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Business Plan Resources

Maybe the most overwhelming task that faces an entrepreneur is writing the business plan. Where to start? What data to include? While some sections, like finances and management plan, are hyper-specific to each individual venture, some sections require data that can be found at the James J. Hill Center. Let’s look at three major components: industry trends, competitor list, and market analysis.

Industry trends can be found in the Hill’s IBISWorld subscription. Within each industry breakdown, organized by both NAICS code and IBISWorld-specific specialized reports, IBISWorld provides a five-year forecast of the industry in question. The reports include some product or service segmentation, allowing researchers to learn more about the newest developments in their industry as well as projections forward.

Developing a competitor list for a business plan allows a researcher to better understand how crowded the market is and how much competition they’ll be up against once their business opens. Entrepreneurs can use the Hill’s subscription to A-to-Z Databases to make this a quick and simple task. Use this directory service to search for similar business listings by industry code, estimated annual revenue, geographic location, and employee size in order to locate your peer businesses for broader understanding of the local competitive market.

When it comes to building a customer profile or doing a market analysis, many business plan writers falter at step one: where to find relevant survey information? Thankfully, the Hill offers SimplyAnalytics, one of the premier consumer demographics and behavior databases. Look up information on household buying behaviors, types of media consumed, household demographics and concentrations by geography. You can even map this information to the state, city, or zip code level, then export a graphic to include in your business plan!

Make a Hill Introduction Appointment today at jjhill.org to learn more about the Hill’s resources and classes, and let us take some of the confusion out of finding data for your business plan.

 


Written by Jessica Huffman, Business Outreach Librarian, at the 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 [email protected].

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Options Abound For Raising Capital

For startups, financing can be challenging, and often the biggest barrier. Each month we’re focusing on a different financing option in Minnesota for startups and featuring experts in the field. 

(This article originally appeared on BetterSMB)

by April Chen

John Funge, chief product officer of DataTribe, left, and Steven Witt, co-founder and partner of the technology venture capital firm, sat down with BetterSMB to discuss ways of raising capital for new businesses. (April Chen)

Raising capital to start a new company can be challenging, but with the right knowledge, the endeavor can be successful. Knowing the nuances of each way to raise money as an entrepreneur can help a business owner decide which is best.

For people seeking to fund a company, the best source of information is an entrepreneur who has a successful business in the same or similar industry, but in a different market, said Steven Witt, co-founder and partner of DataTribe, a technology venture capital firm in Fulton, Maryland.

“The greatest thing about being an entrepreneur is that anyone that’s been one will be of the mindset that they want to give back and help the next generation of entrepreneurs,” Witt said.

When a business uses a venture capital approach to funding, some ownership of the company is given in return for the services and capital provided by the firm. This huge injection of funding enables tremendous gains that would otherwise be impossible.

For entrepreneurs not seeking venture capital funding, there are other approaches.

One of the most risky ways to startup a company is by borrowing against personal assets. Witt did this when starting his first company, so he could pay himself a “salary,” but he came within days of having to sell his family’s second car because he couldn’t afford the car payment. Some entrepreneurs even take the extreme measure of liquidating their retirement savings, which Witt doesn’t recommend.

Another approach to raising revenue is through crowdfunding, using websites such as Kickstarter.com. Since its inception in 2009, more than 15 million people have backed almost 150,000 projects there. An advantage to using websites like Kickstarter is that the investor doesn’t get equity in the company or future profits. Instead, they get the product, or a discount, once it is released. While there may be less financial risk in funding a business using this route, if the promised product is not delivered, the entrepreneur keeps the capital but it’s almost certain this entrepreneur will never be able to sell anything again. It has the potential to ruin someone’s reputation.

“One of the top reasons these types of endeavors fail is that a supplier that the businessperson negotiated a deal with either goes out of business or changes the terms, making it impossible for the creator to deliver the product to the crowd funders,” Witt said.

The Small Business Administration can help small firms get financing by guaranteeing loans. It also licenses small business investment companies, which are private investors who can make loans, invest in a share of the company, or do both, with federal backing.

John Funge, DataTribe’s chief product officer, said the businesses that would best utilize this method are those opening a franchise where there is already a predictable model, marketing and other resources that have previously proven themselves to be successful.

“Entrepreneurs need to be really thoughtful about their life stage and their future financial obligations since startups can put extreme stress on a family and personal life. Someone in their 20s likely has more to lose than someone in their 40s who is more established financially,” Funge added.

Business owners can also seek angel investors, who are sometimes found among especially wealthy friends or family. Angels often invest on more favorable terms in comparison to traditional lenders. They often look for something in return for their investment, such as a seat on the board of directors or participation in day-to-day operations, according to the Small Business Administration.

Regardless of how an entrepreneur obtains funding, Funge said business owners should line up two professionals to help their business get the right start.

“Founders of all stripes should find an accountant and a lawyer that they can work with who specialize and can serve as trail guides for starting the company,” Funge said.

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Startup Showcase: Weaving Together a Company’s Culture and Mission

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 Rosalynn Verges. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on September 22, 2018. 

In the 2018 Forbes article “15 Best Ways to Build a Company Culture That Thrives,” John M. O’Connor from Career Pro Inc. states: “If your leaders don’t buy into cultural change and healthy cultural environments, don’t expect your employees or stakeholders to follow suit.” In a 2015 report by TruPath, turnover at companies with a poor culture is 48 percent while in contrast turnover at companies with a great culture is 14 percent.

All of this goes to show that having a company with a mission to “create great places to work” is truly necessary. That is exactly what Rosalynn Verges is set out to do with Fabric. She believes culture begins with a clearly defined message and great leaders who embody them. And with today’s unemployment levels and the “war on talent,” organizations need to be focused on their culture to attract and retain top talent.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Fabric
Website: www.befabric.com
Twitter: @befabric.com
Business Start Date: Oct. 13, 2017
Number of Employees: 3
Number of Customers: 20

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Rosalynn Verges
Age: 33
City you live in: Blaine
City of birth: St. Paul
College attended: University of Minnesota, Morris; University of South Dakota (post-graduate)

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A.  I grew up on the Eastside of St. Paul (go Knights!) and then did my undergrad at the University of Minnesota, Morris. After graduating from Morris, I moved to Sioux Falls, S.D., where I earned my Professional in Human Resources (PHR) Certification and studied organizational development, business operations and lean manufacturing through the University of South Dakota’s MBA program. I was fortunate early in my career to often have a seat at the table when it came to learning about how organizations functioned and understanding business operations. As a result, I am a process-focused person who loves figuring out the actions needed to reach a goal or produce a desired outcome. Which is probably why organizational development and leadership coaching became a logical progression for my career.

Q. What is your business?
A. At Fabric, we help businesses define who they are, what they do and how they do it. And we give them the tools to actually LIVE IT. Through developing their culture messages (their mission, vision, values and strategies) and coaching leaders on how to communicate and embody those messages, we help them gain organizational alignment. We provide workshops designed to define the most important yet often obscure areas of your business. We can help create the culture your employees deserve.  Everything we do at Fabric is centered on our vision which is to “create great places to work.” So all of our services are centered on creating healthy successful organizational culture.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. I’ve always wanted to own my own business and after 10 years in HR helping people create great places to work I knew that was where I wanted to focus my attention. Given my background in organizational and leadership development, creating Fabric was a natural fit.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. I think all organizations want to have great cultures they just often don’t know HOW to make that happen. Fabric takes the guess work out of that. We help organizations live up to their culture messages and create great places to work.

Q. Where did you pivot in your company’s journey?
A. One of the biggest pivots we made was not doing it all at once. We have a lot of vision for what Fabric can be and how we can create a community to support organizational leaders, but we decided — rather than trying to do it all at once — to start with the services we see as most valuable to leaders.

Q. What is your biggest obstacle?
A. Right now our biggest obstacle is exposure. Developing a presence can be a challenge. We know there are a lot of organizations out there who would benefit from our services, but it can be difficult to know how to reach them. We’ve found the most success by focusing on organizations that are already aligned with and understand our vision of creating great places to work…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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An Immigrant’s Story

To celebrate Welcoming Week at the James J. Hill Center, we spoke to Jessica Sutherland, Program Supervisor at the James J. Hill House, to learn about James J. Hill’s arrival in St. Paul as a Canadian immigrant.

What was St. Paul like in 1856, when James J. Hill arrived here?

St. Paul was a frontier village by the Mississippi River in 1856, with a population of around 10,000. Minnesota was still two years away from statehood, and only two houses had been built on Summit Avenue, where James J. Hill would later build his own mansion (ironically, Hill would later purchase these first two homes and demolish them to build his Summit Avenue mansion). St. Paul’s status as the northern most navigable point on the Mississippi River made it an ideal jumping off point for people wanting to be involved in the shipping industry.

What was life like for immigrants coming to St. Paul at that time?

Life would’ve been difficult for immigrants coming to St. Paul; it was a rough town, with the arm of the law quite short, but the promise of a new beginning and more opportunities for advancement were enticing.

How was James J. Hill similar or different from other immigrants at that time?

Hill had a private school education until the age of 14, so he was likely better educated than many of the immigrants coming to St. Paul at the time. His ability to both do manual labor and write in a fair hand, figure accurately and network with the right people was an integral part of getting his first job in St. Paul. But I think all of the immigrants coming were all looking to chase the American Dream.

What was Mr. Hill’s first job in St. Paul?

Hill’s first job in St. Paul was as a “mud clerk,” which was the term for an entry-level shipping clerk who would stand in the mud at the edge of the Mississippi River and document the goods being loaded and unloaded.

What kind of business person was Mr. Hill?

I think that Hill had a public persona that was very different than his private one. In business, he was exacting, detail-oriented, hardworking, and no-nonsense. He was known for being difficult to work with because he held his employees to the same high standards that he held himself. But he also wasn’t the kind of leader or business owner who stayed in his “ivory tower”; he was very actively out on the front lines of his business.  And I also think he was rewarded with a great deal of loyalty from his staff, and with a great deal of trust from his business partners.

What can entrepreneurs today learn from James J. Hill’s story?

I think Hill’s story is about being in the right place at the right time with the right combination of skills, knowledge and ambition to succeed. Hard work does not always equate success—think of the thousands of other immigrants who worked just as hard and didn’t become millionaires.

What is the most interesting thing about James J. Hill that most people don’t already know?

That when he was home with his kids, he was “Papa.” We have very sweet letters between him and his daughter Rachel where he says, “How does it come that you have not written to your poor old papa. I hope you have not forgotten me.” As opposed to a letter he wrote to the manufacturer providing the refrigerator for his home that, “if your work does not do what you have undertaken it shall do, I will tear it out.” Again, there’s that dichotomy of the public versus private persona.

 

 

Jessica Sutherland is the Program Supervisor of the James J. Hill House. She has worked for the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) for 7 years.  For the past three years she has enjoyed supporting her staff in fulfilling MNHS’s mission of transforming lives using the power of history at the Hill House.

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Startup Showcase: Food for Thought in Helping the State’s Business Growth

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 Lauren Mehler Pradhan. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on September 8, 2018. 

According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, “Minnesota leads the nation in food patents per capita and has long been on the forefront of research and innovation in agriculture, food production and food safety.” In addition, Minnesota ranks among the top 10 in more than 20 agricultural products and is home to some of the nation’s largest agricultural and food production companies.

To accelerate this growth and build an interconnected ecosystem of support, The Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School of Business established “Grow North.” Since launching in January of 2017 the organization has already made its mark in the community and with Lauren Mehler Pradhan at the helm, sharing stories of success and lending support, the ongoing growth in the North is inevitable.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Grow North
Website: www.grownorthmn.com
Twitter: @grownorthmn
Business start date: January 2017
Number of employees: Me and two amazing interns
Number of customers: Sometimes too many to count.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Lauren Mehler Pradhan
Age: 36
City you live in: Hopkins
City of birth: New Brunswick, N.J.
High school attended: South Brunswick High School
College attended: Rutgers College

Q&A

Q. Who are you and what is your history?
A. I am the founding managing director for Grow North, a mom, a lover of food and deep believer in the impact that entrepreneurs and innovators can have on our food system. While I am originally from New Jersey, I am very proud to call Minnesota home for the last 14 years.

Q. What is your business?
A. Grow North is an initiative of the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School of Business focused on accelerating Minnesota’s ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation in food and agriculture. We offer education, mentorship, and networking programming as well as create large events like Food, Ag, Ideas Week Oct 8-12.

Q. What is the genesis of the business?
A. Grow North was inspired by a cross-section of the community coming together through the MN Cup, a venture competition out of the Carlson School, and their Food, Ag, Beverage division. The division quickly became the fastest growing division in the Cup. Community leaders started asking how they could extend support and connectivity to the community throughout the year, and so the idea of Grow North as an ecosystem builder, resource hub and connector came to life.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. We believe that startup businesses will grow and scale faster and smarter if they are a part of an interconnected, supportive, sophisticated ecosystem. To make this happen, we focus on solving the problem of connectivity — to resources, individuals and organizations. If we can help entrepreneurs and organizations get the right connection at the right time, they will spend more time growing their business — fewer clicks, fewer coffees, more growth. We also want Minnesota’s community to be connected and visible across the globe, and so I spend time connecting with leaders in other cities to drive awareness and bring best practices back.

Q. What personal strengths or skill sets do you bring to the business?
A. Minnesota has so much here to be proud of, but for some reason we do not like to talk about it. I bring a little bit of east coast straight forwardness to my work and so I happily share stories about the remarkable individuals and companies that are here to anyone who will listen. I spent 12 years at General Mills before Grow North, so I bring industry experience, connectivity and an appreciation for the complexities of our food system.

Q. Where do you go when you need help?
A. I feel very fortunate that I have found mentors in the community who have acted as sounding boards, advisers, as well as shoulders to cry on. I meet with two entrepreneurs a week not only to provide support but also to keep me honest that Grow North programming remains relevant. My interns and colleagues at the Holmes Center are great and we brainstorm ideas all of the time….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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It All Adds Up: Fall Forward – Embracing Changing and Preparing for Growth

It’s that time of year when everyone senses the reality that change is in the air. The weather shifts to crisp and cool days, the relaxation from the warmth of summer shifts to an urgency of seizing the daylight and the landscape of nature celebrates the beauty of change with richness, depth and beauty.

Fall is a natural season of change and for me, it represents new beginnings. Personally, it’s the start of a new school year and a shift in the daily at-home routine with my family. In my business, it’s a time for me to assess business outcomes and productivity and make necessary changes to ensure a strong finish by year end. However, learning to celebrate and grow from the natural progression of change required a mindset shift and forming new habits.

I’ve always operated at two speeds…fast and asleep. There wasn’t anything in between. I walked fast. I talked fast. I drove fast. I was always on the go. While the constant activity created a track record of getting things done, it also came with many missteps, fatigue and avoidable mistakes.

I continued at that fast pace because I thought it was necessary in order to make up for my perception of “lost time”. When the mistakes happened, I just picked up the pace and tried to accomplish more, instead of slowing down to process the mistakes, make necessary changes and celebrate the wins. This practice of always being on the go at a high speed was robbing me of my opportunity to be most effective, to enjoy progress and to learn from missteps. The high speed of constant movement created increased levels of anxiety and I was on the path toward self sabotage. Something clearly needed to change.

As solo-preneurs and small business owners, it can be so easy to fall into the trap of working IN your business and saving little time for working ON your business. While this pattern of constant movement can produce results of getting things done, it also can stagnate growth and create burnout.

It is so important to incorporate external learning communities and opportunities for growth as leaders and decision makers. I have found it to be both scary and liberating to step outside of my high speed of busyness in exchange for the thoughtful work of slowing down to increase my growth capacity. Slowing down brings me face to face with the things I have mastered, but also the areas in which I need to grow or completely outsource. Slowing down to reflect, plan and proceed takes time but can yield powerful results.

I am naturally wired for constant movement at high speeds, but I am most effective when I build in the benefits of a slower pace. For me, slowing down will always be a work-in-process. As a small business owner, my goal is to effectively balance the workload of growth and success and the benefits of slowing down for reflection and necessary change. I am definitely up for the challenge.

I’d love to hear from you. How do you prepare for growth as an entrepreneur? How have you incorporated external learning communities within your growth strategy? Send your comments to me by clicking here.

 

 

You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website junitasjar.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

 

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Open Access

Wondering why you should check out the James J. Hill Center’s business resources? Can’t everything be found online nowadays? Not quite. While there are plenty of openly available data resources, often you end up spending your time in place of your money to access and understand them.

Say you’re looking for industrial information? Surely that’s accessible outside a subscription database like IBISWorld? You’re right! Much of the data in IBISWorld reports are gathered from open access resources. These sources can include federal or state government websites, annual reports for publicly traded companies, and general economic indicators published at the national level. For example, the U. S. Census counts more than just people. It also records the number of businesses in certain sectors and industries, which it updates every five years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases new information on industry-level employment including information on average employment and projected growth on a regular basis. The Bureau of Economic Analysis has industry and sector data on employment, wages, operations costs, and more at the state level. With all this available data, why bother with subscriptions?

The truth is that these resources are formatted for accuracy, not ease of access for a user. Learning to navigate and decipher government websites, let alone the charts and spreadsheets themselves can be a time-consuming and frustrating endeavor. In the James J. Hill Center’s Business Research Boot Camp, we address what’s publicly accessible and worth digging for and what are more easily found in a subscription database. Typically, while a subscription may cost money, you’re spending that instead of time. There’s no one right way to get data. Just know which of your resources you’re willing to spend!

Curious to learn more about openly accessible resources and how they interact with subscription databases? Check out the Hill’s newest class offering, Business Research Boot Camp. While sold-out for the September session, we’ll be back in November for another round, so please keep an eye on the Hill Center Calendar!

 


Written by Jessica Huffman, Business Outreach Librarian, at the 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 [email protected].

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Startup Showcase: Busy Baby Mat Keeps Babies Busy So You Can Eat

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 Beth Fynbo. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on August 26, 2018. 

According to Reuters Top Trends in Baby and Child Care Market 2018 parents are constantly on the lookout for more convenient ways to make baby and child care easier. Grand View Research states that the global baby product market is expected to reach $121 billion by 2025. Not a bad business to jump into when you have an idea. This is exactly what Beth Fynbo did when she realized there was something missing from her baby equipment. With tenacity and resourcefulness, she has taken her idea into action. Beth’s new invention busies babies while putting restaurants and mommies at rest.

 COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Busy Baby LLC
Website: busybabymat.com
Business Start Date: Established the LLC in July 2017. Currently still working on product development and building the business. Hoping to have first sales in December 2018.
Number of Employees:  1
Number of Customers: No customers, yet.

PROFILE

Name: Beth Fynbo
Age: 41
City you live in: Oronoco, Minn.
College attended: Bachelor program for Business Management at MSU-Mankato after the Army and then earned a Master of Business with a concentration in Project Management from Colorado Technical University.

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A.  I was born and raised the daughter of an entrepreneur in Albert Lea, Minn. I started college at Minnesota State University, Mankato before joining the United States Army for a 10-year adventure around the world. I eventually returned to Mankato and completed my undergrad in Business Management. I then went on to complete a Master’s degree program in Business Management with a concentration in Project Management. I’ve been excelling in corporate work for the past 7 years, but have always felt a calling toward entrepreneurship.

Q. What is your business?
A. For parents of 6 to 16-month-old babies who like to eat out, but don’t like the stress of keeping the baby entertained, the Busy Baby Mat is here for you. The Busy Baby Mat’s tether system allows caregivers to attach a baby’s items to the mat, and regardless of an accidental drop or toss, they will stay within arm’s reach. The Busy Baby Mat also keeps baby protected from surface germs and has a place to put their food. What makes Busy Baby better are the suction cups under the mat that keep it in place and the tethers that keep toys or pacifiers within reach. As a bonus, the first accessories to the Busy Baby Mat, salt and pepper teething toys, come with the restaurant set. It all rolls up into a convenient carrying case that fits in most diaper bags and purses.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. I was extremely fortunate to discover Bunker Labs, an organization that helps veteran entrepreneurs on their journeys. Through their launch lab program, a 12-week entrepreneurship course, I was able to learn how to start a business and was able to quickly develop a network of mentors to help me along the way.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A.  The idea came to me as I ate lunch with a few girlfriends and their young children. The babies were constantly reaching for things they couldn’t have, and then when the moms would give them something to play with, they would just throw it on the floor. It was so distracting! That night, I scoured the internet for something to buy that I could take with me to restaurants once my son was old enough to sit up in the high chair. When I couldn’t find something that would work, I started making it on my own from things around the house. My best friend had a baby the week after me, so I made one for her too. Another friend saw it in action and asked for one as well.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. Busy Baby takes some of the stress out of taking an infant or toddler out to eat. The main problem our product solves is keeping baby busy at the restaurant. It keeps all the toys within reach and everything free from germs, and as an added bonus, the silicone deadens the sound of banging….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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Startup Showcase: A Wearable Affirmation of the Energy Within

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 Jessica Hoch. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on August 11, 2018. 

Not all startups come from the tech, health care or agriculture, some are more alternative in nature and mind.

According to Fast Company from 2017, there has been a 40 percent increase in Google searches for “crystal healing” and nearly a dozen new crystal retail outlets have opened up in New York and Los Angeles in the past year. In addition the Global Wellness Institute states that the wellness industry made $3.7 trillion in 2015.

Jessica Hoch may not have seen this industry boom coming but instead felt a perfect connection between her love of yoga and her degree in Apparel Design. What originally started as gifts for friends and family turned into her company Moxie Malas, dedicated to self-love, personal power and peace.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Jessica Hoch
Age: 34
City you live in: Circle Pines
City of birth: Shoreview
College attended: UW Stout

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Moxie Malas
Website: www.moxiemalas.com
Business Start Date: July 13, 2015
Number of Employees: 1
Number of customers: 3,000 individuals / 42 retail partners

 

Q&A

Q. What is your history/Who are you?

A. My name is Jessica Hoch and I am the owner and creator of Moxie Malas. I have been a yoga teacher for over nine years and have a degree in Apparel Design; Moxie Malas was the perfect love child of the two worlds. What originally started out as gifts for my family and friends has blossomed into a collection of meaningful jewelry for the people who want what they wear to be intentional and a reflection of their personal journey.

I originally started making Malas because of my love for the energy and power behind the stones and crystals and what it does for the person wearing it. It brings me so much joy to create something for someone who is going to feel wonderful wearing it. Then to have them inspired to meditate because of it is an added bonus.

The jewelry combined with the energy of stones and crystals is the perfect vehicle for the message of self-love, personal power and peace within. We are all on a journey and need to be reminded of how supported and connected we all really are.

Q. What is your business?

A. Moxie Malas is Crystal Healing and Aromatherapy Jewelry inspired by the best version of you and created as a reminder that it already exists within. We also produce workshops and seminars on what it means to live “Peacefully Untamed.”

Q. What is the origin of the business?

A. I was looking for a way to share the message of personal empowerment in a way that made it accessible and approachable for people. I wanted to create something that would help to remind people of their own awesomeness each day.

Q. What problems does your business solve?

A. My business helps people to see the best in themselves and serves as a daily reminder. It helps keep people focusing on the positive in their lives and reminds them of how loved and supported they are on their journey.

Q. Where did you pivot in your company’s journey?

A. One of the biggest pivots we made as a company was figuring out production of the jewelry here locally. It has allowed us to grow and scale the business on the wholesale side of things.

Q. What personal strengths or skill sets do you bring to the business?

A. I bring a broader vision for the future of the company, helping it to keep moving forward. My heart and soul goes into the message of Moxie Malas, so I would say I also bring passion.

Q. What are you most proud of?

A. I am most proud of creating a product that has touched so many people on a deeper level. The idea that the message of the jewelry has helped someone in this journey of life is humbling and an honor to be a part of….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 Community’s the Thing

Check back each month for the Original Thinker Series as we explore local innovation in entrepreneurship, the arts, and our community one pioneering mind at a time.

“Most plays you see were written by one person based on a what or a why,” says Leah Cooper, Co-Artistic Director at Wonderlust Productions. “We start with who.”

Leah, along with her Co-Artistic Director, Alan Berks, founded Wonderlust to tell stories with and about communities—specifically those that are hidden, marginalized, or plagued by a single media narrative. In the spirit of theater companies like Cornerstone in Los Angeles, Wonderlust incorporates community members (the who) in the research, design, and production of stories based on their complex and universal experiences within that community.

“In a way, it’s the original way people made theater,” says Leah. “They sat around and shared stories with each other and made a play out of it.”

So, how does it work?

After identifying a community with an untold story, the Wonderlust team works with organizations already serving that community to gather direct input from their constituents.

“We actively target diversity, both vertically and horizontally,” says Leah. “Horizontally is what people usually mean—demographics, gender, class, all that sort of thing. Vertically is across the power hierarchy that is in the community.”

Within these diverse story circles, the Wonderlust team listens for both the commonalities and contradictions in what people believe is the truth about the community. After what can be years participating in this process, the writers look for a classic storyline that can be adapted to encompass the complexity of experience entrusted to them.

“[At this point] we invite community members back to the table, so to speak, or the rehearsal room and we mix them together with professionals from our ensemble,” says Leah.

After many public readings, workshops, and rewrites, the final production includes both trained performers and community members sharing the same stage.

“It gives [community members] an opportunity to bear witness to somebody else’s experience which is kind of, weirdly, a sacred experience,” says Leah. “By entering into that it creates a reverence that they bring to it that ends up conveying a really similar quality to that created by professional artists.”

Though they did not originate this methodology for storytelling, the Wonderlust team has certainly made it their own. They are even beginning to experiment with new mediums for community stories—virtual reality, graphic novels, ritual, and sound installation. But what really sets Leah and the Wonderlust team apart as original thinkers is their willingness to deeply listen to people no matter who they are.

“This is a thing we’ve learned,” says Leah. “It doesn’t matter how important people are, how extroverted or introverted—nobody feels heard. This is a human thing.”

To learn more about Wonderlust Productions, view past projects, and catch upcoming performances visit their website wonderlustproductions.org.

 


Written by Christopher Christenson, Program & Event Coordinator, at the James J. Hill Center. Have an idea of a person or organization to feature in this series? Send your recommendations to 
[email protected].

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