Startup

The Importance of Human-Centered Design, with Wes Meier, EOS International

EOS International empowers rural families in Central America by providing simple, inexpensive solutions that improve health, generate income, and provide access to appropriate technology. Wes Meir studied mechanical engineering at Iowa State University. In his junior year, he took a course with an international focus. He and his fellow students were challenged with creating a laptop that would work in Western Africa. To figure out the design criteria, Wes typed “What is West Africa like?” into Google. In his senior year, he signed up for a second international design course. This time, he was assigned the role of designing a water valve. Unlike his junior year, he traveled to Mali…

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Reducing the Carbon Footprint of the Internet, with Jack Amend and Matthew Reid, Web Neutral Project

The Web Neutral Project is a comprehensive certification program that calculates, offsets and neutralizes the carbon footprint of websites and digital products. Matt Reid and Jack Amend have known each other almost all of their lives. They grew up just down the street from one another. Matt attended the University of Minnesota where he studied Environmental Science. Jack attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where he studied Political Science. While in school, Jack ran a graphic design and web development company as a side-hustle. After school, Jack and some friends put together a creative agency with a focus on cause-driven organizations. Jack’s company used solar-powered servers to run their…

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Style with a Purpose, with Hamilton Perkins, Hamilton Perkins Collection

Hamilton Perkins Collection is a certified B Corporation offering designer travel bags at an affordable price. Each bag is made from recycled plastic bottles and lined with vinyl from upcycled billboards. Hamilton Perkins found his niche early with retail sales. During university, he had a sneaker business on eBay. He made and sold leather bags. After college he entered financial services, rising through the ranks at Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. Yet, he had an entrepreneurial itch. So, he enrolled in an MBA program at William & Mary while working full-time. Not only was Hamilton working full time while pursuing his MBA, but he also had a side-hustle business…

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Using Your Professional Skills to Volunteer, with Ann Herzog-Olson, Social Venture Partners, Minnesota

Social Venture Partners is a nonprofit that uses the venture capital model to help other nonprofits build capacity and grow. Sometimes you want to do more. It might feel satisfying at the moment to march and chant. But does the impact last? You can donate money to social causes, and that’s important. But sometimes, it feels like you want to do even more. One trend in philanthropy is engaged philanthropy. Engaged philanthropy recognizes that you have more than financial capital to give to a cause. You also have intellectual capital and social capital. You can use your skills and experience to help a nonprofit. You have a network of connections…

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Product Packaging with a Purpose, with Lindsey McCoy, Plaine Products

Plaine Products helps reduce single-use plastics by producing natural, vegan shampoo, conditioner, and body wash in returnable, reusable containers. In 2013, Lindsey McCoy was living in the Bahamas and running a non-profit called Save the Bays. “I had zero interest in going into business,” she told me. “I was going to save the world.” As she explored the islands, she noticed the impact of single use plastics. “Without regular trash pick up, you see those water bottles, flip flops and plastic bags in the water and along the side of the road,” she explains. “To me, single-use plastics is one of those things that once you start to notice it,…

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A Bicycle-Based Beekeeping Business, with Kristy Lynn Allen, The Beez Kneez

The Beez Kneez is a Minneapolis-based honey production, education and advocacy organization. When Kristy Lynn Allen was in high school, her family moved to a new school district during the school year. As a result, her grades suffered. She needed a boost to be ready for college. So, she enrolled in a college connection program. While there, she met a teacher who was planning a trip to China. As a 19-year-old, Kristy took out a loan and went to China with her teacher. This wasn’t her last time to travel. She studied in England. She traveled to Mexico and Costa Rica. She traveled across Europe. She lived in Ecuador for…

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An Ecosystem for Small Businesses, with Christopher Webley, New Rules

New Rules is a one-stop-shop for creatives and small businesses. Christopher Webley has always known that he wanted to be an entrepreneur. At the age of 11, he started a lawn care business. He printed flyers on his home computer and handed them out to the neighbors. Soon, he was so busy, his father took notice and decided to help. His dad bought a truck and started transporting Christopher to his jobs on the weekend. In exchange, Christopher helped his dad with cleaning buildings during the week. During college, Christopher started a menswear clothing line. After completing his degree in Textile Technology, Christopher went to work for Victoria‘s Secrets. As…

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From Used Goods to the Greater Good, with Julie Kearns, Junket: Tossed & Found

Junket: Tossed & Found creates easy access to high-quality used goods. Julie Kearns was the mother of a 3-month-old when her husband left. Julie describes the impact, “Between pregnancy weight, not eating, divorce diet, all of that stuff, I lost about 50 pounds in six months.” As the weight fell off, she needed clothing that she could wear to her corporate job. Her little girl was growing and needed new clothes. Not only had she lost weight, but she had also lost half of her household income. Julie created multiple streams of income. She rented out a room in her home on Airbnb. She picked up her real estate license….

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Improving the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Humanitarian Missions, with Lori Most, BinaryBridge

BinaryBridge creates software that helps humanitarians do their work effectively and efficiently. Lori Most grew up seeing television commercials of humanitarian crises, especially in Africa. Lori recounted, “I always wanted to go to Africa and help…I thought ‘I’m going to grow up and go over there.” In college, she started as a pre-med student. Part way through she switched to engineering. “I changed directions a lot,” she laughed. When she graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in mathematics, she was left with this sense that she still wanted to help. After graduating, Lori quickly found work in the booming field of software development. She worked as a…

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