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The Community’s the Thing

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

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

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

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

So, how does it work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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A Warm Welcome to the Hill

On the James J. Hill Center Historic Library tours, we always like to stop for a moment under the chandelier in the lobby to give a warm welcome. Why there? Granted, it’s right inside the main entrance—but also because of what you see when you look up. 

Historic architecture and décor from the Victorian era and Gilded Age in Western Europe are filled with symbols. Various animals, flora, and crests were common. There is one such symbol in our entryway that welcomes our visitors: a pineapple.  

Why does a pineapple symbolize welcome and hospitality? There are a few variations on the history, but all tie into the complex narrative of colonization. When European explorers traveled to the Americas, they “discovered” many things that were new to them, including types of fresh fruit.  

Some sources state that native peoples would place pineapples at the entrance of their homes or villages to indicate that the Europeans were welcome, and this tradition was taken back to Europe in the form of carving pineapples into entryways. 

Another legend tells of how sailors would bring pineapples back from their journeys and place them on a fencepost outside their house to indicate that they made it home safe. When their friends and family saw the pineapple, they knew they could go in and welcome their loved one home and hear of their travels. 

All sources acknowledge the influence of the wealthy. Christopher Columbus generally gets the credit for introducing pineapples to Europe, bringing them from the Caribbean to Spain in the 15th century. 

The delicious pineapple was, naturally, very desirable by Europeans and Euro-Americans—but expensive and difficult to obtain in Europe and the North American colonies. They couldn’t be cultivated in Europe’s climate, and would often spoil during the long journey across the ocean, making this mainstay of Caribbean and South American indigenous cultures a status symbol abroad. Some European and Euro-American families would even rent a pineapple to display at their parties. 

Eventually this transformed from being a sign of wealth and power to a sign of hospitality. The thought was, if your host had a pineapple at their party, that meant they spared no expense at the benefit of their guests. From there, they begun to get incorporated into architecture and décor, often stylized the same way as the Hill’s pineapple, which often gets mistaken for an acorn, artichoke, or even a hop! 

Let us (and our pineapple) welcome you to the Hill Center sometime soon. To learn more about our historic building and furnishings, join us on one of our public tours. 

 


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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Startup Showcase: Her Just Desserts Are Just That

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 Junita Flowers. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on July 28, 2018. 

There is a new trend in the way businesses are operating and interacting with their customers.  According to a recent study by Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends, “Organizations are no longer judged only for their financial performance, or even the quality of their products or services. Rather, they are being evaluated on the basis of their impact on society at large –transforming them from business enterprises into social enterprises.”

Social enterprises, according to Social Enterprise Alliance, are, “Organizations that address a basic unmet need or solve a social problem through a market-driven approach.”

Junita Flowers and her company Junita’s Jar is doing exactly that. As a social entrepreneur she is working to solve a critical problem and build a sustainable business one delicious crumb at a time. With her amazing cookies made with love she is destined to improve people’s lives.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Junita Flowers
Age: 45
City you live in: Brooklyn Park
City of birth: St. Paul
College attended: University of Minnesota

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Junita’s Jar
Website: junitasjar.com
Twitter: @JunitaLFlowers
Business Start Date: June 2018
Number of Employees: 2

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I grew up in a very large immediate and extended family, so we spent a lot of time in the kitchen making food for a lot of people. Some of my best childhood memories stem from random conversations shared while prepping food and washing dishes. From birthday treats to holiday desserts, all of the cakes, cookies and pies were made from scratch by my mother and grandmother. After college and settling into my career within the nonprofit sector, I finally had some free time to recreate the recipes from my childhood. After a brief dessert Q&A conversation with my grandmother, I realized none of my favorite recipes were written down. With a goal of baking for myself, I began visiting with my grandmother, watching her re-create my favorite desserts while I recorded the ingredients and measurements. Many years later, I began baking just for fun, to celebrate special occasions with friends. This eventually led to the beginning of my cookie company.

Q. What is your business?
A. Founded upon my favorite childhood recipes and inspired by my personal path of overcoming domestic violence, Junita’s Jar is a mission-driven cookie company producing deliciously wholesome, ready-to-bake cookie dough and grab ’n’ go mini-cookie snack packs. Junita’s Jar is dedicated to making the taste of homemade cookies easy, accessible and super convenient for every day snack time options. We are more than a cookie company. We are on a mission to create a hope-fueled movement with every cookie purchase. We want to see people live well in well-loved moments. To encourage them to exceed expectations, time and time again. To empower a world without abuse. For those reasons, a portion of Junita’s Jar profits is donated to support education and awareness initiatives dedicated to ending relationship violence.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. The Twin Cities is filled with so many opportunities to nurture, support and encourage entrepreneurs at every level along the business journey. In addition to the continuous support from my family and friends, I have received support and training from a handful of various service organizations, corporations, nonprofit organizations and networking groups.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. In 2006, I started my first cookie company, Favorable Treats, at a local farmer’s market and a few pop-up shops. I operated Favorable Treats for 12 years, however, I had to stop and restart my business on three separate occasions due to a toxic and abusive relationship. Each time that I restarted Favorable Treats, I would experience a little more growth than the previous time, but it was a painfully difficult process….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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Accelerate & Generate

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

Time is the most valuable asset for a company. We meet a lot of founders and it doesn’t matter what vertical they are in or how well the company is doing. There is never enough time in the day or enough days in the week.

As a lean mean growing machine you and your small team wear many hats. You must go raise funds, make sales, plan for the future, hire (and fire) employees, take out the trash and countless other responsibilities. They all take time and effort. At the end of the day, some things fall behind. Often time building relationships with strategic individuals are one of them.

This is where an accelerator comes in to play. One of the biggest value propositions an accelerator can offer is access. What do we mean when we say access? We mean introductions to potential mentors, investors, corporates and other founders in a short amount of time. At gener8tor we make 100+ potential mentor introductions and set up 75+ investor pitches over the span of 12 weeks. If you stop and think about how much time and effort it would take a company to set up and execute 175+ meetings you realize the potential value.

Joining an accelerator means that companies can take chasing strategic introductions off of their to-do list for 12 weeks and beyond. This allows for companies and founders to focus on growth. Our job is to find the best companies and play matchmaker with our network.

This is not the only reason to join an accelerator and for many companies, there are a lot of variables that go into the decision. An accelerator is not for everyone, we are the first to admit it. One question for founders is if they look at this from an objective lens, do they feel the exchange of equity for cash and connections can shorten the timeline to IPO or Exit in a significant manner? If the answer is yes, the financial justification is quite clear. Time is money and we want to save you time!

Surround your company with people, investors, and organizations that help you get there faster. If you’d like to chat and learn more, feel free to connect with me via email adam@gener8tor.com.

Get out there and start something!


Adam is the director of gBETA Medtech, a program of nationally ranked gener8tor. He has previous experience in regulatory affairs, quality assurance, and early-stage product development.

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A Drumstick is Just a Drumstick

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.

Modern drumstick design is fairly standard. Most of us recognize a drumstick as a long, thin, hardwood cylinder with a tapered end. Carl Bennett, lifelong drummer and founder of TREE(3), is challenging all of those conventions.

“It was arrived at strictly by necessity for myself on a really organic level,” says Carl. “I was playing fairly regularly with a blues/classic rock band and we were doing full sets—three hours or four hours at a gig.” To combat fatigue, Carl began wearing bicycle gloves or using essential oils and ointments for his forearm muscles. But neither solution was comprehensive or convenient. So Carl decided to revisit an idea he had as a young drummer.

“As a teenager,” says Carl, “I sawed off the broken end of my broken drumsticks [the tapered end]. They were shorter and I was actually playing like Keith Moon. I was able to play crazy fast stuff and I could play a lot longer.”

Enter the TREE(3) drumstick. Each is a simple cylinder with no tapered end. They are slightly shorter than traditional drumsticks and are made out of American Poplar: a lightweight, slightly flexible material riding the line between softwood and hardwood. They are handmade and sold in trinity sets—“a pair and a spare.”

The TREE(3) design not only solves for fatigue, it makes for faster playing and it recovers a forgotten sound. Carl explains that the tapered tip of the modern drumstick is a tradition passed down from military drummers of the Revolutionary War and before. “They would literally take tree branches and whittle them down with their pocketknives,” says Carl. “They found if they had a tip on there it was a sharper sound. But what was lost all these hundreds of years was a really fat, authoritative sound—the old clubs of the Anglo-Saxon days.”

Carl is an original thinker by nature. Perhaps the key is that he is genuinely curious about the world. Like many great designers or inventors he is interested in how things came to be and what we have lost or gained in the process. Preserve the good of the new and recover the good of the past.

“For many years cars were four wheel vehicles and fairly recently people started thinking they could be three wheels,” says Carl. “It’s just one of those things—somebody has to get back to what this is really all about […] a drumstick is just a drumstick.”

For those marching to the beat of their own drum, Carl Bennett is making your drumsticks.

Check out @tree3drumsticks on Facebook or visit tree3drumsticks.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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The Sunday Books Section

In the April 9, 1922 Sunday edition of the “Pioneer Press,” the Hill Library ran a piece titled “Great Works on Tropical Trees and Flowers Reach Hill Library.” Presumably penned by Hill staff, the short article explicates on new additions to the Hill collection, which included a seven-volume series called Flora of British India and the eight-volume Flora of Tropical Africa.

It continues:

Quite as interesting, elaborate and complete as the above are two series of books on two families of birds. That on the Turdidea or Thrush, by Seebohm, has been out several years. These two beautiful and luxurious volumes are illustrated by colored plates covering every branch of the Thrush family. … A later and still uncompleted work is ‘A Monograph of the Pheasants.’ … a rare work and one difficult of access.

The article ends noting that “the above are but a few selected items from the treasures of the Hill Reference Library, which the public is invited to consult.”

The Pioneer Press had already been running a Sunday books section, which featured new acquisitions at the public library and short reviews by library readers. In March 1922—just four months after we opened—the Hill Library joined this section on an irregular basis, announcing new additions to our shelves.

Studying these old copies of the Pioneer Press at the Gale Family Library at the Minnesota Historical Society, our staff has been able to get a glimpse into not just the titles the library used to own, but also their significance. While we have ledgers of book purchases from our early decades, these articles bring the books to life in a way a mere listing of the title and price cannot. And as the above passage makes clear, there was quite the variety of rare knowledge stored within these walls!

We no longer promote new books in the newspaper, but we do team up with the Pioneer Press to promote something just as special: entrepreneurs. Every other Sunday, we run the “Startup Showcase” column, which features a startup from our 1 Million Cups program. We couldn’t be prouder to carry on our history of sharing fresh ideas with the community in this latest iteration of our Sunday column.

 


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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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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Top Tips for Startup Success From Investor Ann Winblad

By Katie Moritz

(This article originally appeared on Rewire)

Nine out of 10 startups fail. That’s a hard truth of being an entrepreneur. Some of that is just plain luck, said Silicon Valley investor Ann Winblad during a workshop at e-Fest Entrepreneurship Challenge at the University of St. Thomas’ Schulze School of Entrepreneurship on April 13.

Caption/credit: Ann Winblad, right, meets students competing in e-Fest at the University of St. Thomas on April 13. Photo by Katie Moritz.

In San Francisco, where Winblad has built a successful venture capital firm that funds innovations in software, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, an entrepreneur failing means they’re one step closer to succeeding. A lot of them bounce back and get on to the next idea.

In her role as a partner at the firm, Winblad “(auditions) the future every day,” she said.

“I see some wacky versions of it, some wishful versions of it, and some we buy into.”

(Fun fact: Back in the day, Winblad’s first business—a Minneapolis software company—was housed over Prince’s first studio, before he was Prince.)

What are the other factors—besides luck—that can make or break a startup? Winblad shared some of the insights she’s gained from decades working with some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country:

1. Build the right team early on

Assembling the wrong people to work on your dream can spell failure, Winblad said. That might mean you have to have some tough conversations early on with people who are likely your friends. But if you really want your project to succeed, you need the right people in the right jobs.

Caption/credit: Your founding team should write down as many as 10 assumptions about what your company will do. Quarterly, revisit and revise those assumptions.

Venture capitalists invest in companies, not products, Winblad said. When Winblad’s firm looks at teams to invest in, “some of this sounds kind of fairy-taleish, but we look for someone who has a big vision of how the future will unfold.

She gave the example of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whom she knew early on in his career. He was in love with his own big ideas, and that passion showed through to the people around him.

“Bill Gates believed there would be a personal computer on every desk,” Winblad said. “He was infused with the energy of this potential.”

Winblad’s firm also looks for team members who have “glass-half-full” attitudes. Positivity will buoy you through the difficulties of starting a business.

“If you’re a glass-half-empty person, you’re going to meet some real challenges that are going to make you not even want to look at the glass,” Winblad said.

2. Center the customer

Do your market research and develop a product or a service that customers need. When you’re pitching to investors, if you can show the need for what you’re hoping to deliver, you’re in a good position.

Winblad used the example of MuleSoft, a software company her firm invested in and was recently sold to Salesforce for $6.5 billion. MuleSoft gave their product away for free at first and built up a portfolio of loyal customers. When it came time to scale up and look for more money, MuleSoft leaders were able to produce a long list of people who not only saw a need for the product, they were already using it.

Another couple of founders arrived at a pitch meeting at Winblad’s firm with a long scroll that they rolled out on the board room table.

The entrepreneurs said to the investors, ” ‘Pick any name on here. There are 500 customer names—we’ll tell you what they said about our product,’” Winblad said. “We were captivated. … They told us what the customer wanted, not just what they were building.”

“We’re not the batters, we’re only pitchers in the end, and the market has to bat at this. … Both these companies captivated us with the strong need in the market and the voice of the customer first.”

3. Define and redefine your ‘assumptions’

When you’re starting out, brainstorm and write down as many as 10 assumptions about where your business will go. These assumptions define your business strategy. Once a quarter, you should revisit them as a group and determine if they are still true.

Caption/credit: Having the wrong team and getting money at the wrong time or in the wrong amount are two common missteps of startups.

“If any of them are false, huddle together and change something in your business strategy,” Winblad said.

Writing down and revisiting these assumptions will help you “keep your eye on the prize,” she said.

“It takes enormous intellectual and physical stamina to do a startup. It’s all uncertainty.”

Eventually, as your business grows, the assumptions that make up your business plan will manifest into facts, Winblad said. But don’t wait until you have a list of facts to reach out for funding.

As venture capitalists, “we like uncertainties,” she said. “We want to hear about the bigger promise, not about the smaller proof. We want to hear about your assumptions. We don’t need facts, so don’t tiny it down—come to us with the prize and your thinking about the prize. Because that’s our job—our job is to say, were willing to take risk.”

This article is part of America’s Entrepreneurs: Making it Work, a Rewire initiative made possible by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and EIX, the Entrepreneur and Innovation Exchange.

© Twin Cities Public Television – 2018. All rights reserved.

About the writer(s):

Katie Moritz is Rewire’s web editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at kmoritz@tpt.org. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz and on Instagram @yepilikeit.

 

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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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