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St. Paul’s Got Talent: A Conversation with Eric Webster


Eric Webster has been performing on stage, camera and radio for over 25 years. As recipient of the 2010 “Best Actor in a Musical″ from Lavender Magazine he has graced such stages as the Guthrie Theater, Mixed Blood, Park Square, The Playwrights’ Center, Hennepin Stages and many more. His on camera success has ranged from his Emmy Nominated show “The Big Bad Movie” to the nationally broadcast DirectTV program “Big Events”. Eric can currently be seen performing in The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society presented by the James J. Hill Center as well as in his original radio show Shades Brigade.

How did you begin your entrepreneurial career in the arts begin?
I started my career in sports broadcasting as a play-by-play, sports talk show host.  After spending 10 years in the field of sports radio – I walked away from it, realizing that I liked playing sports, but talking about them all day was not doing it for me.  I knew I liked the entertainment and creative aspect, so I tried my hand at all sorts of things like stand-up comedy and non-sports talk radio.  I eventually landed a gig as the Stadium Announcer for the St. Paul Saints Baseball Team.  There I was allowed to create anything I could imagine.  After 6 years at the Saints with free reign and  a “Go ahead and see if it works” environment I realized that I loved that creative freedom.  My first foray into theater was the long running “Tony and Tina’s Wedding,”  that allowed me to both act and create something new every night.

What has been the largest hurdle and success you have experienced as an artist and entrepreneur?
Largest hurdle?  Selling Tickets to shows you write and produce.
Biggest success? Being a self-employed full time actor for over 20 years.

Do you think being a creative entrepreneur is different from other entrepreneurial careers?
Trying to sell something to somebody is pretty much what everybody does at their job.  I’m selling the idea of “come see what I wrote and what I find interesting.” That’s a tricky sell.  It’s hard to guarantee anybody that they need what you’re selling.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
My advice is to anybody, in any field, is become good at a lot of things.  The more you can do the more options you have to create an opportunity.

You have an obsession with old time radio shows – how did this come to be?
When I was young my parents wouldn’t allow me to stay up to watch Johnny Carson.  So they bought me one of those radios that also get TV stations, so I could listen to Carson’s monologue and the comedians he had on while I was in bed.  It also had a tape deck so I could record all the monologues.  I had all these tapes of comedians from the Carson show.  Then I started listening to North Stars Hockey on the radio and the play-by-play man Al Shaver.  It was so amazing to me that he could paint that picture in my head.  I could see the players and all of the action just because of his words.  I was then introduced to some old-time radio shows on cassette that you could buy — the “Lone Ranger” and the “Shadow” and classics like that.  I loved how I was able to participate in the final piece.  It was up to me to decide how the room looked or a person looked or what they were wearing.  It was like a I was part of the creative process.  I was hooked forever on theater of the mind.  Years later, because of the internet, I didn’t have to scour and search for old-time radio shows – they were all there online.  Thousands and thousands of episodes. I love the internet.

What is it about Minnesota and how has it managed to keep you here?
I have lived all over from Boston to Los Angeles.  I came back here and I’m never leaving.  This is the best place on earth.  You have four seasons, two major cities, you can be in the middle of the woods in about an hour drive north, the quality of living is tops in almost every category, and there aren’t a lot of things that can kill you.  We have nothing really poisonous sneaking around in the grass waiting to bite you, no hurricanes or earthquakes.  Yes, tornadoes, but if you compare it to say, Florida, well there are so many things that can kill you in Florida.  Plus, again thanks to the internet, we no longer have to be in L.A. or New York to succeed as an actor.  You can audition here for national work and you can produce that work locally.  I can make a good living in my own backyard now.  And it’s not just for acting, almost every field is now able to function in any market.  YEAH INTERNET!!!

Eric Webster and a stellar Twin Cities cast will be performing in The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society at the James J. Hill Center on Sunday, January 29 at 3:30 pm.  REGISTER NOW!

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Two Friends Create Buzz Around Cold-Brew Coffee

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenters, Alex French and Andrew Healey of Get Bizzy. As seen in the Pioneer Press, Startup Showcase on December 31, 2016

For a variety of reasons, ranging from a lack of sleep to being overscheduled and overworked, Americans are increasingly tired. A recent poll by YouGov shows that only 1 in 7 Americans report feeling well-rested every day. For the rest of us, there’s caffeine.

Whether from coffee, tea, energy drinks or pop, caffeine can provide us with the much-needed jolt of energy we need to get through the day. At the same time, many of the pre-packaged beverages on the market include added ingredients like sugar that add unnecessary calories to the jolt.

Due to hectic schedules and a need for increased energy, Alex French and Andrew Healey turned to cold-brew coffee. Cold brew coffee is increasingly trendy, but it’s time-consuming to make at home. They started Get Bizzy in response to this demand. Unlike many other pre-packaged beverages, Bizzy Coffee is sugar- and calorie-free, and because it’s pre-packaged, it doesn’t take hours for consumers to prepare.

COMPANY PROFILE 

  • Name of company: Get Bizzy, Inc.
  • Website: www.bizzycoffee.com
  • Business Start Date: May 2015
  • Number of Employees: 4 full-time
  • Number of Customers: Thousands

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

  • Name: Alex French
  • Age: 27
  • City you live in: New Brighton
  • Country of birth: St. Paul
  • High School attended: Irondale High School
  • College attended: University of St. Thomas
  • Name: Andrew Healey
  • Age: 28
  • City you live in: New Brighton
  • Country of birth: St. Paul
  • High School attended: Irondale High School
  • College attended: University of Minnesota

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. We are childhood friends who met while going to middle school in New Brighton. We stayed friends throughout high school and college. Alex went to the University of St. Thomas and Andrew went to the University of Minnesota. Alex majored in business and Andrew in mechanical engineering. After graduating, we were both hired at large corporations and felt unfulfilled with our jobs. Bizzy Coffee was founded while we were working our corporate jobs, training for World’s Toughest Mudder — a 24-hour obstacle race, and running a group fitness company that we had started several years previously. Juggling those three things was a challenge, and we needed a way to get more energy and stamina without resorting to unhealthy energy drinks. We discovered cold brew coffee at this time, and started working on a way to make it more convenient. In 2015, Bizzy Coffee was born.

Q. What is your business?
A. Bizzy Coffee is the No. 1-selling cold brew coffee on the internet. We manufacture a Certified Organic cold brew coffee concentrate that is sold in all 50 states and Canada…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 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit jjhill.org/1-million cups

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A New Years Resolution Everyone Should Consider


With a New Year on the horizon comes new resolutions and work life balance is often one that appears on many entrepreneurs lists but is often ignored or lost in the hustle and bustle to get things done. We understand starting, and even running, a business takes dedication, passion and time. No one becomes an entrepreneur for the convenient hours. So how do you maintain a work-life balance while running your own business? And is it even possible?

Here are 4 suggestions we believe help balance work and life, while still putting 110% into your career.

Set Priorities
The first step in creating the most efficient and lasting work-life balance is knowing your priorities. And utilize this in both personal and professional life. Only you can decide what works best for you and what comes first – and it’s ok to have work come first one day, and personal life the next!

Setting priorities at work will keep you and your staff efficient and productive. Time is crucial, especially in the early stages, and should not be wasted.

Delegate
When starting a new business it can be hard to not be in everything. Many entrepreneurs start out solo and try to get all the work done on their own. Fight the urge and delegate! Build a team you trust and spread out the work. The transition might not be easy, but it’s important. Let go of the fear that your business will fail if you are not working all the time, and on every piece of the business.

Find tools to simplify & save time
In today’s professional world, technology can be the best assistant. Use tools like phone & online calendars to sync everyone’s schedules – personally and professionally. It keeps everyone aware of time and priorities, and helps you track your time. Set up email reminders and use note apps to save time.  If you are a small team, or a team of one, social media tools like Hootsuite save hours of time. Use technology to your advantage to save you time & effort.

Schedule professional and personal life
Use calendars mentioned above to schedule both professional and personal life. It may seem strict & less personal to schedule out your life after work, but it helps support time management and priorities. Treat your dinners with friends or significant others as meetings – you can’t push them or skip them when work gets busy.

Balance looks different for everyone. And it can change over time. The balance you strike at the beginning will look different than the balance found once your business has been established. But it’s important to evaluate your time and where it’s being spent no matter what stage you and your business are at.  So take the time you need and put it on your to do list for 2017.

Happy New Year from the Hill! We look forward to seeing you in 2017.

 

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The Hill December Reference Round-Up

 Library World, Past and Future

  • Our reference library staff assisted over 125 researchers in December.
  • While most researchers were from Minnesota, this month we also received visitors from Wisconsin and California.
  • The library changed its catalog to Library World this month. Library World is a state-of-the-art, cloud-based system and is very user-friendly.
  • Most of our researchers in December were returning users to the library.
  • One patron who visited to look into starting her own business was inspired by the business plan research help she received from library staff.
  • A retired patron came to the library to explore ways he might prepare a presentation for schools to inspire a younger generation of entrepreneurs. Another patron visiting that day happened to be a part of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and the two struck up a conversation and made a meaningful connection.
  • A man who had worked as a librarian in the Reference Department of the library for from 1966 to 2008 stopped by with his wife to re-visit the space. Current staff expressed thanks to him for his more than 40 years of service to the organization.
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Company Takes Data Security to the Next Level

Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews Entrepreneur and 1 Million Cup presenter, Daren Klum with company Secured2 Corporation. As seen in the Pioneer Press, Startup Showcase on December 17, 2016

Data security is a growing issue in our society. Some of the organizations hacked in the past 5 years include the IRS, LinkedIn, Yahoo! and Target. These breaches cost companies millions of dollars to rectify and can be very harmful to consumers if their personal information ends up in the wrong hands.

Even though hackers seem to be able to breach a variety of encryption methods, encryption remains one of the most popular methods of data security. According to the 2016 Cost of Data Breach Study by the Ponemon Institute and IBM Security, there are two main data security methods applied by organizations in the United States: 52 percent of corporations use training and awareness programs to educate employees about data security, and 49 percent have expanded their use of encryption software.

Clearly, encryption alone is not enough, and yet most corporations don’t seem to be aware of other options. Daren Klum has extensive experience in information technology and software development, and he has seen evidence of the failures of encryption over the years. He started Secured2 Corp. as a better way to safely store and transmit data, by “shredding” the data so it is impossible for hackers to read.

COMPANY PROFILE 

  • Name of company: Secured2 Corp.
  • Website: www.secured2.com
  • Business Start Date: June 18, 2013
  • Number of Employees: 6
  • Number of Customers: Unlisted (note: as a security company, they want to keep that information private)

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

  • Name: Daren Klum
  • Age: 47
  • City you live in: Shoreview
  • Country of birth: Englewood, CA
  • College attended: Mankato State University and the University of Minnesota

 

Q. What led to this point?
A. I’m a technology executive, inventor and futurist who thrives on solving global challenges, developing exciting new technology and bringing the total solution to market. With a growing list of patents and patents-pending, I continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible with technology. My background includes information technology, hardware development, software development, technical marketing and corporate finance. I had the good fortune to work with Gartner, Digital River in the early days, Sprint, TW Telecom, and I founded venture-backed LiquidCool Solutions. Currently, I’m the CEO of Secured2, a data security company in Minneapolis.My abilities include idea creation, patent development, software development (coding), technology integration, technology sales and marketing, technology funding and technology investing.

Q. What is your business?
A. We are a data security software company. Through our proprietary process, we are able to shrink, shred, secure and restore data. This process makes your data unhackable…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 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit jjhill.org/1-million cups

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Every Cent Counts

It’s that time of year again. The holidays are approaching, the weather is turning colder and end-of-year giving messages are out. That final reminder to donate to your charity (or charities) of choice and make the tax-deductible gift shows up in your inbox.  And it works! 30% of all donations in the United States happen in December (MobileCause). But why does it work? What is it about the end of the year that pushes people to donate?

Plenty of research has been done to show people give because it makes them happier, makes them feel like they have contributed and made a difference in their community, and the tax deduction is a major incentive to give large sums. But, again, why do these matter?  The Guardian asked this same question, and came up with three slightly different – but similar – concepts, two of which I’d like to expand on.

First, the idea that charitable giving is ruled by empathy and compassion, instead of logic and reason. People donate to causes they care about because they are affected through personal experience and/or a compelling campaign. The decision to donate is pushed by these feelings.  The last months of the calendar year are focused on holidays and family, both of which drive the message of love and comfort, and in turn encourage community members donate to help those who cannot enjoy this season be it because of an illness, lack of resources or larger personal issues dictating their time. The act of giving born out of compassion and empathy in this busy and cold time at the end of the year is a very positive action for our community.

Second, the article states “charitable giving is contagious – seeing others give makes an individual more likely to give.” Donating to charity and a cause you care about sets an example for those around you, and gently encourages them to do the same. The hope in setting the example is others – coworkers, children, friends – will be inspired to give to a cause they are affected by or care about. It is the ‘pay-it-forward’ concept. It’s easy to share on your giving on social media and hope others follow suit.

Giving works and every cent counts. Giving and helping others makes us happier, gives us purpose and is tax-deductible! Donate to a cause you care about and make your money count. This season, consider donating to the James J. Hill Center and help honor the legacy of our founder by continuing to support entrepreneurial spirit in the 21st Century.

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The Key Relationship Entrepreneurs Often Overlook

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Whether you are a brand new business owner, a seasoned entrepreneur or still deciding if your idea is worth pursuing, you’ll need advice. But who to go to? The internet will have some answers. You can stop by government agencies and nonprofits – like the James J. Hill Center – to help you get started and navigate. But one of the most important relationships an entrepreneur can have is a mentor. The startup experience is full of challenges and can be unknown territory, and having a relationship with a mentor is vital to navigating the terrain.

There is no right or wrong way to have a relationship with a mentor. It can be someone you meet with on a weekly basis and closely monitor progress and planning with, or a contact you reach out to sporadically when a problem arises that you are unsure how to fix. But there are certain qualities and key characteristics a mentor should possess.

It may seem obvious, but a mentor should have experience and proven success in their own professional career. With experience comes perspective and foresight, both of which are invaluable for an entrepreneur. It is difficult – maybe impossible – to avoid making mistakes, but if you can learn lessons from a mentor’s mistakes, it’s easier to avoid mistakes or at least be prepared to handle them as they arise. A mentor with experience will also feel confident giving advice, and you can feel confident receiving it. Trust is key, and it is much easier to trust a mentor with experience and a proven track record of success or growth.

Integrity and sincerity also play a huge role in a successful mentor/mentee relationship. A good mentor will be encouraging and smart. A GREAT mentor will be honest and insightful. While compliments and soft encouragement are nice, they are not productive, nor do they set anyone up to accomplish their goals. The “tendency towards candor is so important because as an entrepreneur you have limited time to get your company off the ground and reach profitability and long-term growth” (Rob Ebrahimi, Forbes contributor). As a mentor, it is important to ask the tough questions and bring perspective on the market and the idea. Time is valuable and the conversations should be frank to ensure you and your venture are on task and on track.

Mentoring is an important relationship for both parties. The mentee receives invaluable advice and guidance and is able to expand their network and knowledge to create a company or idea to better the community. The mentor has the chance to share their experiences to better the future of a new professional and their field of expertise.  As entrepreneurs, the right mentorship relationship can set you on a positive path for success. Consider finding a mentor or becoming one to enhance your business experience.

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The Hill Reference Roundup

From Georgia to NOVA…

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October at the Hill was buzzing with visitors from as far as Georgia to our own Nova Classical Academy.  They stopped in to build lists, research start ups or just catch a glimpse of history. Another prefect example of the vast array of people our Reference Specialists visit with day to day.

Here are some of the examples of who, what and why people stopped in…  

  • Our reference library staff assisted over 130 researchers in October.
  • Most researchers were from Minnesota, though one researcher this month was visiting all the way from Savannah, Georgia.
  • Several researchers this month came to use our resources to build a list of businesses.
  • It was a great month to build a list of businesses, as we began a subscription to A to Z Databases this month. Come check out this new resource, with the most up-to-date data and a user-friendly interface.
  • The majority of our visitors in October are in the start-up or growth stage of their businesses.
  • One researcher investigated digital strategy and digital disruption using our journal subscriptions to titles like Harvard Business Review, McKinnsey Quarterly and Sloan Management Review.
  • Another researcher explored demographic data related to recreation trends to help develop a marketing plan.
  • A group of about 30 students from Nova Classical Academy stopped in to view our space. As one girl gazed at the second level of the building in awe, she asked our librarians, “What do the people in those offices do?!”

 We look forward to seeing you at the Hill.  Contact a Reference Specialist today!

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A Conversation with Mick Sterling

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Mick Sterling a Minnesota legend, talented artist and amazing philanthropist gave us a brief inside peek at his life as a creative entrepreneur.

How did your career in the arts begin?

I began singing when I was a small child.   It is something I always wanted to do.  My first professional job was in 1981 in a part time band.  From there, I have performed 35 years professionally as a singer-songwriter, band leader, philanthropist, event planner, film producer, columnist and author.

What has been the largest hurdle and or success you have experienced?

The largest hurdle is probably being considered as valid as an artist from out of town when you have such a presence in your home town.

How to you manage being an artist and a creative entrepreneur? 

I enjoy doing many things at once. It motivates me. I like to work with great people and I like to create events that bring people together through music and charity.   It motivates me to do both things.

You started the 30 Day Foundation –a very inspiring and amazing nonprofit – how did that evolve and how does that feed your artistic side?

The 30-Days Foundation evolved from friends and family members facing financial issues that were not in their control.   These issues were enough to seriously hamper their lives.  The situations happened within a two week period.  It gave me the inspiration to create The 30-Days Foundation for anybody in real-life financial crisis with one-time financial grant that is made payable ONLY to the service provider.  Since 2011, we have helped over 33,000 individuals and families in the state of Minnesota and hundreds more each week.    Anything creative, whether it’s planning or music is artistic for me. It drives me.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to do both.

What is Minnesota to you and how has it managed to keep you here?

It’s my home.  It is who I am and always will be.   I have been to other places in my life, but they hold no serious attention span in my head.   This is a lovely place to live. I have no plans to leave.  It is a fantastic music town and I have been blessed that people want to see me still sing after all of these years.

Join us for IT’S A WONDERFUL NIGHT with Super Bowl Champion and U of M Alum Ben Utecht and Mick Sterling, a joint event with the James J. Hill Center and The 30-Days Foundation.  Joined by a nineteen piece orchestra and guest vocalists  Cate Fierro, Mary Jane Alm, Aimee Lee, Shalo Lee and Lisi Wright as they perform a memorable night celebrating the classic Andy Williams and Bing Crosby Christmas Albums.

 REGISTER NOW

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The Creative Entrepreneur

creative-entrepreneur
It has been said by some that artists are not business people.  That the very nature of being a trained artist assumes you are only fit for a specific artistic identity and do not someone how fit into the world of finance and capitalism or have a “real job”.  However, according to the Kaufman Foundation about 34% of US artists were self-employed in 2015 and as Forbes states “a burgeoning category of creative entrepreneurs are building wealth, creating jobs and becoming a major force in national and global economies.”

The Death of the Artist – and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur from The Atlantic states that artists are now being trained with the understanding they have to make AND sell a more versatile portfolio.  This is a complete rebirth of understanding for many artists and centers of training.

The evolution of entrepreneurialism has offered a path for these creative entities. It has opened the door to alternate routes to run a business.  As Artscape Launchpad states “Businesses –just like works of art –first start as in idea.” Artists are then often able to break the formality of business and strip down the barriers of conformity to find new and innovative ways to engage their audience and ultimately sell their products.

Minneapolis artist, Dessa Darling, is known for her indie hip hop music and is a perfect example of this burgeoning creative entrepreneur.  She is also the CEO of Minneapolis-based Doomtree Collective that is an LLC supporting 7 local artists from poets, to singers, to musicians.  A vast portfolio that delvers to its fan base.

In an interview with Minnesota Business she talks about her creative structure and that there is not a clear or distinct line between her work, purpose or social connections because they all three overlap.  She states that she can retain talent because business is second. “ Art is the objective, and we need the business to make and share the art.”

Mick Sterling, a Minneapolis icon known for his enormous talent and heart, is another great example of the variety of entrepreneurial dreams that artists can create. Not only is he a successful musician creating live events and recording, but his non-profit The 30-Day Foundation has assisted over 30,000 families with one-time financial grants.

Not all entrepreneurial endeavors need to make us millionaires. Some might actually make us better people.  Mick is a perfect example.  Giving back can often help you build.

We at the Hill believe in the spirit and transformation art can bring to a community.  We understand the value of creativity in our economy and support with free resources and research the tools artists need to ignite their dreams into action.

Join us at the Hill for Culture in the Columns as we celebrate the genius of the creative entrepreneur and build on history.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE:

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.

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