Number of Customers: We are in the beta testing stage, on the verge of a 90-day trial
City you live in: St. Paul
City of birth: Fort Atkinson, Wis.
High school attended: Oregon High School, Oregon, Wis.
College attended: University of St. Thomas
Having a chronic illness like diabetes is frightening and overwhelming for children, and wearing an insulin pump can make them feel self-conscious. In response to this, Meghan Sharkus created ExpressionMed, a company whose adhesive product makes insulin pumps easier to use and comes in fun patterns and designs, so kids will feel more confident wearing them.
Q. What led to this point?
I am a creative, driven college freshman looking to make a difference. When I was younger, I went to Camp Invention, and it made me realize how much I enjoyed making things. Throughout high school, I explored my creativity through art and choreography, and eventually business. I served for one year as Wisconsin DECA previously known as Delta Epsilon Chi and Distributive Education Clubs of America) vice president of community service and placed nationally for both my business plan and my advocacy campaign for the epileptic cause. Towards the end of high school, I really found out what I wanted to do READ MORE…
You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.JJHill.org/go/1MCSPL.
Last Friday we wrapped up Twin Cities Start Up Week in Minnesota. It was truly inspirational to see all the interest and support for the empowerment of our economic ecosystem. We decided it was important to give a nod to our entrepreneurial legacy, James J. Hill.
Entrepreneurs have been around since the start of time. Think about it, at some point someone got sick of eating raw meat and thought, “I wonder what would happen if I rubbed two sticks together,” and poof – there was fire. It probably wasn’t as simple as that but it is important to realize that these visionaries change our culture and economy. People who have a dream, a passion and the motivation to stick it out can change history. That is exactly what Mr. Hill did in the 19th century with his realization of the Great Northern Railway.
This railway was the only privately funded and successfully constructed transcontinental railroad in the history of the United States. Running from Saint Paul, Minnesota to Seattle, Washington it was the dream and passion of James J. Hill that made it happen. His savvy business sense, smart partnerships, and innovative ways of engaging the public gave him the title of Empire Builder. He used one of the first public relation campaigns to create interest and support in the railroad. Using contests to incentives he engaged the public on how the future of the railroad would not only shape their economic prosperity but changed the method of how people traveled. His vision put St. Paul, Minnesota on the map.
The Great Northern Railway is only one of the many amazing contributions that Mr. Hill gave to his community and our country. The James J. Hill Center is another perfect example of his forward thinking ability. His idea to build a location that was a meeting place of resource and learning is still celebrated today.
On November 11, 2016 we will once again be tipping our hats and toasting our legacy at our annual Great Northern Evening. Join us to celebrate the legacy of Mr. James J. Hill and to support the economic empowerment of our local entrepreneurs. Be a part of the Legacy and JOIN US on November 11th from 7pm to 10pm!
Next week is Twin Cities Startup Week a celebration of the “startup capital of the north,” Minnesota. A great time to recognize innovation, creative thinking and economic empowerment. After reviewing some of the startups that have presented at 1 Million Cups St. Paul (every Wednesday 9AM at the Hill) we were impressed by the variety of individuals who made up these organizations, and the creative implementation of each idea.
We started to wonder what characteristic these entrepreneurs possess…these ground breakers, these innovators. We were surprised to find it was not the usual traits that often define a successful business person (i.e. professional, competitive, ambitious). The traits instead were holistic, passionate and creative – not typically the words used in day-to-day corporate environments.
Entrepreneurs are described as the artists of business, the breakers of the mold and the dreamers of our time. They come in all shapes, sizes, ages and races. Their services and products vary from small to large, specific to broad, for niche groups or the entire world. They are for profit and not for profit (some profitable, some just surviving). But all of them have one thing in common. They all start as a dream.
These risk takers go beyond their comfort zone and strive to create a new world. They are the inspiration behind new ideas and revolutions that shape our daily decisions and define our economic future.
After reading about these innovators of change, we wanted to thank them for their willingness to jump, to believe in an idea, to keep an open mind, flexible heart, a passionate belief AND the confidence to persevere when it doesn’t work the first time. We all can learn from them. We all can be a little more entrepreneurial every day.
“If it is still in your mind, it is worth taking the risk”
– Paulo Coelho, lyricist & Novelist-
Do you still remember your old home number, the one you had before cellphones became commonplace? Maybe you’re still using it for your landline because you know that number by heart and so do your friends, your family, your doctors, and everyone in your network.
Despite our reliance on cellphones, many people also keep their home numbers because it’s simpler to have that one household numbers for years. Jeff Swenson’s solution to that is called OurOldNumber.com.
OurOldNumber forwards calls to your home number to the cellphones of your household members, allowing the caller to choose which person they’d like to speak to. It even lets multiple conversations occur on that line simultaneously.
Name of company: Our Old Group, LLC dba OurOldNumber.com
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 29 industrialized nations’ high school students perform better than U.S. students in math. And according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2018, 92 percent of traditional STEM jobs will be for those with at least some postsecondary education and training.
Jerry Belich, founder of Monkey with a Mustache LLC, and developer of The Choosatron, says that his programmable storytelling device is not about saving the world but about making education fun.
Teachers and employers alike are engaging in developing new ways to educate and train a workforce that will need STEM education to do its work. Through programming and storytelling, Jerry’s company and product introduce users to STEM education, and they have fun doing it. He may not be saving the world, but he is preparing its future workers.
Founder: Jerry Belich
City you live in: Minneapolis
City of birth: Duluth
High school attended: Centennial High School, Circle Pines
College attended: Bethel University
Jerry Belich grew up around the Twin Cities. A lifelong storyteller, he studied computer science, theater and film in college. Jerry’s opportunities helped him marry technical and creative work into a single form. After creating The Choosatron, Jerry’s career took the sharp turn he had been waiting for. Now he is a game designer, story and narrative writer, and inventor.
Company Snapshot:Monkey with a Mustache, LLC
Primarily, Monkey with a Mustache is providing game design and development services. This work is realized in the form of code, script and dialogue writing, hardware development, and product development in any of those areas. The Choosatron is the first manufactured product, and one that continues to develop along with the company’s related work. The Choosatron Deluxe Adventure Matrix is a Wi-Fi connected Choose Your Own Adventure-inspired story printer, blending digital and analogue storytelling. It uses an inkless thermal printer, like a receipt machine, to print stories. The user can select options via a touchpad to choose where the story goes. It is designed to be easily assembled by kids into a small interactive game box, and encourage social reading, learning, and play. Users can interact with pre-loaded stories or create their own.
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S. These organizations hold an immense amount of data about their constituents, donors, volunteers and other stakeholders. And their effectiveness often relies on effectively keeping track of all of these records.
There are numerous nonprofit databases created to assist other nonprofits in managing this data. In a crowded market, Minneapolis-based Fresh Vine focuses on simplicity to differentiate itself.
Founder: Paul Prins
City you live in: Minneapolis
City of birth: St. Louis Park
High school attended: Eden Prairie High School
College attended: UW Stout
To run Fresh Vine and help nonprofits succeed, Paul Prins harnessed his lifelong experience participating in social programs like the Boy Scouts of America, youth sports, collegiate organizations — and observing his mother’s involvement with leading the programs he was in. Through this experience he saw a need for a system that allowed organizations to manage information easily and to leverage it to meet their goals. This idea formed into Fresh Vine.
Company Snapshot: Fresh Vine
Fresh Vine is nonprofit membership software used to manage rosters, receive and track donations, and manage events and email campaigns.
It is no secret that many industries face a workforce shortage. In the health care field alone, the World Health Organization estimates a global shortage of 12.9 million workers by 2035. The ability for companies to engage in developing their future employees and for young workers to engage with mentors is paramount.
Homi uses a digital platform to help students and alumni from colleges and universities build a mentor-mentee relationship. Conversation on Homi has the potential to assist students in choosing a career path. And companies have an opportunity to introduce their brand and work culture to a future employee.
Founder: Philip Xiao Age: 22 City you live in: Minneapolis High school attended: Troy High School College attended: Carleton College
Philip Xiao was working toward a career in business and finance. After leveraging Carleton College’s alumni network and getting informational interviews with senior insurance bankers, he had the idea for Homi.
Homi is a student-alumni Q&A platform that helps employers make data-driven hiring decisions. We have built the HomiScore, comparable to a credit score for networking, which helps companies hire more effectively from schools where they would not traditionally recruit. We help companies rebrand to millennials through alumni career stories. This organic content is different from a job posting or a banner ad — it’s real people telling stories of how they fell into an industry and built their careers.
Business start date: February 2015 Number of employees: 6 Number of customers: 1,200 Website: www.homi.io Twitter: @Homitweets
Two local food entrepreneurs have a personal mission to create healthy snack alternatives.
Krista Steinbach and Mary Kosir, founders of WholeMe, started the company because each of them saw the positive results of a healthier diet on themselves and close family members. This company’s products, originally made in Mary’s kitchen, are now sold in over 350 retail spaces.
When asked what is next for WholeMe, Krista says, “I’d like to have an assortment of WholeMe snacks, ranging from sweet to savory, offered at your favorite grocery store, the gas station when you’re on a long road trip, or the coffee shop on the corner. WholeMe wants to make snacking delicious, nutritious and convenient, so we want to be wherever you’re in need of a snack!”
Founder: Krista Steinbach
City you live in: Minneapolis
City of birth: Alliance, Neb.
High school attended: Alliance High School
College attended: University of Minnesota, The Culinary Institute of America, currently attending St. Catherine University for my Masters in Holistic Health
Krista Steinbach’s background is in food and business. She attended the Carlson School of Management with a focus in marketing and joined the Army National Guard where she was deployed to both Kosovo and Iraq. While deployed to Iraq, Krista decided to pursue her passion, food. After attending the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, Calif., Krista co-owned and operated Sweets Bakeshop located in St. Paul and Minneapolis. She ended up selling the bakeshop to her business partners and went on to be the pastry chef at The Bachelor Farmer restaurant in Minneapolis.
Then a dramatic shift in diet and exercise resulted in more energy and a new-found curiosity for life. Krista was approached by Mary Kosir to help launch a company she had been thinking about. WholeMe was born and blended Krista’s new understanding of nutrition with her passion for food.
Company Snapshot: WholeMe
Making food with nutrition integrity, WholeMe currently offers three flavors of clusters – almond coconut, lemon berry chia, and cinnamon banana chip. They plan to continue to innovate products, entering new product categories that offer their consumers convenient, nutritious snacks for any time of day.
Scott Cole is not new to growing successful businesses. Now he is using his experience to help foundations and organizations be more successful in their social mission. Scott started Collectivity as a for-profit technology cooperative to provide the services and support that organizations need to be more efficient and have greater impact.
Founder: Scott D. Cole
City you live in: St. Paul
City of birth: Minneapolis
High school attended: Spring Lake Park
College attended: University of Minnesota
Scott Cole is a high-tech executive with blended experience leading for-profit, nonprofit, education, social enterprise and cooperative initiatives. He is committed to alleviating chronic social problems by building the capacities of foundations and community organizations to work collaboratively.
Using Web-based software embedded with expert services, he works with partners to connect and empower individuals, nonprofits, and foundations to create collective impact in communities. Scott co-founded Collectivity as a cooperative to rapidly and sustainably scale collaborative initiatives using international tested principles of co-working.
Company Snapshot: Collectivity
Collectivity is a technology-provider cooperative that helps nonprofits and their funders build capacity to optimize mission delivery and outcome performance such as building better teams and collaboration with community partners to create collective impact.
A local organization is taking the traditional auto repair model and making it affordable for low-income Minnesotans.
Many of us know the inconvenience of having a car in the shop for the day and the burden of figuring out how to get to work, get kids to school or make that dentist appointment we scheduled six months ago. For low-income Minnesotans there is an additional burden of paying for the repairs.
The Lift Garage’s services have been so in demand that there is a three-month waiting list. Becca Tumm, a board member with The Lift Garage, says, “I think so many individuals have gotten behind The Lift Garage and have become such faithful supporters because they can relate to both the need of having a car and because they can relate to the financial stress that occurs when they are faced with an unplanned, urgent repair.”
It will take this outside support to expand the services of The Lift Garage to reduce the three month waiting list.
Founder: Cathy Heying
City you live in: Minneapolis
City of birth: Ossian, Iowa
High school attended: South Winneshiek High School, Calmar, Iowa.
Cathy Heying has a background in social work and pastoral ministry. She has worked with many people experiencing homelessness and poverty. Through this experience she has seen lives altered because of expensive car repairs. For many, she says, “it meant the difference between keeping and losing a job, which meant the difference between keeping and losing housing.”
Initially feeling helpless to address these experiences, Cathy instead responded as an entrepreneur would: She decided to see what she could personally do to solve the problem. Cathy holds an MA in Pastoral Ministry and a BA in Social Work. With visions of providing low-cost care repair for low-income Minnesotans, she went to Dunwoody, a technical college, to get an Associate’s degree in Auto Technology.
Company Snapshot: The Lift Garage
The Lift Garage is a nonprofit auto repair shop that provides low-cost car repairs for low-income Minnesotans. Customers must qualify as low-income, 30 percent of Area Median Income, which is $20,800 for a household of two. Customers are charged $15 per hour for labor plus the cost of parts at no markup. Market rate is about $100/hour for labor. The garage provides a full range of car repair services and to date has served over 600 people. The low rate has allowed it to save customers over $300,000 in car repair costs.
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.