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The Short-Term Benefits of Long Roots

The Original Thinker Series explores local innovation in entrepreneurship, the arts, and our community one pioneering mind at a time.

Vetiver Solutions is an impact-driven company committed to reducing poverty and malnutrition in Haiti by making sustainable farming profitable.

“We take a grass called vetiver that is really good at preventing soil erosion and we’re turning it into a cash crop,” says Jesse Abelson, Co-Founder and CEO.

In a nutshell, Vetiver Solutions incentivizes farmers to plant vetiver grass along the edges of their crops. In the short term, the company purchases the harvested shoots providing an immediate profit to farmers. In the long term, the roots of the vetiver plants—which can reach up to 20 feet in depth—naturally prevent soil erosion with the goal of better crop yields and decreased malnutrition.

The seeds of this venture were planted as far back as 2013 when Jesse began traveling to Haiti to work as an emergency medical technician. Over time, Jesse became frustrated by the preventable deaths they were seeing at the hospital.

“By the time they got to us, it was too late,” says Jesse. “I wanted to do something that tackled the actual problem instead of just reacting to it.”

Through a course at the University of Minnesota, Jesse and his co-founders began developing their idea. They found that vetiver already exists in Haiti and is one of the most effective living plant barriers for preventing soil erosion. However, when farmers plant vetiver in Haiti they are often looking to turn it into vetiver oil.

“The problem with distilling [vetiver] into an essential oil is that the oil comes from the roots of the plant,” says Jesse, “and those are the parts [of the plant] that we would like to keep in the ground.”

In order to prevent soil erosion, Jesse and his team needed to come up with a way to make vetiver profitable in the short-term for properties other than its roots.

It turns out that the shoots of the vetiver plant can be broken down into fibers which can then be used to make many products including particle board, paper, cardboard, and yarn. This last category is where Vetiver Solutions sees the biggest market potential.

“We’ve shown that we can make fibers out of this,” says Jesse, “we’ve shown that we can make yarn on a small scale and now we’re trying to scale up into a company that can actually create enough supply for consumers.”

It is energizing to talk with Jesse about this work and the cautiously idealistic and practical approach he is taking with Vetiver Solutions. Overall, what makes Jesse and his team original thinkers is that they have come into this work with a grounded humility.

From the beginning they have partnered closely with a locally run non-profit, MIJABA, to develop a relationship with the regional farmers’ association. Instead of coming in as experts they have respected local leadership and expertise.

What is next for Jesse and his team?

The Vetiver Solutions team is now moving from a research and development phase into marketing and sales with the hope of bringing their first products to market soon.

While Jesse doesn’t think vetiver products will be a household name yet he is excited to get into a few stores and start selling product regularly. Keep your eyes out—it is not every day that you can buy a product that is not just “conscious” but socially and environmentally beneficial.

Learn more about Vetiver Solutions and follow their progress at vetiversolutions.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 
[email protected].

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A “Twiggy Fresh” Smile

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.

“I’ve always wanted to do something that gives people a bright smile and at the same time helps the environment,” says Umar Ahmed, CEO and Co-Founder of Twiggy Fresh.

For Umar, a business analyst and social entrepreneur, the natural product poised at the intersection of “smile” and “environment” is a toothbrush.

In the United States alone, we throw away an estimated 800 million to 1 billion toothbrushes each year. Plastic toothbrushes are part of a much larger problem as they often cannot be recycled and do not decompose. They live on long after us in landfills and oceans.

Enter Twiggy Fresh, a Minnesota-based company dedicated to reducing our plastic footprint through natural oral care alternatives that are good for the consumer and for the environment.

“I had in my mind this product that I’ve been using every single day and I wanted to share it with the world,” says Umar. “I believe we have a responsibility to keep our planet clean for the next generation.”

As a kid in Somalia, Umar grew up using a miswak. A miswak is a fibrous chewing stick—a twig from the Salvadora persica tree—commonly used around the world for dental care. It is natural, does not require toothpaste, and comes from a long tradition as one of the earliest recorded forms of oral hygiene care.

Even after moving to the U.S. and using other kinds of toothbrushes, Umar still uses a miswak daily and introduces it as an eco-friendly option to friends and colleagues.

After considering the idea for many years, Umar and his wife decided to make Twiggy Fresh a reality and launched this past year with two products. Alongside the miswak, Twiggy Fresh offers a premium bamboo toothbrush that is BPA free and completely biodegradable (even the packaging).

“We are unique in that way because you don’t find similar companies who have two different kinds of oral care products,” says Umar.

There are other companies selling biodegradable and recycled toothbrushes and still others bringing the miswak to market. However, Twiggy Fresh is one of the first companies—if not the only one—to offer both a modern bamboo brush and a traditional chewing stick side-by-side.

Umar believes that our plastic-dependant habits can be broken and new ones formed if eco-friendly products like his become convenient for consumers. That is why he hopes that not only Twiggy Fresh but also their competition in the eco-toothbrush space do well in the coming years.

For Umar, it comes down to this: “How can we change our mindset in terms of small items that we use every single day.” At the end of the day, a toothbrush alone can’t solve our plastic crisis but small choices along the way can help us shift our perspective.

“Here in Minnesota, we take pride in our lakes and the natural beauty of our state,” says Umar. “We are proud to say that since last year we [have] sold hundreds of eco-friendly toothbrushes that didn’t pollute our lakes.”

To learn more about Twiggy Fresh or shop their eco-friendly products visit twiggyfresh.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 
[email protected].

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Ping Pong and the Present

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.

You leave the hallway and enter a well-lit room. Big windows stretch across two of the walls facing you. To your left is an open kitchenette with a long, clean, island countertop. Soft music plays in the background—quiet but contemplative. The room is minimally decorated with no clutter and virtually no furniture. In the center of the room beyond the countertop is a sturdy, balanced, dark blue ping pong table.

“I play ping pong with people to learn more about myself as well as [to understand] the human experience,” says Ajay Bika.

Ajay, an engineer by training, has had a long-term fascination with the game of table tennis. A couple years ago, he turned a studio apartment in Minnetonka into a space where people can retreat from the media-obsessed world around them through medi-playtion.

“When you’re playing you’re more true to who you are,” says Ajay. “The game [of ping pong] teaches you to be here.”

Ajay has found that the rhythm, repetition, and heightened sense of awareness that come through playing table tennis has a centering quality.

“Everything becomes meditation after a while,” says Ajay. “You then take your time with things—you’re more contemplative.”

Others have begun to notice the health benefits of ping pong too. The game engages both fine and gross motor muscle movement and develops hand-eye coordination. Because the game stimulates multiple areas of the brain simultaneously, it has even been used as therapy for dementia and early stage Alzheimer’s.

Ajay remembers playing table tennis with his father, also an engineer, who had Parkinson’s disease. “He was transported to a different world when we were playing—he would completely forget about it.”

Ultimately, what makes Ajay’s practice of medi-playtion through ping pong unique is that it is non-competitive. This changes the dynamic of the game for people. The experience becomes a conversation rather than a competition.

“You’re not here to prove anything,” says Ajay. “You’re here to be you.”

Coming from a technical background, Ajay has spent the majority of his career balancing equations. He describes his training as learning how to understand the “equal” sign.

Ajay’s work is still about balancing equations. Although now, rather than fixing things, he wants to offer people an alternate perspective. Seen from above, he points out, a ping pong table becomes an “=” sign.

To learn more or schedule a time to play ping pong with Ajay visit: onceupongatime.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 
[email protected].

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Mobilizing Hidden Wealth to Reconstruct the Sharing Economy

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.

Thanks to the pioneers of the sharing economy, we have begun to recognize the value of things like the unused seats in our cars and the empty rooms in our apartments. Today, with the help of platforms such as Uber and Airbnb, we can harness the power of these assets to generate income.

But this revolution has come at a price. On one hand, traditional merchants such as taxi drivers and hotels have suffered from lost business. On the other, the owners of these new platforms have profited greatly without needing to provide employee benefits to their drivers and hosts. In both cases these are win-lose scenarios.

What if the sharing economy could be a win-win scenario for everyone?

Enter the economic evolutionaries behind Scryp, a platform for mobilizing untapped value—for good.

“The issue with the initial sharing economy,” says Scryp Co-Director, Susan Belchamber, “is that the economic pie has not necessarily gotten bigger.”

Transactions are still win-lose and the wins are confined to a small group of the powerful.

“Imagine if Uber was a co-op where for every ride there was more value in the system,” says Adam Lupu, CEO at Scryp, “so every rider and driver was benefiting.”

It all begins with a simple premise: there is more to wealth than money. Susan, Adam, and their co-founders at Scryp are challenging us to notice the hidden wealth all around us.

Think about an empty seat in a classroom, surplus produce, or an old cell phone. These things might be left unused by their owners for any number of reasons but in the right hands their value could be resurrected. Or a volunteer hour, for example, might be given freely but has real, quantifiable value for the recipient organization.

Scryp plays matchmaker, in Adam’s words, “finding hidden wealth, matching it to unmet need in communities and then distributing that power to those people in those communities.”

The idea is that by adding and confirming their “gives” and “gets” on the blockchain-powered network users earn Scryp tokens. These tokens operate as a dual currency allowing merchants to accept Scryp alongside dollars. Users benefit from the extra purchasing power and merchants can centralize loyalty programs while rewarding socially beneficial “giving” activities. It is a win-win.

“We can’t have social justice without economic justice,” says Susan. “Essentially we are also pushing forward a new vantage point […] a new paradigm thought process about what is valuable.”

If your mind is exploding with questions about how a transaction would work or how value is verified you are not alone. The Scryp team is still developing the system and some of these elements have to remain TBD in order to allow for a fluid and collective decision-making process before the official app is launched.

“We’re not like the Federal Reserve making decisions about values,” says Susan, “it is really the community.”

This is your invitation to be a part of the sharing economy 2.0. “This is a build-together process,” says Adam. “Who wants to build together with us?”

To learn more or to help with pilot testing visit scryp.io.

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 
[email protected].

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A New Livestock for a New Minnesota

There is no handbook for cricket farming, Eric Palen will tell you. If you want to raise urban chickens there is a way to do that. If you want to start a cattle ranch there are others who have gone before. But when you have founded Minnesota’s first edible insect farm you have to do things the old fashioned way—you have to figure it out yourself.

“[North Star Crickets is] continuing in Minnesota’s agricultural tradition but looking to the future at how food production needs to change to accommodate a growing population, food security, [and] climate change,” says Eric.

The idea for North Star Crickets began percolating in Eric’s mind sometime after 2013 when the United Nations released a report advocating for edible insects as a key component in the future of sustainable food production. As countries become more affluent their demand for protein grows. At the same time, a growing global population means less land to utilize for food production.

We know first hand in a place like Minnesota that raising a protein source like beef cattle requires a lot of land space, feed, and water. What if there was a way to produce protein more efficiently with less space and fewer resources?

Enter the cricket.

Eric has done his research and has a plethora of reasons to support the viability and benefit of farming crickets as a new protein-rich livestock. Not only are crickets superior to cattle in resource usage, they also produce far fewer greenhouse gasses and they are more simple to process—100% of a cricket is edible food as compared to 40% of a cow.

In addition to being a protein source, crickets are also very nutrient dense boasting an impressive combination of iron, calcium, and vitamin B12 among other health benefits.

What do they taste like?

“That is like asking what do vegetables taste like,” says Eric. “There is a whole range of tastes and flavors and applications.”

After harvesting his crickets (which can be done year-round by the way), Eric either roasts a batch in the oven and flavors them for snacking or grinds them into a powder that can be added to or substituted for flour in baked goods.

Since its launch in the past year, North Star Crickets has formed some unique local business partnerships. Eric has teamed up with T-Rex Cookie on a limited run of chocolate “chirp” cookies and Lake Monster Brewing to upcycle their spent brewing grain as cricket feed.

North Star Crickets is the first business of its kind in Minnesota and one of only a handful of other edible insect companies in the nation. That said, Eric’s primary contribution to the edible insect market—his “original thinker” edge—is still emerging. The demand is greater than what he is able to supply. Right now he is looking for an investor and business partner to expand his operation.

In the meantime, Eric is perfecting his process and writing the proverbial handbook for cricket farmers to come.

To learn more about North Star Crickets follow them on social @northstarcrickets.

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 [email protected].

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A Matter of Perspective

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.

Dario Otero, CEO of Youth Lens 360, has created a new kind of media production company—one that puts youth behind the camera on real world projects.

“I knew that the work was out there and that young people [were] already show[ing] up with such brilliant ideas and already knew how to use technology at a very high level,” says Dario.

Youth Lens 360 is the next step in a career Dario has spent investing in young people. As an educator, Dario felt that the classroom only allowed students to take their digital media skills so far.

“In school […] the kids don’t actually make money,” says Dario.

By contrast, Youth Lens 360 gives students paid contract experience running cameras, editing footage, recording voice over, and ultimately delivering complete products to clients.

“They’re doing real world work for money, contracting with people and starting their own companies,” says Dario. “They’ve got to learn how to submit an invoice or make a proposal or figure out how to do this work.”

Beyond the parameters of each job, Dario makes sure his young crew members are well supported. He helps with transportation, proper business attire, and lunch meetings to talk through next steps.

With the rapid growth of the gig economy, Youth Lens 360 is equipping young people with the skills they need to strike out on their own in the digital media industry—especially those who are currently underrepresented in media production.

“A lot of times when we walk into the room and we’re the interview crew—75-85% of us are youth of color and young people learning this craft—it really shocks people,” says Dario. “They love it because it’s a different style and a different approach to the interview.”

At the heart of it, Dario is an original thinker because he believes that there is intrinsic value in the perspective young people bring to a project. He does not see them as mere amateurs learning a craft but as a valuable assets that companies can tap into precisely because of their age.

“People are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to these marketing companies to go out and find young people between the ages of 14-24 to see if they like this new product,” says Dario. “We have a creative process that we can go through with companies that can help them position their product or service in a way that they may never have seen it before.”

To learn more about Youth Lens 360, view past projects, or to hire them visit their website www.youthlens360.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 
[email protected].

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It All Adds Up: Fall Forward – Embracing Changing and Preparing for Growth

It’s that time of year when everyone senses the reality that change is in the air. The weather shifts to crisp and cool days, the relaxation from the warmth of summer shifts to an urgency of seizing the daylight and the landscape of nature celebrates the beauty of change with richness, depth and beauty.

Fall is a natural season of change and for me, it represents new beginnings. Personally, it’s the start of a new school year and a shift in the daily at-home routine with my family. In my business, it’s a time for me to assess business outcomes and productivity and make necessary changes to ensure a strong finish by year end. However, learning to celebrate and grow from the natural progression of change required a mindset shift and forming new habits.

I’ve always operated at two speeds…fast and asleep. There wasn’t anything in between. I walked fast. I talked fast. I drove fast. I was always on the go. While the constant activity created a track record of getting things done, it also came with many missteps, fatigue and avoidable mistakes.

I continued at that fast pace because I thought it was necessary in order to make up for my perception of “lost time”. When the mistakes happened, I just picked up the pace and tried to accomplish more, instead of slowing down to process the mistakes, make necessary changes and celebrate the wins. This practice of always being on the go at a high speed was robbing me of my opportunity to be most effective, to enjoy progress and to learn from missteps. The high speed of constant movement created increased levels of anxiety and I was on the path toward self sabotage. Something clearly needed to change.

As solo-preneurs and small business owners, it can be so easy to fall into the trap of working IN your business and saving little time for working ON your business. While this pattern of constant movement can produce results of getting things done, it also can stagnate growth and create burnout.

It is so important to incorporate external learning communities and opportunities for growth as leaders and decision makers. I have found it to be both scary and liberating to step outside of my high speed of busyness in exchange for the thoughtful work of slowing down to increase my growth capacity. Slowing down brings me face to face with the things I have mastered, but also the areas in which I need to grow or completely outsource. Slowing down to reflect, plan and proceed takes time but can yield powerful results.

I am naturally wired for constant movement at high speeds, but I am most effective when I build in the benefits of a slower pace. For me, slowing down will always be a work-in-process. As a small business owner, my goal is to effectively balance the workload of growth and success and the benefits of slowing down for reflection and necessary change. I am definitely up for the challenge.

I’d love to hear from you. How do you prepare for growth as an entrepreneur? How have you incorporated external learning communities within your growth strategy? Send your comments to me by clicking here.



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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Startup Showcase: Busy Baby Mat Keeps Babies Busy So You Can Eat

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 Beth Fynbo. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on August 26, 2018. 

According to Reuters Top Trends in Baby and Child Care Market 2018 parents are constantly on the lookout for more convenient ways to make baby and child care easier. Grand View Research states that the global baby product market is expected to reach $121 billion by 2025. Not a bad business to jump into when you have an idea. This is exactly what Beth Fynbo did when she realized there was something missing from her baby equipment. With tenacity and resourcefulness, she has taken her idea into action. Beth’s new invention busies babies while putting restaurants and mommies at rest.


Name of company: Busy Baby LLC
Website: busybabymat.com
Business Start Date: Established the LLC in July 2017. Currently still working on product development and building the business. Hoping to have first sales in December 2018.
Number of Employees:  1
Number of Customers: No customers, yet.


Name: Beth Fynbo
Age: 41
City you live in: Oronoco, Minn.
College attended: Bachelor program for Business Management at MSU-Mankato after the Army and then earned a Master of Business with a concentration in Project Management from Colorado Technical University.


Q. What led to this point?
A.  I was born and raised the daughter of an entrepreneur in Albert Lea, Minn. I started college at Minnesota State University, Mankato before joining the United States Army for a 10-year adventure around the world. I eventually returned to Mankato and completed my undergrad in Business Management. I then went on to complete a Master’s degree program in Business Management with a concentration in Project Management. I’ve been excelling in corporate work for the past 7 years, but have always felt a calling toward entrepreneurship.

Q. What is your business?
A. For parents of 6 to 16-month-old babies who like to eat out, but don’t like the stress of keeping the baby entertained, the Busy Baby Mat is here for you. The Busy Baby Mat’s tether system allows caregivers to attach a baby’s items to the mat, and regardless of an accidental drop or toss, they will stay within arm’s reach. The Busy Baby Mat also keeps baby protected from surface germs and has a place to put their food. What makes Busy Baby better are the suction cups under the mat that keep it in place and the tethers that keep toys or pacifiers within reach. As a bonus, the first accessories to the Busy Baby Mat, salt and pepper teething toys, come with the restaurant set. It all rolls up into a convenient carrying case that fits in most diaper bags and purses.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. I was extremely fortunate to discover Bunker Labs, an organization that helps veteran entrepreneurs on their journeys. Through their launch lab program, a 12-week entrepreneurship course, I was able to learn how to start a business and was able to quickly develop a network of mentors to help me along the way.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A.  The idea came to me as I ate lunch with a few girlfriends and their young children. The babies were constantly reaching for things they couldn’t have, and then when the moms would give them something to play with, they would just throw it on the floor. It was so distracting! That night, I scoured the internet for something to buy that I could take with me to restaurants once my son was old enough to sit up in the high chair. When I couldn’t find something that would work, I started making it on my own from things around the house. My best friend had a baby the week after me, so I made one for her too. Another friend saw it in action and asked for one as well.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. Busy Baby takes some of the stress out of taking an infant or toddler out to eat. The main problem our product solves is keeping baby busy at the restaurant. It keeps all the toys within reach and everything free from germs, and as an added bonus, the silicone deadens the sound of banging….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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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, along with her Co-Artistic Director, Alan Berks, founded Wonderlust to 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, the Wonderlust team listens 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 the Wonderlust team 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 
[email protected].

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It All Adds Up: Hope Munches On

Before you take a step, before your situation changes, before you even have the answers to create change…you just need to grasp the concept of hope. You have to know there is a chance for something better and then allow the story to unfold. Trust me…it’s easier said than done, but it has to be done.

In November 2015, my business journey shifted. I was holding onto a fledgling cookie company as if it were a million dollar operation when in reality it was only generating enough revenue to be a mere side hustle. The cookie company had the potential for growth, but I didn’t have the capacity to breathe life into it. That is until my expectations shifted and I settled for the uncertainty of what if there is more?

On July 31, 2018, I celebrated the result of taking a chance on hope, through the brand unveiling and business launch of my cookie company, now known as Junita’s Jar. Surrounded by walls and books and periodicals dedicated to all things business development and standing under the portrait of the well known dreamer and entrepreneur, Mr. James J. Hill, I stood before one hundred or so friends and supporters sharing the news of the next chapter in my journey of entrepreneurship. I stood before them as I stepped into the intersection where the uncertainty of hope meets the power of a dream.

Filled with table of cookies and conversation starters, my business launch was designed to introduce our deliciously wholesome cookies while creating the opportunity to exchange hope-filled interactions. From four amazing speakers, each sharing their personal story of trauma to triumph, Junita’s Jar welcomed a movement celebrating the impact of hope. Some had tears of inspiration others had hearts overflowing with the anticipation of doing good, but everyone understood the powerful impact of hope-filled communities.

Launching a business is grueling work. Launching a movement of hope-filled possibilities makes the work a little sweeter. As I reflect upon my business journey over the past three years, and think about what I know for sure, I can tell you three important business altering lessons that have dramatically impacted my growth.

  1. You must say yes to the difficult things.
  2. Build your network to increase your net worth.
  3. Celebrate the small steps along the way.

I could share story upon story that speaks to the growth I’ve experienced from these three lessons, but I’ll save that for the book. In the meantime, I want to send a special thank to the community of supporters and friends for joining me on this journey and a special thank you to the James J. Hill Center team for creating an opportunity for me to say yes.

As always, I would love to hear from you. Send me an email or share via social media, your story of embracing hope and executing your dream. At the end of the day, remember hope is a game changer.


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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