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Wait Training: Top 5 Pieces of Advice for a Successful Year End

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  month.

If you have followed this monthly blog series, then you already know that this series is less about the instructional tips of starting and growing your business, and everything about my personal journey of finding my way as an entrepreneur. Wait Training is sort of an odd theme for a business blog series, but over the last twelve years, my entrepreneurial journey has been all about finding value, learning patience and gaining strength from every step along the way.

Over the last twelve years, I’ve met great leaders, and learned valuable lessons. As I prepare to wrap up another year in business, I spent some time reflecting on some of the best pieces of advice I have received from business leaders along the way.

Here are my top five…

  1. Begin With a Plan, End With Reflection

Dreaming, planning and drafting a vision for your business is the fuel that charges entrepreneurs. We reach for the stars, we dream up the impossible and we recruit a team of supporters who are willing to cheer us on along the way. Equally as important as drafting the plan is the practice of reviewing that same plan at year end. As entrepreneurs, it can be more exciting to remain in planning and dreaming mode, so we often overlook the importance of reflecting upon what worked, what needs to be changed and how do we grow based on results. Carve out enough time in your year end process for reflection.

  1. Self-care is Required

Entrepreneurs dream big and go hard, and social entrepreneurs add in immeasurable amounts of compassion. Entrepreneurs believe in their venture and are willing to dedicate limitless time to make things happen. Most entrepreneurs have a plan and a strategy to achieve success, but rarely do we find self-care included in that plan. Self-care is vitally important to longevity and satisfaction. When we ignore the importance of self-care, we are more likely to experience burnout. From carving out time to enjoy a hobby or scheduling a short vacation, self-care is required to maintain a healthy business and a healthy life.

  1. Ask for Help

Entrepreneurs create solutions. We solve problems. Whether based on necessity or personality, entrepreneurs are very skilled at managing multiple responsibilities to produce a desired outcome. Operating as a team of one for an extended period of time is the norm for many startup ventures. As growth happens, it can be very difficult to invite others into your journey…but it is required to scale up and for sustainability. Ending each year with a clear understanding of areas where you should ask for help and identifying specific resources is a valuable practice.

  1. Your Time is a Precious Commodity

We have all heard a million and one times over, time is the one thing you can never get back. That is so true and we have to begin to value time as the precious and limited resource it is. You can add to your team, you can earn more money, but you can’t add more time. It is important to take an assessment of how your time was spent over the year and make the necessary adjustments for a more productive new year.

  1. Never Give Up

When all is said and done…never give up on your dream. When you get to the end of the year, change will always be required. Prepare for it, adjust for it and grow from it, but never give up. From my heart, to your dream…you’ve got this! Here’s to a successful year end!

Happy Year End!


As always, Junita would love to hear from you. How do you prepare for a successful year end review? Click here to send her your process. You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website at favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.    

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Soft Skills Revolution: The Real Thing

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 each month and learn key steps to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

We all want the real thing.

Nowhere is that more important than in communication. Whether you are in front of an audience or in an interview, the people you are trying to connect with want the real you. The quickest way to lose an audience is being inauthentic, fake or disingenuous.

The master communicators are able to bring much, if not all, of their real selves to their audiences. How do they do it? One way is to use feedback to draw and change the lines separating different versions of themselves. This empowers them to bring more of their unique personality to what an audience perceives. They are able to be real.

No, It’s Not About You

A speaker without an audience is like that tree falling in the forest with no one around. Pretty much nothing. Everything depends on the version of you the audience perceives and leaves with.

You can’t just stride up to the podium and say, “Alright, what would you like to talk about?” That’s not going to work too well. You have to bring something to the audience first. The connection between a speaker and audience must begin with the speaker. Audiences pay attention to get a return of interest.

Yes it is: The Real You

When you meet someone one, the most interesting thing you have to offer is yourself. Yes, I am sure you have great ideas, advice and insight. When you are face-to-face with someone those take a back seat to you as a unique human being.

Audiences want you to be real, to be yourself. They enjoy being around someone who doesn’t worry about what everyone thinks. That’s the trick, isn’t it? You care a lot about what the audience thinks. So it’s hard to act like you don’t care.

Well, let me tell you  a little secret: They don’t know you. No one does. Not the “real” you.

An audience only ever sees a sliver of the “real” you. An important sliver. There’s enormous power in this.

No it’s not You: It’s the Audience You

Putting some distance between you and what the audience perceives gives you valuable space. That allows you to use feedback to shift your perspective. That shift is from the “real” you to what you could call the Audience You.

Your reflection in a mirror is an accurate representation of what you look like, right? It’s like there’s this other person looking back at you. Meeting that other person can be hard sometimes, but it’s what most people see–for better or for worse. Meeting this other person in the mirror shifts your perspective to the people looking at you. Feedback on performance introduces you to the Audience You.

And yet, the reflection in the mirror doesn’t define you. Neither does feedback. This is the critical last step to incorporating feedback: the Audience You doesn’t define real you. If everyone says that you bomb your speech, you haven’t bombed life. That kind of feedback tells you there’s a disconnect between the real you and the Audience You. If you’re going to speak again,  work to close that gap.

Ask people what they think of the Audience You. Their feedback will shift your perspective. Encourage them to be specific and honest so you can get a good look at this reflection of you. Don’t forget to thank them and put it to work to make the audience you a more accurate reflection of the real you.

It will make a difference. Really.


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

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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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“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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The Birth of GovDocs

Zach Stabenow is the CEO and Co-Founder of GovDocs. We had the opportunity to connect with  Zach about his entrepreneurial journey starting GovDocs and GovDelivery.  His story of success and thoughts on what is important are an inspiration for anyone taking the steps to make their dream happen.

How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
It started in a studio basement apartment in the City of St. Paul with a small desk, one Dell computer with a dial-up modem and a futon for a bed.  I was fresh out of the University of Minnesota having been in the work force (tech industry) for only two years, when the entrepreneurial bug bit me.  My mother was a school teacher turned entrepreneur who started and ran a small business during my childhood and her father had a number of entrepreneurial ventures in North St. Paul so it was probably inevitable that I would have a passion for starting my own business just based on hereditariness.  So in June of 1999, I co-founded two companies; GovDocs and GovDelivery with a close friend, Scott Burns, as my business partner.

What are your current projects and or business ventures you are working on?
I currently own and run GovDocs, which is now independent from GovDelivery. GovDocs employs 50 people and growing who have a passion for providing employment law management software, data, and print solutions to the largest companies in North America.

What are the most important things to consider when starting a new idea / venture or start up?
Focus first on addressing a small niche market that is being under served.  Then, go serve that tiny market better than anyone else in the world for years, or even a decade.  It is incredibly tempting for entrepreneurs to build a business that serves a mass market right out of start-up phase because of the attractiveness of scale, but what I’ve learned is that your business first must prove that it can be #1 or #2 at something on a smaller level before it can advance to serving a mass market.

What resources did you use when starting your journey?
Books.  I read a lot of business books and trade publications before starting my entrepreneurial journey.  The most useful books that contributed to my business learning though were the historical biographies and auto-biographies of entrepreneurs who shaped our country’s history through business.  Ironically, one of those important biographies, was The Life of James J. Hill by Joseph Pyle and I also studied Highways of Progress written by Hill himself.  I have found that the most valuable business lessons come from reading and learning from those who have come long before us who are able to offer their life-time perspective of experience, rather than a recent business fad or technique.

How did you leverage the resources at the Hill Center?
Several years ago, I decided to examine GovDocs’ potential for additional strategic expansion from our core product offering.  To know whether my market hunch had any validity, I needed more empircal data.  A business acquaintance had suggested I use James J. Hill Center’s research library databases to gather data profiles on the largest companies in the U.S. so that I could analyze their geographical locations and other attributes.  That data and analysis turned-out to be crucial to convincing me and our leadership team to pursue our next strategic expansion opportunity.  Today, we still refer to that data when analyzing how well we are capturing market share.

What or who has made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
My mother.  If she hadn’t made the entrepreneurial leap herself, I wouldn’t have had the front-row seat to see what real guts and determination it takes to risk personal failure and money and to push through all the adversity required to start and grow a business. What has been the largest hurdle and / or success you have experienced as an entrepreneur?

Getting the very first customer (or set of customers) to purchase and use our products/services has always been the biggest hurdle when entering new markets.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
Research the market you’re about to live in.  You can have a huge competitive advantage if you put effort and time in to this step.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs that are stuck or have had their first failure?
Immediately perform physical movement on activities that will inch your business forward.  Make another phone call, write another email, design another prototype, interview a prospective customer… do anything that gets you physically moving and the business forward.  This helps bring your mental determination back and it gets one more item done for the business. Then repeat that 10,000 more times.

What is it about Minnesota and the entrepreneurial ecosystem and how has it managed to keep you here?Two key reasons:

  1. Minnesota has a long and consistent history of incubating some of the most successful entrepreneurs and businesses in the world.  That history and tradition motivates me.
  2. Minnesota weather and mosquito’s make for a hardy work force to hire from and build great teams. Whether you grew up here or were a transplant, to endure -15 temperatures, snow and mosquito bites year in and year out will turn almost anyone into a consistently hard-working team member. You can’t get that Silicon Valley.

The James J. Hill Center mission honors the legacy of its founder by continuing to support entrepreneurial spirit in the 21st Century. We offer researchprograms, and networking for each stage of business development. Our efforts also include services to the broader community through the hosting of cultural and artistic programming and events.  Visit us in downtown Saint Paul at 80 West Fourth Street, off the corner of Market and Fourth.  

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They’ll help local investors buy local (businesses)

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 Patrick Saxton. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on July 30, 2017.

MNstarter

Equity crowdfunding allows entrepreneurs to sell private securities in their company to investors. These offerings are usually restricted to large “accredited” investors who meet certain wealth and income standards. Now, Minnesota has made it possible to sell these securities to any resident of Minnesota. The MNvest law, which went into effect in June 2016, makes it legal for businesses to release equity crowdfunding offerings to Minnesota residents regardless of their wealth. Patrick Saxton saw the opportunities that this new law provided and formed MNstarter to help businesses launch successful equity crowdfunding campaigns.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

  • Patrick Saxto
  • Age: 35
  • City you live in: White Bear Lake
  • City of birth: Blue Earth, MN
  • High school attended: North St. Paul
  • Colleges attended: Graduate of Metropolitan State. Attended University of North Dakota, Drake University, and Century College

COMPANY PROFILE

  • Name of company: MNstarter
  • Website: www.mnstarter.com
  • Business start date: September 2016
  • Number of employees: 5 co-founders and 1 intern

Q&A

What led to this point?
I worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs, first as a business analyst in the benefits division, then as the primary Information Security and FISMA policy writer for 23 regional offices. I spent my remaining time in government working at the Small Business Administration (SBA), helping entrepreneurs start and grow their small businesses and working to expand SBA’s reach in Minnesota. I am now working as a software engineer and completing my degree in computer application development at Metropolitan State University.

What is your business?
MNstarter is a public benefit corporation whose mission is to grow Minnesota companies through local investment. MNstarter is a registered MNvest portal operator and advocate for capital crowdfunding.

MNstarter offers free access to the MNstarter.com MNvest crowdfunding portal along with best practice guides for self-service capital crowdfunding campaigns. It also offers access to the MNstarter Resource Library, which is an organized group of “resource partners” who can work directly with entrepreneurs to navigate legal, finance and marketing considerations to get their capital campaigns set up.

Where do you go for help when you need it?
We go to the MNstarter Resource Library and the folks at MNvest.org, the outreach and advocacy group for the MNvest legislation.

What is the origin of the business?
MNstarter was started after I watched a 1 Million Cups presentation at the James J. Hill Center by Zach Robbins and Scott Cole. I went back to our office and started to talk about the MNvest law and over the next few weeks we had a core group of us that were ready to make MNstarter a real company. About three months after we started, Judy Wright, our fifth and final founder, found us on the internet and emailed us the same week we had decided to go looking for a finance specialist to round out our group. Since then, the five of us have been working to help Minnesotans find ways to meet their business and investment goals.

What problems does your business solve?
MNstarter solves the need created by new Minnesota MNvest legislation that permits intrastate investment crowdfunding through securities offerings exempt from Securities Act registration. The MNVest law allows companies to sell equity in their companies to Minnesota residents. Minnesota residents not considered “accredited investors” have equal opportunity to invest in these offerings. Under most federal rules, non-accredited investors would not have this opportunity. This creates a larger pool of possible investors. It also gives all Minnesotans the opportunity to invest locally.

MNvest went into effect in June 2016, and requires that these MNvest “offerings” must be made online through a “MNvest Portal” registered with the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Lots of times we hear “buy local”. At MNstarter, we like to say, “buy local (businesses).” CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE


Interviewer: Leah Kodner
Business Librarian, James J. Hill Center

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. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit 1millioncups.com/stpaul.

 

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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 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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“Wait Training”: How it all Started

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 is starting a blog series with the Hill, called ‘Wait Training’. Over her career, Junita has learned the value of “waiting” with her business and is looking forward to sharing her experiences.


I’ve known I wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was a little girl. I didn’t know all it entailed, but I was always intrigued with the idea that if something didn’t exist, an entrepreneur could just create it. I had several business ideas throughout my childhood, each always associated with food or coffee.

I began my ‘official’ entrepreneur journey in 2006 when I launched Favorable Treats, a Minnesota-based mission driven cookie company. Though the idea of a cookie company is founded upon my best childhood memories, the road to success has been shaped by my most difficult experiences as an adult.

My journey as an entrepreneur is best described as one of resilience, patience and strength. Due to a tumultuous marriage, I stopped and restarted my business three times over ten years. I’ve learned the value of personal hardship, which provided the unexpected benefits of lessons and training that positively impacted my business.

Through this blog, I will share the ups and downs of starting a business, and what it takes to be successful in the hopes that I can translate some of my “waiting” into “training.”  I will share the resources that have helped me, the bumps along the way, the characteristics I have found important to acquire and big decisions made during this process.  All of these stories and personal anecdotes are meant to inspire, invigorate and build this incredible ecosystem of small businesses and entrepreneurs we have surrounding us.  So, join me on this journey and check in the second Tuesday of each month for a little bit of ME and some WAIT TRAINING. 

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 August 10th 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 “Financials of Business.” This program is free and open to the public.  RSVP NOW

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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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