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James J. Hill Center Statement Regarding Current Closure

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Good Cookies, Good Things

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 will be moderating the Hill Center’s upcoming series “Taking the Lead”, conversations dedicated to women entrepreneurs.  We had a few minutes to check with Junita to chat about her company and her commitment to supporting women on their journey toward living their best life.

What is your Business and how did your entrepreneurial journey begin? 
I am the founder/owner of Favorable Treats. We make homemade baking easier, more convenient and delicious through our frozen pre-cut cookie dough which is available for retail and food service operations in three flavors; triple chocolate chip, oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin.

What do you want people to know about you and your business and what sets it apart? 
Favorable Treats is definitely a work of heart;).  When people think of my company, I want them to think two things: we make good cookies, we do good things. Founded upon recipes that have been in my family for decades and inspired by my personal experience of overcoming domestic violence, we are a mission driven company, donating a portion of our annual profits to support dating/domestic violence awareness and prevention education programs.

What or who has made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
My family is my greatest source of inspiration. I have a ginormous family rooted in southern traditions. My family spent a lot of time in the kitchen and that is where many of my favorite childhood memories were made. Later in life, those childhood memories became a way of escape and I began baking in my own kitchen as a way of reconnecting to the times that brought me a lot of joy. From there, Favorable Treats began.

How does your entrepreneurial spirit contribute to the Twin Cities Business Ecosystem and Community?
I am a dreamer at my core and I believe anything is possible. I believe greatness lives in each of us and if there is a way that I can inspire, support or encourage someone to believe in and pursue their dream, then that becomes my task. I work hard on my own business growth which adds value to the larger business community. I will always support the work of others within our small business community through purchases, referrals and moral support.

What has been the largest hurdle and / or success you have experienced as an entrepreneur?
My largest hurdle has been to keep going. My biggest success has been that i did not quit. I’ve had to restart my business on three separate occasions as I worked through a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. While I would not have chosen the experience, that experience has added depth, renewed strength and a level of confidence that I had not ever tapped into. Creating a business rooted in the traditions of homemade baking while giving a voice to the reality of domestic violence is an amazing way to lead, live and grow.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
I’ve shared this piece of advice many times and I continue to live it:  Identify and accept your WHY for charting your course. There will be days when you don’t feel it, you can’t see it, you can’t finance it, or you have to fight for it, but if you rehearse your WHY, you will not quit! Make a promise to yourself to always DREAM about your why, BELIEVE your why, EXECUTE your why, CELEBRATE your why, then repeat!

What is it about Minnesota and how has it managed to keep you here?
I love the spirit of entrepreneurship in Minnesota. Minnesotans support their own. We take pride in being connected to the the producers of our goods and services. we take pride in supporting the financial stability of our neighbors and friends. Minnesotans are resilient and we just make things happen. We are small enough to feel like a close knit community and large enough to receive national recognition in many industries. Minnesota is simply home.

The James J. Hill Center mission honors the legacy of its founder by continuing to support entrepreneurial spirit in the 21st Century. We offer research, programs, 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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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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Startup Showcase: OurOldNumber.com

Do you still remember your old home number, the one you had before cellphones became commonplace? Maybe you’re still using it for your landline because you know that number by heart and so do your friends, your family, your doctors, and everyone in your network.

Despite our reliance on cellphones, many people also keep their home numbers because it’s simpler to have that one household numbers for years. Jeff Swenson’s solution to that is called OurOldNumber.com.

OurOldNumber forwards calls to your home number to the cellphones of your household members, allowing the caller to choose which person they’d like to speak to. It even lets multiple conversations occur on that line simultaneously.

  • Name of company: Our Old Group, LLC dba OurOldNumber.com
  • Website: Ouroldnumber.com
  • Business Start Date: Dec. 30, 2014
  • Number of Employees: 1
  • Number of Customers: Dozens

Read the full article!

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Startup Showcase: Sitters on Call

By Krysten Alberg, James J. Hill Center Marketing Coordinator


As many parents know, trying to arrange child care while working can become a full-time job on its own.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, among the 34.4 million families with children under the age of 18, 88.7 percent had at least one employed parent in 2014.

Employed parents must ensure their children are cared for while they are working (or need a night off), and calling sitter after sitter is time-consuming and frustrating.

Sitters on Call aims to streamline the logistics of accessing child care by coordinating sitters’ availability schedules with parents’ needs. Rather than call their sitters, parents can quickly access a calendar of all their child care providers’ schedules and can arrange for a sitter with just a few clicks. Sitters on Call makes it simple for parents to connect with sitters they already know and trust.

Read the full article here.

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Startup Showcase: Instruments in the Cloud

By Krysten Alberg, James J. Hill Center Marketing Coordinator


Quality music education doesn’t come cheap. With even used musical instruments costing anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars, cost is a major barrier to students’ access to music education.

Vega Productions believes in musical equality for all, and so it developed Instruments in the Cloud, a site that allows owners of once-loved but no-longer-in-use musical instruments to donate those instruments to music programs in need.

Entrepreneur snapshot:

Caitlin Marlotte heads Vega Productions, which runs Instruments in the Cloud. (Photo courtesy James J. Hill Center)
Caitlin Marlotte heads Vega Productions, which runs Instruments in the Cloud.

Name: Caitlin Marlotte
Age: 38
City you live in: Minneapolis
City of birth: Minneapolis
High school attended: Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities
College attended: Indiana University-Bloomington and University of Wisconsin-Madison

Company snapshot:
Vega Productions, makers of Instruments in the Cloud
Website: http://instrumentsinthecloud.org
Twitter: @vegaproductions
Business Start Date: January 2015
Number of Employees: 1
Number of Customers: 275 music educators and 280 musical instrument donors

Caitlin Marlotte is executive director of Vega Productions and co-founder of Instruments in the Cloud. She joined Vega Productions in 2015, taking over for founder Mark Gehring, who moved on to start GNDWire Records.

Caitlin is a violinist and apprentice violin maker, and has focused her career on development, marketing, and strategy in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

Before leading Vega Productions, Caitlin worked at Twin Cities Public Television.

Read the Q&A here.

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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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