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It All Adds Up: Saying Yes to the Unknown

If you’ve followed my monthly posts on the James J. Hill Center blog, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not your “typical” business blogger. Truthfully, when Lily Shaw, External Relations Director, approached me and asked if I was interested in being a contributor, I told her I wasn’t a business blogger. Yes, I absolutely love writing and yes, I am an entrepreneur. However, I had never combined the two, and just like that I was able to disqualify myself based on the unknown. Naturally, I followed up with my most polite, “thank you, but no thank you. Even though my response was a shaky “no”, I was secretly hoping that she would ignore the “no” that I verbalized and listen to the unspoken “yes” that I was silently screaming. Somehow she heard my silent “yes.”

Stepping into the unknown pretty much describes my entire business journey. From my earliest days at farmer’s markets when I was terrified to put my product on display— to many days spent at a vendor’s fair with my modestly decorated table right next to an elaborate booth represented by a nationally known company; I have continuously found myself in that difficult place of saying yes to the unknown. Spoiler alert…saying yes to the unknown has not always worked out in my favor, but I’ll save that for a separate blog post.

There are so many aspects of entrepreneurship that are rooted deeply within the unknown and I’ve just taken another leap. Later this month, I will be surrounded by friends, family, supporters and strangers to share the next chapter of my entrepreneurship journey. I am so excited, but I’m also terrified beyond belief. Daily I have to reassure myself “you’ve planned the work, now work the plan.” I have to remind myself that the dream is always bigger than the dreamer, so give yourself permission to keep growing. And when the thoughts of “what if this does not work” bombard my mind, I have to run to the nearest mirror, stare right back at myself and scream the reminder: “but what if it does work, my dear dreamer, what if it does work.”

As a mission-driven entrepreneur, the heart of my work comes from a very personal place, a very vulnerable place, filled with countless unknown details and life changing experiences. I’ve learned flexibility is a reoccurring appointment on my calendar and building a complementary team is one of the keys to success. I’ve learned that building my sales funnel is the foundation to generating revenue, and maintaining positive cash flow is the cause of my countless gray hairs.

With all of the hard facts and data filling my desktop and the unknown details that have left me “sleepless in the Twin Cities,” there is a force of hope that fuels my drive to keep dreaming, believing and doing. After all, I live by the well-known mantra: she believed she could, so she did!

So, I want to hear from you. What dream or goal have you been putting off because of the unknown details? What is one action that you can take today to get one step closer to achieving that goal? I’d love to here all about it. You can share the details with me by clicking here.

If you are up for a little celebration and the best cookies in town, I invite you to join me at my upcoming launch celebration. You can reserve your free ticket here. If you’d like to keep in touch and follow along on this hop-filled journey, you can like, follow or join me on Facebook and Instagram @junitasjar and on @JunitaLFlowers on Twitter.

 


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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Underutilized Research Gems

If your first thought when hearing the phrase “government information,” is a stack of boring, bureaucratic reports, you’re not alone. There’s more to government information, however, than you may realize. Several government agencies regularly produce valuable business intelligence and the James J. Hill Center can direct you to some underutilized gems.

If you’re exploring a new industry, the U.S. Census Bureau should be your first stop. The Census does far more than count people; it counts businesses as well! The Economic Census run every five years and collects data at the sector and industrial level along with information about business expenses and industrial growth. The 2017 Census is scheduled for release soon, so keep an eye on that space for the latest information.

Interested in gleaning public company data from the web? Check out the SEC’s EDGAR search tool. Located on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website, this tool allows users to pull certain mandated reports for public companies. These include annual reports (10-K), quarterly reports (10-Q), and special announcements (8-K) along with a variety of other documents. If you’re interested in getting the nitty-gritty information on publicly traded companies, using EDGAR can trim down your time spent searching company websites for glossy annual reports.

Want to learn more about government information and how it pertains to your business? Check out the Hill’s Research Boot Camp series. This accelerated class combines government and subscription database information for a 360-look at how business information is gathered and more importantly, how you can use it to succeed.

 


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 hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Startup Showcase: Entrepreneur Meets Restaurateur with New App

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 Taranvir Johal. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on June 30, 2018. 

Talent defies age when it comes to entrepreneurship and 18 year old Taranvir Johal is proof of that. He already owns one company and has developed an app for another. With his eye on the game and his passion clear, Johal loves to “get his hands dirty.” With his new restaurant app Tavolo, he is jumping on the trend of transforming the restaurant experience.

In its first restaurant industry trends report, Skift Megatrends 2018, Skift Table says “restaurants are also looking to new technology to both enhance and — in some cases — define the in-restaurant dining experience … Touch-screen ordering, cashless transactions, and more personalization can make the experience more exciting for a guest.”

Johal has certainly taken a seat at the table and looked ahead at what restaurants need to be successful and his app Tovolo may just be the answer to fight the delivery boom.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Taranvir Johal
Age: 18
City of Birth: Queens, N.Y.
City you live in: Fargo, N.D.
High School Attended: Oak Grove Lutheran High School
College attended: University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Management

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Tavolo
Website: Tavoloapp.co
Twitter: @tavolo_app
Business Start Date: March 25, 2018
Number of Employees: 4

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I am an 18-year-old aspiring entrepreneur that loves to get his hands dirty. I am from Fargo, N.D., and fell in love with entrepreneurship while I was in high school. During my sophomore year, I attended the Yale Young Global Scholars program and met numerous individuals who were pursuing their passions. They inspired me to learn more about what I wanted to do with my life. During my senior year, I participated in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy and launched my first company, Protein+. I just completed my freshman year at the Carlson School of Management and am extremely excited to see what the future has in store.

Q. What is your business?
A. Tavolo is an application that allows users to reserve a table, order, and pay at restaurants through their mobile devices. Moreover, Tavolo provides data to restaurants regarding how specific customers tip, server ratings and reviews, turn time per table, customer preferences, and customer profiles.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. We have created an advisory board with individuals who are more experienced and have more business knowledge than us. We selected these people over the course of two months and tried to incorporate individuals who we believed could help propel our company forward.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. Our company started during TechStars Startup Weekend. Abdi Hassan, a junior at the University of St. Thomas, pitched the idea to us and (we) loved it. We ended up winning 2nd place at the event and began meeting with numerous entrepreneurs around Minneapolis who loved our idea as well. This eventually led us to speak at 1 Million Cups Saint Paul.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. Our business minimizes the time wasted while dining out at restaurants. Tavolo gives users full control of their dining experience. With the click of a button a consumer can order their food, request for a waiter, and even pay for their meal.

Q. Where did you pivot in your company’s journey? What big obstacle or hurdle did you have to overcome?
A. We initially wanted to be an application that allows users to order and pay for their meals prior to arriving to the restaurant. We eventually realized that consumers enjoy adding more items to their meal while they are dining. We decided to pivot and allow users to pay for their meals once they we done dining. We also learned that consumers dislike waiting for their server to come to their table. Therefore, we pivoted by creating a feature on the app that allows users to call their waiter simply by tapping their phone screen….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’s Tough to Stump a Librarian

The Hill Center has a rich archival history of our early years, including original book receipts from 1918, annual reports beginning in 1917, and even reference correspondence from as early as 1921.

The reference correspondence, which includes written requests for information and specific books, demonstrates both what people were researching here ninety years ago and what truly remarkable information finders librarians are!

One of the most fun discoveries was the numerous requests for the identity of a poem—usually with the patron providing only little or incorrect information.

In 1930, someone wrote in to the Hill asking, “Would you be kind enough to advise from what the following quotation was taken. ‘None knew him but to honor him; / None named him but to praise.’” Our diligent librarians discovered this to be the beginning of “On the Death of Joseph Rodman Drake, September 1820,” a poem by Fitz Green Halleck. 

How did they do it? While we can never say for sure since the processes for particular reference questions weren’t written down, we can assume it was how most research was done those days: mainly a matter of immense knowledge and familiarity with the subject and the library catalog. It’s possible we had a librarian who specialized in literature or, if not, outsourced the question to an outside librarian or expert. 

The editor of “The Daily Argus-Leader” in Sioux Falls, SD, was a particularly curious man. He once quipped in a letter to the Hill that, “I begin to feel there ought to be fees charged for my inquiries.” He often needed help identifying poems. In 1929, he wrote in: 

Have you anything in your anthologies whereby you could give authorship and “location” of old poem about the goat that used a shirt off the clothes line to flag a train? 

It thus begins: 

There was a goat—a one-eyed goat— 

And he was old enough to vote etc. 

Our librarians performed beautifully, promptly sending off the following response: 

The version which I found of the poem of a goat that flagged a train reads as follows: 

A HARLEM GOAT 

A Harlem goat was feeling fine,
Ate nine red shirts off Sallie’s line
Sal grabbed a stick, gave the goat a whack
And tied him to the railroad track.
A fast express was drawing nigh,
The Harlem goat was doomed to die
But with an awful shriek of pain
The Harlem goat coughed up those shirts and flagged the train.  

(Our research department today enjoyed learning more about Harlem goats here and here, even though the latter features a different version of the poem.)

But even the Hill librarians got stumped time to time. Our prolific friend in Sioux Falls wrote in, in 1928: 

“An inquiry comes to this office about a poem the burden of which is the following. There is a steep hill and a road runs down the land below. There is a number of accidents happening there and an ambulance is stationed at the foot of the hill to gather up the wounded. Some one [sic] suggests that a railing be placed on the side of the road going down hill [sic], but some one [sic] also says it is not necessary since there is an ambulance at the foot to receiving the injured. Did you ever hear about this?” 

Unfortunately, our librarians had not heard about this, even after scouring our poetry anthologies. 

Today it’s (usually!) easy to identify a poem or song from misremembered lines by typing them into Google, but for topics such as private company information, consumer behavior, and five-year industry forecasts, it’s still best to consult the experts. For your tough business questions, come in to check out our free specialized business databases, or connect one-on-one with a business research specialist through a Hill membership or premium research services. 

 


Written by Ann Mayhew, Reference & Support Specialist, at the James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library our our historic collection at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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It All Adds Up: Celebrating Growth

When I think about pivotal growth seasons in my life, one of the most memorable, but often scary experiences was becoming a parent. If you’re anything like me and began your parenting journey in the early 2000’s, then you probably owned and/or read one of the books from the series, “What to Expect…”. In spite of the millions of parents before me and the countless times I read and reread from the book series, my growth process of becoming a parent was unique to me. The same is true in the growth process as an entrepreneur and business owner. In spite of the case studies and research published by thousands of entrepreneurs, starting a business is extremely difficult and choosing to remain in business and experience growth is excruciatingly painful. But just like parenting, entrepreneurship adds immeasurable value to my lived experiences.

Over the last 1-1/2 years, I’ve been working with Minneapolis based brand consultants, Neka Creative, to redefine everything about my cookie company. While we’ve just reached the final stages in the planning and development process with a new name and logo, clearly defined messaging and a robust sales and marketing strategy, all of this preparation leads to another pivotal and scary growth process for me. However, just like my anticipation of becoming a new parent, I celebrate the possibilities first, followed by confidently leaning into the very common, yet extremely personal growth process.

The commonalities of the business growth process can be found in the business plan. The personalization of the business growth process is shaped by the life that is breathed into making the business plan a reality. Today, as I anticipate the new life I will infuse into my cookie company I am filled with an abundance of hope. Hope that something as simple as a cookie made from my favorite childhood recipes can be the force behind a movement of a safer, kinder, sweeter world by spreading a message that #HopeMunchesOn!

While the process is very personal, it is never experienced in isolation. As I take another step on my entrepreneurial journey, I’m inviting you to join me. I hope you will join me as I celebrate the re-branding and launch of my life’s work, Junita’s Jar. Stop over and visit the new website, junitasjar.com and stay tuned for more details on our July 31st launch party, which be held at the James J. Hill Center.

Entrepreneurship, just like parenting has been an extremely rewarding gift that has strengthened my character, defined my resilience and influenced my compassion for humanity. And similar to my hopes and dreams as a parent, I am committed to leading a cookie company that inspires good and spreads hope.

I’d love to hear from you. In anticipation of the upcoming launch party, I am looking for stories that reflect a message of #hopemuncheson. If you’d like to share your story, click here to request more information.

 


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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“Building” Data

Opening a store-front location adds an additional research layer onto an already complex process. In addition to industry and competitor investigation, you now must consider foot traffic, signage, and accessibility issues as part of your research! Thankfully, the James J. Hill Center’s resources offer ways to connect you to the information you need to finalize your business’ location.

The Hill offers SimplyAnalytics on a walk-in basis for demographics and consumer behavior research. You can look up survey data on a variety of topics including buying behavior and consumer attitudes, and blend it with information on population, ethnicity, household income, and others pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau. SimplyAnalytics, formerly SimplyMap, offers multiple ways to view this data. You can compare two (or more!) specific locations down to the block level using the Comparison chart tool or rank counties, cities, zip codes, and beyond using the Ratings view. A stand-out feature of SimplyAnalytics allows users to map other, similar businesses as sorted by NAICS code onto a map of a desired location. You can literally chart your competitors in a designated location, creating exportable maps for future presentations!

While the Hill is your first stop when it comes to business research, when it comes to location-specific information, however, there’s no substitute for going straight to the source. The City of St. Paul can seem overwhelming for an entrepreneur at any stage of business development. Fortunately the Saint Paul Public Library’s Nicholson Workforce and Innovation Center is here to help. Located at the George Latimer Central Library downtown St. Paul, the Innovation Center works with St. Paul businesses to connect them to city resources on zoning, state-specific human resource requirements, and other support organizations to get your storefront up and running. If you need any help navigating the Twin Cities business research ecosystem, head over to the Hill for guidance and support during your referral process!

Additional questions? Book a complimentary 20 minute introductory appointment at the Hill by heading to jjhill.org and choosing a time that fits your schedule.

 


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 hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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A Crowdfunding Vanguard for Investors, Entrepreneurs

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 David Duccini. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on June 2, 2018.

According to Crowdexpert.com, “The crowdfunding industry is projected to grow to over $300 billion by 2025.”  With the new rules for crowdfunding portals, regulation crowdfunding (as opposed to rewards-based crowdfunding, like Kickstarter) has an opportunity to fill in after banks stop lending and/or before an angel or venture capitalist steps in. According to Huffington Post, “blockchain crowdfunding might just be the next step in startup evolution, helping important and interesting projects come to fruition.”

David Duccini likes to be on the forefront of problem solving, saw that evolution of crowdfunding on the rise and waited patiently as rules and regulations evolved so he could breakout his company and help business owners raise capital legally, slashing added fees and helping their dreams grow.

 

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: David V. Duccini
City you live in: St. Paul
College attended: MS, University of St. Thomas; MBA, University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Silicon Prairie Portal & Exchange
Website: https://sppx.io
Business Start Date: October 2016
Number of Employees: 1 Full time / 8 contractors
Number of Customers: 6 live crowdfunding campaigns to date / 24 investors with pre-paid credit

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I am a serial FinTech entrepreneur. I grew a Twin Cities-based Internet Service Provider from 1994-2008 through seven acquisitions and one merger before selling it off. I then launched a VOIP company in 2016 and tried raising capital locally and from the coasts. I became familiar with Small Company Offering Registration (SCOR) as an exemption from going public and I found natural synergy with blockchain-based distributed ledgers for shareholder registries in 2010. I then waited patiently for the JOBS act crowdfunding rules to kick in four years later and another two for MNvest to become effective.

Q. What is your business?
A. Silicon Prairie Portal & Exchange is a registered crowdfunding portal operator in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and nationally through the SEC and FINRA. We help business owners raise capital legally through regulation crowdfunding in the amounts of $1 million, $2 million or even $5 million depending on which exemption from federal securities law is used. This can be in the form of stock, debt, convertible notes or the Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE) instrument.

Using a smart document technology we created called “Geppetto” we are able to dramatically slash the amount of legal costs typical for a Private Placement Memorandum. Once filed and approved by the regulator we host the offering on our website as well as facilitate all financial transactions from investors to issuer. Once the campaign is successful and closed we can manage those shareholders in an “Investor Relations as a Service” model, helping with communications, voting and liquidity, first peer to peer and soon on an approved exchange.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. Cost effective capital raising at scale. All fundraising is essentially “the slow conversion of your social capital into financial capital.” Our Geppetto smart document technology slashes the legal costs from the $15,000-$25,000 range down to around $5,000 — and we think we can get it down to about $2,500.

Q. Where did you pivot in your company’s journey? What big obstacle or hurdle did you have to overcome?
A. We have not deviated from plan yet. Our biggest hurdle to date has been dealing with the legacy regulatory apparatus that is in place to maintain the status quo. There are very few “service level agreements” in government agencies and no sense of urgency.

We’re looking forward to the next phase of delivering an intra-state exchange system for exempt securities, something that has been contemplated in states like Michigan, but does not appear to have been tried yet. Under the rules an investor absolutely has the right to sell their interest in a crowdfunded offering to another resident of the state within the first six months and then in theory to anyone in the world. We will likely be the first company ever to put that theory to test….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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Offering stylish comfort for teens with autism

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 Molly Fuller. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on May 19, 2018.

 

According to the Autism Society, more than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder and the prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 to 2010. It is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the country.

A person with autism typically has sensory disorders, meaning their senses can be intensified or be diminished. Deep pressure therapy, such as hugging, squeezing, or swaddling, has been shown to be beneficial, providing a sense of calm and relaxation. While there are some products providing deep pressure therapy, many are expensive, low quality, or lack style.

Molly Fuller is out to change that. She is tired of medical products drawing more attention to the medical condition than the actual person and believes just because someone has a medical condition doesn’t mean they don’t deserve or care about style and quality.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Molly Fuller
City you live in: Hopkins
Age: 29
City of Birth: Cincinnati
High School Attended: Princeton High School
College attended: University of Cincinnati (undergrad), University of Minnesota (grad school)

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of Company: Molly Fuller Design
Website: mollyfullerdesign.com; Facebook & Instagram: facebook.com/mollyfullerdesign; instagram.com/mollyfuller.design
Business Start Date: September, 2016
Number of Employees: 1
Number of Customers: 31

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I have a background in fashion design and human factors. I always wanted to design better-looking products that served a medical purpose. In undergrad, I partnered with biomedical engineering students to redesign diabetic footwear and compression garments. I’ve worked in the health care industry, such as the Mayo Clinic, my entire career designing better patient experiences for various conditions.

Q. What is your business?
A. My business is an online clothing store that specializes in creating stylish clothing that is designed for specific medical conditions. I’m focusing first on clothing for teens with autism.

My first product is called the Charlie shirt, a stylish therapeutic compression shirt for teens with autism. The compression provides deep pressure therapy that is calming and relaxing to many people with diminished senses due to their autism. The Charlie shirt uses a high-quality power stretch super soft material that adds substantial compression while not irritating the skin. The seams and stitching are designed to feel invisible to the wearer. The stylistic detailing on the sleeves double as a fidget for tactile stimulation.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. My senior year of undergrad I decided to do a second thesis focused on medical clothing. I reached out to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and they let me observe in different units to see where there might be an opportunity to design better products. I observed with two occupational therapists in the autism unit and that’s where I saw the biggest need for better clothing options for teens.

I then connected with special education teachers to understand another perspective and saw that teachers were DIY-ing clothes for their students because the current products made the kids stand out more and be bullied. An autism distribution company happened to launch around the same time, so I reached out to the CEO and she was generous with her time and allowed me to tag-along to the AutismOne Conference with her.

There I talked with parents and professionals to gain a better understanding of their needs. I had three designs prototyped and started testing. I put the business on hold while I worked at the Mayo Clinic. By 2016, I hadn’t seen enough things change in the market and I wanted to provide a solution to these teens and families. I started designing and testing out samples again with teens across the U.S.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. A person with autism typically has sensory disorders, meaning their senses can be intensified or be diminished. People with a diminished sense of touch may exhibit arm flapping, excessive hugging or crawling under heavy objects such as mattresses or couch cushions in order to feel pressure.

Deep pressure therapy, such as hugging, squeezing, or swaddling, has been shown to be beneficial for people with sensory disorders, providing a sense of calm and relaxation. One way to provide deep pressure therapy is through compression clothing that provides a consistent firm sensory input….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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A Seller’s Daily Amazon Life

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.

“The future of retail is no longer ‘where did you get that product’ but ‘what did you search,’” says Darrin Levine, CEO and Founder of ASDAL Inc. And he should know, it’s what he does.

Darrin’s company, ASDAL – an acronym that stands for A Seller’s Daily Amazon Life – is unique for a number of reasons. For starters, they offer comprehensive Amazon store management. To explain this, Darrin uses the following comparison: When you go to the mall, each store has a marketing manager, a display manager, an inventory manager, and lots of software keeping things straight on the back end.

“[It’s] the same concept on Amazon,” Darrin says. “We have a store manager who oversees everything, we have an account support specialist who can fix the files and templates, and content creators who do design, writing, product copy and EBC (enhanced brand content).” ASDAL can take responsibility for the whole package (literally and figuratively) including inventory storage, repackaging, and forwarding.

The second thing that makes ASDAL unique is their single-minded focus on brands. They will only take on clients who own a trademark but – once they do – will help them navigate the strict rules for registering and launching trademarked products on Amazon. Part of this launch process is removing unauthorized resellers of a product. Darrin and his team have made themselves experts in this process – they know exactly how to submit cases to Amazon to remove 90-100% of third-party sellers.

Finally, ASDAL is paving the way for others in the online retail industry by developing a proprietary software called GRIT. “There is yet to be an enterprise level software for brands to understand where their products are at,” says Darrin. Most of the current software is made for third-party sellers. Because their focus is on trademarked products and they are in the trenches every day managing branded accounts, the ASDAL team is creating an all-in-one tool that combines inventory management, PPC (pay-per-click advertising), keyword tracking, inventory forecasting, sales and reporting.

Despite the hype, only 8% of retail sales happen online. However, according to reports by eMarketer and One Click Retail, in 2017 Amazon was responsible for 44% of all ecommerce sales – roughly $196.75 billion. Darrin spends a lot of time analyzing this tech giant and he has notice Amazon moving from a third-party seller’s platform towards a brand-driven platform. “When online retail sales start reaching the 12-15% range more brands are going to have to step on Amazon,” says Darrin. His prediction is that by 2020 companies with trademarked products will need to hire their own Amazon specialists and teams – or hire ASDAL.

There are many things that set Darrin apart as an original thinker but arguably most admirable is that he recognizes, respects, and defends original thinking in others. Many of the clients he works with will discover that others have been reselling their trademarked products at wholesale levels without their knowledge. “I do see us as champions to retain smaller companies’ revenue,” says Darrin. He has a special contract for small, local companies who need an ally in their corner – someone to clear the field of unauthorized sellers and set their brand up online. After that, he’s only a click away. “This is kind of a Minnesota nice thing [we do],” says Darrin. “If you need help just call me.”

To learn more about ASDAL Inc. visit their website or reach out to the team at friends@asdalamz.com.

 


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 
christopher@jjhill.org.

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No time for family dinner? She thought: ‘What if I cook it for you?’

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 Libby Mehaffey. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on May 6, 2018.

In 2018, families are constantly on the go, and it seems eating together as a family is on the decline. According to Statista, only half of American families eat dinner with their family at home six to seven nights a week.

Studies have shown eating together is beneficial not only for children but also for the parents. According to National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse at Columbia University, teaching healthful eating habits make you less likely to develop substance dependencies, and more likely to perform better academically.  One Minnesota startup has taken this idea to heart and is looking to bring families together through healthy prepared dinners for all.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Weeknight Kitchen
Website: WeeknightKitchen.com
Business Start Date: Officially since August 2017
Number of Employees: 3 plus independent contractors
Number of Customers: 500, 75 to 100 orders on a weekly basis

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Libby Mehaffey
Age: 38
City you live in: Inver Grove Heights
College attended: University of Wisconsin, Madison
High school attended: Hastings Senior High School
College attended: University of Wisconsin, Madison

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?

A. I grew up in Hastings with a wonderful, hard-working family. My career started in Washington, D.C., working in politics where I met my now husband, Matthew, on a blind date. We moved to Minnesota in 2005. Since then I’ve done lots of interesting work including launching a local golf newspaper, working with the Secret Service at the 2008 GOP Convention and doing marketing and sales for the PGA Tour. So, when I sat down to think about what it was going to be like to go back to work — I thought — given my zest for work, my husband’s odd hours and travel schedule and my gaggle of kids, I needed to build a business that works for my family. So that’s what I did. Enter, Weeknight Kitchen.

Q. What is your business?

A. Weeknight Kitchen prepares hot, homemade, family-style meals to be shared at home. Our hope is that by preparing a hot, homemade meal we can give our clients 30 minutes of time to sit down and share dinner with their family. Our menu changes weekly and is designed to appeal to parents and kids alike — no foraged ingredients or spices you can’t pronounce — just simple, classic recipes like meatloaf and baby red potatoes or chicken chow mein.  Everyone gets the same thing — no substitutions or special orders as we stick to the mantra of “you get what you get and you don’t cause a fit.” All of our meals feed 4-6 people and cost $35 no matter what we’re serving. Clients pick up meals at corporate and residential locations between the hours of 3:30 and 6:30 p.m.

Some people confuse Weeknight Kitchen with a meal kit — which we are not. All of our meals are fully prepared and delivered hot — so there is absolutely no prep work involved. All meals are delivered in commercial catering boxes or bags that are designed to keep food safe for up to four hours.

Q. What is the origin of the business?

A. Growing up, my family ate dinner together at 5:30 almost every day. I think for many folks in my generation this was the norm. Weeknight dinner was when our family caught up about school, work, friends, and family. Dinner was never fancy – just simple meals my mom would “whip up.” Looking back, weeknight dinners were our family constant.

Unfortunately, people don’t sit down for dinner as a family anymore. Between work responsibilities, kid stuff and household chores – finding the time and energy to make dinner — and actually sit down together — well, it just doesn’t happen…..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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