesota to you and how has it managed to keep you here?

It’s my home.  It is who I am and always will be.   I have been to other places in my life, but they hold no serious attention span in my head.   This is a lovely place to live. I have no plans to leave.  It is a fantastic music town and I have been blessed that people want to see me still sing after all of these years.

Join us for IT’S A WONDERFUL NIGHT with Super Bowl Champion and U of M Alum Ben Utecht and Mick Sterling, a joint event with the James J. Hill Center and The 30-Days Foundation.  Joined by a nineteen piece orchestra and guest vocalists  Cate Fierro, Mary Jane Alm, Aimee Lee, Shalo Lee and Lisi Wright as they perform a memorable night celebrating the classic Andy Williams and Bing Crosby Christmas Albums.

 REGISTER NOW

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The Creative Entrepreneur

creative-entrepreneur
It has been said by some that artists are not business people.  That the very nature of being a trained artist assumes you are only fit for a specific artistic identity and do not someone how fit into the world of finance and capitalism or have a “real job”.  However, according to the Kaufman Foundation about 34% of US artists were self-employed in 2015 and as Forbes states “a burgeoning category of creative entrepreneurs are building wealth, creating jobs and becoming a major force in national and global economies.”

The Death of the Artist – and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur from The Atlantic states that artists are now being trained with the understanding they have to make AND sell a more versatile portfolio.  This is a complete rebirth of understanding for many artists and centers of training.

The evolution of entrepreneurialism has offered a path for these creative entities. It has opened the door to alternate routes to run a business.  As Artscape Launchpad states “Businesses –just like works of art –first start as in idea.” Artists are then often able to break the formality of business and strip down the barriers of conformity to find new and innovative ways to engage their audience and ultimately sell their products.

Minneapolis artist, Dessa Darling, is known for her indie hip hop music and is a perfect example of this burgeoning creative entrepreneur.  She is also the CEO of Minneapolis-based Doomtree Collective that is an LLC supporting 7 local artists from poets, to singers, to musicians.  A vast portfolio that delvers to its fan base.

In an interview with Minnesota Business she talks about her creative structure and that there is not a clear or distinct line between her work, purpose or social connections because they all three overlap.  She states that she can retain talent because business is second. “ Art is the objective, and we need the business to make and share the art.”

Mick Sterling, a Minneapolis icon known for his enormous talent and heart, is another great example of the variety of entrepreneurial dreams that artists can create. Not only is he a successful musician creating live events and recording, but his non-profit The 30-Day Foundation has assisted over 30,000 families with one-time financial grants.

Not all entrepreneurial endeavors need to make us millionaires. Some might actually make us better people.  Mick is a perfect example.  Giving back can often help you build.

We at the Hill believe in the spirit and transformation art can bring to a community.  We understand the value of creativity in our economy and support with free resources and research the tools artists need to ignite their dreams into action.

Join us at the Hill for Culture in the Columns as we celebrate the genius of the creative entrepreneur and build on history.

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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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