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Steps Towards Confidence and Empowerment

Jenny Evans is the Founder and CEO of Powerhouse Performance.  She is a speaker, award-winning author and on-air expert on resiliency, stress, confidence and human performance.  She is obsessed with human performance and has created a career and life designed around maximizing her own potential, and helping others do the same.

My computer made the familiar ding of a new email. I clicked on the message and found a request to do a speaking engagement on women’s confidence. I speak on resiliency, and this was not the first time someone had asked me to talk about confidence and empowerment. I realized it was finally time I started listening to the Universe…and the marketplace.

After chatting with the client and getting excited about their needs, I said “Absolutely! It’s something I feel strongly about and I’d love to do it!” Then in an ironic twist, as I reflected on why others perceive me to be self-assured, I began losing confidence on what made me the expert. Confidence is incredibly personal, malleable and individualized.

For me, knowledge leads to a sense of confidence. So I created a hypothesis, jumped into research mode and conducted interviews. According to one of the most comprehensive business case studies ever conducted, companies that perform best financially have the greatest numbers of women in leadership roles. Unfortunately, only 1 in 5 senior executives is a woman. I could fill pages with statistics and explanations on the gap between women and men in business, education, politics, pay, health and finally confidence, but instead I’d like to share four important things I learned during my research.

#1: Confidence is influenced by how well we know our values and purpose.
When we lack clarity, we typically lack confidence as well. It is difficult to feel confident in our abilities when we are uncertain about why and how we make decisions. Every woman I interviewed had a strong sense of purpose and internal knowing that what they do is not only meaningful, but also an extension of their values system, who they are and what they believe. Once we truly understand ourselves, our decisions can align with our ideals. We grow in confidence as we learn to trust our internal locus rather than be swayed by external forces. We are fueled to step into uncomfortable situations, take risk and overcome fear.

#2: Confidence is shaped by what we consume.
Who we surround ourselves with and what we watch, listen to and read can make us feel either positive and empowered or inadequate and insecure. Unfortunately, much of the input we “eat” is junk, filling us with empty “calories” and making us weak. The confident women I interviewed have networks of “up-lifters”, mentors and friends that are essential forms of professional and personal support. They have a growth mindset and love to learn and try new things. In order to build confidence, we must provide our minds with nourishing input.

#3: Confidence is affected by recovery.
Our days are filled with incessant obligations and habitual time wasters. How can we feel confident when it seems we are not doing enough or not doing it well enough? Each woman talked about losing confidence when they’re feeling overwhelmed and the importance of doing things that made them feel grounded. Recovery means granting ourselves permission to refuel and recharge. Only then will there be time and space for confidence to grow.

#4: Confidence is linked to our physical being.
In particular, we can use movement in strategic ways to connect and change. Our movement needs vary from day to day and person to person, but every woman I interviewed mentioned some form of regular physical practice being essential to their state of mind. Gentle forms of movement help us center and connect to the inner power within ourselves. More challenging types of movement allow us to build grit and tenacity—if it doesn’t challenge us, it doesn’t change us.

In the end confidence does not mean you are bullet proof or infallible. It’s stronger in some aspects of our lives and weaker in others. When you build it in one area of your life, it transfers to ALL of them. It is a complex trait, shaped by both our personalities and circumstances. While I can’t completely change everything about society’s framework around women, I can help women thrive where they are until things change systemically.

To view more information on the confidence gap and jenny’s video research please visit her website or follow her on twitter @PowerhousePC #theconfidencegap.   To keep up on to date on the latest James J. Hill Center blog please follow us on Social Media.  We can be found Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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A Spark of Genius: A Conversation with James Jones



James Jones Jr. is the co-founder and CEO of Spark DJ, Inc.  He is a lover of music, engineering and experiences.   A continued example of the talent here in Minnesota.  We got the chance to have a brief conversation to ask him a few short questions about his journey as an entrepreneur.  We look forward to watching his continued success.

What is your Business and how did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
Spark DJ is a music platform that uses artificial intelligence to DJ your parties. My entrepreneurial journey began in college when I began DJing to pay for school. I got really into it because I loved using music to create these awesome experiences. At some point, I ended up having more offers for gigs than I could do. Instead of bringing on another DJ to cover the gigs I could not do, I came up with the odd idea of trying to create a software-based algorithmic clone (I was an engineering major).

What do you want people to know about your business and what sets it apart?
What makes Spark DJ unique is that we focus on a party experience rather than just “listening to music”. Party goers can send song requests to the host app from their phones and have their favorite tunes brought into the mix. Music goes from one to the next seamlessly, matching tempo and key and blending songs to create one seamless mix. And our software application reads your crowd to make sure that the music being played is always fun and relevant.

What or who has made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
John Boss, my co-founder, has made the biggest impact on my entrepreneurial career. He’s not only my business partner but one of my closest friends. He had a similar experience DJing through college to pay for school. Although we have heated debates about who was the better DJ, he has had a tremendous impact in making this idea a reality.

How does your entrepreneurial spirit contribute to the Twin Cities Business Ecosystem and Community?
John and I both take time to engage and support other entrepreneurs. We’re always up to grab a coffee or beer. We have been a part of programs and groups such as Graveti, COCO, Minnesota Cup, entrepreneurial and tech meetups, TechDotMN, etc. We also volunteer our time to provide business help to other startups and charities.

What has been the largest  success you have experienced as an entrepreneur?
One of our successes has been becoming semi-finalist in the Minnesota Cup. It was a great program that enabled us to meet many entrepreneurs and investors.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
I’m not sure if we’re best position to provide too much advice as we’re still learning a lot everyday. But one of the things we’ve realized is how important relationships are. Many opportunities have come from building great relationship with others in the community.

What is it about Minnesota and how has it managed to keep you here?
Not only is Minnesota a great place because of the people and the support and excitement we’ve seen throughout the state, but also being in Minnesota has provided us cost-effective access to enterprise resources.

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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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Hill Spotlight: Snobcorn

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A Hill Spotlight conversation with local entrepreneur Patty McDonald.

Describe your business. What do you want people to know about your company?

Snobcorn is a gourmet popcorn business with one goal: to transform the Great American Snack into something truly special. Snobcorn is for popcorn lovers who are adventurous, passionate, and craving something new. It’s time to go beyond cheese corn, caramel corn, and kettle corn. Let’s give Mocha, Gingerbread, or Caprese a try. How about Bourbon Brown Butter, Margarita, or Tex-Mex popcorn? Yum! Snobcorn uses only non-GMO popcorn, avocado oil, and all natural ingredients.

How can your product contribute to the Twin Cities business ecosystem and community?

Just like craft beer, coffee, and chocolate, popcorn is ready to be elevated for a superior taste experience. Popcorn is a healthy snack, a blank canvas, and it’s ready for a makeover. Most people say they enjoy popcorn, but many people are not satisfied eating unhealthy or tasteless varieties found at movie theaters, popped in their microwaves, or at the mall. Snobcorn will provide a healthy, delicious, and unique popcorn snacking experience for popcorn lovers everywhere.

What is your dream for your future and/or the future of your business?

My dream for Snobcorn is that people will enjoy the Great American Snack at the highest level possible. I want to raise the bar for popcorn. It can (and should) be extremely delicious, use the best ingredients, and be as healthy as possible. (And it should never, ever, taste like styrofoam.) My dream is that the word Snobcorn will define gourmet popcorn in the truest sense of the word. And that Snobcorn will be enjoyed by popcorn connoisseurs, foodies, and proud popcorn snobs everywhere.

What opportunities have you engaged with at the James J. Hill Center?

I have used the James J. Hill Center for my research on the popcorn industry. The very helpful and knowledgeable staff has pointed me in the right direction as I figure out where Snobcorn fits within the marketplace. The James J. Hill Center has been an invaluable resource for me in getting Snobcorn off the ground.

How has your involvement with the James J. Hill Center helped further your entrepreneurial and business goals?

From preliminary research, to crafting a business plan, to finding answers to my questions, the James J. Hill Center has been a fantastic place to begin my journey of starting my own small business.

Join us every Wednesday from 9AM to 10AM for 1 Million Cups and get an inside peek on two local entrepreneurs as they present their startups to a diverse audience of peers, mentors, and entrepreneurs. 

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The Hill Team

The Hill known for connecting business, entrepreneurs, and community welcomes Danika LeMay, Lily Shaw and Maggie Smith to round off the team that will drive the mission and build the brand.

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The James J. Hill Center is pleased to announce the addition of three new members of the Hill team that will support Executive Director Tamara Prato.  The existing staff has been joined by (pictured left to right) Danika LaMay, Director of Reference Services; Lily Shaw, Director of Marketing; and Maggie Smith, Community Engagement Specialist.

“With the support of this incredible team I will have the ability to execute my vision to provide the community with unique entrepreneurial programming, cultural experiences and access to a dynamic Reference Library, which in turn will support the growth and economic development of the region” states Tamara Prato.

Danika LaMay most recently worked as Course Reserve Coordinator at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Libraries, where she helped instructors make course materials easily accessible to their students and had the opportunity to collaborate on innovative cross-unit and cross-campus projects. Danika is excited to bring her dedication to the user experience and make a positive difference.

Lily Shaw joins the team from Twin Cities Diversity in Practice where she oversaw the communications and programming of high quality diversity and inclusion initiatives for leading Twin Cities Legal Employers.  Lily is excited to collaborate with her team and promote invaluable and unique opportunities for the community.

Maggie Smith spent the past 3 years working as the marketing and communications manager for the local health non-profit Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota.  As the community engagement specialist for the James J. Hill Center, she is excited to work with the community to spread the word and advance the mission of the organization.

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About the James J. Hill Center – Opened in 1921, the James J. Hill Center supports the legacy of one of America’s greatest entrepreneurs. Today, the Hill is focused on supporting business, entrepreneurship, and community with the goal to build sustainable and lasting relationships that enable economic prosperity by providing services, programming, and cultural events. Learn more at jjhill.org or find us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

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Remembering James J. Hill 100 years after his death

By Business Reference Librarian Leah Kodner


This week at the James J. Hill Center, we commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the death of our namesake. James Jerome Hill. Hill died on May 29, 1916. His obituary, printed in the New York Times, reads:

“In his room, in the southeast corner on the second floor of the brownstone house, overlooking the city to which he came sixty years ago as a clerk, the end came. His age, 77 years, was a handicap in combating the hemorrhoidal infection, which dates from May 17.

At the bedside were the children, hastily summoned from homes throughout the nation…Grief, showing plainly in the faces of all…was most poignant in the face of the son, Louis, who will take up the generalship of the interests his father built and husbanded.

All traffic on Hill roads and all boats on the Hill lines will be stopped for five minutes, from 2 P.M. until 2:05 P.M., Wednesday, in tribute to the dead.”

Read the full text of his obituary.

In order to properly commemorate the death of our founder, the librarians at the James J. Hill Center have compiled a small exhibit in our entrance lobby, to remain in place through June 2nd. Included are a memorial medallion and a memorial book.

The memorial medallion, distributed to members of the Great Northern Veteran’s Association by the office of Hill’s son Louis W. Hill, comes in a black case lined in purple fabric. It bears Hill’s likeness on the front and his dates of birth and death on the back, followed by the inscription “one of the world’s greatest builders.”

The memorial book is one of many released in the aftermath of Hill’s death by a variety of organizations with whom Hill had worked. These books were gifted to the family and to various members of the community. This particular memorial book was created by the Association of Commerce of Saint Paul, better known today as the Saint Paul Chamber of

Commerce. In flowery language, the book describes Hill’s contributions to the transportation industry, agricultural development, and the city of Saint Paul.

Though we have not commissioned any medallions or books, the staff of the James J. Hill Center nevertheless wishes to commemorate the death of the man who made our library possible. Stop by the James J. Hill Center through June 2nd to see our Hill memorial exhibit for yourself.

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Ordinary Is Extraordinary

By Kristen Heimerl, Founder and CEO of Unmistakable Advantage, Inc.
Join Kristen at The Hill June 7 at 11:30 AM for her seminar Story-Crafting: Harness the Power of Your Story.


What is it with us humans that we feel like we have to do something significant in order to be something significant?

After I led my 90-minute story-crafting workshop on the power of personal and organizational narrative last month, a young professional approached me in frustration. She wondered how she could possibly apply the tools to mine her life for stories when she hadn’t yet accomplished anything “meaningful.” This incredible young woman was incapable of seeing the richness of her life experiences—or how to leverage them—because she did not perceive herself as “accomplished” or “important” by some arbitrary external standard.

Huh? At that point I knew my messaging missed the mark because I, too, was inadvertently perpetuating the myth that our significance as human beings comes from our significance as producers of value.

In truth, the point of mining our life for stories and bringing them forward is not to validate our greatness, but to unleash the greatness in others. It is our ordinary experiences that make each of us extraordinary. Yes, we all have greatness inside. And if we have the courage to share with others that which makes us uniquely us, we achieve the greatest accomplishment of all: an authentic connection with others as leaders, colleagues, coaches, teachers, parents, or friends.

But we don’t usually get great from the easy stuff in our lives. We typically get that way from the challenges—noteworthy and not so—that cause us to see or behave differently, or adjust our course in a new direction.

Some of my most transformational experiences happened in the first two decades of my life and, frankly, were anything other than fairly typical—i.e., when I was assigned to the remedial reading group designated for the “stupid” first graders; when Mrs. Donoho asked me, the awkwardly shy kid, to try out for the lead part in our school musical; or when a powerful boss told me that he could help a colleague in need but wouldn’t because he didn’t particularly want to see this person succeed.

While each of these experiences is seemingly unremarkable, they fundamentally shifted my mindset and drove a course of action in my life that I would not have taken had I not had the experience. From these experiences, I learned important lifelong lessons: define myself or be defined, feel fear and do it anyway, and always help another in need. They shaped my behaviors for decades and defined who I am today.

More important, they are life lessons that I—and only I—can share with others to make an instant, authentic connection. The child who feels shame from being singled out as inferior or different? Yes, I can reach them. The aspiring business leader who doesn’t quite fit the mold? Yes, I can reach them. The budding entrepreneur with great vision but frozen in fear? Yes, I can reach them, too. By sharing our personal stories of challenge and success—however small or big, humiliating or heroic—we give others hope, confidence, and inspiration to push through their challenge to the other side.

Now you tell me. What’s the purpose of mining and sharing our stories? Is it to validate our own greatness or is it to unleash that greatness in others? You decide. And if you decide you want to learn how to unleash the power of your stories, join me at the James J. Hill Center on Tuesday, June 7, from 11:30 to 1:00 pm for my workshop, Story-Crafting: Harness the Power of Your Story.

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Then and Now: Hill Throughout History

By Barry Gisser, Hill Board Vice Chair


“The highest conception of a nation is that of a trustee for posterity. The savage is content with wresting from nature the simple necessities of life. But the modern idea of duty is conservation of the old and modeling of the new to the end that posterity may have a fairer dwelling place and thus transmit the onward impulse.”

While modern sensibilities might make some cringe at a few of his word choices, James J. Hill’s wisdom is not lost in regards to the government’s role in bettering the state (lower case s, not capital S). This time his words are taken from a meeting of the Minnesota Conservation and Agricultural Congress back in 1910.

Today, though, I am going to plead guilty of “savage” behavior and ask for a little more focus on the simple necessities of life. This isn’t about early childhood development, wage gaps, or even Walleye limits or the evils of plastic bags. This is something much closer to home: the $600 invoice I just paid to put a new wheel on my car after I drove through a pothole the size of Mille Lacs (actual pothole photo below).

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If we struggle with the basics of public service how can we even begin engaging in the bigger questions of posterity that Hill believes should be our focus? Is it better now than it was in 1910? Your guess is as good as mine, because as usual I don’t have answers. Maybe I’ll figure something out as I shop for groceries using my government-approved shopping bag.

Some of the historical headlines look different and some may look familiar but even now the James J. Hill Center is here to help business by delivering its non-profit mission of Supporting Business, Entrepreneurs, and Community. Learn more at www.jjhill.org.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE:

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

Please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit our brand new elevator!

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