Startup Showcase: Food for Thought in Helping the State’s Business Growth
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 Lauren Mehler Pradhan. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on September 8, 2018.
According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, “Minnesota leads the nation in food patents per capita and has long been on the forefront of research and innovation in agriculture, food production and food safety.” In addition, Minnesota ranks among the top 10 in more than 20 agricultural products and is home to some of the nation’s largest agricultural and food production companies.
To accelerate this growth and build an interconnected ecosystem of support, The Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School of Business established “Grow North.” Since launching in January of 2017 the organization has already made its mark in the community and with Lauren Mehler Pradhan at the helm, sharing stories of success and lending support, the ongoing growth in the North is inevitable.
Name of company: Grow North
Business start date: January 2017
Number of employees: Me and two amazing interns
Number of customers: Sometimes too many to count.
Name: Lauren Mehler Pradhan
City you live in: Hopkins
City of birth: New Brunswick, N.J.
High school attended: South Brunswick High School
College attended: Rutgers College
Q. Who are you and what is your history?
A. I am the founding managing director for Grow North, a mom, a lover of food and deep believer in the impact that entrepreneurs and innovators can have on our food system. While I am originally from New Jersey, I am very proud to call Minnesota home for the last 14 years.
Q. What is your business?
A. Grow North is an initiative of the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School of Business focused on accelerating Minnesota’s ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation in food and agriculture. We offer education, mentorship, and networking programming as well as create large events like Food, Ag, Ideas Week Oct 8-12.
Q. What is the genesis of the business?
A. Grow North was inspired by a cross-section of the community coming together through the MN Cup, a venture competition out of the Carlson School, and their Food, Ag, Beverage division. The division quickly became the fastest growing division in the Cup. Community leaders started asking how they could extend support and connectivity to the community throughout the year, and so the idea of Grow North as an ecosystem builder, resource hub and connector came to life.
Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. We believe that startup businesses will grow and scale faster and smarter if they are a part of an interconnected, supportive, sophisticated ecosystem. To make this happen, we focus on solving the problem of connectivity — to resources, individuals and organizations. If we can help entrepreneurs and organizations get the right connection at the right time, they will spend more time growing their business — fewer clicks, fewer coffees, more growth. We also want Minnesota’s community to be connected and visible across the globe, and so I spend time connecting with leaders in other cities to drive awareness and bring best practices back.
Q. What personal strengths or skill sets do you bring to the business?
A. Minnesota has so much here to be proud of, but for some reason we do not like to talk about it. I bring a little bit of east coast straight forwardness to my work and so I happily share stories about the remarkable individuals and companies that are here to anyone who will listen. I spent 12 years at General Mills before Grow North, so I bring industry experience, connectivity and an appreciation for the complexities of our food system.
Q. Where do you go when you need help?
A. I feel very fortunate that I have found mentors in the community who have acted as sounding boards, advisers, as well as shoulders to cry on. I meet with two entrepreneurs a week not only to provide support but also to keep me honest that Grow North programming remains relevant. My interns and colleagues at the Holmes Center are great and we brainstorm ideas all of the time….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.