Minnesota

The Bold North

These Minnesota changemakers are part of the problem-solving capital of the new economy. They define what it means to forge north.

The Intersection of Food and Social Justice, with Michelle Horovitz, Appetite for Change

Appetite for Change uses food as a tool for building health, wealth, and social change in North Minneapolis. Michelle Horovitz grew up in the well-manicured suburbs of Minneapolis. If you ask her about the beginning of her journey to social change, she points to her Jewish upbringing. She says that her family made her aware of major injustices in the world. This gave her a sense of empathy for people who had been “othered.” Throughout high school and college, Michelle waited tables. She had a keen interest in food and wanted to be a chef. As an undergrad student living in West Philadelphia, she was exposed to a world that…

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Hacking the Diversity Gap, with Kristen Womack, Hack the Gap

Hack the Gap is a weekend event where women come together to build a project as a team. Kristen Womack is a bona fide techy. She worked as a product manager for some well-known tech companies. She runs Night Sky Web Co. And she has been involved in the local tech scene from Geekettes to Mpls MadWomen. And yet, as she attended hackathons, she couldn’t help but notice the lack of women. “When I went to the bathroom, there was no line,” she told me. The diversity gap in tech has been widely reported. The problem starts early in life. In a recent survey, only 0.4% of teenage girls plan…

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Start and Grow a Veteran-led Business, with Tim O’Neil, Bunker Labs, Minneapolis

Bunker Labs, Minneapolis is a non-profit built by military veteran entrepreneurs to empower other military veterans as leaders in innovation. This year, 200,000 military veterans will leave the service. Twenty-five percent of them want to start a business. In 2013, Tim O’Neil was one of those people. After 7 years as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, Tim left the military. He enrolled in the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Business to pursue his MBA. When Tim graduated, he started Fidelis Co, a manufacturer, and distributor of carried goods: backpacks, duffle bags, cases for electronics. The company has a veteran’s thesis. Tim took components of what he…

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A Catalyst for Caring and Building Community, with Rose McGee, Sweet Potato Comfort Pies

Rose McGee reminds me of that quote from tennis legend Arthur Ashe. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Rose calls sweet potato pie “the sacred desert of black culture.” She grew up with her grandmother and great-grandmother in Jackson, Tennessee. As an adult, Rose decided that she wanted to make sweet potato pie. She called her grandmother and got the recipe. “Nothing was written down,” she says. “It was a pinch of this and a handful of that.” Rose’s first experiments with making sweet potato pie did not turn out. But she kept baking. Soon, friends were requesting her pies. And after a while,…

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Experimenting within an Ecosystem, with Eric Sannerud, Mighty Axe Hops

Mighty Axe Hops is using experimentation to create an ecosystem within an ecosystem. Eric Sannerud approaches life like a scientific experiment. He tries small experiments, gathers feedback and then adjusts. For example, in 2013, he was graduating from the University of Minnesota. At the same time, he had several irons in the fire. He was part of a team that launched Twin Fin, an innovative urban farm start-up, growing fish and greens in a city warehouse. At the same time, he was involved with the Famers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG). He was also working with Urban Oasis, the winner of a $1 million Forever Saint Paul Competition to create a…

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Equipping Emerging Game Makers with Tools for Success, with Evva Kraikul, GLITCH

GLITCH promotes the exploration of digital games as a culture, career and creative practice. If I were to tell a joke about Evva Kraikul, it might go something like this “A game designer, a neuroscientist and an entrepreneur walk into a bar. She ordered herself a drink.” Evva brings her experience in game design and neuroscience to the startup world where she is the cofounder of GLITCH. Evva was an extraordinarily early adopter of technology. At the age of four, she was interested in all things digital. She used a laptop to explore online. When she was ten-years-old, she set up a website and sold Beanie Babies. Her first online…

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Amplifying the Voices of Muslim Women, with Nausheena Hussain, Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE)

Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE) is amplifying the voices and power of Muslim women. Nausheena Hussain was raised in a small town north of Chicago. She grew up believing in the American dream – work hard, go to college and you’ll succeed. But she found that there are invisible barriers. She is a woman. She is the daughter of Indian immigrants. And, as a woman of color with a piece of cloth on her head, she says “People feel threatened by me, or fear me.” So, she asked herself an important question. “What can I do to break through these barriers, especially because I have a daughter myself?”…

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A Company Powered by Purpose, with Krista Carroll, Latitude

Latitude is a for-profit creative agency, powered by purpose. In November 2009, Krista and her husband were in their 30s and, as she told me, “chasing the American dream really hard.” They were being financially successful but lacked a level of meaning and purpose. It was during a trip to Haiti that they witnessed extreme poverty for the first time. In response to this life-changing experience, they decided to form a social enterprise. In order to avoid debt, Krista, her husband, and two small children moved into her parents’ basement. Their company, Latitude is a for-profit, full-service creative agency. They do amazingly great work in brand design and experience design. What…

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Social Impact Without Being a Startup Founder, with Amanda LaGrange, TechDump

TechDump provides job training and practical experience for adults facing barriers to employment. Social impact does not necessarily require you to be the founder of a social enterprise. Amanda LaGrange is living proof of that idea. Amanda spent more than seven years at General Mills, including time as a Senior Financial Analyst. Today, Amanda is the CEO of TechDump. TechDump refurbishes and recycles electronics, and in the process they create jobs for adults facing barriers to employment, especially those who have spent time in the justice system. TechDump accepts anything with a cable, cord or battery that is not a home appliance. Amanda brings her background in corporate finance to…

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