Startup Showcase: Kidizen connects parents to buy and sell kids’ clothing

Entrepreneurs are in the business of solving problems. What if that problem was all around you? Piling up in boxes in your closet or in bags in your basement? It seems like most parents these days have enough children’s clothing to open their own shop. And many parents struggle with what to do with an item when their kid outgrows it. In this modern age a good old-fashioned yard sale just does not cut it. That is why a group of local entrepreneurs started an online marketplace for parents to sell and buy kids’ clothing.

Company Snapshot: Kidizen

Business Start Date: February, 2014

Number of Employees: 19

Number of Customers: 100,000 and growing fast

Website: www.kidizen.com/

Twitter: @kidizen

Entrepreneur Snapshot

Co-Founder: Dug Nichols

Age: 47

City you live in: Minneapolis

City of birth: Rochester, Minn.

High school attended: Mayo

College attended: University of Michigan, Arizona State University

Dug is a repeat entrepreneur who spent most of his career in the Bay Area, working as an individual and as part of two successful startups — most notably Tellme Networks, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2007. Dug is a classic boomerang story: grew up in Rochester, left Minnesota for college, ended up in the San Francisco area, had a good run and lots of fun on the business side of things, got married, had kids, and as the children approached school age decided to do what many Minnesotans do — come back home to raise the kids.

When Dug returned he spent a few years at Minneapolis ad agency Periscope, building their digital team, and then left to start a business.

The Origin

Mary Fallon and Dori Graff originally founded the business known as Itizen in 2010 in Minneapolis, having met each other while working together. Having their first kids at the same time, they knew they wanted to start a business, and were struck by all of the stuff they had to acquire for their new babies.

They started the business based on this. Itizen was a mobile platform for sharing the stories of people’s stuff. A user would attach a QR code to an item that was leaving their household and then the next person who got it would scan the QR code with their mobile device and find out where the item had been and what the “story” was with it.

They launched and after about 12 to 18 months they started to realize this business wasn’t going to scale. It wasn’t solving a fundamental pain point. So rather than give up they started researching with their current users to better understand their needs. What they found were two things:

1) Users had different passions. Some connected around shared books, some connected around the musical instruments and some connected around the kids’ stuff.

2) Users needed a way to transact the goods between families.

Over the next 12 months of research and testing they figured out a vertically-focused marketplace for kid stuff was interesting and needed business. Dug met Mary and Dori in early 2013 while he was simultaneously exploring a marketplace business, they quickly realized they had great synergies and should work together.

Over the next nine months they developed a minimal viable product, changed the name to Kidizen, soft-launched in December 2013, and publicly launched in February 2014.


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Startup Showcase: StoryCub

The intersection of passion and experience is fertile ground for entrepreneurs. Many entrepreneurs come to the James J. Hill Center to work with business librarians and delve into our research databases to study the marketplace and find opportunities for new business.

There is a systematic approach to this kind of business development. This method can yield great results for a dedicated entrepreneur: finding gaps within the market that no business is serving, or uncovering inadequate services provided by businesses within that space. The opportunities are there.

But in an economy where consumers demand that brands have a “why” or a “purpose,” the connection of passion and experience to create an emotionally captivating business is paramount.

David Swerdlick, founder of StoryCub, has just that. With both the experience and passion for radio he has created a podcast that has gone No. 1 in iTunes, has millions of streams and downloads under its belt and is viewed in 216 countries.

Company Snapshot: StoryCub

Business Start Date: Jan. 9, 2012

Number of Employees: 1

Number of Customers: N/A

Website: www.storycub.com

Twitter: @StoryCub

Entrepreneur Snapshot

Founder: Dave Swerdlick

Age: 50

City you live in: Plymouth

City of birth: St. Louis Park

High school attended: St. Louis Park

College attended: Colorado Mountain College

Dave Swerdlick’s first radio gig was running his St. Louis Park high school radio station. He then became one of the youngest radio program directors in commercial radio at age 25.

After five years, Dave moved into the record business working for Arista Records, MCA, and 10 years at Columbia Records.

Dave formed his own company and entered licensing deals that included a Target exclusive. During this time, Dave got married and had two daughters, which led to family podcasting. Dave’s daughters selected the subject matter for the podcast, and in 2007 they started “Webkinz Webcast.” This adventure turned into a show called “Kid Friday” (http://www.kidfriday.com). It’s tech for tweens/teens that sometimes meanders into other subject matter.

By participating in this podcasting community and following the iTunes “Kids and Family” section, Dave saw what he believed was missing. This is when he started to create the concept for StoryCub, story time any time.

The Origin

I volunteered to read a picture book in one of my daughters Kindergarten classes. This was a few years back. When the teacher told the kids it was story-time, they all raced across the classroom, looking for that perfect spot on the floor and were excited about what was to take place. You could see it in their eyes, the excitement as I read page after page. StoryCub is meant to do just the same, but on digital devices.


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Startup Showcase: Pediatric Device Center

You may remember the law of supply and demand from your 10th grade economics class. In short, it states if you have a high supply and a low demand of a product, the price will be low. Or if there is a high demand but a low supply, the price will be high.

When it comes to children, the demand by parents and society for their health and safety is very high. Unfortunately, pediatric medical devices make up only 5 percent of the overall global medical device market, according to Angel Adams, the founder of the Pediatric Device Center.

Medical devices in general cost a lot and take a long time to develop. The pediatric market is far smaller than the market for adults, which makes it difficult for companies to recoup research and development costs in order to develop smaller devices. From a purely economic standpoint, this makes the development of medical devices for children very expensive.

The Pediatric Device Center (PDC), a for-profit entity, crowdsources talent and expertise by engineers, designers and medical professionals to reduce the cost of developing new pediatric devices. When these devices are brought to market the PDC earns revenue from each product in order to continue funding development of devices for this small and extremely important audience.

Entrepreneur Snapshot

Founder: Angel Adams

Age: 28

City you live in: Minnetonka

City of birth: Phoenix

High school attended: Crosby Ironton High School

College attended: University of Minnesota

From the age of five, Angel wanted to be a doctor.

In college, she decided to follow a different career path within the medical industry because of her interest in business and development. Angel’s passion for solving issues within the medical device industry, researching emerging technology, and creating links between medical device companies and health care providers grew after she started a medical device recruiting division for a small company. By the end of the year, she had built relationships with over 100 medical device companies and networked with hundreds of engineers. The knowledge and experience she gained here would be leveraged into her new company, the Pediatric Device Center.

Company Snapshot

Business Start Date: Oct. 1, 2014

Number of Employees: 1 paid employee and over 150 volunteers

Number of Customers: 20

Website: www.thepdc.info

Twitter: @pediatricangel

The Origin

In May 2014, I had an idea to draft a Pediatric Refundable Tax Credit Bill that will give extra incentives for companies to develop pediatric devices. I used LinkedIn to create a Pediatric Medical Device Innovation Supporters Group Page and within two months, we gained enough support to draft three pediatric bills: Pediatric Tax Credit, Pediatric Angel Investor Tax Credit, and a Pediatric Program Bill.

In August 2014, I decided to create an organization to support these bills and solve the current issues surrounding pediatric device development. A month later, I was contacted by an investor, Scott Petinga, who became the co-founder of the Pediatric Device Center. As of April 2015, the Pediatric Device Center has over 150 volunteers, 20 device company members, and 7,000 LinkedIn followers globally. We work collaboratively to bring pediatric devices to market, and the Pediatric Device Center’s structure is a first of its kind.


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Startup Showcase: Abamath


Founder: Luke Schlangen

Age: 25

City you live in: St. Louis Park

City of birth: Minnetonka

High school attended: Minnetonka

College attended: Iowa State University

After graduating with a master of science in industrial engineering, Luke went to work for a technology consulting company. He has always been passionate about STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education — and wanting to give back. Luke knows STEM is going to be incredibly important for kids growing up in the 21st century so he founded Abamath to give kids the chance have fun and excel in STEM.


Business Start Date: August 2013

Number of Employees: 4

Number of Customers: 100+

Website: abamath.


Twitter: @AbamathTutoring

In 2013 we started a math tutoring center to provide a less expensive, more flexible option for families. In 2014, we decided to try using robotics as a way to bring in more students.

After a year, the robotics and coding programs have grown to the point where they have overtaken our tutoring program. (In May) we closed our math tutoring center for the last time and began focusing entirely on community education classes.

This summer we have 30 robotics and coding camps lined up throughout the Twin Cities metro area.


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A new roofrack for everyday – Otium


Otium, a Minnesota Startup, presented at 1 Million Cups St. Paul in 2015.

They were featured on Jordana Green’s show, WCCO 830 AM on July 7, 2015.



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Startup Showcase: Yoyo CRM

His app helps barbers and stylists keep track of their customers


Founder: Derek Bolden

Age: 33

City: Minneapolis

City of birth: Kettering, Ohio

High school: Zionsville Community High School

College: Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Derek grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. This early exposure instilled in him a sense of resourcefulness, ingenuity and business building. Derek learned the importance of building customer relationships and that the secret to sustained success is to always remain curious. He also gained a lifelong business mantra that he still uses today: “Look and listen twice as much as you talk.”

After college Derek’s passion and expertise grew in two different but equally creative fields; film and television production and retail. For several years he worked in the television industry learning the elements of production and storytelling. This path fueled his creative side and provided an opportunity to bring creativity and the customer service of his early years full circle.

Derek has been in the retail industry the last seven years earning internal awards in collaboration, ideation, and leadership. He has a green belt in Six Sigma, coaches design thinking, and now specializes in front end innovation which has driven him back to his roots of entrepreneurship.

Company Snapshot

Business Start Date: January 2015

Number of Employees: 5

Number of Customers: 80

Website: www.yoyocrm.co

Twitter: @Yoyo_CRM

The Origin

It started really as a challenge for me, the customer. As I was heading to the barber’s one day I realized that from visit to visit I had a hard time answering the stylist’s question — “So, what are we going to do today?”

I would try to remember what was done at the last visit and quickly wondered how they kept track of each and every client as I struggled to remember for just myself. From there the idea to develop a tool for stylists was born.

Yoyo is an app that provides independent hairstylists and colorists with quick and easy access to their clients’ most pertinent information allowing a more personalized and consistent experience, strengthening client relationships and ultimately growing the business.


Read the rest of the article here.


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Coffee in a keg! – Blackeye Roasting Company

Blackeye Roasting, a Minnesota Startup, presented at 1 Million Cups St. Paul in 2015.

They were featured on Jordana Green’s show, WCCO 830 AM on June 30, 2015.


Kegs, bottles & beans.
We like directly sourced, fair trade organic caffeine…


Hand crafted in the Twin Cities, we roast our own coffee, and keg smooth, flavorful cold brew coffee. Drink our cold brew on tap or in a bottle – it’s bright, floral, and so smooth. We also specialize in Nitro Cold Brew!! A rich and velvety stout-like brew on Nitrous.

We prefer our Cold Brew straight, or over ice, but sometimes mix it with cream or Bailey’s…and it’s perfect for chilling out on the patio, or making it through the morning commute, the 2PM conference call, or that late night study session. We truly think our cold brew is special, and suggest you venture to one of our customers to try us on tap or in a bottle.

Now the official home of Blackeye Roasting Company, Quixotic Coffee 
is proudly serving up Blackeye Cold Brew on-tap, along with a few other pleasurable non-alcoholic beverages

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Start and grow your business with these funds

There are so many types of funding for businesses. Do you know which one you should approach, when and what you are giving up by doing so? This funders panel  explores SBIR grants for helping start businesses and Invoice Funding that helps grow businesses.


Thanks to the panel:

  • Pat Dillon- SBIR/STTR Director at MEDA
  • Brad Connor- Business Development for Partners Funding, Inc.
  • Nick Powley – 3M New Product Discovery Team

The James J. Hill Center has an entire database dedicated to finding investors anywhere in the country. You can see who they are, what they invest in and who they have invested in. The database is called PrivCo and you can read about it here.

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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.