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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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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 
[email protected].

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A Consumer’s Guide to Women’s Equity

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.

It is hard not to be optimistic after a conversation with Kateri Ruiz, founder of MAIA.community. Kateri is committed to emboldening women’s equity and has vowed that she “will not cease until all data sets can prove it.” Her approach to gender equity work: speak passionately and carry a big directory.

MAIA is a free access directory of women-owned businesses across the nation. It is built for the conscious consumer who wants to spend their money in alignment with their values—especially when it comes to gender equity. Companies with at least 50% or greater female representation in the highest levels of leadership are listed for free with the option to purchase a premium listing for greater visibility.

The idea for MAIA began when Kateri and her husband started paying attention to the products and services they were bringing into their home. They put them through a litmus test: were these products and services ideated by, created by, or done in a holistic image of a woman? After failing month after month to match their spending with the 5:1 female to male ratio of their household, Kateri realized there was a larger problem to solve. “Why is this so hard,” says Kateri. “Women owned firms are everywhere.”

Kateri began earnestly gathering every list of women-owned businesses she could get her hands on. (Shameless plug: She did some of her research at the James J. Hill Center.) What she realized in the process was that these lists are plentiful but scattered. They are often owned by groups or associations and accessible only to paying members. Additionally, most are designed for business-to-business use and not for the consumer.

Someone needed to gather all these lists into one place and make them searchable and user-friendly to the everyday person trying to live a socially conscious life. Thus MAIA was born. “We wanted to make it easier for consumers to have that level of information,” says Kateri. “So that consumers could spend their money in a way that meant something to them.”

Women make up nearly half of the workforce in the United States (46.9%). Yet, only 5% of S&P 500 companies have a female CEO and only 21.2% of board seats in these same companies are filled by women. “The disparity between who is doing the work and who is leading the companies we find to be a systemic barrier,” says Kateri.

After spending a career in workforce solutions, Kateri is taking the reverse approach with MAIA to influence systemic change. “If we are being told that we cannot figure out how to solve gender pay parity for another 50 years… then perhaps we should move outside of that status quo and drive a more female-centric economy—potentially on its own,” says Kateri. This is what makes Kateri an original thinker. She is harnessing the free information philosophy of the Internet to allow us to support the businesses—and the women leading them—that we’d like to see more of in the world.

“We believe that when women are involved equally at the highest levels of leadership where we ideate, where we create, where we are making the decisions… that can yield a more holistic product and solution,” says Kateri.

To join the MAIA Community visit their website maia.community or reach out to the team at [email protected].

 


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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