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A Technological Step Forward for Seniors

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 Peter Chamberlin. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase  originally posted on March 24, 2017.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention every second of every day an older adult falls, making falls the No. 1 cause of injuries and deaths among older Americans.

With more than 10,000 older Americans turning 65 each day, the number of fall-related injuries and deaths is expected to surge.  Physical therapists and other health care professionals have very little information about a patient’s everyday life, which doesn’t allow for proper assessment of treatment and demonstration of improvement.

Families are also constantly worried about their loved ones living at home. Peter Chamberlain was one of those family members and wanted to ensure his grandparents lived a healthier and longer life. The creation of WalkSmart was the best step to making that mission real. Since 2016 he has been working to help provide peace of mind to generations.

 

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Peter Chamberlain
Age: 26
City you live in: Grand Forks, N.D.
City of birth: Salem, Ore.
High school attended: South Salem High School
College attended: Undergrad: The University of Portland; Graduate: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: WalkSmart
Website: Walksmart.io
Business Start Date: March 2016
Number of Employees: 1
Number of Customers: 5

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?

A. As an engineer, I have always been fascinated by how technology and innovation can solve some of the world’s toughest challenges. Every project I’ve done has been has focused on helping people, whether it was building the world’s first Hyperloop pod for fast transportation, designing a medical device to keep kids from getting hypothermia during Jaundice treatment, or starting the MIT Water Innovation Prize to reward those with innovation solutions. I saw a way that I could help my grandparents with new technology, and I took the leap.

Q. What is your business?

A. WalkSmart is about helping people maintain their independence and saving lives. People who use walkers are one of our most vulnerable and costly populations, yet few innovations have succeeded in reducing falls and improving care collaboration. With proper design and market focus, I think this can change.

WalkSmart is the world’s first smart walker attachment. It monitors motion throughout the day and night without the need for charging, (like) a smartphone, or a wearable, eliminating many of the adherence issues faced by existing devices. The device acts as a traditional fitness tracker, but it also alerts families and caregivers when a person may have fallen, had a stroke, or have a urinary tract infection. The implications for therapy, home care, and senior living are massive…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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The Truth Teller: Entering the Danger

In celebration of Women’s History Month we have reached out to a variety of female entrepreneurs to share their journey  on how they have navigated owning and building a business.

Sue Hawkes helps CEOs and their leadership teams succeed. As a bestselling author, award-winning leader, Certified EOS Implementer, Certified Business Coach, WPO Chapter Chair, and globally recognized award-winning seminar leader, Sue brings over twenty-five years of business experience to her clients. She is CEO of YESS! and has designed and delivered dynamic, transformational programs for thousands of people.

How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
My entrepreneurial journey began in 5th My best friend and I wanted to make money to buy Christmas presents for our family, so we sold macramé plant hangers door-to-door. We made over $500 and this experience showed me that if I was willing to work hard, there was no limit to my income or success. I’ve carried that entrepreneurial drive with me from age ten.

What are your current projects and or business ventures you are working on?
My current business goal is to achieve best-seller status for our book, Chasing Perfection- Shatter the Illusion; Minimize Self-Doubt & Maximize Success. Along with that, we’re launching the Chasing Perfection Companion Toolkit, which includes a success journal and workbook to accompany the book. We continue to help entrepreneurs get what they want from their businesses with EOS and our other work in communication, leadership development, communication and high performance. Our mission is to help leadership teams create the businesses they’ve always wanted while helping people become the leaders they’ve always wanted to be.

What are the most important things to consider when starting a new idea /venture or start up?
Identify your core values, core focus, including what you do better than anyone else. Focus only on that aspect and don’t get distracted by other things, or what we call “shiny objects.” Too often businesses try to be all things to all people in the beginning and that strategy doesn’t work long term, you need to be known for one thing you’re GREAT at.

As a woman in the industry what opportunities or barriers have you experienced?
I believe women have to work twice as hard in order to be considered equally. We need to be more prepared; more experienced and have better ideas in order to be seated at the table. I won’t give it much energy; I accept it and work hard to be my best. The rest takes care of itself.

What women have made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
The women who have impacted me the most are my mother, Joyce Hawkes, and mentors Rhoda Olsen, rubye Erickson and Bettie Spruill. My mother instilled good values and a strong work ethic, and my other mentors have helped me learn what it takes to be a successful woman in business; including how to dress, how to negotiate and where I’m either hitting or missing the mark. It’s been invaluable to have mentors along the way.

What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
My advice to female entrepreneurs just getting out of the gate is to find a mentor as well as a peer group. Use these networks to learn, bounce off ideas and gain support. It can feel lonely as an entrepreneur just starting out, and a peer group will help you navigate all the situations you encounter from a holistic perspective. A mentor can provide more targeted personal perspectives.

What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs that are stuck or have had their first failure?
My advice would be to evaluate what worked, leave the rest behind, and above all, to persist. Most great businesses took time and encountered problems, none of which is failure. Build in practices to maintain momentum and positivity, even when faced with challenges. There’s no failure unless you quit. Pressure is the price of being at the leadership table. Pause, don’t quit.

What is different about Minnesota and the entrepreneurial ecosystem?
In my experience the Minnesota entrepreneurial ecosystem is a very small world. I consistently uncover mutual connections with people in my network. I believe our community is eager to help each other and make useful connections to forward business with each other. I think we have an incredible business environment for those who are willing to help first and are relationship driven. I take nothing for granted and know my actions always have consequences – good or bad, people in Minnesota will know.

Has the Hill center played a role in your success as a female entrepreneur?
Yes, both directly and indirectly. I admire the work the Hill center does to forward women entrepreneurs, and believe that when individual women achieve success we all benefit and move forward. Additionally, I’ve made useful connections at Hill events and been honored to speak there as well. I’ve used Hill center for some business searches and refer clients to Hill Center for searches and as an invaluable resource in growing our businesses.

 What is your “superpower”?
I am truth-teller. I help people gracefully work through the tough stuff. I will say what’s on my mind even if it’s contradictory or makes others uncomfortable. I believe everyone has this superpower, but many choose not to use it (especially in Minnesota!). I believe being honest and upfront about situations stops them from becoming larger problems, and with courageous dialogue you will always find a solution. My ability to have and facilitate tough conversations is a large part of all of my work. We call it “entering the danger” and I work with teams to engage in healthy conflict for the betterment of the team and company.

To read more about Sue visit her website or follow her on twitter @SueHawkesYESS

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All About Family

In celebration of Women’s History Month we have reached out to a variety of female entrepreneurs to share their journey  on how they have navigated owning and building a business.

Teresa Meschini resides in Minneapolis, MN and is co-owner of Familglia Meschini. She is living her dream co-creating with her family the best full bodied, authentic, Argentinian & Chilean wines produced out of their family owned vineyards.

What is your company and how did it begin?
My husband, Eugenio and I are wine producers and importers of Famiglia Meschini wines. I fell into wine by chance.  I always enjoyed drinking it and still do. Eugenio grew up in Mendoza, Argentina and was immersed in it from a child. You could say it’s in his blood. Eugenio’s grandfather, Primo Meschini, immigrated from Italy to Argentina at the age of 14 and later began producing wine under the Meschini label. Decades later we are proud to resurrect the line. We strive to maintain Primo’s legacy of hard work and passion of wine and family. The wine business started out as an investment (our first vineyard), morphed into a hobby (drinking the wine and sharing it with our friends and family) and grew into a business as the kids got older. Our business kicked off with our first container of wine over nine years ago.

What is different about your company?
True to our name “famiglia” is Italian as a tribute to his Italian grandfather, Primo Meschin, and is a business all about family. Bella, our oldest daughter keeps our social media current and cool; Mia, designed our Chardonnay label after her favorite football team, the Minnesota Vikings; Laura and Primo, have helped with catchy bottle wording.  We have found great joy in working together. It’s about putting family first, about working with family in Mendoza and now sharing the wine with our family here in Minnesota.

What are the most important things to consider when running a business?
Have passion for what you do and you will always have energy and enthusiasm to do what needs to be done.

What resources did you use when starting your journey?
When we started it was simply to produce wines that we enjoy to drink.  That way, if disaster struck and we couldn’t sell, we would simply throw a hell of a party and enjoy the wine ourselves.  This, fortunately, has not happened and we have been very lucky that the wines sell themselves.  Our smartest move was to convert our network of friends and acquaintances (aka drinking buddies) into fans of our wines.

What or who has made the biggest impact on your business so far?
The support from the local community.  Eugenio and I have been BLESSED to have a loyal following of fans who support us by buying the wine and coming to our tasting events.  This makes it all worth it.  My absolute favorite thing about this business is when someone says to me, “I brought your wine to a dinner last weekend and told your story.”  Eugenio and I are all about family, friends, good times, long dinners, and shared stories.  Knowing that our wine was brought to do just that, truly warms my heart.

What has been the largest hurdle and / or success you have experienced as a business owner?
My biggest challenge is juggling the calendar. One of the biggest bummers of the wine business is that most people don’t care to taste wine between 9 am and 2 pm but rather in the evenings when the soccer games and school concerts occur.  So, my challenge is juggling the calendar and with Eugenio traveling 50% of the time (for his “real” job) I can’t rely on him much.  On the flip side, I absolutely adore being my own boss and it gives me great satisfaction to work alongside Eugenio promoting our own wine.

What advice would you give to other business owners just getting out of gate?
Don’t take no for an answer.  Refuse to conform to what everyone else in your industry is doing.

What is it about Minnesota and the entrepreneurial ecosystem and how has it managed to keep you here?Eugenio and I met at St. Thomas a billion years ago back when it was still called College. I’m a native Minnesotan, grew up in Rochester in a large, close-knit family.  Although we have lived abroad in both Kiev and London, we LOVE raising our kids here near family and with all that Minnesota has to offer.  Sounds cliché but we really haven’t found a better place to live.  From a business standpoint the support we get as a locally owned business is truly incredible.

Famiglia Meschini is the wine sponsor of the James J. Hill Center’s upcoming concert “Wine, Women and Song” featuring Keri Noble on Thursday, March 29th. Ticket holders will have an opportunity to participate in a free tasting before the concert. For more information visit our event page or purchase tickets for the concert. 

To learn more about  Famigila Meschini please visit their website or follow them on Facebook @FamigliaMeschiniWines

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Girls are Powerful

In celebration of Women’s History Month we have reached out to a variety of female entrepreneurs to share their journey and give insight on how to navigate building a business.

Shawntan Howell is Founder and Executive Director of Girls are Powerful dedicated to encouraging girls to embrace and celebrate their power of being beautiful, unique, smart, confident and determined. As a dedicated mother this desire started after a conversation with her daughter on self-esteem and self-worth.  She wanted to start a personal transformation movement that would engage and empower girls to embrace their unique individuality.

How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
My journey as an entrepreneur started with more of an idea / interest on how to provide a service to help others. All of my initial adventures, were founded in this concept, how do I assist others.  I found myself selling Avon, and some may not believe that this entity fits in this category but in my world, it was. However, several years later, my journey eventually led to helping someone who was very near and dear to my heart – my daughter.

What is your business?
When I am faced with a situation I use it as an opportunity to build a positive message which is how Girls Are Powerful was born in 2013. Girls are Powerful originally started by selling an inspirational line of products that included our signature tees, posters, journals, notecards and much more. Several years later, the business concept launched a non-profit that offers youth programming that aligns with our mission and vision to enhance the self-esteem of all girls by inspiring them to recognize and embrace their natural qualities of being beautiful, unique, smart, confident, determined and powerful.

What are your current projects and or business ventures you are working on?
Girls Are Powerful has several projects in flight! We are preparing to celebrate our 5-year anniversary. Our for-profit is working to relaunch the inspirational product line. The non-profit is kicking off their 2018 programming which includes are 3rd Annual Workshop Series themed “Ignite Your Imagination” and “Power Career and Self”; our 3rd Annual Mother-Daughter Event and we will be launching our very first Father Daughter Workshop.

What are the most important things to consider when starting a new idea / venture or start up?
Timing is everything. Do your homework, conduct research and understand your market. Talk to experts and learn from their experiences.

As a women in the industry what opportunities or barriers have you experienced?
When I started the for-profit nearly 5 years ago, I never found an entity that was willing to fund my inspirational product line. I was constantly told there wasn’t value in what I was doing and to go in a different direction. Although that was a difficult, I stayed true to my belief that there was value in surrounding girls with positive statements and messages that they could carry with them, so I was forced to self-fund to keep my mission alive.

What women have made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
During this journey, I have been surrounded by some great women that have helped me maintain balance but also push me forward – Junita Flowers, Tene Wells, the GRP Community & Board of Directors, and those who were around when this idea was as small as a mustard seed, Sharon Sayles-Belton and Donna Oda. There are still so many that I am thankful to have a part of my support network.

What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
When starting remember that there is power in an idea, explore it because you may be on to something. There will always be naysayers but they serve as great motivators. You will meet many along your journey, each interaction serves a purpose – so be open, be honest and trust your gut.

What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs that are stuck or have had their first failure?
Don’t give up. Stay encouraged because failure and getting stuck happens more frequently than not. Your vision has a purpose, so stay the course, (unfold it, look at it from a different angle) do your best to see it through.

Has the Hill center played a role in your success as a female entrepreneur?
Yes, I am very thankful to have found support at the Hill. The resources and events that the Hill offer’s I have found beneficial.

What is your “superpower”?
Being a visionary and optimist.

To learn more about Girls are Powerful please visit their website or follow them on Twitter @GirlsRPowerful

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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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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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