Apply for Small Business Consulting!

The Pine City Economic Development Authority has a new opportunity assist local business owners and entrepreneurs. Through a partnership with the MN Small Business Development Center at Central Lakes College, the EDA is pleased to present small business consulting as a new resource.

 Having begun in January 2012, two-hundred hours of consulting are available at no-cost to local entrepreneurs. Skills such as business plan development, access to financing, cash flow management, and marketing are available to assist entrepreneurs. Consulting is not just limited to new businesses; existing businesses can take advantage of this service.

The consultants for the Pine City area will be Jill Bolejack. Jill received her MBA in International Business from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in Monterey, CA. Her experience includes an extensive background in consulting and real estate, and she has been a small business owner herself. She currently teaches business classes at Pine Tech. The EDA is pleased to be partnering with her and the SBDC to offer this opportunity.

For more information, please contact Nathan Johnson, njohnson@pinecitygov.com, 320-629-2575. Or, you can apply online, the application can be found here.

Seven Questions with Seven Entrepreneurs in Seven Days, Part 7

Tomorrow, February 16th, the Pine City Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurs Club at Pine Technical College is hosting a PANEL discussion called the Art of the Start: Conversations about Entrepreneurism. The PANEL is open to the public and will take place at Pine Tech, Room 50 at 11:30am. In advance of this discussion we are profiling some of the participants and their perspectives on starting, growing and thriving small enterprises.

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Name: Dave Crawford
Business Name: Advance Design & Systems, LLC
Product/Industry: Engineering & Manufacturing
Year Started: 2004
# of Employees: 16

What was your path to entrepreneur-dom?
I had a side-business most of my career but there was always this lingering question that I would ask myself…can I do this on my own? I came from a Fortune 500 company in the medical device industry and when I told them I was leaving they all said that I was crazy. In the end, it just came down to the fact that I was working 72 hours a week for them and I thought that I could use that time to build something on my own.

What is an entrepreneur?
Someone who has a vision and then has the ability to follow through on that vision.

Can entrepreneurship be taught?
I don’t think so. I don’t think you can teach that kind of drive. I think there are things that entrepreneurs can learn but not that initial and sustained drive.

Are entrepreneurs control freaks?
In some cases. I really like how this phenomenon is described in “The E-myth Revisited” and how businesses and entrepreneurs need to think about building their teams to succeed. I knew that I didn’t want to do accounting all day, so I built my team with people who had those complementary skills–like a finance guy and a sales guy and an engineering guy.

Do entrepreneurs have balance in their lives?
Typically not…but over time you learn how to manage your time. My ability to grow my management team and build the kind of trust it requires between us has been very important.

What do you notice about other entrepreneurs?
I certainly notice their drive but also really appreciate it when I see other entrepreneurs think outside the box. Just the other day I was introduced to a guy who was growing his pizza business by bringing pizzas to my office and saying, “Hey check me out.” I thought that was an awesome example of out of the box thinking.

What skills would you advise an entrepreneur to acquire?
I would say adaptation, persistence, organization and the ability to look at things differently.

How does your business “keep score”–what kinds of business metrics do you pay attention to almost everyday?
We use a project analysis tool that gives me access to our various projects progress at any time. It lets me see bid information, cnc time on a project, labor needs, design information and financial progress. This is a compilation of systems that we have built and it really shows me where we are at with things at any given moment. One of the best things that comes out of this is my ability to see our weaknesses so that we can work on solutions.

Who are your best customers, vendors or partners in your business?
Without a doubt, its my management team and my employees. Without my employees, we are nothing.

What does success mean to you?
Success to me is watching my company grow. I am starting to be able to devote more time to giving back to the community and I feel like that is a measure of success for me. I also feel good about my ability to manage my work load and personal time, which also is another way to measure success.

David Crawford is the President of Advance Design & Systems in Pine City and we are grateful for his time and insights. Dave can be reached at his website, http://www.advancedesign-sys.com.

Seven Questions with Seven Entrepreneurs in Seven Days, Part 3

On February 16th, the Pine City Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurs Club at Pine Technical College is hosting a PANEL discussion called the Art of the Start: Conversations about Entrepreneurism. The PANEL is open to the public and will take place at Pine Tech, Room 50 at 11:30am. In advance of this discussion we are profiling some of the participants and their perspectives on starting, growing and thriving small enterprises.

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“Beaded Wire Tree Sculpture” by Angie Filler

Name: Angie Filler
Business Name: M.I.F.G.A.P Gallery (which stands for Mural art, Illustration, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Advertising & Photography)
Industry: Art, Sculpture, Printing & Design
Year Started: 2010

What was your path to entrepreneur-dom?
I had lots of people in my life that encouraged me to pursue my passion for art. My dad really encouraged me and was always telling everyone what I was working on. Early on, I made various pieces for teachers, friends and family and I realized that this is what I wanted to do for a living.

What is an entrepreneur?
An entrepreneur is a risk taker that has ideas that they want to share with others

Can entrepreneurship be taught?
Parts of being an entrepreneur can be taught but you have to have it inside of you. The money aspects and basic fundamentals can be learned but the risk taking has to be within you. Some people cant stand the idea of risking it all like entrepreneurs do.

Are entrepreneurs control freaks?
I wouldn’t call entrepreneurs control freaks but do need to have things their way because it is their future. To others it may appear that you are a control freak but I think it will be easier to be less controlling over time.

Do entrepreneurs have balance in their life?
I believe that it is difficult to have balance as a relatively new entrepreneur. You put all your time into making your business succeed. For now, I have to balance different aspects of my business life like making money, being creative, connecting with customers and vendors so, for now, that’s my balance.

What do you notice about other entrepreneurs?
Its challenging to group them all together because I do meet so many other entrepreneurs and they come from different places in their lives. Some are struggling, some are excited by their choices, like I am. But its difficult to group them all together because they are all so different.

What skills would you advise an entrepreneur to acquire?
#1 would be listening and communication. If you cant effectively listen to your customers, especially, then you can push them away. #2 would be networking because I definitely know that I need others to succeed.

How do you “keep score” in your business–what kinds of things do you pay attention to measure growth and keep you going?
As a creative person in a creative business, I keep score by new creative pursuits. I sold my first watercolor today and that wasn’t something that anyone had taught me how to do. I just did it and someone purchased it. My business is great because it allows me to do things like this. It keeps me going especially with all the bumps I have experienced along the way like not having money or knowing specifically what path I would take to realizing my dream.

What does success mean to you?
Success to me is being able to provide for my family. It means that I can wake up and enjoy what I do. Success is my ability to be happy.

Who are your best partners?
To this point my best partners are those people that have encouraged me along this path. When I was 10 or 11, I received a lot of encouragement from my bus driver, Lenny from Bus #606. He found some of my art on the bus one day and from then on, really encouraged me to pursue my gifts. I also have a great mentor in Steve Stegner who helps me work through issues with creativity, business development and growth, both personally and professionally.

Angie Filler is the owner and artist at MIFGAP Gallery. Her work is available for viewing and purchase at Java Joes Bistro in Pine City, Wacky Yacky’s in Hinckley and Cabin Coffees in Pine City. On March 1st, MIFGAP Gallery will open in Pine City, across from Pizza Pub. She can also be reached at angies_gallery@live.com or by phone at (218) 380.2270.

Seven Questions with Seven Entrepreneurs in Seven Days, Part 2

On February 16th, the Pine City Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurs Club at Pine Technical College is hosting a PANEL discussion called the Art of the Start: Conversations about Entrepreneurism. The PANEL is open to the public and will take place at Pine Tech, Room 50 at 11:30am. In advance of this discussion we are profiling some of the participants and their perspectives on starting, growing and thriving small enterprises.

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Name: Dr. Robert Musgrove, Ph.D.
Business Name: Pine Technical College, President
Industry: Education
Year Started: 1998

What is an entrepreneur?
An entrepreneur is someone who takes some level of risk to start an enterprise. It could be either a non-profit or for profit endeavor with the goal of building something bigger.

Can entrepreneurship be taught?
Some aspects of entrepreneurship can be taught…yes. You can teach them what paths to do down, what resources are available to them. You can help put them in a setting to voice their concepts and help vet them.

Are entrepreneurs control freaks?
Some are. I think being a control freak can lead to an unsuccessful entrepreneurial pursuit. I think that being successful can mean knowing when to let go and rely on your team.

Do entrepreneurs have balance in their lives?
My tendency is to say no. Often times these entrepreneurs are too much type A personalities and are too passionate, too focused to be balanced.

What about business balance–the balance of focus on the different aspects of his/her company like marketing, technology, sales & finance?
Yes, I do think that they do have balance when it comes to the facets of their business but I think that this tends to stop at the office door and neglects the personal side of their lives.

What do you make of some of the household name entrepreneurs who are now spending so much of their time, effort and money in charitable causes?
I think that these entrepreneurs like Gates and Zuckerberg are looking back and making up for lost balance by devoting so much to social causes now, after their companies have become successful.

What do you look for in entrepreneurs?
Drive and ambition, focus, intellectual curiosity, openness to new ideas…a Blakean dichotomy of being able to simultaneously hold two competing ideas in their heads–like the drive and focus to move ahead with their concept while also being open to the ideas of their team.

What skills would you advise an entrepreneur to acquire?
I would want entrepreneurs to keep their attention on the business side of the equation and the value of the back office. I think that you are seeing some of this with recent moves by Google and Apple bringing back key individuals with proven abilities to monetize innovation.

What will success mean to you for your Business Incubator?
The ultimate success of our incubation program will be measured in job creation and especially, high wage job creation. Our goals is that companies will leave the incubator in great shape and ready to succeed in a location in our industrial park or within Pine County. These companies will have rising sales, products in the market, new orders coming in and will be profitable.

Who will be your target companies for placement in the Incubation program?
We will focus on later stage entrepreneurs with a solid business plan and a great understanding of it. They will have proof of concept, orders pending or a limited history of sales already.

How does your business “keep score”–what kinds of business metrics do you pay attention to almost everyday?
For Pine Tech, our key metrics include successful completion of educational outcomes for students and enrollment counts. Our key metric, however, is placement of our students in the workforce. We also keep a very keen eye on our ability to place students in professions that will allow them to earn an above average income.
For the incubator, we will want to help our incubated entrepreneurs find and grow their key metrics like sales, shipped products, and general growth.

Thanks to Dr. Musgrove for speaking with us. Pine Technical College will begin construction on its business incubation center in the spring of 2011. For more information, please visit their website at www.pinetech.edu

Seven Questions with Seven Entrepreneurs in Seven Days, Part 1

On February 16th, the Pine City Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurs Club at Pine Technical College is hosting a PANEL discussion called the Art of the Start: Conversations about Entrepreneurism. The PANEL is open to the public and will take place at Pine Tech, Room 50 at 11:30am. In advance of this discussion we are profiling some of the participants and their perspectives on starting, growing and thriving small enterprises.

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Name: James “JT” Hinrichs
Business Name: JT Entertainment
Industry: Entertainment & Event Planning
Year Started: 2006
# of Employees: 0

What was your path to entrepreneur-dom?
I worked in radio and my station was bought out and the entire staff was let go. I saw this as an opportunity to start my own business. I really liked music and wanted to continue to be involved with it and to use my public speaking ability as well as my ability to bring lots of pieces together for my events. I was mentored into the business by the brother of a former co-worker of mine and that was a great lesson in the importance of networking.

What is an entrepreneur?
Someone with the passion, desire and love of what they do.

Can entrepreneurship be taught?
Yes, to the right people, it can. I think that some entrepreneurs can be taught how to best take that step–that risk–in starting their own business. And it is a huge risk..but one that can pay off in the end.

Are entrepreneurs control freaks?
They can be. At first, especially, when you are doing everything yourself and its your livelihood on the line. It can be tough to not want to control it all. But over time I think that lots of entrepreneurs learn to lay back and collect the rewards of their work. But some are always control freaks, like Donald Trump.

Do entrepreneurs have balance in their life?
Yes, absolutely. Without balance there’s no point in being an entrepreneur.

What do you notice about other entrepreneurs?
I see other entrepreneurs in my industry all the time and I do notice when one of them does an especially good job with an event, convention or trade show. I can see that they are good at what they do. However, for my business, I really try to set myself apart from my competitors by creating moments for my clients. I try to offer things to my wedding parties or business functions that creates a moment that will be remembered. To do this, I really try to focus on the people and helping them have fun.

What skills would you advise an entrepreneur to acquire?
For me, its about knowledge. If I know my business inside and out, then that shows to my clients and lets me focus on them again.

What does success mean to you?
Success means money of course. Every entrepreneur that I know wants to make money. But I think that success is the result of ambition, drive and desire. People with those three things will be successful at whatever they do.

Who are your best customers?
I really enjoy working with all my customers but especially love my brides and grooms. They have a lot to do in the process of getting married and I love to help them fulfill their dreams for their wedding and to take some of the pressure off of them.

How does your business “keep score?” What kind of business metrics do you pay attention to the most?
I do post event surveys to learn about what our customers like and dont like but the most important way that I keep score is with referrals. Referrals show me that people are talking about the great things that I do. People dont have to say anything so when they do its very powerful for me.

James’ website is www.jt-entertainment.com and he can be reached there.

Farmers Market Symposium to be held Jan 25th

An event designed to showcase services and assistance available to Farmers Market organizations and producers to promote locally grown foods and the creation of jobs and small business.
All are invited. This event is free and open to the public. For information contact the ECRDC office of Community/Economic Development at 320-679-4065 #29.
Presented by Central MN Jobs & Training—Workforce Center, Pine Technical College, MN Department of Employment & Economic Development and the East Central Regional Development Commission.

Pine Tech creates Entrepreneurs Club: Are You In?

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Have you ever dreamed about starting your own business? Are you a small business owner who wants to more fully develop your enterprise? Do you have a hobby that you would like to profit from? Do you want to take the steps to doing what you love to do so that everyday you can wake up and be energized by the work that you do?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then take the first step to realizing your dreams. Pine Technical College has created an Entrepreneurs Club where emerging or existing entrepreneurs can help plan a business from scratch, seek assistance on specific business topics like financial management, marketing or development of a product or service, and network with other entrepreneurs.

The first meeting of the Pine Tech Entrepreneurs Club will meet on Wednesday, October 13th at 11am. Lunch and refreshments will be served. The Entrepreneurs Club will meet in Room 50 at Pine Tech.