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Startup Day Across America: Get Involved

James J.  Hill Center has been supporting Minnesota innovators for 96 years by connecting business, entrepreneurs and community to research, knowledge and network.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, firms less than one year old created 1.7 million jobs, or 60% of total employment growth, in 2015. More than half these jobs were from firms with fewer than 10 employees.  The startup companies we support are involved in a variety of industries including technology, retail, healthcare, food and beverage, education and more.

On August 1, 2017, members of Congress have been invited to celebrate the ingenuity and entrepreneurship taking place right in their own cities. Startup Day Across America connects elected officials with startups in their communities so they can learn about the challenges new companies face and meet the business leaders building the future.

This bipartisan, bicameral effort also raises awareness and helps generate support for startup communities across the country.  Last August marked the third annual Startup Day and Minnesota’s Senator Al Franken participated.

Each startup organization has withstood the challenges and obstacles of entrepreneurialism, and many continue to grow, foster job creation and improve our economic ecosystem.

August 1st is an important day for all entrepreneurs – successful, new, struggling or persevering.  This is a time when you get to show them what is needed, what steps should be taken and what change needs to be made.  This is a time for your voice to be heard and celebrated.

If your startup is interested in participating, contact your local representative and request a visit. Work with Startup Day 2017 and make it happen.  We don’t get opportunities like this all the time.

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A Safe Space to Grow

Pew Research Center’s fall 2016 analysis on Internet and Technology finds that “people think that libraries are a major contributor to their communities in providing a safe place to spend time.” There are few public “safe spaces” out there that provide a welcoming, neutral and resource filled environment like libraries. So how does this translate to a space like the James J. Hill Center, where entrepreneurs come to network, research and build their business?

The Hill is historically known as the James J. Hill Reference Library. Regardless of the name change, the heart of the organization has been, is and always will be the library. We are one of those “safe spaces” dedicated to creating a place where business professionals and innovators can make mistakes, test ideas and take risks – a place to grow.

Walk in the door, and you’ll experience the business neutral environment – you don’t need to have an established business to use our resources. We are that safe space for the seed level start-up, and even before then in the exploratory phase. According to Pew Research, there is an increase in the need for those experts or guides (we like to call them librarians!) to identify information that they can trust – in 2016, 37% of people said that libraries play a role in helping to identify this trusted information, up from 24% in 2015. This will only grow, as Google provides a starved environment for data you can bring to a board or potential investor, and boards and potential investors demand more data to support risk taking opportunities.

Starting a business or changing careers can put you in murky territory, but our business librarians at the Hill Center are here to help. Our librarians are on-hand to navigate not only the exclusive databases that can be accessed here for free, but also to help seek out other free resources that can be accessed from anywhere. The Hill is a safe space to try something on for size, reach for your dreams and find your potential – and as your guide we promise to give you our honest, expert opinion.

Written by Lindsey Dyer, Director of Library Services, James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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“Wait Training”: How it all Started

Junita Flowers is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, mom and the owner of Favorable Treats. With more than 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations, she spent her career advocating for families and leading social change initiatives. Junita is starting a blog series with the Hill, called ‘Wait Training’. Over her career, Junita has learned the value of “waiting” with her business and is looking forward to sharing her experiences.


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

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

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

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

You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website at favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.   In addition we are pleased to have Junita join us at the  James J. Hill Center on August 10th from 9AM to 10AM  as she moderates our TAKING THE LEAD panel discussion focusing on the complex and rewarding ecosystem of women entrepreneurs.  This month’s topic will be on the “Financials of Business.” This program is free and open to the public.  RSVP NOW

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Surmounting a Clothing Barrier for Female Muslim Athletes

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenter Fatimah Hussein. As seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on July 1, 2017.

The National Federation of State High School Associations’ report, “High School Athletics Participation Survey 2015-2016” finds that sports participation is growing among high school students.

While male students experienced a 33 percent increase in participation between 1992 and 2016, female students experienced an even greater increase of 66 percent during that same time period.

Sports participation is clearly an important part of student life, but for some students, participation is difficult. Participation can be especially difficult for Muslim girls. It can be hard for these girls to balance their religious and cultural desire to dress modestly and cover their hair while participating in vigorous physical activity.

Traditional hijabs are not designed for strenuous activity and can impede an athlete’s performance. Fatimah Hussein spent years working on ways to get Muslim girls more involved with sports, including setting up girls-only gym time. Eventually, she came up with the idea to create hijabs specifically designed to withstand the rigors of sports while still being modest and fashionable, and ASIYA Modest Activewear was born.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Fatimah Hussein
Age: 29
City you live in: Minneapolis
City of birth: Mogadishu, Somalia
High school attended: Roosevelt High School, Minneapolis
College attended: St. Mary’s University, Minneapolis

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: ASIYA Modest Activewear
Website: www.asiyasport.com
Business Start Date: January 2016
Number of Employees: 3
Number of Customers: 1,000+

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I was born in Somalia and moved with my family to Minnesota when I was 6-years old.  As a teenager, I started volunteering at a local community center, which is where I saw that girls were not going into the gym or trying sports nearly as much as boys were. I formed a nonprofit, the G.I.R.L.S. Program (Girls Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sports) to provide girls-only gym time several nights a week. I have continued my volunteer work, focused on helping our community of East African girls gain access to gym time and sports.

Q. What is your business?
A. ASIYA is a modest activewear company created to help enable more Muslim girls and women to be physically active and participate in sports, while upholding their religious and cultural beliefs. We are the first U.S.-based company to create sports hijabs focused on helping more youth get involved in sports.

Our first line of products are the sports hijabs. These products were designed by Muslim girls for Muslim girls, created and tested for top sports performance and intense physical activity.

ASIYA will be coming out with a line of activewear tops and bottoms, and also with swim hijabs later this year.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. We have a great group of mentor and volunteer advisers who have been great sounding boards, and they have helped us navigate a variety of business challenges.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. I founded ASIYA in 2016, after spending the prior decade supporting Muslim girls in athletics as a volunteer in Minneapolis. I had formed the G.I.R.L.S. Program. The girls in this program wanted to go on to play sports in their school and community sports teams, and they worked with myself, community members, and community partners to design sports hijabs and apparel that would allow them to play while staying true to their cultural desire to dress modestly….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 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit 1millioncups.com/stpaul.

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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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Cabinets of Curiosity

With some recent archival projects on our plate an article from MPR News caught the attention of Lindsey Dyer our Director of Library Services. “File this under nostalgia: New book pays tribute to the library card catalog shares information about a new book from the Library of Congress entitled,  “The Card Catalog: Books, Cards and Literary Treasures.”  It celebrates catalogs “as the analog ancestor of the search engine.” Library of Congress author, Peter Deveraux, states that “There’s tens of millions of cards here.  It’s a city block long.” This was a very timely article considering some of the historic catalog items we recently found here at the James J. Hill Center.  Lindsey recently took some time to dig up and share a few iconic treats from the vault.

Lindsey: Card catalogs are indeed “cabinets of curiosities” as are the ways we have kept track of information over time. Librarians worked tirelessly to create calm in the chaos of information, cutting and pasting any relevant facts and tid-bits. Take these snapshots in time from the 1980s – gems of nostalgia for Gen Xers and older millennials. What research paper would be complete without the help of the card catalog?

At the Hill, business librarians had a special task of identifying and capturing industry trends – like how Nike is taking over the sneaker industry, or the rise in fax machine sales. While the methods have certainly changed (we aren’t cutting out and taping facts to cards, though I have to admit that sounds cathartic), we still aim to find the best industry information there is, combing databases (paid and free), and translating that information.

We have been, and always will be, an entrepreneur’s best resource!

Visit the James J. Hill Center and it’s reference library Monday through Thursday 10AM to 5PM and check out all of the current resources.  Also, ask one of our business librarians for some assistance with a database and see what gems of knowledge you can find to build you business success.

 

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Reference Transformation & Relevance

We can’t officially wrap up National Library Week without reflecting on the week’s theme of transformation, and what that means to reference libraries like ours at the Hill Center.

When the value of a cultural institution is in question, it’s really the relevance of the institution that’s at stake. For reference libraries many times their relevance is translated into the number of visitors, number of clicks, and number of positive survey results – but even with this data, the impression of relevance can often times be missed. In order to truly understand relevancy, we need to understand our impact on a case-by-case basis and this is often times qualitative.  We need to ask questions like – have we transformed to meet the real needs of our community? Are we providing an inclusive space to think differently, share ideas and take risks? These questions are hard to measure but at the Hill Center we have begun to see the results.

James J. Hill has played a pivotal role in introducing me to the start-up culture. From presenting at 1 Million Cups and attending its many thought-leader panels, I have richly benefited from the proactive resources and seemingly infinite networking opportunities”  Entrepreneur

“The fact that I have this resource available to me, both the facility and research staff, is an absolute relief.”
Business Owner

According to IBISWorld, the Library industry forecasts a slow and steady growth in the next five years – whereas the online database and print book industries are forecasting a decline. This tells us that the nature of the traditional reference library is already transforming into new arenas. At the Hill, this means that beyond offering key business information, we don’t just rely on what we have – we rely on who we know – and what we can do.

At the Hill Center, we meet our community at every point in their entrepreneurial journey. Whether you’re thinking about starting a business or find yourself needing data to branch out into a new market – we have the “secret sauce” that will get you to the next level. What’s the recipe? We like to think our people make all the difference.

Being relevant isn’t just about having relevant information – it’s about having a welcoming space for ideas to fly. The Hill Center creates a space for meaningful engagement in our business community – and it shows. Come to a 1 Million Cups presentation on a Wednesday morning, and you will see the space transformed into a conduit for idea and talent sharing, and just sometimes that right connection to take your idea to the next level.

What I appreciate most about the Hill Center, is the continued commitment from staff to uphold the entrepreneurial spirit of our “founding father,” James J. Hill. The original entrepreneur, Hill didn’t take hard work for granted, and neither do we. We’re here to make that hard work a little easier for you, forging a path that will make a difference – and hard work is always relevant.

“Work, hard work, intelligent work, and then more work.” – James J. Hill


Composed by Lindsey Dyer, Director of Library Services, James J. Hill Center. 
It you have more questions about the Reference Library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Transformation from Innovation

“It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to management than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely the lukewarm defense in those who gain by the new ones.”  –  Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527), Philosopher and playwright

I recently ran across this quote by Niccolo Machiavelli at the Hill entrepreneurial center and would have thought it was written today.  Not so, it shows that change has been a process of mis-acceptance for as long as man has innovated on new ideas.  

 I define innovation as the introduction of new and improved ways of putting ideas into action. In an economic sense, an innovation is accomplished with the first commercial transaction involving a new or improved product, process, or organizational business model. Innovation is then intentional attempts to bring about value from change. These values include; economic benefits, personal growth, increased satisfaction, improved group coherence, better organizational communication, as well as productivity and economic measures.  

Sound like entrepreneurism?  I think so, to the entrepreneur that means transformation of creative ideas to accountable, actionable changes.  Maximizing customer value and experience is a core principle in innovation.  The entrepreneur needs to understand that ‘emotion trumps logic’ and that their audience needs to feel and experience the value brought by their innovation.  

We are a society of habit and as Nicolo Machiavlli’s quote shows of the past, the same is currently true.  The creation of new must provide a value proposition that goes beyond current habits to prevent sabotage from those who feel threatened by change.  

To generate “Transformation from Innovation” identify and target market your change agents early so they may become your evangelists to help you articulate and promote your values. 


Jeff Brown p
ositively transforming the way people grow their personal business brand.
• Board Member, Coaching, and Strategy for Fortune 500 companies to start-ups
• Developing and transforming ideas into something superb
• Creating accountable strategies to helping clients where they are stuck or want to go

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Introducing: Lindsey Dyer

Lindsey Dyer is the new Director of Library Services at the James J. Hill Center, and comes with experience from both public and academic libraries, as well as Target, Corp. and the Minnesota Historical Society. Lindsey lives in St. Paul with her husband and is the mom of three kids.  We took a few minutes to chat with her about her new position at the Hill.  Come in and join us at the Hill next week during National Library Week to meet Lindsey and her team and participate in free programming.

How did your journey with the James J. Hill Center begin?
The Hill Center inspired me to pursue a career in libraries back in 2005, when I worked here as a volunteer. It is easy to see why – the building draws you in and speaks for itself. Though I had since moved on to new professional opportunities, I maintained an admiration for the mission and staff – particularly the Hill Papers Archivist, Eileen McCormack, whose job I aspired to at the time. I am honored to be back!

What do you want people to know about you?
I am very interested in how library services fit into the broader user experience landscape when it comes to looking for and using information. Libraries have an important task, especially now, to be conduits for authentic and unbiased information that we use every day in business decisions. I think we’ve lost sight of why this is important to talk about. At the Hill Center, we have a unique opportunity to narrow that down to information that entrepreneurs in particular need to get to the next step in their business planning. It’s exciting and inspiring when our information becomes the turning point for a startup.

What has made the biggest impact on your career so far?
Working for both Target and the Minnesota Historical Society gave me a unique perspective on service and management. I like to think that I took the best from both worlds, specifically non-traditional approaches to what accessibility looks like, and have been working to implement some of these things at the Hill Center.

What has been the largest hurdle and success you have experienced in your career?
I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside some talented entrepreneurs, and have had some real conversations about what they need to be successful. I am working towards the hurdle of transforming reference services at the Hill Center to best fit those needs. I want the library to not only give entrepreneurs information – I want us to be the difference between success and failure.

What is it about Minnesota and more specifically Saint Paul that keeps you here?St. Paul – or “Small Paul” – has been my home for 13 years, and it’s the ultimate charmer. I am especially drawn to historic homes, and in fact used to be the Site Manager of the James J. Hill House – the historic house museum to rival them all. This city has a rich history, and it shows.

The Hills’ 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.

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Don’t Tweak, Transform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. You can hear from new startups each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul.

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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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