Minnesota’s private colleges incubate businesses
Minnesota’s private colleges have been fostering entrepreneurship for years, encouraging innovation and start-up know-how. Here are stories of entrepreneurial efforts and achievements, with excerpts from pieces published by several of our colleges.
- Auggie Matt McGinn finds innovative ways to serve an old favorite
- Students compete in inaugural Gustie Entrepreneur Cup
- Six Tommie businesses advance in Minnesota Cup
- Program helps St. Olaf students connect, explore careers in San Francisco
- Start-up business by Saint Mary’s student opens window of opportunities
- Concordia College startup spirit
- Saint John’s student launches online business
- St. Scholastica grad Zorig Tumennasan named to Forbes-Mongolia's "Top 30 Under 30"
- Macalester alumna named entrepreneur in residence
- Entrepreneurship events or competitions at our colleges
Matt McGinn ’13 has accomplished more in his 27 years than most. He overcame alcohol dependence to graduate from Augsburg College and its StepUP® program and then went on to become a successful entrepreneur in the coffee industry. And when it comes to coffee, he does it all.
McGinn roasts his own beans. He uses them to cold brew coffee. He bottles it. Distributes it. And, he co-owns and runs a coffee shop where he serves his cold brewed coffee on tap — an innovation that very few shops offer, especially in the Twin Cities.
Some of today’s most successful and innovative companies were started by undergraduate students, with Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook being the most notable example. Now, Gustavus is challenging its students to develop the next great idea with the establishment of the Gustie Entrepreneur Cup.
This spring, students in Professor Marta Podemska-Mikluch’s upper level Entrepreneurship course developed original entrepreneurial ventures, wrote and submitted business plans, and pitched their projects to a panel of invited judges. The competition grew out of the vision of Larry Lukis, a parent of three Gustavus graduates and the founder of Proto Labs, a company that provides rapid manufacturing of custom parts for prototyping.
The event engaged a number of faculty, alumni, and friends of the college, who served as judges, guest speakers, and team mentors. A total of 18 students that made up 11 teams made proposals at the event. The first, second, and third place winners were awarded cash prizes totaling $6,000 to help jump-start their businesses.
“The Gustie Entrepreneur Cup is a focal point of the effort to create a space at Gustavus where students can experiment with putting innovative ideas into action,” Podemska-Mikluch said. “Entrepreneurship requires critical thinking, promotes creativity and resilience, teaches how to deal with ambiguity, and allows students to learn what questions to ask, and where to look for answers. We also believe that entrepreneurship is the perfect way of blending vocational preparation, service, and liberal arts education.”
Making up almost ten percent of the semifinalist field, companies with St. Thomas connections are staking their claim as some of the most promising entrepreneurial companies in Minnesota. Almost 1300 people entered this year’s Minnesota Cup, with 70 semifinalists . . . across seven categories. St. Thomas companies represent four of the divisions.
[For example] three businesses started by UST alumni made the semifinals of the Food/Agriculture/Beverage division.
- Alexander French ’11, is behind the cold-press coffee startup Bizzy Coffee . . .
- Andrew Kincheloe ’12, founded Buddy’s Nut Butters three years ago. His three flavors of peanut butter can be found at all Twin Cities co-ops, Lunds and Byerlys, Kowalski’s and more . . .
- Sue Marshall ‘14 MSRE, entered the 2014 Fowler Business Concept Challenge with NetZro, an infrared dryer of waste materials . . .
A group of 25 St. Olaf College students spent part of Interim break in San Francisco, where they explored career opportunities and connected with alumni working at places like Google, Microsoft, Netflix, and the Institute for the Future.
The trip, part of the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career’s Connections Program, focused on careers in innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship.
The Connections Program brings students to cities around the country to meet with alumni and see firsthand how Oles are succeeding in all sorts of endeavors.
“Employers are realizing that liberal arts students have skillsets that allow them to adapt to change, think creatively, and evaluate new opportunities,” says Kris Estenson, an associate director of the Piper Center and the program’s coordinator.
Peter Hegland had no idea when he began a window-washing business two years ago how much it would open a window into the world of entrepreneurship.
By talking about his start-up business, the finance and entrepreneurship major from St. Charles earned an opportunity to compete in the national Global Student Entrepreneur Award (GSEA) competition in Miami this November.
Hegland was originally recruited to apply for a regional competition after key words like “entrepreneur” in his LinkedIn profile drew attention of a member of The Entrepreneurs’ Organization, which hosts the competition.
Marisa Jackels ’14 never thought she’d be an entrepreneur. But this spring she participated in her first Startup Weekend Fargo event.
Hosted by Concordia’s Offutt School of Business, the event took place over three days. At the end, teams presented business ideas to a panel of judges.
Jackels and her Startup partner, Sarah English, pitched Fargo Hotcakes, which aims to deliver fresh pancakes to downtown workers. The fledgling idea won honorable mention and a flurry of fans who want to know when the breakfast cart will be up and running.
“The whole experience opens your eyes to what you can do and create,” Jackels says. “We did it in 54 hours. It’s empowering.”
The startup event is also one more example of a new culture arising in the Fargo-Moorhead community, one that is embracing innovation, collaboration and artistic ventures on a broad scale.
This entrepreneurial, startup culture is a boon for Concordia students seeking valuable experiences and young alumni looking to make their mark in the post-college world.
There's one nasty word entrepreneurs don't ever want to say.
The word? No. As in, "No, the product is not available for sale." Or, "No, the funds aren't available to do that."
But in a few weeks, Saint John's University junior — and entrepreneur — Ian Scherber will be able to say "yes" — as in "Yes, the product is available for sale."
Scherber, working with a team of current and graduated students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University with the Entrepreneur Scholars program, has created Neverest Outfitters.
He spent the summer working with CSB junior and lead product designer Mary Rumpca and others to develop prototypes for Neverest Outfitters' product line - backpacks, messenger bags, growler carriers, a tote, a bracelet and a T-shirt.
Neverest Outfitters raised $13,360 through a Kickstarter campaign, which allowed Scherber to take his product line to a company in Battle Lake, Minnesota, for manufacturing. They will start selling items online Nov. 20.
Everything was looking up for newly minted St. Scholastica graduate Zorig Tumennasan in 2012.
He had just returned to his native Mongolia to work as a marketing manager and was looking forward to a bright future.
There was just one small problem. He was expected to come to work each day in a suit and tie. But the fashion-conscious Tumennasan wasn't satisfied with the typical business suits he found in his country of 3 million people.
Buoyed by an entrepreneurial spirit and the skills he'd learned as a double major in business management and marketing, he went into business for himself making custom suits for Mongolian professionals.
Kate Ryan Reiling, a 2000 Macalester graduate, has been named Entrepreneur in Residence, a new position at the college.
“Macalester’s 2014 Strategic Plan calls for an emphasis on entrepreneurship as an outgrowth of our urban location, our accomplished alumni, and the interests of our students,” said President Brian Rosenberg. “Kate is a natural fit for Entrepreneur in Residence, given her own entrepreneurial career and her deep knowledge of Macalester. I look forward to having her on board.”
Along with the excerpts above, we wanted to share examples of the entrepreneur events and competitions that are held at our campuses during the year.
College of Saint Benedict / Saint John's University
- Entrepreneurial Leadership Series Luncheons are held five times a year for alumni entrepreneurs to celebrate the institutions’ “Entrepreneur of the Year” award winners and listen to a peer tell their career story and the current challenges in their industry.
- The Eric Rego Big Idea Competition is a student elevator pitch competition that is held each spring in which students pitch a business idea for 90 seconds. A venture idea can be a new product, a new way to deliver a service or a new solution to an old problem and can address a campus need, a community need, a national need or a global issue.
- Macathon is a competition where students teams to put their liberal arts education into action and invent a new product or service that solves a real-world problem.
- MacStartups is a program for current students and recent grads where they spend the summer learning about entrepreneurship and developing their ideas into real products and businesses.
- Sponsored by the Macalester Entrepreneurship Club, Macalester Entrepreneurship Pitch Day is an event where students present their entrepreneurial ideas.
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
- Saint Mary’s Business Department and the Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies periodically sponsor business plan competitions to engage and reward business-minded students.
- An Elevator Pitch Competition is held annually where students are given 90 seconds to sell their business, nonprofit or event ideas.
St. Olaf College
- The Ole Cup is an annual student entrepreneurial competition, modeled after the Minnesota Cup, that provides students with resources to help turn their business idea into reality.
- STO Talks is an annual conference where St. Olaf students, faculty, staff and alumni give presentations covering a wide array of topics to stimulate ideas and innovation.
University of St. Thomas
- The Schulze School of Entrepreneurship is hosting the inaugural Freshman Innovation Immersion on September 3-4, 2015. Incoming students will learn critical thinking, ideation, business sustainability and more. Guy Kawasaki, the former chief evangelist at Apple, will give the keynote address.
- The Fowler Business Concept Challenge encourages students to act on their ideas and develop business proposals that have potential to become viable, high-growth companies.