By All Means

Twin Cities Business

Innovation. Drive. Purpose. Conversations with the entrepreneurs and leaders behind some of Minnesota's most beloved and enterprising brands.

All Episodes

Abilitech Medical is on the brink of launching the first-of-its-kind wearable assistive device that makes it possible for patients with upper-limb weakness or injury to use their arms for everyday activities. “This is my imprint on the world,” says founder Angie Conley. Even before the Abiliitech Assist device becomes widely available through hospitals and clinics, it has already won numerous awards including the Tekne Award for innovation from the Minnesota High Tech Association and the Grand Prize and Top Woman-led Business at the Minnesota Cup, which is the largest state-led business competition. Abilitech has also been recognized as a Top 20 Medical Device Startup You Need to Know by MassDevice magazine; and a Top Promising Life Science Company by Rice University. So far Conley has raised $12 million, primarily in equity funding. Abilitech is Conley’s first startup, but years of experience in the medical device industry prepared her for the challenge. Following several years as a senior product marketing manager for Medtronic and a medical device marketing consultant, Conley took on the executive director role at Magic Arms, a Twin Cities-based nonprofit that works to help children with orphan medical conditions including muscular dystrophy. It exposed her to the need for an assistive device, and she quickly realized it would take more money than a nonprofit could raise to solve it. “The mission is what carries you through,” Conley says. The opportunity is significant: Abilitech’s initial market of multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy patients with enough hand function to operate the device is around $2 billion; Conley has her sights set on the stroke rehab market, which she says pegs at $30 billion. “It’s an exciting opportunity to fill an unmet need and change the lives not just of patients but their caregivers,” Conley says. After our conversation with Conley, we go Back to the Classroom with University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Dan McLaughlin, director of the Center for Innovation in the Business of Health Care at Opus discusses the med tech innovation happening beyond computers, in the area of motors and sensors. Emerging technology is an area of particular interest at St. Thomas. “That’s the best part of health care,” McLaughlin says. “You get to make those human connections and really change people’s lives.”

Jul 15

56 min

Tammy Lee launched a line of wearable cool therapy medical devices in February, 2020, and one month later, she had to shut down her new company due to Covid-19. It wasn’t the start she dreamed of for Xena Therapies. But then, Lee’s entire career is built on unexpected turns. Lee studied journalism and political science and landed a job as a Washington D.C. news correspondent. She crossed over to politics to become press secretary for then U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan, a “prairie populist” from North Dakota. “I loved helping to influence public policy.” In 2006, she ran for U.S. Representative of Minnesota’s fifth district and lost. “The way I ran that campaign opened the door to the next great opportunity.” Lee was hired by Northwest Airlines to oversee communications during the Northwest-Delta merger. Then after vice president roles with the University of Minnesota Foundation and Carlson, Lee was recruited for the role that changed her career trajectory. Recombinetics, a St. Paul-based gene editing tech startup hired Lee for its No. 2 spot. She led the government approval process for Recombinetics’ technology. When the company’s CEO left, she took over. “I didn’t know anything about gene editing,” Lee says. “But what the board needed was someone who could tell the story of Recombinetics, raise capital and launch the company into the future. I knew how to raise money, and I knew how to tell a story.” She raised $34 million for Recombinetics. That success led to the next opportunity, at Nanocore, a Red Wing, Minn. startup that was developing cool therapy devices made with “phase change material” formulated to 58 degrees. Lee says she fell in love with the products—particularly a vest designed to cool women experiencing hot flashes due to menopause. But she left Nanocore in December 2019 after less than a year on the job. “It was a great product, but not the right business plan or access to capital.” In January, 2020, Lee launched Xena Therapies and hire back all 10 of Nanocore’s employees. She built out two product lines: Opal Cool wearable cooling devices for women—like the “Gal Pals” bra inserts; OnyxCool for orthopedic pain relief. The plan was to start by selling into hospitals and rehab centers, but just weeks after Xena Therapies' launch, most were shut down due to the pandemic. Pivoting to direct to consumer was tricky—“The product is so new, people don’t know to search for it.” Lee says she made the decision to ramp up marketing. “While many were retrenching, I decided to double down on my investment.” It’s slow going, but she says OnyxCool will soon make its QVC debut; Opal Cool is starting to get picked up by obstetrics and chiropractic practices. Lee estimates that the pandemic has set her business plan back only by about six months. Lee says everything she does even today comes back to storytelling. “What I think the common thread is for those of us who are entrepreneurs: we are naturally curious about learning about new things. And when you go into journalism, I think that’s your primary driver: you love to hear other people’s stories, you love to learn about them and you love to tell a story that is compelling to your audience. Founders and entrepreneurs are very much that way. They’ve got a story about a product that they want to tell the world.” After our conversation with Lee, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Dan McLaughlin, director of the Center for Innovation in the Business of Health Care at Opus thinks that in the wake of Covid-19, more startups will take a consumer-driven approach to pain relief and med tech. “A lot of health care system I grew up with has been turned on its head,” McLaughlin says. “A lot of people getting virtual care, and it works great. Direct to consumer is really strong…I don’t think we’ll ever sit in a waiting room for a doctor again.”

Jul 2

49 min

Aneela Idnani Kumar started pulling out hair from her eyebrows and eyelashes when she was a girl. In her early 20s, she Googled her secret habit and discovered it had a name: trichotillomania. An estimated one in 20 Americans suffer from what Aneela calls “the most common disorder you’ve never heard of.” In 2013, she finally revealed her struggle to her husband Sameer Kumar and together, they set out to find a solution—something that would alert Aneela when she started to reach for her eyebrows. They tried bangles; they created slap bracelets with craft store supplies. “We knew we needed something that would detect movement in hands,” Sameer says. Armed with that conviction, the couple entered a Minneapolis hackathon, where they met their chief technology officer and lead hardware engineer. Within 48 hours, they had the foundation for what would become HabitAware’s innovative product, the Keen, a behavior alert bracelet that sends vibrations when it detects movement. That awareness helped Aneela retrain her brain and stop hair pulling. “Our a-ha came at a moment when the technology was available and the Fitbit had made it cool,” Sameer says. Since launching in 2017, HabitAware has sold tens of thousands of Keen bracelets and won numerous startup awards, including Time magazine’s Best Innovations, and a 2019 National Science Foundation research grant for $225,000. The Kumars hope to grow HabitAware into a company that “helps with any behavioral problem where lack of awareness is the hurdle.” Prior to starting HabitAware, Aneela worked in advertising and Sameer in finance. “I truly believe that the ad industry is the basis for everything a startup needs to do: understanding your market, understanding that messaging. In that respect, I had been helping that process along for a number of years.”  Having a mission has made it easier to keep moving foward, Sameer says. ""When things get hard, you have to focus on the reason why you're in it, which for us was to solve this problem." ​ “It feels incredible,” Aneela says of HabitAware’s success. “Growing up, I assumed I’d have a regular, normal American life. Now I get to have the American dream.”  After our conversation with Aneela and Sameer, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. “Technology is transforming healthcare,” says Dan McLaughlin, director of the Center for Innovation in the Business of Health Care at St. Thomas. He suggests other possible applications for the HabitAware technology.

May 20

49 min

“We do not want to go back to being the way we were,” says Chuck Runyon, co-founder and CEO of Self Esteem Brands, the parent company to Anytime Fitness, Bar Method, Basecamp, and Waxing in the City. Anytime, the largest of the brands, has nearly 5,000 franchise locations on seven continents—all of which had to shut down over the course of about five weeks due to Covid-19. For a company based in Minnesota, Anytime Fitness was early to realize the potentially catastrophic threat of the coronavirus because of its clubs in China. But even as those locations shut down, Runyon says, “We thought it would be contained. After Anytime’s 20 clubs in Italy closed, “it escalated quickly.” In the U.S., Missouri clubs were the first to close and then every day, every week, came another. “Like dominoes.” “In all the years we’ve sat around in meetings of what if…never did any of us anticipate shutting down nearly 5,000 clubs around in the world in five weeks.” But since they have, Runyon says he wants to make the most of the unprecedented experience. “Let’s learn, let’s adapt, and let’s be better because of it.” Anytime, Bar and Basecamp have been releasing digital content including coaching, workouts and even recipes and nutrition tips. Some of the content is free to the public and has drawn a new audience. Going forward, Runyon says, “We want to make sure we offer an omni channel experience.” Changes will also come to Self Esteem Brands’ home office in Woodbury, Minn. where around 350 employees work. “We’ll be more nimble, faster, and adopt some work from home policies. We’ll analyze travel…I think we can be leaner, and every bit as productive.” One thing Runyon doesn’t think will change: enthusiasm for the gym. “Eighty percent of health club members say they are looking forward to getting back,” Runyon says. “I think it’s going to be a mini-January…. with a nice surge of people wanting to get back to normal.” Anytime is prepared to step up its cleaning protocol, modify traffic, and whatever else is required. “There’s no playbook for this,” he says. “I’ve been unbelievably proud of how the team has adapted so quickly, It’s been an incredible experience in so many ways.” After our conversation with Runyon, who previously appeared on By All Means with his co-founder and president of Self Esteem Brands Dave Mortensen, we go back to the classroom with University of St. Thomas marketing professor Gino Giovanelli. “The thing I loved about my classroom was the community. It’s the same for a health club. What they’re selling is camaraderie.”

May 5

23 min

Anticipating that face masks are going to be a necessary accessory for the foreseeable future, Love Your Melon is ramping up its collection and returning to the buy one, give one model that made the beanie brand famous: for every mask purchased, the company will donate one to someone in the medical community. “Seeing how people are being instructed now to wear them whenever they’re out in public, I don’t think there’s any chance that this production goes away for the next 6 to 12 months at least. They need to keep being improved,” says Zachary Quinn, LYM co-founder and president. Quinn appeared on this podcast in 2019 to share the LYM founder’s story, which started as a classroom project at the University of St. Thomas. To date, LYM has given more than $7 million to the fight against pediatric cancer and 191,000 hats to children battling cancer. Now, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, LYM is making face masks for hospitalized children and their families, who are at high risk of contracting Covid-19. The company committed to donating 50,000 masks and is now making masks available for purchase to support the cause. A few styles and colors are being made in both cotton and surgical wrap material. Quinn talks about the process of quickly jumping into production, while also responding to increased online demand for Love Your Melon's core products. “People are coming out to support brands that are working hard to make a difference,” Quinn says. But the fate of LYM's flagship showroom in the North Loop of Minneapolis is up in the air, he says. The lease is up at the end of the year. As for leading his team, which is now working remotely, Quinn says he is “making myself available – no matter whether the request is large or small. Everyone is trying to help, everyone has something to offer. I’m trying to focus on being inclusive.” The added pressure is actually helpful, Quinn says. “Under pressure you find a lot of peace and calmness. I’m excited to be hands on and have a purpose. That’s what I’m feeling good about: having a purpose and a unified mission.” After our conversation with Quinn, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Digital Marketing Professor Gino Giovanelli says LYM is well positioned to succeed in these unusual times. “They have the ability to reach customers through social media, which is very powerful. And they’re not dependent on bricks and mortar retail.”

Apr 27

21 min

In the course of three days in March, Punch Pizza went from record sales to shuttering its dozen Twin Cities restaurants and furloughing nearly 400 employees. “It took us by surprise how quickly it happened,” co-owner John Puckett said. With businesses like Punch upended by coronavirus, we're checking in on some of the entrepreneurs who have shared their founder’s stories on past episodes of the podcast to learn how they are navigating uncertain times. Prior to the crisis, about a third of Punch Pizza’s business was takeout. When it became apparent to Puckett and his partner, Punch Pizza founder John Sorrano, in mid-March that they may need to temporarily close their dining rooms, they installed phone stations in the basement of their Highland Park location in St. Paul to prepare for going takeout only. But an internal virus scare derailed that plan. “We thought we had a Covid-19 infection among staff. It turned out to be a false alarm, but we just realized, given the outbreak, we were going to have sick employees. We just said, there’s no way we can operate in a safe manner. “The world can live without Neapolitan pizza for a couple of months.” That was March 14—three days before Gov. Tim Walz ordered restaurants in Minnesota to shut down their dining rooms. Since then, Puckett says he’s been working around the clock on disaster aid, business interruption insurance, and planning the reopening. One of his biggest learnings: “Do not work with a bank that you don’t know the owner and senior management team. I thought it was smart to have a big national bank with resources, but those big banks neutered all the local bankers….we got burned. I feel so grateful to the small community banks that have been working around the clock to help small businesses.” Another change likely to come out of this disruption for Punch: “I don’t think we’ll be buying a lot of things from China after this. Domestic sources, U.S.-made products, even if it costs a little more…we will appreciate those local relationships a lot more.” As they begin to hire back some staff and prepare for reopening, Puckett says everything is on the table—like the possibility of remaining closed on Sundays. “When you go to 0 revenue, 0 profits from having a very successful business, you think differently about work/life balance,” Puckett says. “Restaurants are notorious for eating up people. A mandatory day off is an idea my partner and I think would help our culture and make it even stronger.” A May opening feels overly optimistic to Puckett. He says Punch won’t reopen until he can be sure employees are equipped with protective gear. He estimates recovery could take more than 2 years. “Quick service formats generally have an advantage. We’re going to make sure we have a really great value offer for our quality.” And when they do open, Puckett says, “I’ll be right in there making pizzas, serving customers on a hands-on basis until we get too big to do that. We want to reengage our entire team on serving the customers.” After our conversation with Puckett, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Marketing professor Gino Giovannelli emphasizes the importance of taking a wholistic and strategic approach to challenges. "We've got to come out of this better than we came into it."

Apr 21

31 min

Proozy just may be the biggest overstock deals website you’re not shopping—yet. But hundreds of thousands of people have discovered Proozy, which, like Nordstrom Rack or T.J. Maxx, offers discounts on brand apparel from Nike, Adidas and many others. Unlike its big box competitors, Proozy is strictly e-commerce—emphasizing daily flash deals and relying on analytics to determine its inventory. Based in Eagan, Minn., Proozy hit $40 million in revenue for 2019 and Segal expects to double that in 2020. The company started out in 2006 as Lyon’s Trading Company. Jeremy Segal was just 16 years old when he started buying overstock golf equipment from pro shops and selling it to support his own golf aspirations. Realizing his knack for selling was greater than his game, he expanded into activewear and then apparel and accessories for the whole family. “We don’t function like other retailers,” Segal says. “We’re using data to make decisions, and optimizing with tech. We’ve built repeatable, predictable business you can replicate.” Segal talks about his strategy and plans to grow Proozy into a $160 million company. This interview was recorded back in December, before the Covid-19 pandemic, but Proozy has continued to grow and make news. Proozy is hiring to keep up with demand, which Segal predicts will only grow as consumers become more price-sensitive coming out of the global crisis. After our conversation with Segal, we go Back to the Classroom with Dan McGlaughlin, a faculty member in the operations and supply chain management department at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. He says Proozy is “using data in a fascinating way.” McGlaughlin uses Amazon as a case study in the classroom and points out the retail giant started with one product: books, much like Proozy started with golf equipment. “Amazon found one thing it was good at and the same thing is happening here.”

Apr 15

48 min

Marco was a typewriter dealer when Jeff Gau landed a sales job with the St. Cloud, Minn. company in 1973, fresh out of college after serving in the U.S. Air Force. He steadily rose through the ranks and helped Marco evolve from selling printers and shredders to businesses into a full-fledged IT services provider with 60 offices throughout the U.S. and more than $400 million in annual revenue. Through the years, Marco has continued to evolve with technology and grow—even as some of its early products became obsolete. “Change is great as long as it’s happening to someone else,” Gau jokes. But Gau got comfortable with change, overseeing dozens of acquisitions for Marco, which was employee owned from 1989 to 2015. When it was acquired by Norwest Equity Partners, many employees became millionaires overnight. And proof positive of the company’s strong culture of community and collaboration: they kept right on working. “Running a business is a team sport,” Gau says. “We play to our strengths.” Gau says the key to being a strong leader is not only knowing your personal strengths, but recognizing things that others can do better. “You need to give up control to get control.” Gau shares lessons he’s learned in leadership, collaboration, culture and adaptability. Afterwards, we go Back to the Classroom with University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business Professor David Deeds, the Schulze Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship, who zeroes in on the way Gau has continued to welcome change and even seek it out. “Analyze your market, understand what’s going on," Deeds says. "Know your core capabalities and keep expanding on them. That’s how you win."

Apr 8

56 min

His company makes lifestyle products out of wood, but when the coronavirus crisis hit the U.S. in March, Woodchuck USA founder Benjamin VandenWymelenberg immediately started thinking about how he could help. His wood laser cutting machines proved ideal for making the face shields needed by health care professionals. By the end of March, Woodchuck had produced more than 200,000 PPE products. Last summer, Ben shared his founder's story with host Allison Kaplan and talked about how he stays motivated and engaged as a leader. This episode was originally released Sept. 4, 2019. ****** Wiping out on Rollerblades and cracking his iPhone prompted Benjamin VandenWymelenberg to make his first phone case out of wood scraps. An architecture student who had grown up on a farm, he liked the idea of bridging technology and nature. Friends asked him to make phone cases for them, and that was the beginning of Woodchuck USA. In a matter of months, Woodchuck was selling through Best Buy and Target. Now seven years old, the Minneapolis-based manufacturer of wood products counts Google, US Bank, Ecolab, and Aveda among its custom clients, and sells in gift stores across the country. Woodchuck plants a tree for every item sold, which has resulted in millions of trees planted on six continents. From the start, Woodchuck’s mission was far broader than its product collection: “Nature back to people. Jobs back to America. Quality back to products.” Says VandenWymelenberg, “We might give up on the product, but we’re not going to give up on the mission.” While the core company continues to grow, Woodchuck also added an interiors division which makes wood dividers and panels for offices. Meanwhile, VandenWymelenberg, 28, has gotten into real estate development, buying the building that houses Woodchuck and creating a startup hub in Minneapolis. He’s also building a nature center in central Minnesota. And he found time to visit all seven continents, and write a book about entrepreneurship called “The World Needs Your F-ing Ideas.” On this episode of By All Means, VandenWymelenberg talks about mission, marketing and the challenge of shifting his focus from founder to leader. He shares some early failures and missteps that he believes helped him get where he is today. Success, he says, is “literally a lot of failing and getting back up.” After our conversation with VandenWymelenberg, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Faculty Director Mike Porter sheds light on how to get new products on store shelves, and the potential pitfalls of borrowing startup capital from friends and family.

Apr 1

65 min

On Monday March 16, in the face of a national emergency, John Puckett joined Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz at a press conference announcing that restaurants and bars must close to stop the spread of coronavirus. It's a death blow for many in the hospitality industry, but Puckett said "it's time to hunker down and protect our vital resources." How do you lead through crisis? This conversation from our first episode of By All Means in April 2019 is sure to provide some inspiration. *** John Puckett and his wife Kim had a case of “the Mondays” that struck almost as soon as they landed corporate jobs after business school. “Life is too short to spend Sunday night dreading going in to work on Monday,” John says. “We felt like life is … too precious to not really feel connected to your work and passionate about what you’re doing.” That conviction led to the creation of Caribou Coffee, now the No. 2 coffee chain in the U.S. It's No. 1 in Minnesota—the one market Starbucks doesn’t dominate—and that’s because of several strategic decisions made by the Pucketts. They grew the chain to more than 100 stores before selling in 2000. A year later, John became co-owner of a small but beloved St. Paul restaurant called Punch Pizza. He’s spent nearly 20 years growing Punch slowly, locally and without any outside investors. Puckett explains why he was determined to build a different sort of company his second time around. Following our conversation with Puckett, we go Back to the Classroom with University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business Professor David Deeds, the Schulze Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship, who explains the pros and cons of venture capital and why slow growth is under appreciated in business today.

Mar 17

50 min

Behind every successful founder are the advisors, investors, mentors, and marketers who are integral to getting it right. Kent Pilakowski is one of those behind-the-scenes experts who helped to build Beyond Meat, Talenti, Good Karma and other hot food brands that have sold or gone public. Pilakowski shares his journey from General Mills to entrepreneurship and talks about the evolution of the food industry and what it takes for a new brand to break through today. “Food has become a lot more fashionable,” says Pilakowski, who got a sales job with General Mills out of college in the 1990s and moved more than a dozen times before landing in general management at corporate headquarters in Minneapolis. He worked on two organic acquisitions: Muir Glen and Kaskadian Farms, and that opened his eyes to the opportunity for industry disruption. “Entrepreneurs start a business for passion, for health, to save the world, to save the environment. I saw a groundswell happening.” Pilakowski likes to say he isn’t the “ideas guy,” but he can spot a good one. He took six months to de-program himself from corporate culture and spent time talking to entrepreneurs before setting up a team and getting into position to help build businesses. “Early on, it’s all about the entrepreneur—not the business. You’re betting on the scrappiness that they’re going to figure it out. Often, the business itself has to do a complete 180.” Pilakowski has seen seismic change in food entrepreneurship since the early days of his career. There’s more money, more innovation, and actually, he says, it makes success that much more elusive. “A lot more people want to change the world. Now when you walk the halls of food industry shows, there are 8 million different ideas. There’s more money coming in, which enables entrepreneurs to do stupid, non-scalable things. Very few are making money.” Pilakowski offers advice on defining success, and knowing when to sell. He also talks about the decision to sell his own firm to spend more time with his three young children. After our conversation with Pilakowski, we go back to the classroom with University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Professor David Deeds, the Schulze Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship. Deeds points out the important role a partner like Pilakowski can play for an entrepreneur. “They bring things to the game you don’t have: branding, marketing, fulfillment. You either have to find it, or learn it.”

Mar 4

53 min

Growing up on an Iowa farm taught Ryan Broshar about taking risks and working hard. And it made him realize at an early age that he’d rather sell the corn than harvest it. His first startup, a university-based publication business called University Guide, grew out of an entrepreneurship class assignment at the University of Minnesota. It became a profitable business that Broshar sold two years out of college. While pursuing an MBA at Colorado University-Boulder, he got involved in the emerging startup community and worked for an investment fund. It was 2008—“the economy was crashing, but (tech startups) weren’t going down; they were thinking forward.” When he and his wife moved back to Minnesota to be closer to family, Broshar saw an opportunity to support the Twin Cities startup community. He co-founded BetaMN, a support system for founders that puts on a showcase-style event to connect founders with investors. Next, he co-founded Twin Cities Startup Week, which has become a national draw, attracting large companies and investment dollars to Minnesota. He was instrumental in bringing the Tech Stars Retail Accelerator program to Minnesota, and served as managing director for four years before leaving to concentrate on Matchstick Ventures, a seed stage firm focused on early stage tech companies in the Midwest and Rockies. In 2019, Matchstick raised $30 million in its second round. The fund has invested in 50 companies to date including Upsie and Inspectorio. “What I really liked about my own startup was the start,” Broshar says. “I like the zero to one of building a company. One to 10, I get kind of bored and start thinking, what’s the next idea? When you’re investing, you’re always starting. It’s a great fit for me.” Early stage investing appeals to Broshar because of the mentorship component. “You have to have empathy for the founder and understand there are going to be pivots. When you’re an early investor in an early stage company, it’s part financial support, part cheerleader, party psychologist. Being a founder is a lonely road and a lot of times, they look to investors as their strength.” What do Broshar and his Matchstick partner look for in startups? “We like to support founders that are underdogs. That come from untraditional backgrounds. People who have the feeling they were put on Earth to solve this problem. They’re obsessed with what they’re doing.” Being a venture capitalist isn’t for everyone. “You’ve got to love coffee,” Broshar says—only half jokingly, describing the significant amount of time he devotes to meeting potential founders, partners and investors. And you have to get comfortable saying no. “The Midwesterner in me wants to please everyone,” Broshar says. “It really comes down to: Is this a fit, is it a good use of my time. I’m trying to be very clear about the kind of stuff Matchstick likes to invest in. And if I can make connections, I'm happy to do that.” As for the VC world in general: “Venture capital is insanely risky,” Broshar says. “It’s the only profession in the world where you can be wrong the majority of the time and still be the best at it.” After our conversation with Broshar, we go back to the classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Entrepreneurship professor John McVea points out that less than half of a percent of all startups get venture funding. Of them, less than 1 percent make it to $1 billion in value, but those “unicorns” as they’ve come to be known, generate the lion’s share of publicity. While VC money is less prevalent than the media would have you believe, “Venture capital has had a huge cultural influence,” McVea says. “Along with the VC model came the idea of the lean startup: get a quick product out the door really fast, try it, measure and learn, pivot, redesign. It’s opened the door to a lot of people who would have been reticent—afraid they didn’t have the perfect idea. Many entrepreneurs learn as they go.”

Feb 19

66 min

Atif Siddiqi knew he wanted to build a business. When considering problems to solve, he harkened back to his high school sales job at a t-shirt shop, where there was no automated system for employees to trade or pick up available shifts. Years later, he discovered, not much had changed. He launched Branch in 2014 as a scheduling tool for hourly employees. It has since evolved into a mobile-first platform on a mission to “make the lives of hourly workers financially better.” Branch provides no-cost advances on earned wages. The app is used by hundreds of thousands of hourly employees at large companies including Life Time and Target. Along the way, Siddiqi has become an authority on the topics of employee satisfaction, financial wellness, and how employee engagement can help a company’s bottom line. “What we hear is employees are looking for more predictability in their schedules as well as flexibility. Uber has made it possible to pick up a shift any time—that’s driving consumers to want that from their workplace,” Siddiqi says. “Unemployment is at all time low. Companies are having a tough time attracting talent. When they do, the vast majority are seeing 60 to 100 percent turnover annually. The average cost to hire a new employee is $2,500—that’s recruitment, on-boarding, training. Anything we can do to slow down churn goes a long way toward the bottom line. It’s investing in growth.” Forty percent of Branch users have no money in the bank; 75 percent have less than $500. “An unexpected expense can really derail their personal and work lives,” Siddiqi says. A California native, Siddiqi moved his company to Minnesota in its early days to participate in Target Tech Stars. The experience was critical to Branch’s success. “For an entrepreneur, working with a big organization is like a black box—you don’t know how decisions are made. It allowed us to peer inside the black box, understand how tech initiatives are implemented, how they’re deployed, how new tech interacts with all the existing tech already in place. It was really fundamental to us understanding how to deploy within an organization. One of the things we got really good at: reducing amount of friction to implement.” By the time Branch completed Target Tech Stars in 2016, the company was growing and Siddiqi decided to make Minneapolis headquarters, and home. “The Twin Cities has a lot of great talent, especially around enterprise B-to-B software.” Branch employs 65 (up from 45 when this interview was recorded just a few months ago), has raised more than $10 million, and is making money, Siddiqi says. “If we can help employees continue to grow their account balance over time after downloading the app, that’s success for our team—our North Star and what guides us.” As far as advice for other entrepreneurs? “Start building,” Siddiqi says. “There’s no substitute for actually building product, learning from customers and hearing what they have to say.” We dig into that strategy in Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. John McVea, an associate professor at the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship, says there’s been a huge change in emphasis on entrepreneurial strategy from ready, aim, fire, to fire, ready aim. “We used to teach: think, research, plan, execute. Logical, not random. But when we talked to real life entrepreneurs, very few operate this way. They jump off a cliff and try. They make mistakes, pivot, learn, and keep going. Often they end up in a place that is different than we would have ever intended.” The takeaway? “I’m not saying don’t plan,” McVea says. But he urges entrepreneurs to take a more outward focused approach. “Spend time making a product, making mistakes, and learning.”

Feb 12

37 min

From maker to manufacturer: Mercedes Austin started making ceramic tiles in her apartment 18 years ago, and today, her company, Mercury Mosaics, occupies a 15,000 square foot factory in Minneapolis that produces tile for Room & Board, lululemon, PF Chang, major hotel chains, and other large clients as well selling direct to consumer. In the next year, Mercury Mosaics will open a second manufacturing center in Wadena, Minn. and a third is already being planned—both with a focus on creating jobs in small towns. It’s been a long and winding road for Austin, who stumbled into ceramics while studying psychology and took on apprenticeships to learn the trade while waiting tables to pay the bills. “I didn’t start out with the greatest self-worth,” Austin says. “My mom didn’t give me money, so I always had to figure out a way. Becoming resourceful, not having anything handed to you—it always motivated me to do really well by any means necessary. I’m most proud that I didn’t turn out how everyone said I would.” Ten years ago, as Mercury Mosaics gained momentum, Austin stopped making tiles so she could concentrate on growing the business. She shares stories of how she gave tile away to make connections with architects and how she changed her sales strategy seven times and eventually stopped paying commission to create a more cohesive team focused on growth. “I’m not afraid to start things over,” Austin says. Since eliminating the commission structure, sales have grown by 25 percent. “We formed a team that is working together versus internal opponents.” After our conversation with Austin, we go back to the classroom with University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Professor David Deeds, the Schulze Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship. Deeds zeroes in on the key to Austin’s success. “She started with passion for art and craft. But her passion today is about managing this business. She’s really evolved. She’s been open to learning and picking up the skills she needed.” That transition is essential, he says, for a founder to become a successful CEO.

Feb 5

64 min

Erik Brust was still a teenager when he came up with the idea for an all-natural popsicle—a fruit smoothie on a stick. He and some friends started making them in their dorm at St. Olaf College and by the time they graduated, Jonny Pops was a brand on the rise in the frozen foods industry. Eight years later, St. Louis Park, Minn.-based Jonny Pops is sold nationwide at Target, Costco, Sam’s Club and many other chains. In 2018, Brust and co-founder and chief financial officer Connor Wray were named to Forbes 30 under 30 list of young entrepreneurs. At 27, Brust is CEO of a fast-growing company with nearly 50 employees…most of whom are older than he is. “They love telling me I’m younger than their kids are,” he says. Brust talks about how he got Jonny Pops off the ground (“I don’t see any other way to get a business going unless you commit 100 percent to it.”), the lonely process of raising money (“It’s very humbling to go out there and pitch your idea and hope that people are going to believe in you and then give you money to go live that out.”), and transitioning from founder to leader. “I’ve shifted from individual contributor–making pops, working farmers’ markets—to, how do I hire people who are better at this than I could ever be, and have a consistent culture.” He shares his biggest mistake: being too slow to hire. “You realize how much stronger you are when you have amazing people working on the business.” And Brust discusses the opportunities ahead for Jonny Pops. “We’re in 12 to 15 percent of grocery stores. Now we’re setting our sights on 60 to 70 percent and thinking about how to kick off big advertising campaigns and innovate new, exciting flavors. All of those are fun for us right now.” After our conversation with Brust, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. John McVea, an associate profession in the entrepreneurship department, talks about the different leadership styles require to take a company from startup through growth. “In the startup phase, you need someone with really clear vision. Almost autocratic. Never compromise. You also need a person who is charismatic,” McVea says. “You get to a certain point in growth when suddenly growth is not the singular objective. Consistency, efficiency, cost, management become important as well. This is when you see many serial entrepreneurs leave. They don’t find it fun, and don’t make it fun for anyone else.”

Jan 29

55 min

Throughout his career as a TV meteorologist, Paul Douglas has found ways to turn weather data into business. He's launched and sold more than one weather related startup and has several others up his sleeve. "i love the intellectual challenge of launching new businesses," Douglas says. But he also loves telling weather stories, and finding ways to innovate. During his time at NBC affiliate Kare 11 in the 1980s and early 90s, Douglas launched the “backyard” format, which is still used today by that station, and many others nationwide. He also became one of the first meteorologists in the country to use graphics in his report. He worked for a time at WBBM-TV in Chicago, where he made occasional appearances on the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. Then he became Minnesota’s first certified broadcast meteorologist, and returned to Minnesota where he served as Chief Meteorologist for WCCO-TV from 1997 to 2008. Meanwhile, off camera, he started realizing the opportunity to pair his meteorological expertise with technology. It started with creating better TV graphics. “I wanted to disrupt what had become boring,” Douglas says. He launched EarthWatch Communication, delivering weather graphics to hundreds of television stations in the United States and 20 other nations. And he founded Digital Cyclone, Inc. (DCI), which, in the pre-iPhone era, personalized the weather forecasting experience for consumers on the web, e-mail and cell phones. In 2007, he sold DCI to Garmin, Inc, for $45 million. Douglas has three new companies that offer weather data to businesses, from farming to manufacturing to Netflix, which, he says, knows that viewing habits change based on the weather. “Weather directly impacts about one third of the GDP,” Douglas says. “Smart companies are pulling data in, they’re not just watching weather shows.” His next venture: helping businesses estimate the impact of global warming and weather volatility on their supply chains and facilities. “Sustainability is not a fad; it’s a trend,” Douglas says. “I’ve been talking about climate change for 25 years. I’m a conservative, but the data is the data. We have to figure out how to keep the economy rolling along, keep people employed while putting a lighter footprint on God’s creation.” Douglas talks about the challenges of being both entrepreneur and media personality. Today, he provides daily print and online weather services for Star Tribune in the Twin Cities, and co-hosts WCCO Radio’s afternoon show with Jordana Green. During extreme weather, you’re likely to find him on MSNBC or CNN. After our conversation with Douglas, we go back to the classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business Professor David Deeds, the Schulze Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship, who shares his take on why Douglas has been so successful as an entrepreneur. “He leveraged a core skill and married it to different kinds of applications.” When you know the subject matter, Deeds says, it’s easier to understand the problems, and spot opportunities for disruption.

Jan 22

49 min

John Butcher held 15 jobs in 20 years with Target Corp. and it taught him to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. So when an executive recruiter called about a leadership role at Caribou Coffee, the Minneapolis-based premium coffee chain with nearly 700 locations worldwide, Butcher said yes to the interview, even though he knew very little about coffee or the restaurant business. “Any business that can strike an emotional chord is interesting to me,” he says. Butcher joined Caribou as president in 2017, at a time when the company was “not reaching its potential,” Butcher says. “Ultimately, we weren’t being very guest focused." Butcher talks about how he listened, learned, and made purposeful changes that have resulted in improved sales, employee retention, and the best customer service feedback Caribou has ever received. In 2019, Butcher was named CEO of Caribou, which is owned by Luxembourg-based JAB Holdings Co. but has its headquarters in a suburb of Minneapolis. He has since embarked on plans to redesign Caribou cafes, open smaller format stores, and move into canned beverages. He talks about coffee trends, shares leadership advice, and offers tips in shifting culture and adding purpose. Says Butcher, "It’s important to me to know the effort I’m putting forth every day is doing more than making money." After our conversation with Butcher, we go back to the classroom with Gino Giovannelli, a digital marketing professor at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business, who points out some of the leadership decisions that have allowed Butcher to thrive as a newcomer to Caribou. “The answers come from within. But you have to be willing to ask, and not immediately try to fix.”

Jan 15

53 min

Chuck Runyon and Dave Mortensen opened their first Anytime Fitness gym in 2002. Their concept was an alternative to big box gyms: A no-frills space with little supervision…just workout equipment that was available literally any time. Seventeen years later, Anytime Fitness is the world’s largest fitness franchise company with $2 billion in annual revenue and nearly 5,000 locations on all seven continents, thanks to a recent opening on a ship that spends half the year in Antarctica. Runyon and Mortensen created a parent company, Self Esteem Brands, that also includes Waxing The City, Basecamp Fitness and Bar Method. They’ve earned just about every entrepreneurial award imaginable – they’ve been recognized as one of America’s most promising companies by Forbes, and the fastest growing fitness club by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. They did it all on instinct and “grit.” As Runyon says, only half jokingly, “Our company wouldn’t hire us today.” The two share the lessons they’ve learned about leadership, wellness, and strategic growth. Says Runyon, “As leaders we need to celebrate when our team is doing well, but then we need to raise the bar again.” After our conversation with Runyon and Mortensen, we go back to the classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Marcella De La Torre, who teaches course on leadership and business ethics, highlights some of the keys to Anytime’s success. “They are constantly adjusting to the complexity of the business. As you grow, you need more complex strategic plans. They are not naïve.”

Jan 8

48 min

Nineteen years after mortgaging their home to open a neighborhood ice cream shop in St. Paul, Minnesota, the founders of Izzy’s are poised to take their ice cream national. “Our vision is to compete directly with Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s,” says Jeff Sommers, who focuses on sales while his wife Lara Hammel is the mastermind behind popular flavors like Midnight Graham Crunch and Butter Caramel Salted Swirl. Sommers, a former high school teacher, and Hammel, a lawyer, talk about what prompted them to leave their careers to get into the ice cream business, and how they’ve grown from one shop to two, plus grocery and restaurant distribution in Minnesota. Also why now feels like the right time to expand. “There’s a whole bunch of space in the middle now for classic ice cream,” Sommers says. From their patented “Izzy Scoop” to a collaboration with musician Dessa, the husband and wife duo talk about what drives them. Says Sommers, “You just have to be passionate about the thing you want to do in business.” How do you know when the time is right to grow? For perspective, we go Back to the Classroom with University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business associate professor John McVea. Too often, he says, entrepreneurs get hung up on the idea that any growth is good growth. “That can be a terrible mistake. Growth brings with it great opportunity, but great risk,” McVea says. “Growth is a choice, and it must be a strategic choice. The first question to ask: Why do you want to grow? What is your objective?”

Dec 2019

66 min

Larissa Loden is a jewelry designer whose line is now sold in more than 800 stores nationwide including high profile names like Modcloth, WildFang and the Smithsonian Museum. And only four years ago, jewelry was a side hustle to her day job as an art teacher in the Minneapolis public schools. Loden grew up in retail—her parents own a gift store in upstate New York and she knew didn’t want to go into the business. Making jewelry was simply a hobby in the quiet hours after teaching. But as the necklaces piled up, her entrepreneurial instinct kicked in and she began to sell—first on Etsy, then at pop-up markets, and when she went to her first trade show, the orders from gift stores and museum shops began pouring in. Today, she manages a growing team of 9 full-time and 15 contract employees and balances the growing demands of a creative profession with the details of running a successful business. “The past two years I’ve really tried to level myself up,” Loden says. “Creating something from nothing keeps you on your toes, but I love the exhilaration of it.” Loden talks about why she still sells at pop-up events, how she’s able to keep her average price below $50, and her decision to be a brand that stands for something–even at risk of alienating potential customers. After our conversation with Loden, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Professor David Deeds, the Schulze Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship, talks about the transition from artist to entrepreneur. “You start off as the designer or the chef or whatever it is – the skill that gets it all started. But you eventually become a manager, so you have to build the skills.”

Dec 2019

52 min

Fitness wasn’t a career path when Chris Freytag attended college, but her lifelong passion for movement and wellness led her to become an entrepreneur—even before she knew that's what she was doing. Today, Freytag is a national fitness expert and author with a massive social media following. She's the founder of content platform Get Healthy U and on-demand subscription workout program Get Healthy U TV. Freytag walks us through the many paths she pursued along the way to running her own business—from making dance aerobics VHS tapes in the 1980s to selling smoothie makers on QVC. Through it all, her mission is clear: “I want to educate, inspire, and sometimes make people laugh…because you’ve got to keep it real.” Freytag talks about aging, as well as fitness trends and what it means to live a healthy life. “The fitness industry is about looking good. But if that’s your only why, it won’t last. You have to have deeper ‘why’s.’” Through it all, Freytag says she’s learned a lot about herself, and business. “Use your connections. Get to know people. Be kind-hearted. Give to people, and get back from them because you never know where it’s going to take you.” After our conversation with Freytag, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Marcella de la Torre, who teaches courses on leadership and business ethics, talks about turning passion into a profession.

Nov 2019

52 min

We talk endlessly about diet and exercise. But what about sleep? There’s no class in school, and in the workplace, there’s often a stigma around admitting fatigue. That’s where Sarah Moe saw her opportunity. "I tell people: I work in sleep medicine. That's a real job." A Board Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT) who spent 10 years working for sleep medicine clinics, Moe created her own consultancy called Sleep Health Specialists. She spends most of her time helping businesses learn how to make their culture more sleep friendly. Today, 20 percent of the population suffers from a sleep disorder. The average employee costs an employer $3,000 per year from being tired—that’s illness, absenteeism and lack of productivity. Moe talks about how she set up her practice, how the corporate community is responding, and the enemy of sleep that’s even worse than caffeine: blue light. And what to do about it. After our conversation with Moe, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Mike Porter is faculty director of the health care innovation program. He says that a lot of times, entrepreneurs who are so passionate about their pursuit can be challenged to make good business decisions. He talks about what Moe is doing right and what’s in it for companies that promote sleep.

Nov 2019

34 min

At a time when modern design wasn’t readily accessible to the masses, college friends Maurice Blanks and John Christakos, with their friend Charlie Lazor, channeled a shared passion for art, architecture and design into contemporary furniture brand Blu Dot. “There was a whole segment of the market unexplored,” Blanks says. “The J.Crew of furniture.” The line was a hit when it launched at a trade show in 1997 and the founders never looked back. Today, Blu Dot has stores in eight U.S. cities and in Mexico and Australia and a growing commercial interiors division. Blu Dot won the 2018 Cooper Hewitt National Design award for Product Design. “It's great to see the vision really coming to life now, 22 years later, the way we always wanted it to," Blanks says. "There’s just so much room for continued growth."  Blanks and Christakos discuss design thinking—an approach they apply to both furniture and leadership. “Our core value: good design is good. We see everything as a design opportunity,” Christakos says. “It’s not just products, but organizational structure, compensation. Business decisions are design decisions.” To that end, the founders say Blu Dot started as a design company. "It could have been picture frames, knick knacks—we talked a lot from the very beginning about what the brand would be about and how could we create a company that someone would describe like they would describe a person," Blanks says. "With a real sense of self."  Christakos adds one of the best pieces of advice he received from a mentor: "Pick something you love to do and trust you'll do it better. It was a real epiphany for me. A lot of folks think when they start a business they have to come up with the big idea, something new. Starting a furniture business is not a new idea." Blanks and Christakos talk about building a company the old-fashioned way: by reinvesting profits rather than taking outside investments, and why they think the availability of VC money has actually made starting a business more difficult. They also talk about the changing retail landscape and how it shifted their sales strategy. After our conversation with Blanks and Christakos, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Alec Johnson is an associate professor in the department of entrepreneurship. “Most good design is human-centered design,” he says, and offers tips on how to think about a design centered approach to business.

Nov 2019

55 min

While working at HealthPartners as a front desk registrar, Katrina Anderson noticed that medical students were having trouble getting signed up for clinical rotations. She had the idea to create a platform that would allow hospitals to post their schedules online so students can easily and securely sign up. LinkedIn meets Airbn is how Anderson describes it. She and her partner called their software program Clinician Nexus. Founded in 2016, the startup has already raised $750,000 and is being used in 95 hospitals and 136 school schools around the country. They're just getting started. Clinician Nexus is about more than real-time scheduling, Anderson says. The platform addresses what has become a major problem for hospitals and medical schools: providing medical students with enough clinical hours to finish their degrees. “We might not have enough physicians if we don’t have enough slots to teach them and they can’t graduate on time. When you invest in the health care system, it improves patient outcomes.” Anderson talks health care, technology, raising funds (Clinician Nexus investors include the University of St Thomas, where Anderson earned her MBA) and becoming an accidental entrepreneur. “I’m trying to grow into being a CEO. It’s not an identity I ever thought I’d work with.” So what convinced her to go for it? “A world without Clinician Nexus was scarier than quitting my job.” After our conversation, we go Back to the Classroom with Dan McLaughlin, director of the Center for Innovation in the Business of Health Care in the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. He says Anderson used classroom lessons in founding her business. “It’s the theory of constraints: you look for a bottleneck,” McLaughlin says. “She found one in scheduling.”

Nov 2019

38 min

Fred Haberman is co-founder and CEO of Haberman, a Minneapolis-based branding, advertising, and public relations agency that counts Volvo, Organic Valley and Boston Scientific among its clients. But he’s also a social entrepreneur with a passion for organic foods, wellness, and the outdoors, and so Haberman continues to launch other ventures, even while running his agency. Haberman founded the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships and grew it into an annual event drawing well over 20,000 players and spectators from across the country. He also co-founded Urban Organics, one of only two USDA certified organic aquaponics facilities in the country, which was acquired by Pentair in 2017. His latest venture is Freak Flag Organics, a line of flavorful condiments and sauces now sold online and in local grocery stores. “The idea is to be yourself in the world, and in the kitchen,” he says, adding that this is the brand he intends to focus on for the foreseeable future. But as you’ll hear, Haberman always has another idea. “Starting a business is kind of like a disease. It’s not always the healthiest thing to be creating things. I can't help myself.” How do you strike the right balance between passion and profits? We talk about working on things you believe in, building partnerships, and managing the instinct to keep starting things. After our conversation with Haberman, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Katherina Pattit is an associate professor of ethics and business law. For a serial entrepreneur, “the partnership piece is critical,” Pattit says. “When you have partners who understand the mission, you can work together for the benefit of each other’s strengths.”

Oct 2019

46 min

By All Means host Allison Kaplan sits down with one of her mentors, Burt Cohen, founding publisher of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business, to talk about the magazine business, leadership, and sandwiches. A 1955 graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Cohen’s publishing career included management roles with the New York Times Media Company, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and Modern Medicine Publications. He purchased a small city magazine called MPLS in 1978 and transformed it into Mpls.St.Paul, now the Twin Cities’ leading lifestyle magazine and a leader in the field of city and regional magazines nationally. That was the beginning of MSP Communications, one of the first publishing companies in the country to create content for brands. MSP-C, the company's custom division, has developed more than 225 print and digital titles and platforms to date. In 1993, Cohen created MSP's second editorial magazine, Twin Cities Business, with the help of partners Gary Johnson, president of MSP Communications, and Brian Anderson, who served as editor of Mpls.St.Paul until his death in 2010. Cohen is TCB's founding publisher. A mentor to many in business and publishing, Cohen has served on numerous boards including Medica, Minneapolis Institute of Arts and University of St. Thomas. He played a key role in modernizing the mission of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism. Cohen continues to write a monthly column for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. He is likely the only person on Twitter who types his tweets on a manual typewriter and hands them to an intern to be posted online @thecohenreport, which he never looks at. His LinkedIn profile, which is is also unaware he has, lists him as “old columnist.” But Cohen says coming to the office every day, lunching with business leaders and politicians, and reading several newspapers a day keeps him young. His motto, in life and business: “Be gracious as you can and respectful and appreciative of everyone. If you’re polite and nice and civil and openminded to people’s thoughts and ideas, it will lead to success for you and will be heartwarming to them.”

Oct 2019

51 min

Sisters Isabel and Caroline Bercaw started making bath bombs for fun when they were just 10 and 11 years old. Entrepreneurial at heart and encouraged by their parents, Kim and Ben Bercaw, the girls entered the youth division of the Uptown Art Fair in Minneapolis and sold out of bath bombs in a day. They came back the next year and caught the eye of a spa owner who wanted to sell their fizzy bath bombs with a “surprise” inside at his shop. They never looked back. Today, their bath bombs are sold at Target, Costco, and many other national retailers. Da Bomb Bath does around $20 million in annual revenue. And that figure could catapult, thanks to new branded partnerships with Barbie, Hot Wheels and Disney.  Isabel, 18, is now a freshman at the University of St. Thomas—part of the Schulze Scholars program for students who have demonstrated entrepreneurial leadership. Caroline is finishing her senior year of high school. The two are co-creative directors of the company they started before they were old enough to incorporate on their own. Their mom Kim serves as CEO and dad Ben is CFO and COO of the Edina, Minn. Based company, which employs more than 150. “Our parents have always inspired curiosity rather than fear in us,” the Bercaw sisters say.  The sisters talk about what it's liek to make it big before high school, from their surprise success to what they’ve sacrificed along the way. They explain why they want to go to college, and what they want for their company as it continues to grow. After our conversation, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. “This generation of students, Generation Z, are a far more entrepreneurial generation,” says Laura Dunham, associate dean of the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship. “They are learning a lot about entrepreneurship at an early age—there are tons of resources online, more programs at the high school level, and the world has changed, making it easier for any company to access customers, build capital-efficient supply chains. There’s more opportunity out there, and young people are grabbing it.”

Oct 2019

50 min

David Kristal had no intention of going into business with his father Henry, co-founder of the Ember’s restaurant chain. But with the heyday of the 24-hour diner coming to an end and the 80-restaurant Midwestern chain losing money every month, Kristal joined his dad in 1997 to try to save the business. He managed to slow the bleed, although the restaurants never fully rebounded. In the process of trying, however, Kristal steered the company into the loyalty business. “We were in total crisis mode trying to figure out how to cash roll the business to avoid bankruptcy. We didn’t have a reputation in the loyalty space; we had to create it.” One service client turned into many and soon, the company had an entirely new focus in engagement and loyalty management programs.  Now called Augeo, the St. Paul-based company with more than 200 employees offers incentive and debit card membership programs in more than 50 countries. In 2018, Augeo spun off a fintech loyalty division for $140 million, and the company is growing again. In September, Augeo acquired enterprise engagement company MotivAction. It is expected to generate $350 million in annual revenue.  Kristal talks about fostering a company culture that can withstand a total pivot, and being willing to fail. “There ain’t no magic to this stuff,” Krisal says. “You’ve got to keep pounding it out every day. You hope you have more good days than bad days and hope you can make your good days great.” After our conversation with Kristal, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Dan McLaughlin teaches in the Operations and Supply Chain Management program. He points out how culture can impact a company’s ability to pivot. “The is a classic example of agile business: you try stuff. I bet in seven years, Augeo will be doing something else because they’re willing to try things and move on.”

Oct 2019

48 min

Chris Plantan traded building high rises for designing three-ring binders. Surprised that she couldn’t find stylish school supplies for her daughter to use in middle school, Plantan left a lucrative career as an architect in 2003 to start russell + hazel, an office products line that changed an industry. Hers was the first brand in a commodity driven category to treat paper products and office supplies as design objects. Her patterned binders, lucite sticky note holders and gold staplers blended function and fashion, and even inspired Martha Stewart who became a big fan of the brand and helped create national demand. Plantan sold russell + hazel, which is named for her grandparents, to Gartner Studios in 2009 and stayed on for three years. Next she co-founded a company called West Emory and took a very different approach, staying behind the scenes to design products for other retail brands including Crate & Barrel, Vineyard Vines, J.Crew, Target, and Nordstrom. She left earlier this year to recharge her creative battery. “I’m trying to take the advice I give to everyone about entrepreneurship: You don’t have to define it. To get to where you want to get, it’s stepping stones. Just take the next step.” Plantan talks about finding the “white space” in consumer product goods and what makes architecture a great background for entrepreneurship. “It’s a classical education. You do have to have that right brain with all that engineering so it’s a good foundation, but still so lofty in your thinking. The top of that building is always in the sky. How you design a building is fundamentally product solving.” She also shares her formula for staying head of consumer trends: “Read the Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today, and throw in a little Cosmo. Understand your consumer. Make sure (your product is) relevant, and looks great.” After our conversation with Plantan ,we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. David Deeds, the Schultz Professor of Entrepreneurship, points to what made russell + hazel a success. “If you’re going to do an entrepreneurial business, you need to be differentiated. She figured out way to get the customer to look at product, not the price.”

Oct 2019

35 min

You might not know the name Sue Remes, but you’ve no doubt come in contact with her work for Kiehl’s, Frederic Fekkai, Lancome, Murad, Bumble and Bumble, Kevin Murphy, and others. She started her career behind the makeup counter for Clinique and worked her way up to Regional Training Manager before moving to Aveda Corp. where she was National Sales Manager and learned from industry visionary Horst Rechelbacher. The experience informed her entire career, but it was the last time Remes worked on staff. She went on to found Sue Remes Resources and become one of the most sought-after experts in the beauty business. Remes talks about the art and science of being a consultant and maintaining an outside perspective even while working on a brand for five to seven years. “I serve my clients better by being independent. I’m always thinking or looking at whatever they’re not thinking or looking at. What’s the thing right in front of you that no one else is seeing? That’s what I learned from Horst.” For those who go into consulting for the flexibility, take note. “As a consultant, you’re always thinking about what you’ll do next.” Remes also spends nearly as much on the road as does at home. Often, she goes from exotic locales like Dubai and Singapore to the off-the-grid cabin she and her husband built in Ely, Minn. “Living in a situation where you don’t have electricity and you don’t have running water pushed everything I thought to be true about myself. I live this incredibly weird life where I’m on the road, I’m keynote speaking, I’m meeting people. Going to Ely takes it all down a notch for me so I can go back out there into the world.” After a conversation with Remes that includes a look at market trends including genderless beauty, sustainability and purpose, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Associate Professor John McVea from the Schultz School of Entrepreneurship suggests consulting as a useful apprenticeship before starting a venture. “You’ve got to be a fast learner. Absorbing all the details of somebody else’s business is exhausting. But that mindset is what makes consultants tick.”

Oct 2019

66 min

Nancy Lyons is the founder and CEO of Clockwork, a Minneapolis-based experience design and technology agency that works with clients across industries. She’s a leader with a personal mission to “think strategically, act thoughtfully, be a good human.” As such, she spends much of her time speaking, writing, and thinking about the intersection of leadership, entrepreneurship, technology and people. “I don’t love tech,” Lyons says. “I love people and how tech supports and empowers people.” In this episode, Lyons walks us through her path into the tech industry—back when the Internet was in its infancy. She talks about learning how to code, learning project management, getting to a place where she feels comfortable being herself at work and speaking her truth. “What Clockwork is doing that I’m proud of is creating the space for uncomfortable conversations that ultimately lead to change,” Lyons says. “We have this idea that success looks a certain way—especially for women. We need opportunities to see ourselves. Success comes in a wide variety. People have to see themselves in the work to believe they belong there.” Lyons serves as the chair emeritus of the National Board of Directors of the Family Equality Council. She sits on the Minnesota Governor’s Blue Ribbon Council on Information Technology. She is on the Open Twin Cities Advisory Board, as well as the Amplified Voices Board, and is a member of the advisory board for the innovative entrepreneurial conference, Giant Steps. She co-authored the book “Interactive Project Management: Pixels, People, and Process.” After our conversation with Lyons we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Marketing professor Gino Giovannelli talks about why Lyon’s outspokenness works for her in business. “She is who she is. She’s putting it all out there. In order to establish relationships, you need to be authentic.”

Sep 2019

55 min

Brandon Sampson almost lost his hand in a farming accident when he was 8 years old. Nine surgeries and months of physical therapy sparked his interest in orthopedic medicine and rehabilitation. He was pre-med at Luther College, until a mentor introduced him to the field of prosthetics and orthotics. “When I saw people building a functional tool that never existed before for people missing limbs, I thought, this is what I want to do.” What he didn’t fully realize, as he started his career working for an artificial limb maker, was the power of his own entrepreneurial spirit. “I didn’t care if I succeeded or failed. I just wanted to feel like it was my doing.” After 15 years of working for another prosthetist, and many failed attempts to show his employer how to innovate and reinvent, he left to start a different kind of artificial limb company—one that focuses on function over form. Limb Labs opened near Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. in 2014. It looks more like a design lab than a medical office, with the fabrication center visible from the lobby and street. “We wanted to design the patient experience to feel like they are part of the process,” Sampson says. Today, the privately owned Limb Lab has four offices in Minnesota and Wisconsin and plans to continue expanding. "We must be disrupting something," Sampson says, "because when we go to conferences, people want to have lunch.” Sampson talks about innovation in the field of prosthetics, the impact of insurance changes, and balancing his patient focus with running a business. “I just love getting up and going to work," Sampson says. "Every day there’s a chance I might be able to create something that never existed before.” After our conversation with Sampson, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Dan McLaughlin, director of the Center for Innovation in the Business of Health Care, talks about how innovation in prosthetics is starting to benefit other fields, like agriculture. “Crops need to be hand picked and no one wants to do that job, so they are investing in robotic pickers,” McLaughlin says. “it’s a very exciting future.”

Sep 2019

47 min

When Maia Haag told her boss at General Mills that she was leaving to start a personalized children’s book company, he told her to call him when she wanted her job back. “That just made me want to prove him wrong,” Haag says. That’s just what she did. Her Minneapolis-based company, I See Me! is now the largest publisher of personalized books in the U.S. With more than 50 titles and many other personalized products, I See Me! has sold millions of books for kids as well as pets, dads, and grandparents. Haag walks us through how she set herself up for success, from taking time to write the business plan to working for other Internet startups to learn what to do, and what not to do. Launched in 2000, I See Me! found its audience without the aid of social media. Haag reflects on her earliest days in e-commerce and how direct-to-consumer retail has evolved—for better or worse. In addition to e-commerce, I See Me! sells through retailers and has strategic partnerships with Shutterfly and other brands. In 2014, Haag sold I See Me! to Chronicle Books, but she has stayed on as president. She talks about going from founder to president and having to answer to stakeholders. She talks about working with her husband Allan, a graphic designer whose firm designed I See Me! products, and why they decided he should leave the business. Plus, how she’s learned to let her leadership team handle the day-to-day operations. “Letting go has made it so much more enjoyable,” she says. After our conversation with Haag, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business professor David Deeds who offers advice and insight to entrepreneurs. “Learning on other people’s money is always a good thing for an entrepreneur,” Deeds says. “Businesses don’t die from bad ideas as often as they die from lack of cash."

Sep 2019

54 min

Wiping out on Rollerblades and cracking his iPhone prompted Benjamin VandenWymelenberg to make his first phone case out of wood scraps. An architecture student who had grown up on a farm, he liked the idea of bridging technology and nature. Friends asked him to make phone cases for them, and that was the beginning of Woodchuck USA. In a matter of months, Woodchuck was selling through Best Buy and Target. Now seven years old, the Minneapolis-based manufacturer of wood products counts Google, US Bank, Ecolab, and Aveda among its custom clients, and sells in gift stores across the country. Woodchuck plants a tree for every item sold, which has resulted in millions of trees planted on six continents. From the start, Woodchuck’s mission was far broader than its product collection: “Nature back to people. Jobs back to America. Quality back to products.” Says VandenWymelenberg, “We might give up on the product, but we’re not going to give up on the mission.” While the core company continues to grow, Woodchuck also added an interiors division which makes wood dividers and panels for offices. Meanwhile, VandenWymelenberg, 28, has gotten into real estate development, buying the building that houses Woodchuck and creating a startup hub in Minneapolis. He’s also building a nature center in central Minnesota. And he found time to visit all seven continents, and write a book about entrepreneurship called “The World Needs Your F-ing Ideas.” On this episode of By All Means, VandenWymelenberg talks about mission, marketing and the challenge of shifting his focus from founder to leader. He shares some early failures and missteps that he believes helped him get where he is today. Success, he says, is “literally a lot of failing and getting back up.” After our conversation with VandenWymelenberg, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Faculty Director Mike Porter sheds light on how to get new products on store shelves, and the potential pitfalls of borrowing startup capital from friends and family.

Sep 2019

65 min

Claire Powell is CEO of J.W. Hulme, the century-old leather goods brand based in St. Paul, Minnesota. She didn’t start it; she was brought in to resuscitate it. J.W. Hulme road the wave of the heritage movement—enjoying national media buzz around its history of U.S. manufacturing, but that hype didn’t add up to profits. Unable to succeed as a vertically integrated manufacturer that relies primarily on catalog and online sales, Powell found herself in the challenging position of having to change the business model. “We ended up having to make a really difficult decision,” Powell says. “Are we a manufacturer? Are we a retailer? Are we a brand? Who are we? Ultimately, a business has to sustain itself. It was really a fork in the road moment.” In 2018, J.W. Hulme, which is owned by a private equity firm, stopped manufacturing and outsourced production. Around 30 employees were laid off, and only a small marketing and sales team remain. “I’ve had a lot of difficult conversations over last year,” Powell says. “I’ve tried to always be honest, as kind as you can, as supportive as you can, but not hide anything.” J.W. Hulme opened a retail store in St. Paul with plans to focus on broadening its brand. Powell shares her perspective on retail today, and how a 114-year old company can pivot while staying true to its character. She also talks about the challenges of U.S. manufacturing of artisan goods and the perception of the heritage movement, where buzz “doesn’t always translate into sales.” Having held management roles with a number of consumer product goods companies both large and small, including Bali, Wonderbra and American Giant, Powell describes the differences, and the perspective of coming in as a leader, not a founder. “It’s really healthy to have both of those in the organization. The founder can be almost irrationally attached to certain things in the business. Someone coming in can feel as passionate about driving success. But you might have a different perspective and a little less deep attachment.” After our wide-ranging conversation with Powell, which includes her self-care techniques to be a more effective leader, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Associate Professor Patricia Hedberg offers advice on leading through turmoil, and accepting that not everything works out as you might hope. “Failure is a beautiful moment for learning,” Hedberg says. “The idea is that by taking risks, you learn a lot about yourself and how to do it better the next time."

Aug 2019

52 min

Joe Keeley’s story is the stuff of business school legends—particularly at the University of St. Thomas where he was a student when he got the summer babysitting gig that sparked the idea for College Nannies, Sitters + Tutors, which he grew into the nation’s largest employer of nannies, sitters and tutors. Today, the company, which Keeley sold in 2016 to Bright Horizons, operates close to 200 franchises and has provided more than 2 million hours of child care. In 2000, Keeley answered an ad from parents who were looking for a college hockey player to nanny their two boys for the summer. Other parents started asking if he could help them find them a college student to watch their kids, and Keeley quickly realized the market was ripe for a professional placement service that would vet childcare providers and treat them as “role models” for kids. It made for a great news story, too, which is how Keeley built an early buzz without a marketing budget. But even as College Nannies, Sitters + Tutors was gaining momentum, Keeley didn’t see himself as an entrepreneur. “You get that job, a 401K, you have 3.2 children, you retire, and you die. That’s kind of the American dream, that’s the path.” Or it was the path, 20 years ago. “The times have changed—certainly a lot of companies are valuing entrepreneurship majors as intra-preneurs quite highly. As more and more industries get disrupted by entrepreneurs, they’re looking for the entrepreneurial thinking. So I think the major is something that’s even more sought after because large companies need to have small divisions that have independent thinkers.” Keeley did become an entrepreneurship major and by the time he graduated from St. Thomas in 2003, he was running a profitable business. He made the key decision to structure College Nannies as an employment agency rather than a placement service. He began franchising in 2005. By 2010, dozens of new franchises were opening each year. Then in 2014, Keeley created an app that expanded his company’s services to provide on-demand sitters, creating the Uber of licensed childcare. But always, he says, the people are at the center of the business. “We’re a childcare company with good technology.” Keeley talks about his decision to sell College Nannies to Bright Horizons, the largest provider of corporate child care in the U.S. He stayed on to run College Nannies under Bright Horizons for three years and stepped away from the business completely this summer. He offers advice for other would-be entrepreneurs and talks about what's next in his career. After our conversation with Keeley, we go back to the classroom with one of his former professors. Alec Johnson is an associate professor in the Department of Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. “No one would have doubted Joe’s intentions,” Johnson says. “He hasn’t changed a bit.” As for the role St. Thomas played in Keeley’s business, Johnson says, “We can’t make entrepreneurs, but we can teach them.”

Aug 2019

48 min

About every five minutes, someone, somewhere in the world, creates a CaringBridge page. The Minneapolis-based social network makes it easy for people to communicate with loved ones during a health crisis by creating a centralized, private place to share updates and ask for help. Sona Mehring created CaringBridge in 1997. It started with a simple website designed to help friends share news about their premature daughter, Brighid. The power of that instant connection—at a time before Facebook and Twitter—prompted Mehring to build CaringBridge, a platform that was available, for free, to the public. From the newborn intensive care unit at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics in St. Paul, CaringBridge has grown into a global nonprofit with users in 235 countries. Mehring, a tech entrepreneur who was early to the Internet—launching her own web page design firm in the 1990s—talks about her decision to turn CaringBridge into a nonprofit, and leave her day job to run it. “I have a nonprofit heart with a for-profit mind,” she says. She also discusses why she believes CaringBridge has continued to thrive despite the proliferation of social media. “What I realized is, it’s not just a service; it’s an amazing way of people connecting. CaringBridge is actually something that helps people heal.” After our conversation with Mehring, we go back to the classroom with University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business marketing professor Gino Giovannelli who points out what any founder can learn from CaringBridge. “If you have the right product that solves a need in the market,” Giovannelli says, “you don’t need to go broad.”

Aug 2019

45 min

Kate Arends’ eye for design and instinct for connection helped her build an audience of more than 3.3 million for Wit & Delight, her blog turned social media platform. How to leverage that devoted following and capitalize on the opportunities that come with being a lifestyle brand continues to be a work in progress. Today, Wit & Delight operates its own rentable studio space in Minneapolis, creates products, content, and consults with major brands including Nike, Amazon, Fossil, and Sleep Number.  But Wit & Deight didn’t start with a business plan. It started as a creative outlet for Arends, and it grew organically for five years before Target came calling and offered her a limited edition design collaboration she couldn’t refuse. “It wasn’t until the opportunity became so apparent that I thought, if I don’t seize this, I’m going to regret it.” Even now, with a team of six and national sponsorships, Arends is constantly reevaluating her influence and opportunities. She’s thinking about how to scale a business that is so closely tied to her personal story. She talks about creating boundaries between her private life and public persona, and how to move past being identified as a blogger or influencer. “If there’s anything I’ve learned from running my own business, it’s that there’s a lot that comes from knowing when to say no.” After our conversation with Arends, we go back to the classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Katherina Pattit, associate professor of ethics and business law, reflects on the role of the influencer among consumers today. “We used to go to Consumer Reports and friends to find out what to buy. Now we have people on social media, where boundaries are starting to blur. We need to recalibrate what types of things are important to us in our own judgement.”

Aug 2019

51 min

Clarence Bethea does not fit the typical venture capitalist’s profile of a promising founder. He grew up in a broken home, got into trouble with the law, dropped out of college. But when he started working in a group home with vulnerable adults, something clicked. Through a series of jobs and mentorships, he realized what he was meant to do: start something. “My heart and soul is built to build something big.” In 2015, he launched Upsie, a warranty app designed to make it easier and more affordable for consumers to protect their purchases. Very quickly, Bethea pitched Upsie for the Techstars business incubator program and since then, it has grown 300 percent every year, with customers in all 50 states. Bethea has raised $8.5 million for Upsie, despite odds stacked against him. “People invest in people who look like them. Venture capitalists are mostly white guys. I definitely don’t look like them.” Bethea talks about the challenges of raising money and the vast inequities that exist in the VC space. “if I was a white guy in Silicon Valley, I’d have a lot more money,” he says. “The vision is that big. Warranties are a $47 billion industry that hasn’t been tapped into from a consumer standpoint.” His plan now? Focus on growing Upsie, and mentor other minority entrepreneurs. “We’re going to see more entrepreneurs of color creating great businesses. They’re just going to outshine everyone else.” After our conversation with Bethea, we go back to the classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Katherina Pattit, associate professor of ethics and business law, shares strategies for overcoming bias in business. “We know from research that once someone knows what his or her biases are, they have an opportunity to start counteracting that.”

Jul 2019

47 min

Kristin Shane is the founder and CEO of Fly Feet Running, a group fitness workout with two studios in the Twin Cities and hopes of going national. Launched in Minneapolis in 2016, Fly Feet is thriving in an increasingly crowded field, and Shane says she’s proud to be among the 2 percent of women-owned businesses to make it over the $1 million mark in annual revenue. But she still has big hurdles to clear to achieve the goals she’s set for Fly Feet, and getting this far did not happen by chance. Shane charts the experiences that led to starting her own business—from consulting for Accenture, to a stint in the Peace Corps, and an 11 year climb at Target, where she eventually landed as a vice president in the beauty division. Shane was part of the team that led Target’s disastrous expansion into Canada. She talks about what she learned from that failure, and how it set her up to become an entrepreneur. “All the ingredients are here for a personal disaster,” she recalls of her time in Canada. “And I’m not willing to let that happen.” Shane takes us through the two years of work she did to plan Fly Feet Running before leaving Target. She talks about what it will take to get Fly Feet to the next level, and aspirations of her own. After our conversation with Shane, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas. Alec Johnson, an associate professor in the Department of Entrepreneurship at the Opus College of Business, discusses the challenges facing startups after initial success—particularly in the competitive field of fitness. “She needs to grow or she’ll find herself shrinking as part of the overall industry,” Johnson says. “The journey keeps throwing entrepreneurs challenges and hurdles to get over.”

Jul 2019

52 min

Rhoda Olsen didn’t grow up thinking she’d one day run a $1.5 billion company. She didn’t have any female role models in business. But she found the way to lead with heart, and data, and in the process, she helped Great Clips become the world's largest salon brand. Olsen is vice chair of the board of Great Clips, a Minneapolis-based franchise salon chain with 4,400 locations and more than 40,000 stylists nationwide. She stepped down as CEO in 2018. But she continues to work closely with leadership, and franchisees. She’s considered the heart and soul of the company, and a major factor in its epic growth over the past 30 years.  Olsen went to college at a time when women were discouraged from pursuing careers in math, so despite her natural talent with numbers, she focused on social work and started her business career in human relations. It took her brother Ray Barton’s encouragement for her to not only come to work with him at Great Clips in the 1980s, but to buy stock in the company at a time when she and her husband barely had enough money to pay for their three sons' hockey gear. It paid off. “Four to 5 percent growth a year may seem boring to people, but when it goes on for 15 years, it’s not so boring anymore,” she says. Olsen, who still goes to the office almost every day, talks about leading with heart, and data. “Data is a powerful way to drive success,” she says. “There’s nothing more caring than being honest with someone. If you care deeply, how can you not provide someone with honest feedback?” That honesty extends to Olsen's personal story, too, from growing up poor to having an alcoholic father. Olsen says she's realized that sharing her own vulnerabilities and struggles helps to motivate her team. “I stopped trying to speak, and started telling stories. People keep pretending that their lives are perfect. And life isn’t perfect. If you share, you give everyone the opportunity to feel like they aren’t alone.” After our conversation with Olsen, we go Back to the Classroom with University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business Distinguished Service Faculty Mike Porter, who talks about the art and strategy of building a franchise business. “You’ve got to try to build a community among franchisees.”

Jul 2019

59 min

Michael Fanuele is a brand strategist who has worked at JWT, Havas, Fallon, and most recently served as chief creative officer at General Mills. There, he tried to inspire a big food company to be a good food company, and in the process, helped Cheerios and Nature Valley grow for the first time in a decade. Currently, he’s the founder and CEO of Talk Like Music, a consultancy that helps people, places, and brands become more inspiring. His new book is called Stop Making Sense: The Art of Inspiring Anybody. Fanuele became interested in the topic of inspiration when he found himself caught up in the theatrics of U2, a band he despised. He wondered what it was about Bono that had the power to move even the most reluctant fan. And he started thinking about how that same feeling could apply to other aspects of life and work. “The inspiration equation is pretty simple: passion minus reason is inspiration,” Fanuele says. "You’ve got to find a way to make things odd enough, strange enough—music-like enough that spirits soar, bodies move.” Fanuele walks us through some of the ways we can bring emotion and inspiration to work. He shares examples of techniques that brands, businesses, and politicians use to move people. “The two ugliest words in the corporate lexicon? Chill out,” Fanuele says. “Why would you tell people who are obviously roused, rallied, passionate to chill out? That’s when you say, go. We need to learn how to express our feelings in places where feeling are not welcome.” After an inspiring conversation with Fanuele, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. John McVea, who teaches entrepreneurial strategy, says the key to getting at feelings is empathy. “It’s hard to inspire anyone without truly understanding the person you’re trying to serve. We’re in the business of finding surprises.”

Jul 2019

45 min

Dave Kapell founded Magnetic Poetry, a first-of-its-kind novelty item that brought poetry into the kitchens and onto the refrigerators of millions of people around the world in the mid-‘90s. An accidental entrepreneur, he came up with the idea of putting words on magnets while writing song lyrics, and when friends wanted magnetic poetry kits of their own, he turned it into a business. “I went viral before there was going viral,” he says. To date, Magnetic Poetry has produced more than one billion world tiles in more than a half dozen languages and sold more than 3 million kits worldwide. Kapell still runs the Minneapolis-based company, and has never taken a dime of outside funding. His unlikely path to entrepreneurship includes a garage band, writer’s block, arts and crafts, Davanni’s magnets, a house party, student loan debt, and a very memorable sneeze. On this episode of By All Means, Kapell shares his entertaining founder’s story and what he's learned about running a business along the way. After our conversation with Kapell, we go back to the classroom with University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business Senior Associate Dean Michael J. Garrison, professor of ethics and business law to get advice on the importance of pursuing patents for your unique product ideas.

Jul 2019

52 min

New episodes of By All Means are on the way! We talk to entrepreneurs, CEOs, authors and visionaries. Leaders who make business work in Minnesota. Coming up this season: the founders of CaringBridge, College Nannies & Tutors, Woodchuck USA, Flyfeet Running, Upsie and many others. Plus tips and tactics that may apply to your next venture. Get ready to be inspired.

Jul 2019

3 min

Ann Kim is the James Beard Award-winning owner and executive chef of Young Joni, Pizzeria Lola and Hello Pizza in Minneapolis. She and her husband and business partner Conrad Leifur created parent company Vestalia Hospitality and, without any outside investors, formed a team that is now working on its fourth restaurant concept slated to open in 2019 in Uptown Minneapolis. Kim did not follow a traditional path to the restaurant industry. She pursued an acting career after graduating from New York’s Columbia University with a degree in English. Burnt out after eight years of theater and commercial work, she and Leifur decided to open the neighborhood restaurant of their Minneapolis dreams and New York memories. That was Pizzeria Lola. Kim didn’t attend culinary school; a Korean immigrant, she grew up watching her mother and grandmother make kimchi from scratch out of necessity—no restaurants in Minneapolis had it on the menu. “It wasn’t unusual for me growing up as a kid to have a dinner table that had a bucket of KFC and biscuits with kimchi and a side of rice,” Kim says. “So to have Korean short ribs, with three kinds of kimchi and a pepperoni pizza and cauliflower is not foreign. It’s totally normal.” In fact, Kim believes being an industry outsider has worked in her favor. "Instead of listening to the rules of opening up a restaurant—where you put the seats, what you can and can’t put on a pizza—those were all thrown out the window and we just followed our guts and what we thought was missing from the pizza landscape. That worked for us. When you do something that’s against the grain, people are hungry for that." Following the success of Lola, she opened Hello Pizza, a New York-style slice shop, and then came Young Joni, the critically acclaimed restaurant she describes as “my heart and soul.” She talks about learning to work on the business rather than in it, and realizing that her favorite part of the process is creating new things. “I’ve got a million ideas in my head. I love the idea of creating things, coming up with an environment in which people can eat that makes them feel good and special. That’s the part that drives me.” As much as she loves designing a restaurant and menu, Kim takes just as much joy and satisfaction in the business. “Creation is not just about the next dish. To me, creativity is how can you take an organization and grow it in a sustainable way.” Kim talks about the shock of being nominated for the culinary industry’s top honor, a James Beard award. Shortly after this recording, she won the 2019 James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest. After our conversation with Kim, we go back to the classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business associate professor Alec Johnson to discuss how entrepreneurs can successfully move from creative inspiration to scalable business.

May 2019

47 min

Liz Giorgi founded Mighteor, one of the first video production companies focused on creating content for the Internet. With clients including Facebook and the NFL, Mighteor has helped businesses achieve more than 500 million organic views and receive international attention. Now, the Emmy award winning Giorgi is launching a second business called Soona—a same-day photo and video production studio. “It came from years of listening to our customers—whether it’s Facebook or a small liquor store, they all had this problem: they can’t scale content affordably or quickly…We took every idea we had about production turned it on its head and said it’s not impossible to do this in a day.” Described as the Kinko's of content, Soona recently opened in Denver and Minneapolis. Giorgi wants to take it global. “We can completely change the game for how content is made; make it accessible to any brand at any time.” But Giorgi didn’t intend to be an entrepreneur. When she couldn’t find a newsroom job after graduating from journalism school in 2007, she landed a freelance gig with Apartment Therapy and started learning digital content creation. She spent two years at an agency managing web strategy for clients and also helped the University of Minnesota take video to YouTube. Her combined experiences in storytelling, social media and client work led to the creation of Mighteor in 2013. The company now has 15 employees and offices in Minneapolis and Denver. Giorgi talks about her evolution from filmmaker to business leader and how she stepped away, two years in, to learn the difference between a P&L and a balance sheet. She also talks about influencers and the power of social media marketing. “If a brand thinks we have these social channels just to sell, they’re missing the greater opportunity, which is to build trust with an audience and develop a community around your organization.” Having recently completed the Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program, Giorgi reveals the advice that resonated most as she seeks investors for Soona. “You can never take too long to ensure that someone’s money is the right money for your business,” Tory Burch told Giorgi. After our conversation with Giorgi, we go Back to the Classroom with University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business entrepreneurship professor John McVea and talk about the misconception that business founders are either creative or practical. “A lot of inspiration for creativity comes from constraints,” McVea says. On the flip side, he says, “It’s perfectly possible for people with business training to become part of the creative process.”

May 2019

60 min

How do you define success when your family names are Dayton and Rockefeller? Andrew Dayton is the son of former Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and philanthropist Alida Rockefeller Messinger, daughter of John D. Rockefeller III. His grandfather, Bruce Dayton, was CEO of Dayton Hudson Corp. and a devoted trustee of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts who was once described in the New York Times as the “Dean of American corporate arts philanthropy.” “My grandfather had a lot of sayings…’the only thing worse than a bum is a rich bum. It wasn’t that you’re expected to follow in retail or philanthropy or politics, but you’ve got to contribute something. You have a responsibility to pay it forward,” Andrew says. Andrew and his brother Eric Dayton are co-founders and co-owners of North Corp., the parent company to the Bachelor Farmer restaurant and cafe, Marvel Bar, and retail store Askov Finlayson, all located in the North Loop of Minneapolis. Andrew’s passion for public policy led him to serve as the Deputy Legislative Director to former San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee. But his concern about growing inequities in Minnesota brought him home. “Minnesota is the most generous state in country in terms of dollars and volunteer hours, but we’re dead last when it comes to metrics around poverty. The percentage of people living in poverty has risen by 60 percent in the last 20 years…how can we be so generous and not see the results?” Andrew recently launched Constellation Fund, a grant making organization inspired by New York’s Robin Hood that uses data, research, and predictive analytics to identify, fund, and partner with the people and organizations making the biggest demonstrable impacts in the fight against poverty in the Twin Cities. On this episode of By All Means, Andrew explains why he created Constellation Fund and how he will evaluate its effectiveness. After our conversation, we talk to Katherina Pattit, associate professor of ethics and business law at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business, about how businesses can apply an investor’s eye to philanthropic initiatives.

May 2019

51 min

Jacquie Berglund is co-founder and CEO of Finnegans Brew Co., the first beer company in the world to donate 100 percent of profits to charity. Finnegans turns beer into food by purchasing produce from local farmers and donating it to food banks in every state where the beer is sold. In 2018, Finnegans opened its own brewery and tap room in downtown Minneapolis and launched the new Finnovation Lab for co-working and incubating socially minded startups. “I think I’m hardwired this way,” Berglund says. “I always wanted to make a difference.” On this episode of By All Means, Berglund talks about how she came up with the idea to launch a beer company that “does well and does good,” and how she structured her for-profit company to benefit Finnegans' non-profit arm. She addresses the challenges of growing a benefit corporation, and how, with guidance from Newman’s Own Foundation, she changed her model to bring on investors and fund expansion. “If you want to go dood, you’ve got to figure out how to fund it.” Berglund offers advice for the next generation of social entrepreneurs. After our conversation with Berglund, we go Back to the Classroom with University of St. Thomas Schulze School of Entrepreneurship Associate Dean Laura Dunham who offers insight on adding a philanthropic element to your business. Says Dunham, “Entrepreneurship is about solving problems that matter to you, and creating value for others.”

May 2019

45 min

Erin Newkirk is an award-winning innovator, tech entrepreneur, brand builder, and champion of problem solvers. After working her way up the ranks to senior marketing manager at General Mills, she left to start Red Stamp, a modern correspondence company, which she built into a mobile app that made it possible to send personalized cards and invitations on your phone with a couple of clicks. With 10 million cards sent, Red Stamp was acquired in 2013 by Taylor Corp., one of the largest privately held companies in the U.S. Newkirk continued on as CEO of Red Stamp within Taylor until 2016 when she left and quickly became chief marketing officer of one of the hottest Minneapolis-based insurance ventures, Bright Health, which made Forbes’ Next Billion-Dollar Startups list for 2017. Then last year, she joined another Twin Cities startup, this time in the food industry. Newkirk is now chief marketing officer of Local Crate, a meal kit company on a mission to source locally, from farm to chef to kitchen. How does she continue to leap between industries? “My North Star, what guides me: I’m all about doing good with good people. Where there’s a problem to be solved, you should go there.” That’s the approach she brings to her newest project, Satya, an initiative she says is based on “helping founders and leaders succeed through speaking their truth.” After our conversation with Newkirk, we go Back to the Classroom with University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business Professor David Deeds, the Schulze Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship, who talks about capitalizing on an entrepreneurial mindset.

May 2019

46 min

His story has become legendary at the University of St. Thomas—and beyond. Zachary Quinn was a sophomore when he enrolled in an entrepreneurship class. There, he met Brian Keller, and together, they turned an assignment to create a business into Love Your Melon, the $40 million hat company that donates half its profits to fighting pediatric cancer. “We wanted to start something that would make a difference,” Quinn says. On this episode of By All Means, he outlines the key moments and decisions that set Love Your Melon up for success, including its college ambassador program, a hockey bus tour that garnered national press, and brand building through social media. Quinn talks about Love Your Melon’s commitment to U.S. manufacturing and its first brick and mortar store, which the company is using for special events designed to tell the brand story and build engagement. What’s next? “I never look more than six months out,” Quinn says. But he does have “more crazy stuff” in the works, including a concert series and e-gaming competition. After our conversation with Quinn, we go Back to the Classroom with his entrepreneurship professor at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business Jay Ebben. “We really push students to build their career or a business around their own values, their own sense of purpose and mission,” Ebben says. He describes what it was like to have the Love Your Melon founders in class, and why he gave them an A- for the semester—a grading decision he’s never quite been able to live down.

Apr 2019

51 min

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