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Her Chocolates Combine Honey, Artistry and Inspiration

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 presenters Susan Brown. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on December 30, 2017.

According to an article in the July 2017 edition of INC., researchers in Rome and L’Aquila, Italy, say they’ve demonstrated a clear link between the consumption of chocolate and strong brain function.

Entrepreneur and artist Susan Brown has believed this all along and by combining both her passion and smarts has created a whole new level of chocolate. By fusing the benefits of cacao with the medicinal and ancient healing power of honey she has created an exceptional culinary experience that combines health, beauty and love all in one small bon-bon.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Susan Brown
Age: 58
City you live in: St. Paul
City of birth: Buffalo, NY
High school attended: Wheat Ridge, Colo.
College attended: University of Colorado, Boulder

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Mademoiselle Miel
Website: www.mademoisellemiel.com
Twitter: @MadameMiel
Business Start Date: April 9, 2011
Number of Employees: 8 part time
Number of Customers: We sell in multiple store locations in both Minnesota and California and have a honey kitchen and showroom in St. Paul.  Each location has a steady flow of customers.

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?

A. I founded Mademoiselle Miel in St. Paul in 2011, bringing together my passion for innovative art and minimalist design with my love for the natural world, the culture of cuisine, and the rich historic flavor of local surroundings.

I was working as an artist by the time I was in high school and have spent my life developing that talent, originally nurtured by my mother. I’ve worked in many mediums but chocolate has been an extraordinary outlet for me. It has brought together many of the things that are important to me and has also allowed me to create an experience for others.

There’s so many interesting things about chocolate, honey and bees. I was inspired to start keeping bees by my father-in-law who was a farmer in River Falls, Wis., after a visit to France (where I focused on all things bees and honey). I discovered that the Paris Opera House had been keeping bees on their roof for quite some time. I thought if they can do it in Paris, we can do it in St. Paul. I was the first rooftop beekeeper in the cities for some time. Now it is more widely accepted and supported by the public. I knew the flavor of the urban honey would make an exceptional filling for my bon-bons.

Now, 11 years later, we take care of over 33 hives, housed on the rooftops of several businesses throughout St. Paul and Minneapolis. My classic bonbons are filled with the honey and decorated with my signature artist’s touch: 24-karat gold leaf. I continue to find inspiration in multiple sources and support many cultural movements — from ecological awareness, to social justice, to Slow Food — but the bees’ work is where Mademoiselle Miel chocolate begins, artistic expression and artisanal method is where it becomes complete.

Q. What is your business?

A. We make house-made chocolate using fair trade, single origin cacao and local maple sugar; honey bonbons featuring St. Paul rooftop honey and assorted confections and creations.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?

 

A. I ask other chocolate makers, chocolatiers and artists when I get stuck. Legacy chocolates, Kul, St. Croix Chocolates and Chocolat Celeste are some of the local chocolate people who have been really helpful.

Q. What is the origin of the business?

A. Honey became the sweetener of choice because of its beneficial properties and ease of digestion. I realized its potential has not been tapped as a sweetener and began a lifelong quest to develop recipes and a lifestyle using good, clean food. My goal was to keep the food elevated so that I matched the quality of the ingredients with flavor and presentation….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 B2B App for Keeping Fitness Centers’ Data in Shape

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 presenters Prabhakar “KP” Karri. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on December 16, 2017.

Are you thinking about your 2018 fitness goals? Typically, staying fit and healthy is at the top of most people’s New Year’s resolution list.

According to a report on NBC, in January of 2017, there was a 315 percent increase around the search term “Gym.” The timing is no coincidence.

So, how do trainers deal with this influx of traffic and interest after the first of the year? How do they keep organized to keep you, the customer, invested? These are some of the same questions Prabhakar Kerri asked himself when he started training with Eric Mattson. Their outcome has not only been fitness on a whole new level, but a product that helps them help you keep that fitness resolution on task.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Prabhakar “KP” Karri
Age: 45
City you live in: Eden Prairie
City of birth: Vizag, India
High school attended: Timpany School, Vizag, India
College attended: Andhra University, University of New Orleans (MS Applied Physics), University of Minnesota (MBA Finance and Strategy)

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Nymbl (“nimble”) Technologies
Website: www.nlytfit.com (“en-lite”)
Business Start Date: Sept. 21, 2016
Number of Employees: 10
Number of Customers: 10 (product launched in November)

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. Prabhakar “KP” saw an unmet need in the professional fitness industry when he was training with Eric Mattson. KP had always wanted to venture out on his own and had evaluated several business ideas in the past. So when he decided that his corporate job was unfulfilling, he researched the fitness industry and felt that Eric and he could help solve the problems he witnessed through innovative technology.

Q. What is your business?
A. Nymbl (pronounced “nimble”) develops innovative fitness solutions for professional trainers and coaches. Our products utilize mobile technology to drive efficiency, client satisfaction and retention, and business profitability, thus helping fitness trainers and coaches achieve their business goals and their clients’ fitness goals.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. We have an awesome board of advisers, which includes seasoned executives of Fortune 500 companies, successful investment bankers and fitness coaches who have all built successful businesses, and have led or advised multi-billion dollar businesses. We are also a collaborative team that is very talented and we are not shy about asking each other for help.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. It started with KP noticing Eric taking copious notes on a clipboard, entering information into two separate computers and still struggling to produce easy-to-understand, intuitive reports for his clients.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. At the present time, professional fitness trainers (either independent or small-studio owners) do not have a comprehensive solution to manage their clients’ workouts, schedules and payments….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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Wait Training: Top 5 Pieces of Advice for a Successful Year End

Junita Flowers is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, mom and the owner of Favorable Treats. With more than 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations, she spent her career advocating for families and leading social change initiatives. Junita has learned the value of “waiting” during her years as an entrepreneur and business owner and shares her experiences with us each  month.

If you have followed this monthly blog series, then you already know that this series is less about the instructional tips of starting and growing your business, and everything about my personal journey of finding my way as an entrepreneur. Wait Training is sort of an odd theme for a business blog series, but over the last twelve years, my entrepreneurial journey has been all about finding value, learning patience and gaining strength from every step along the way.

Over the last twelve years, I’ve met great leaders, and learned valuable lessons. As I prepare to wrap up another year in business, I spent some time reflecting on some of the best pieces of advice I have received from business leaders along the way.

Here are my top five…

  1. Begin With a Plan, End With Reflection

Dreaming, planning and drafting a vision for your business is the fuel that charges entrepreneurs. We reach for the stars, we dream up the impossible and we recruit a team of supporters who are willing to cheer us on along the way. Equally as important as drafting the plan is the practice of reviewing that same plan at year end. As entrepreneurs, it can be more exciting to remain in planning and dreaming mode, so we often overlook the importance of reflecting upon what worked, what needs to be changed and how do we grow based on results. Carve out enough time in your year end process for reflection.

  1. Self-care is Required

Entrepreneurs dream big and go hard, and social entrepreneurs add in immeasurable amounts of compassion. Entrepreneurs believe in their venture and are willing to dedicate limitless time to make things happen. Most entrepreneurs have a plan and a strategy to achieve success, but rarely do we find self-care included in that plan. Self-care is vitally important to longevity and satisfaction. When we ignore the importance of self-care, we are more likely to experience burnout. From carving out time to enjoy a hobby or scheduling a short vacation, self-care is required to maintain a healthy business and a healthy life.

  1. Ask for Help

Entrepreneurs create solutions. We solve problems. Whether based on necessity or personality, entrepreneurs are very skilled at managing multiple responsibilities to produce a desired outcome. Operating as a team of one for an extended period of time is the norm for many startup ventures. As growth happens, it can be very difficult to invite others into your journey…but it is required to scale up and for sustainability. Ending each year with a clear understanding of areas where you should ask for help and identifying specific resources is a valuable practice.

  1. Your Time is a Precious Commodity

We have all heard a million and one times over, time is the one thing you can never get back. That is so true and we have to begin to value time as the precious and limited resource it is. You can add to your team, you can earn more money, but you can’t add more time. It is important to take an assessment of how your time was spent over the year and make the necessary adjustments for a more productive new year.

  1. Never Give Up

When all is said and done…never give up on your dream. When you get to the end of the year, change will always be required. Prepare for it, adjust for it and grow from it, but never give up. From my heart, to your dream…you’ve got this! Here’s to a successful year end!

Happy Year End!


As always, Junita would love to hear from you. How do you prepare for a successful year end review? Click here to send her your process. You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website at favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.    

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Soft Skills Revolution: Befriending Chaos

Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor, lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for the Soft Skills Revolution to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

Life would be so much easier if everything stayed the same, wouldn’t it? Preparing for that speech or meeting or interview would be a heck of a lot easier if you new exactly what was going to happen, right?

We would adapt to the precise moment when the projector would break. We’d jump right on the last-second agenda change. We could prepare for that last question no one would ever expect.

Awesome concept, right?  Well, not exactly. Quite the opposite, in fact.

First of all, the world isn’t like Groundhog’s Day. Something about the second law of thermodynamics and time’s arrow. Change is our only constant.  Besides, look how unhappy Bill Murray became. Like it or not, we depend on change. Luckily, that’s a skill that you can develop.

Rehearsed Spontaneity

One of the highlights of my career has been to work alongside academy award winning actor, Mark Rylance. He has a shelf of awards for his acting, but he’s also a generous director and mentor.

In a play he wrote and directed, I played a snowmobile riding, Norse, frost giant. In most plays, the director gives actors blocking and expects them to always follow it. Mark didn’t. Instead, he described the relationship between characters onstage. If a character moved one way, we would react and respond instead of moving in a rehearsed and rigid fashion that was constructed for us.

His commitment to chaos was so great that he would also change things he thought were working too well. If he thought something became routine, he would break it up and force us back to reacting to it.

This experience gave me a certain comfort in chaos. Through rehearsing in what appeared like chaos I developed an appetite for unpredictability. Because of this method, I actually joined the audience by encountering aspects of the play for the first time every night, together, with them.

Befriending chaos through practice is the first step to handling unexpected moments with ease.

Cultivating Flexibility

We can “rehearse spontaneity” with the people we seek to connect with. Instead of hoping that things unfold like we plan, we can plan on unpredictability. We can hold on tightly to the points we want to make. But at the same time,  let go of particular thoughts or ideas that hold us back.

Here is an excises to try:

  1. Think of your “Big Idea” and a few supporting words.
  2. Talk through them enough times so that you’re as clear and concise as you can be.
  3. Write down what you said.
  4. Read it aloud.
  5. Now re-draft to get the words perfect.
  6. Print out your final copy. Place the paper in front of you and turn it over.
  7. Talk through your “Big Idea” and supporting thoughts without using any of the words on the paper in front of you.

You have just written your own mini-script. Now that you know your steps you can do the dance.

Results May Vary in Delight

Many of my clients do not like the exercise above. It takes work and commitment. What happens though is almost always a delight to them and me. They engage with the change.

They find new words to share the ideas and the “idea” is now fresher than ever. I hear them thinking, not talking. The words they wrote disappear, replaced by thoughts and authenticity.

Isn’t that what we all want? To be with someone who can conquer change. That’s real. That’s worth listening to?

Hear Everyone but Listen Only to Yourself

Remember the idea and forget the words. There is power and presence in that concept.  When you listen to yourself everyone will hear you.

Guest writer: Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.

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A Business Venture is Their Latest Adventure

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 presenters Kelly Koster and Nick Hansen. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on December 2, 2017.

As the world’s population becomes increasingly mobile, people have become more interested in exploring the more off beat and remote areas of the world. In 2016, travel and tourism made a total contribution of $7.61 trillion to the global economy. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization international travel will rise to 1.8 billion people by 2030.

Kelly Koster and Nick Hansen from Anywhere Apparel are ongoing explorers who have a passion to go anywhere and everywhere in the world — but with a little more ease. They are determined to help real people access the real world with a lot less baggage.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Kelly Koster and Nick Hansen
Age: Kelly 36; Nick 35
City you live in: St. Paul
City of birth: Kelly: Augusta, Ga.; Nick: Minneapolis
High school attended: Kelly: Onalaksa, Wis.; Nick: Chippewa Falls, Wis.
College attended: Kelly: Communications undergrad at UWEC, MBA at UST, Master of Liberal Studies at U of MN; Nick: Computer Science undergrad at UW Madison, MBA at UST, Masters of Financial Mathematics at U of MN

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company:  Anywhere Apparel
Website: https://anywhereapparel.com
Business Start Date: March/April of 2014
Number of Employees: 2.5 (two full-time, one part-time)
Number of Customers: About 600

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. We (the co-founders, Nick and Kelly) met in college and started dating shortly thereafter. We discovered a mutual love of travel, saving up enough money for the next plane ticket, and just throwing a few things in a bag and roaming around other countries or continents. Neither of us wanted to carry much since we’d be switching towns every couple of days. After over a decade of experiences, and realizing we still couldn’t find a brand or products which fit our lifestyle, we decided to take the leap and see if we could make it ourselves: an all-purpose travel kit to go anywhere.

Q. What is your business?
A. Our business is two equally important things: a product set and a brand philosophy. Our brand stands for going out in the world and exploring as much of it as you can. Our products run with this mission to take just the few things you need to explore the world and designing them very clearly to that purpose. They aren’t just technical items (though our designs are extremely technical), but they’re also versatile styles to address the widest range of social situations you might encounter anywhere in the world.

Currently, we have designed and manufactured our flagship products: our women’s Antipodes Coat which and our men’s Stowaway Jacket, which not only has a small, internal backpack in the interior liner and several other hidden features, but transforms into a functional satchel.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. We first turn to family and friends. It’s incredible how much you can do with support from people you know — the amount of money you’d need to professionalize those first photos shoots, or product feedback sessions, or getting a website built, adds up extremely quickly.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. We love to explore. The trips we’ve taken are rarely spent in one spot; they often involve rail passes, all-you-can-fly tickets, rented cars and motorbikes, lots of walking, and lots and lots of different places to sleep. This screamed opportunity — when the needs posed by an activity you love dearly in life isn’t addressed by anyone effectively, and you hear the same feedback from other people, there’s both a brand and a design opportunity. After some soul-searching and a career change, we decided to take the leap…..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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Her T-shirt Line is For Wearing, Caring and Sharing

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 Lori Myren-Manbeck. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on November 18, 2017.

According to Forbes, there are five reasons Social Entrepreneurship is the new business model: “It connects you to your life purpose, keeps you motivated, brings you lasting happiness, helps you help others and is what today’s consumers want.”

Lori Myren-Manbeck with her company Inclusivi-tee is doing just that. By combining her passion for change, her belief in social justice, her love of the earth and her support of the arts, she is spreading and sharing a positive message of hope to all and giving back in the process.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Lori Myren-Manbeck
Age: 53
City you live in: Eden Prairie
City of birth: Maquoketa, Iowa
High school attended: Sibley High School, Sibley, Iowa
College attended: Grinnell College for bachelor’s degree; University of Rhode Island for Ph.D.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Inclusivi-tee, PBC, Inc.
Website:www.inclusivi-tee.com
Business Start Date: March 27, 2017
Number of Employees: We have 5 board members, including myself, and several paid consultants.
Number of Customers: We currently have about 50 subscribers and are also working with several organizations/businesses to design shirts for their brands or for specific events.

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I decided to start Inclusivi-tee in late 2016 when I realized that I needed to do more to make a difference and support causes I felt passionately for. I could not simply sit by and expect someone else to do the work. Since working on Inclusivi-tee, I have become stronger, more passionate and better informed. I have met amazing, diverse, wonderful people and challenged myself in ways I never thought possible. No matter what happens in the future, this is a journey I had to take.

Q. What is your business?
A. Inclusivi-tee is a quarterly subscription-based T-shirt club in Minneapolis. We have pledged to promote equality, conservation and social justice through the sale of beautiful wearable art. In addition to selling T-shirts and donating 100 percent of profits to progressive local and national nonprofit organizations, Inclusivi-tee spreads its mission through social media outreach and participates in marches, rallies and other events that make the world a more inclusive and accepting community.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. I have been very fortunate to receive consistent help during the formation of Inclusivi-tee, starting with the unwavering support of my husband Ray Caron, my sister Bobbi Boggs and my best friend, Negebe Sheronick. Beyond this initial support the most important thing has been asking for assistance even when doing so is difficult. I have a wonderful board of directors, including Negebe, Bobbi, Katherine Manbeck, my daughter, and Shalette Cauley Wandrick, a Minnesota native and activist. Additionally, when I was creating a business plan I had help from BJ Van Glabbeek and Roger Cloutier who had the business knowledge I lacked. I turned to Clockwork to complete Inclusivi-tee’s website and am working with Lola Red on public relations.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. I first conceived of Inclusivi-tee in mid-November 2016 as a direct response to the continuing and increasing divisiveness I was witnessing. I wanted to create a company that consistently promotes and supports social and earth justice. T-shirts were chosen as our medium because they are accessible to everyone and provide a perfect canvas for our positive, hopeful message. Because art is an important barometer of social justice and the art community is negatively impacted during times of oppression, we choose to pay artists to create our beautiful shirts…..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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Wait Training: Soaring Into the Next Chapter

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 recently celebrated a milestone birthday. Four decades plus five additional fingers, made me pause and ponder, what’s next for me as an entrepreneur. My previous chapter as an entrepreneur was all about strengthening my current business foundation and doing the work in preparation for take-off. My next chapter…I’m ready to soar!

There is so much life and opportunity in creating the next chapter. It’s an opportunity to learn from and build upon the past, with the freedom to create the future.

My next chapter opens with the excitement and vulnerability of managing a growth cycle in my business. Managing business growth is hard, it’s exhausting and often times, absolutely terrifying. While there are many external factors that can complicate the business growth process, the biggest obstacle can often be the entrepreneur themselves. From making the wrong hiring decisions to being temporarily sidelined by fear, we can get in our own way of achieving the success we’re working so hard to accomplish.

As I create new systems, manage growing pains and execute my growth plan, here are five simple strategies that I use to get out of my own way and soar.

  1. Believe – One of the key foundational principles of my business journey is to believe in myself, my vision and my process. I can tell you, before the resources accumulate, the people gather and the business flourishes, I had to believe that I was creating something bigger than myself.
  2. Find your people, grow your team – We’ve all heard it said a million and one times over…you cannot be successful on your own.  Asking for assistance and widening my circle of supporters has by far added the most value to my growth personally and professionally, and has been the overall success of my business. As I continue to form new relationships and add to my team, the process becomes manageable and my impact dramatically increases.
  3. Measure, Manage, Maximize – I have found these three factors vitally important in every phase of my business journey. While these three factors will look different at various stages in business, creating a system that measures results, manages the growth process and maximizes output, puts a business on a successful growth trajectory.
  4. Face your fears – Here’s what I know for sure: growth and advancement only happen on the other side of fear. Facing fears head-on and devising a plan of action allows me to consistently move beyond limitations and expand the possibilities.
  5. Soar – I’ve built the foundation. I’ve invested the time. I’ve secured and managed my resources. It’s time to live it out. It’s time to soar.

As I share my growth process and lessons learned from my journey as an entrepreneur, I would love to hear from you. “Click here” to send me a note and share how my business journey inspires you to share your journey. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

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

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Seeking a Healthy Snack, She Founded a Business

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 Angela Gustafson. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on November 4, 2017.

In 2015, the Food Marketing Institute asked U.S. consumers how they would rate the healthfulness of their diets. The findings stated that 71 percent of U.S. shoppers believed their diets could be healthier.

Having access to healthy options that are both high in quality and taste is not always easy. However, Angela Gustafson was dead set on creating a healthy option for her family. Little did she know how it would translate to helping fill a consumer need. After experimenting in her kitchen for over a year, Gustola Granola was born. With loads of passion and creativity she stepped in the world of food entrepreneurship and hasn’t looked back.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Angela Gustafson
Age: 48
City you live in: Minneapolis
City of birth: Iowa City, Iowa
High school attended: John Marshall High School, Rochester, Minn.
College attended: UW Madison

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Gustola Granola
Website:www.gustolagranola.com | @gustolagranola
Business Start Date: June – October 2013 (produced out of home kitchen for Linden Hills Farmers Market); June 2014 (re-started in a commercial kitchen, producing for retail store shelves)
Number of Employees: 1 (me) plus one husband, four kids and a local dream team.
Number of Customers: 200 retail locations and online sales through our website

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I worked at Hy-Vee in high school and was quickly drawn to branding and packaging. I majored in marketing at UW, and fell in love with co-ops, farmers markets and Birkenstocks. I served in the Peace Corps as a small-business development volunteer with my husband on the Dominican Republic-Haiti border from 1994-1996. I lived and worked downtown, in the great city of St. Paul, out of college and post-Peace Corps. With our third child on the way, I took a break from Corporate America. I found myself trying to find or create the “best” recipe for everything. I took inspiration from both my mom and mother-in-law, both great cooks and in cooking for my own family of six. Then I hit upon a great one … like most of us do. Took it to a farmer’s market … like fewer of us do. It was just supposed to be a fun summer adventure.

Q. What is your business?
A. Gustola Granola is a Twin Cities-based, premium packaged granola company. Gustola Granola is a premium, knock your socks off, super crunchy, home-made tasting, satisfying anytime, anywhere, different-from-all-of-the-rest granola.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. I lean on my husband for wisdom and my kids for youthful optimism. I also lean on Minnesota’s tight network of food entrepreneurs. I have oversight of production and distribution, marketing, accounts payable, accounts receivable, customer service, fulfillment, etc. It’s a great way to have a pulse on all aspects of the business, but I look forward to the day when I have more resources.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. Rocky (our boxer) and I run early every morning. When I get home, kids start waking up and the bustle is on. I think more than anything, I was looking for a sustaining, healthy, post-run snack, to power me through busy mornings … as well as fill the house with those magical smells. Not crazy about available options in the stores, I started tinkering with granola at home…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 Secrets and Sh#$ to Know: Dear Investors, Entrepreneurs Spell Love “ T-I-M-E”

Aleckson Nyamwaya has his beat on the pulse of the startup world in Minnesota.  He is an Associate at @gener8tor, contributor for @startupgrind, ambassador for @1millioncupsspl and a lover of all things tech & startups. We are pleased to have his monthly insight with our blog “Startup Secrets and Sh#$ to Know.”  Check back each month for his thoughts, observations and featured companies.

Dear Investors, Entrepreneurs Spell Love “ T-I-M-E”:
The keys to becoming a prolific angel investor

Angel investors are an integral portion of the early stage funding community!

Who makes a good or bad angel anyways? Traditionally, this boils down to two things:

  1. Good Angels are great for seed money.
  2. Bad angel are great for money and additional headaches.

Return on investment VS community development

Think of angel investing as a means for community development. By helping small businesses succeed in your community, you help create jobs, wealth and help make your community more sustainable!

Money is great! It’s the crucial first step, but that’s not it. The truth is…

Giving entrepreneurs money does NOT buy you access, its only a small part of the equation. Yes, you need it and when you want it you want it badly and you care at that moment. But a year later when you succeed, you’ll clearly remember which investors helped along the way. Support is just as crucial as a financial investment because entrepreneurs spell love T-I-M-E.  Did you spend time in making the necessary intros, were you a great sounding board etc.

Most investors (including VC’s) are not well acquainted with that reality or they have a reality of their own that makes it hard for them to spend that type of time. What will end up happening is the company will do worse, and your deal flow will dry up because surprise, surprise: founders talk to each other.

The role of an angel investor?

  1. Don’t worry about the mechanics — especially if you are starting out. Valuations don’t matter especially in the early stage. The whole point is to be helpful enough to get the company to the next milestone so they can raise more money!!
  2. Be decisive — don’t “strategically” string founders along. Make up your mind quickly and follow through.
  3. Do good. Once you invest in a company, all you should want to do is help it. Help people you haven’t invested in too. Just try to be helpful.

Conclusion

Instead of looking at angel investing as a form of high profits. Let’s change our perspective to looking at it as a way of giving back to our community.  That way, we’ll have more ownership which will lead to added value without the headaches.

For reference, check out this great article written by Paul Graham on becoming an angel investor.


You can tweet me @alecksonn or subscribe to my newsletter

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Safe Travels Are Her Mission — and Passion

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 Sheryl Hill. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on October 21, 2017.

Having access to reliable knowledge about travel safety is important for anyone planning an overseas trip. However, a 2015 survey by CMO Council and GeoBranding Center noted that 38 percent of those surveyed relied primarily on friends and family for information about travel safety and security.

Word of mouth information isn’t necessarily the most reliable. After the death of a son who was studying abroad, Sheryl Hill decided to do something about this lack of reliable knowledge, and created Depart Smart to teach travelers about travel safety and help them create action plans to deal with emergencies.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Sheryl Hill
Age: 61
City you live in: Minnetrista
City of birth: San Antonio, Texas
High school attended: Erie High School, Erie, Colo.
College attended: Saint Mary’s University, Minneapolis

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Depart Smart
Websites: http://departsmart.org and http://travelheroes.org
Business Start Date: April, 2016 (Rebranded from ClearCause Foundation, founded in October 2010)
Number of Employees: 5
Number of Customers: 6

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I am founder and executive director of Depart Smart, a world speaker, author of Walking on Sunshine, NRG a Divine Transformation-a spiritual memoir and USA Book News Award finalist. I have been featured in People You Need to Know 2012, ABC, CBS, NBC, Washington and Huffington Post, Newsweek, USA Today, and others. My husband Allen and I have been a host family to eight international youth. Our 16-year-old son, Tyler, died a preventable death on a People to People student trip to Japan in 2007. The reality of poor consumer travel safety and awareness is the passion behind our purpose. We have one surviving son, Alec, who is a biomedical engineering senior at University of Wisconsin.

Q. What is your business?
A. The only consumer-driven travel safety course to help you and the ones you love Depart Smart with an action plan to avoid risks, get help and get home safely. Most people don’t know how.

Did you know that that 911 is not the international number for emergencies? Or that Americans can be arrested in some countries for having premarital sex? Of the thousands of people who have taken a 10-point eye-opener travel safety quiz, most can’t correctly answer more than 3 questions. One travel reporter missed 9 out of 10. This lack of safety knowledge routinely puts international travelers at risk, and tragically even results in avoidable deaths. Now we’re launching a solution with our Travel Heroes Safety Certification course.

The course covers six essential international travel chapters and helps you create your custom Safety Action Plan — what you need to do to avoid risks, get help, and get home from your destinations if tragedy strikes. It takes about one hour and should be a prerequisite to travel.  It can save your life.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. I am fortunate to have a league of advisers I rely upon. We have been leaning heavily on Media Relations Inc. for publicity, Maslon for legal services, OffiCenters for networking and administration, Paul Taylor – MN Cup Advisor, AIG Travel, and Travel Leaders for counsel and partnerships.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. Our son, Tyler, died a preventable death while participating in a student program in Japan in 2007.  We published TylerHill.org to warn and inform others so it wouldn’t happen again….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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IMPORTANT NOTICE:

Patrons with accessibility needs please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit.

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