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Adventures with a Locavore Offers Fitzgerald Art Deco Walking Tour

Any attentive MSP citizen knows that F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, was a born-and-bred St. Paulite. Fitzgerald’s most famous novel explored the excesses of 1920s “Jazz Age” culture in the New York City area, but St. Paul was a pretty hopping place back then, too. Now, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age tour, hosted by St. Paul pastry chef and local historian Joan Mathison, lets you experience the era firsthand.
“I looked at the assets that would differentiate St. Paul from Minneapolis and appeal to a wide audience of travelers and potential residents,” explains Mathison, founder of Adventures with a Locavore. “It also happens that the 1920s is my favorite era in history.” Her next tour commences on Saturday, October 10.
Mathison’s tour, a walking excursion that winds through downtown St. Paul, hits more than a dozen examples of Art Deco design—an ascendant architectural style during the 1920s.
“St. Paul is the only city designated as a Distinctive American Destination by the National Trust, so I decided to focus the tour on historic preservation,” she says.
Mathison also conducted a fair bit of original research during the run-up to her inaugural tour this year. She was particularly intrigued by the old Kilmarnock Bookstore, which (according to period maps) sat at the corner of 4th and Cedar in downtown St. Paul.
Founded by a wealthy intellectual with a penchant for rare books and managed by a talented, aspiring writer (Thomas Boyd of Through the Wheat fame), the Kilmarnock was never financially successful. In fact, it lasted less than a decade. But for a brief period during the early 1920s, it was the haunt for the cream of the American literary crop. On cold winter afternoons, Fitzgerald and other young writers met around the fireplace in the Kilmarnock’s smoky back room to trade stories and inspiration.
“The important thing I learned from that research was how critical collaboration is to innovation,” says Mathison. “The young writers that gathered in the back room of the avant-garde Kilmarnock Bookstore to talk about their work and other books...did the best work of their careers during those few years in the early 1920s.”
As an ode to the Jazz Age’s literary side, Mathison chose to pair the tour with three well-known books (not all written in the 1920s): Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, a nod to “St. Paul's sustainability evolution;” The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, which ties in to former St. Paul mayor George Latimer's downtown revitalization efforts; and, naturally, The Great Gatsby.
The Kilmarnock inspired Mathison to connect with the just-as-vibrant community of modern artists and makers who live and work in downtown St. Paul. Mathison produced a “Meet the Makers” guide highlighting some of downtown’s top creatives; every tour-goer gets a complimentary copy.
Featured makers and artists include Susan Brown of Mademoiselle Miel, Stephen Gallilvan of Leprechaun's Dreamcycle, Alicia Hinze of The Buttered Tin, Jeff Moriarty of Tin Whiskers, Monica Larsen and Bill Moran of Hamilton Ink Spot, and Jan Selby of Quiet Island Films.
John Anfinson, superintendent of the Mississippi River & National Recreation Area, Lee George of the James J. Hill Center, and Andy Sturdevant of Springboard for the Arts are also involved.
Longer-term, Mathison wants to bring her special brand of walking tour to other MSP neighborhoods. “I'm curious about 38th and Chicago [in Minneapolis], and Lake Street is so amazing,” she says. “The more tours we can offer in the Twin Cities, the higher we’ll raise our profile as a tourist destination.”

Beekeeping chocolatier grows hyper-local product with national placements

MSP’s rapidly growing pro-pollinator community is turning the region into an urban oasis for honeybees and other pollinating insects, raising the likelihood that future generations will know the joys of easily accessible fresh produce and biodiverse green spaces.
But plenty of intrepid pollinator entrepreneurs are focused on the here and now. Susan Brown of Mademoiselle Miel, a hyper-local sweet treats company based in downtown St. Paul, was an early evangelist for pollinator power—and continues to inspire a growing cohort of makers, chefs and educators who earn a living at the intersection of urban agriculture, environmental stewardship and old-fashioned craftiness.
Mademoiselle Miel is a “beekeeping chocolatier” specializing in rich chocolate honey bon-bons, many wrapped in edible 23 karat gold leaf—“a brilliant union of elegance and raw nature,” according to Brown’s website. The bon-bons come in several varieties, including a decadent Scotch infusion and various seasonal flavors.
The honey for Brown’s bon-bons comes from hives situated on rooftops throughout MSP—for instance, at Union Depot (near Brown’s downtown St. Paul headquarters) and atop Tiny Diner in Longfellow. The bees collect pollen from whatever flowers happen to be in bloom, providing Brown’s creations with an ever-changing array of local flavors.
Brown has been fascinated with bees and honey since she her youth. Ironically, though, she hasn’t always been a fan of honey’s taste. “I didn't actually like the taste of honey when I was young,” she told CityPages earlier this year. “I just started cooking with it because I was trying to eat in a way that made me feel good.”
In the intervening decades, Brown embarked on a successful cooking and catering career that found plenty of uses for the sticky substance. But she didn’t start making honey full-time until 2011, when she launched Mademoiselle Miel in St. Paul.
Hungry for a hyper-local alternative to sickly sweet candies and ho-hum storebought honey without a distinctive terroir, MSP foodies embraced Brown’s concept with gusto. Her creations quickly found their way into high-end cooking stores like Cooks of Crocus Hill and crunchy grocery outlets like Seward Co-op.
Brown’s products have since appeared in prominent hotel and restaurant properties around the area: high-end Minneapolis hotels like the Hyatt Regency, W Minneapolis and Le Meridien Chambers are customers, as is Surdyks Flights (at MSP International) and the Walker Art Center.
More exciting still, Mademoiselle Miel has lately joined a growing list of successful Minnesota exports. Brown’s sweet creations aren’t quite as well-known or widely available as SPAM and Post-it notes—yet —but they’re nevertheless available at select boutiques in New York City, Seattle and the Washington, D.C., area. More accounts could be in the works, though Brown’s production capacity is somewhat limited by bee, hive and rooftop counts.

MiX builds momentum with 2015 speaker series on innovation and engagement

The Minneapolis Idea eXchange (MiX) was launched a year ago during an interactive event at City Center featuring city leaders, performances and networking between the hundreds of attendees curious about MiX. The brainchild of the city’s Downtown 2025 Plan’s Festival of Ideas committee, MiX’s purpose is to bring together citizens and visitors with energetic thinking and civic engagement in order to further Minneapolis’ already considerable vitality.
On September 28, and October 1 and 2, MiX builds on its momentum with a free speaker series created in collaboration with Westminster Town Hall Forum. Pete Docter, a Bloomington native who helped create the blockbuster films “Toy Story,” “Wall-E,” “Up” and “Inside Out” with Pixar Animation Studios, speaks on Monday, September 28 (7 p.m.), on “Inside the Creative Community: The Power and Process of Animated Film.”
Later in the week, on Thursday evening (7 p.m.), October 1, author and social justice advocate Tavis Smiley will galvanize audience members with his talk, “No One Left Out: Creating Communities of Justice.” Friday, October 2, at noon, Minnesotan Dan Buettner — explorer, educator and three-time world record holder for endurance bicycling — discusses Blue Zones, the organization he founded to help people live longer, healthier lives.
The overall idea behind the series, says Mary Shaffer, co-chair of the MiX organizational committee, “is to inspire people to think about how they want to live, work and play in their city.” To that end, activities will also take place outside of Westminster Presbyterian Church (the location for the speaker series), at the corner of Nicollet Mall and 12th Street.
“We’re not only offering participants a chance to hear these high caliber, nationally recognized speakers, but we’re also activating the area outside the church to bring new energy to that part of the city and further conversation,” Shaffer says. The Independent Film Project will capture attendee responses to Docter’s speech and their thoughts about the future of Minneapolis; a screening of a Docter film may also take place. Brave New Workshop will host improv workshops in conjunction with Smiley’s talk. The downtown YWCA will offer fitness classes and the Minneapolis Bike Coalition will be present for Buettner’s appearance.
“For last century, Minneapolis has been a leader in innovation,” says Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen, senior pastor, Westminster Presbyterian Church, and chair of the MiX committee. “MiX is simply picking up on the innovative, creative spirit of civic engagement in our city. The three speakers will each bring fascinating and provocative perspectives to the question of how we can be a better city and better citizens.”
Continuing, Hart-Andersen adds that, “Part of what makes Minneapolis work so well is the social connectivity, and the civic engagement, not only inside board rooms, classrooms, labs and churches across the city, but also over a beer and something good to eat. The space we’re activating at the end of the mall will give people the opportunity to enjoy food and beverages, share time together and further the conversations that began with the speakers.”

Record Together creates new collaborative app for musicians

There’s about to be a new way for amateur and professional musicians to collaborate on original music without regard for geography — and it’s made in MSP.
Record Together, an innovative recording and idea-sharing platform developed and promoted by MSP brothers Scott and Mike Bishop, is nearing the launch of a completely revamped application that allows multiple musicians to collaborate on the same song, no matter where they live or whether they have access to sophisticated instruments and recording equipment.
Think of Record Together as a virtual, remote music studio that connects musicians who’d otherwise never even hear of each other, let alone meet up for a recording session. Users lay down one or more tracks — anything from an isolated piano line to a four-piece band’s guitar, bass, drum and vocal tracks. They then “draw in” outlines for other tracks (for instance, a vocal harmony to accompany the piano line) using automated music software and publish to Record Together’s online marketplace. Once published, other users record their own tracks to replace the drawn-in outlines and create a whole (or at least more complete) composition.
Record Together is intentionally designed for musicians of all ages, abilities and levels of seriousness. “We cater to professional jazz musicians with mindblowing musical skills and years of experience,” says Mike Bishop, “along with high school kids just messing around with a guitar or saxophone in the basement.”
The Bishop brothers fleshed out the revamped Record Together platform with non-technical, cost-conscious users in mind. According to Scott Bishop, Record Together isn’t the only cloud-based music recording solution that empowers cross-border collaboration. But musicians would be hard-pressed to find a simpler, more cost-effective option.
“Access to a professional recording studio is a major barrier to entry for most musicians,” he says, “due to the high cost of reserving studio space and the limited amount of space available.” Musicians who record demo tapes or digital imprints on their own solve the cost problem, he adds, but sacrifice collaborative potential and sound quality.
“Our objective with Record Together is to reduce recording expenses and remove every possible barrier to enjoyment and creativity,” says Mike Bishop. “We want to move users closer to their end goal — making great music.”
The updated Record Together app replaces a legacy platform born in 2011. The legacy platform was built around “opportunities” — calls for single-track contributions to unfinished songs. For each opportunity, users submitted recordings that fit the stated requirements; the opportunity’s poster then selected the winner and paid the creator an agreed-upon sum. The new platform is still transactional — “We want users to get something back for their contributions,” says Scott Bishop — but the “draw in” feature allows for a more seamless and expansive collaboration process.
Although the Bishops are coy about when the new platform will roll out to the public, they’re not shy about their plans or ambition. The brothers are currently putting out feelers for a seed funding round, says Scott Bishop, in the hopes of scaling the platform and ensuring that “everyone who wants to use it will be able to from day one.”
After that, the sky’s the limit. “We believe that Record Together has the potential to do for music what YouTube did for video,” he says.

Eureka hosts MSP's first zero waste summit

Eureka Recycling, a homegrown, progressive recycling nonprofit based in Northeast Minneapolis, is upping its “zero waste” game. The company is sponsoring MSP’s first-ever Zero Waste Summit on September 18 from 12:30 pm to 6:30 pm.
Brave New Workshop, an all-purpose venue and gathering space in downtown Minneapolis, is hosting the event. General admission tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students. Scholarship tickets, which include the cost of admission, two drink tickets and an admission scholarship for another attendee, are $100. Anyone who arrives by public or active transportation (bus, LRT, bike or foot) earns free admission to a future Brave New Workshop event of their choice.
“We want attendees to get information and thoughts from the people who really live the vision of zero waste,” says Lynn Hoffman, Eureka Recycling’s chief of community engagement and principal event organizer. “Equally important will be the time to connect and collaborate so we can take action while inspiration is still fresh in our hearts and minds.”
To that end, Eureka’s first-ever Zero Waste Summit features nearly 20 speakers, many of whom have close ties to MSP’s sustainability movement.
Amanda LaGrange works as marketing director for Tech Dump St. Paul, an innovative electronics recycling outfit that offers free, eco-friendly disposal services (to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds per year) and provides living-wage jobs for economically disadvantaged adults.
Eartha Bell is director for the soon-to-be-operational Frogtown Farm, an ambitious project that promises to be Minnesota’s largest urban farm (and one of the country’s biggest, as well).
Tracy Sides is director of Urban Oasis, a “sustainable food center” that offers healthy cooking education, small business training, catering with seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, and other sorely needed food services on St. Paul’s East Side.
These speakers and their organizations, and all the others represented at the Zero Waste Summit, live and breathe Eureka’s commitment to low-impact communities.
“Eureka Recycling is the only organization in Minnesota that specializes in zero waste,” says Christine Weeks, co-principal at Field Guide, a St. Paul-based boutique communications firm that caters to progressive clients. “The organization's services, programs and policy work present solutions to the social, environmental and health problems caused by wasting.”
“Zero waste is more than an empty garbage can,” adds Hoffman. “The way we consume accounts for almost half of the CO2 that threatens [our] healthy food, abundant resources, clean air and water, safe and reliable products, and healthy families and communities.”

Vidku's Flipgrid video sharing is disruptive tech force

In February 2015, Minneapolis startup Vidku raised $17 million in a 17-day Series A funding round led by Arthur Ventures, a Fargo-based venture capital group. The speed and size of Vidku’s fundraising effort was unusual: According to data from CrunchBase, the average Series A raised $6.9 million in 2014 and it often takes months to close a successful round.
So it’s no surprise that MSP’s investors and innovators sat up and took note of Vidku’s breakout success. CEO Jim Leslie attributes his company’s achievement both to the far-reaching capabilities of Flipgrid, its core “asynchronous video sharing” product, and the boundless belief of Vidku’s 35-plus employees.
“Our investors weren’t interested because they knew who [Vidku’s leaders] were or trusted us to execute,” says Leslie, a self-described “serial entrepreneur” who ran a handful of successful firms (and sold his most recent venture for a cool $100 million in 2011) before joining the Vidku team. “The passion of our entire team regarding Flipgrid’s future possibilities was infectious — our investors got as excited as we were” about Vidku and Flipgrid.
Users believe in Flipgrid, too. According to Leslie, the product has hosted more than 3 million video shares since its January 2014 launch, spreading chiefly through word of mouth. (Vidku has no formal marketing operation to speak of, though that may change in the future.)
Flipgrid admins, typically classroom educators, populate “grids” with video or text questions, prompting video responses from student users. Everyone with access to the grid can see and share the responses. There’s no limit to each grid’s capacity for questions and responses, though admins are limited to a specific number of grids per year — typically five to 10, or roughly one per class for full-time educators.
Though Flipgrid was originally designed for educators, Leslie is quick to point out that about 20 percent of the platform’s volume is devoted to non-educational use. Private businesses and government agencies use Flipgrid as a collaborative tool, while wedding planners and religious institutions leverage it to create more social events and environments.
“Flipgrid is a growing, powerful and highly effective technology tool that’s getting stronger all the time,” says Leslie. Following Vidku’s “design first” imperative, “we’re constantly developing new ways for users to participate.”
Vidku’s development activities have accelerated since the company spun out from an eight-person University of Minnesota team led by Dr. Charles Miller. Miller’s team is responsible for designing and building out Flipgrid’s base technology and critical elements. Leslie and co-founder Phil Soran, also a wildly successful tech entrepreneur, caught wind of Miller’s innovation and offered to form a private company capable of turning Flipgrid into a disruptive technological force.
“We were only interested in [spinning Flipgrid out of the U and forming Vidku] if [Miller’s] entire team was on board,” says Leslie. He didn’t need to worry: The response was an enthusiastic “yes.”
For Flipgrid’s core team and the U itself, the transition to private enterprise has thus far been smooth. All eight team members remain on staff at Vidku, generously compensated for their efforts and diligently working on the next big thing.
Perhaps more importantly, the U is a major shareholder in Vidku; Vidku’s success is quite literally the U’s success. Such public-private synergies, wherein universities drive innovation and investors provide the capital necessary to bring transformative ideas to market, are commonplace in established tech centers like Boston and Silicon Valley, says Leslie, but less so in MSP.
“A strong public-private linkage is the hallmark of a healthy entrepreneurial community,” he says. “We’re on the cusp of that here” in MSP.
In addition to Flipgrid, Vidku also offers a video-based assessment tool called Avenue. “Whereas Flipgrid is suited for discussions” and other forms of knowledge and experience delivery, Leslie explains, “Avenue is ideal for more formally assessing knowledge.”
Vidku’s team also handles development work for Passport, a language-learning application initially developed by St. Paul-based EMC Publishing. Though Vidku doesn’t own Passport, Fligrid and Passport are kindred spirits with the same lofty goal: reducing friction and improving knowledge delivery in the classroom.
Later this year, Vidku plans to launch an application that offers a “significant enhancement” to Flipgrid’s capabilities, says Leslie. The new update “is the first tangible fruit of our intensive development efforts” since spinning off from the U, he adds, though he’s mum on the software’s specifics.

U of M entrepreneurs launch Lionheart Cider

Seven recent graduates of the University of Minnesota, who met in the Carlson School’s Entrepreneurship in Action class, are taking the course’s title to heart. Within weeks of coming together last fall, the group had hatched an idea for a homegrown premium hard cider brand called Lionheart Cider.
Thanks in part to ample startup funding secured through Entrepreneurship in Action, Lionheart was a student division semi-finalist in the 2015 MN Cup — a huge leap for a concept that has yet to see its first birthday.
Lionheart closed its first production round last month and is now on shelves in about 120 liquor stores in MSP and surrounding areas, with Artisan Beer Company handling distribution. The suggested retail price on its 16-ounce can 4-packs is $7.99, which co-founder Anna Lin says is “affordable” relative to other premium craft cider brands.
Co-founder Jason Dayton, one half of an avid father-son home cidermaking team, developed Lionheart’s “not too sweet” recipe. “Lionheart is designed for people who find popular brands like Angry Orchard to sweet,” Lin says.
Lionheart’s co-founders aren’t typical startup types. Some were finance and business majors, but others focused on journalism (like Lin), agriculture and music during their undergrad years. All are first-time entrepreneurs “who don’t always know what we’re doing,” says Lin, who admits that the group has quibbled over plans and tactics.
“But the difficult periods present the greatest learning opportunities,” she adds.
Some Lionheart co-founders do have entrepreneurial pedigrees, including Lin herself. Lin’s father, a former truck driver, worked his way into the fueling industry shortly after China’s economy liberalized in the 1980s. He now owns a thriving gas station business. Not to be outdone, her mother runs two coffee shop franchises in China.
“[My parents’] hard work is why I’m here in Minnesota, speaking a second language fluently, meeting amazing people,” and learning firsthand what it takes to be an entrepreneur, says Lin.
In the near term, Lionheart’s team is looking forward to soliciting customer feedback on its original cider recipe and growing its Minnesota account base. But Dayton and the rest of the group are already mulling new flavors and styles within the “not too sweet” universe, plus an expanded distribution footprint.
“We eventually hope to have several varieties and distribute in multiple states, perhaps even nationally,” says Lin.
Lin herself may not take part in Lionheart’s long-term growth. Her current visa expires next year, and she’ll have to find work in journalism or a related field — and a sponsorship from any potential employer (Lionheart may not count) — to qualify for a longer-term work visa that allows her to stay in the United States. Given federal work visa caps and intense competition from highly qualified candidates, Lin knows she might not make the cut — though she’s eternally optimistic.
Regardless of how Lionheart’s leadership team — or the company itself — looks in three years, the experience has already been immensely rewarding for Lin and her colleagues. “It’s an amazing blessing to be able to come [to the United States] and work on a project like this,” she says. “I never would have hung out with or spoken to any of [my colleagues] were it not for Lionheart.”

Artist Cindy Lindgren debuts City of Lakes fabric line

Prolific MSP artist Cindy Lindgren is teaming up with Modern Yardage, a digital fabric printing company, to launch a Minneapolis-centric fabric line called “City of Lakes.” Lindgren debuted City of Lakes this May at the International Quilt Market, a national trade show. The fabrics feature iconic Minneapolis images, including Lake Calhoun, Lake of the Isles and Lake Harriet, plus the downtown skyline, Uptown theater marquee, bikes and Nordic skis.
“City of Lakes is my tribute to the wonderful chain of lakes and all the activities we love to participate in, whether it's music, nature or biking,” Lindgren explains.
The City of Lakes concept could soon go national. “[City of Lakes] got a lot of attention” at the International Quilt Market, says Lindgren. She’s already been approached by several other U.S. cities about custom-designed hometown fabric lines. She plans to finish work on her first two non-MSP city lines — Appleton, Wisconsin, and Watkins Glen, New York — in the coming months, with an eye to snagging additional clients and selling her work in local stores.
For now, Lindgren is throwing her multi-pronged marketing operation behind City of Lakes. She sells the fabrics themselves through Modern Yardage, her preferred fabric production partner. “Modern Yardage prints fabric on demand, so it can offer niche themes to their customers,” she says, giving “designers...a lot of freedom to create unique designs not offered by other large fabric companies.”
Lindgren sells City of Lakes prints and cards at her personal Etsy shop and “various gift shops and stores around MSP,” including The Minnesota History Center, Bibelot, The University of Minnesota Book Store and The Como Conservatory. Suburban outposts, such as the Mall of America’s Afternoon Store and Edina’s West Elm outlet, offer Lindgren’s work as well.
Lindgren also maintains a fruitful collaborative relationship with The Linden Tree, a specialty fabric shop and creative hub in Linden Hills. Linden Tree staffers consulted closely with Lindgren during the City of Lakes project’s design phase, produced prototype samples and reserved ample shelf space for the finished products.
Though MSP will always be City of Lakes fabrics’ natural home, Lindgren is actively seeking licensing partnerships with printers, retailers and apparel-makers in Minnesota and beyond. Current licensees include Great Arrow Graphics, Check Advantage (a personal check printer) and Janome (pending).
Lindgren describes her artistic style as “Craftsman Nouveau,” which include such stylistic hallmarks as “rich color palettes” and clean lines.
“My inspiration comes from William Morris, Frank Lloyd Wright and the WPA-era posters,” says Lindgren. “I'm also influenced by my midwestern upbringing and choose to illustrate the places, plants, flowers and birds around me.”

mini_polis debuts at Creative City Market

mini_polis, the winner of Minneapolis’ third annual Creative City Challenge, will be on display August 13 at the second Creative City Market, held from 4 to 9 p.m. at the Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza. mini_polis will be on display at the plaza for the third and final Creative City Market, on September 10, and remain outdoors until October 15.
Dubbed “a miniature city of collective imagination,” mini_polis is a scale model of downtown Minneapolis some 50 feet in diameter.
Unlike the past two Creative City Challenge winners, which were constructed by small teams of dedicated artists, mini_polis is the fruit of dozens of professional and amateur craftspeople’s labor. SocialSculpture, a Minneapolis-based sculpture collective led by Niko Kubota, oversaw the basic design and provided pre-made kits for guided construction of individual houses and apartment buildings at five supervised workshops held in April and May this year. Staff members from Leonardo’s Basement were on hand at all five workshops to guide less experienced makers. All participants were invited to record their stories and thoughts for a multimedia station that accompanies mini_polis on the Convention Center Plaza.
mini_polis’s miniature buildings are surrounded by gentle ramps and walkways that follow the outline of Minneapolis’ Interstate highways, allowing viewers (including those in wheelchairs) to enter and explore the sculpture. According to mini_polis’s website, visitors can “respond to builder’s dreams…[and] make their own place-specific comments about the city” using chalkboard paint on the sculpture’s surface.
mini_polis’s showcase event, Creative City Market, is no less engaging. The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild will be on hand to pour local craft beer favorites, with fair food (roasted corn, brats and hot dogs) for sustenance. The plaza’s performance space hosts local musician Mayda from 5 to 6, the Milu Milu Couture fashion show from 6 to 6:30, and spoken word performances (various artists) from 7 to 9. A locally produced movie, presented by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Film Society, will be shown. Local makers and vendors — painters, tattoo artists, textile and jewelry specialists, potters and others — will mingle with the crowd, educating and delighting patrons.
“Creative City Market is a free monthly experience in the heart of our downtown that celebrates the art of making,” says Kristen Montag, Meet Minneapolis communications and public relations manager.
Creative City Market is sponsored by the Minneapolis Convention Center, the City of Minneapolis and Meet Minneapolis, with support from Northern Lights.mn and the Musicant Group.

SaundersDailey launches real estate web platform

SaundersDailey, a first-of-its-kind web platform by local real estate veteran Marshall Saunders and digital marketing whiz Jason Dailey, is empowering MSP locals to invest in the region’s accelerating real estate market — without actually moving into the properties they help build or buy.
Saunders’ and Dailey’s platform is the latest innovation in the equity crowdfunding space — an emerging financial sector, made legal by the sweeping federal JOBS Act of 2012, that allows people who meet certain financial requirements to make small but meaningful equity investments in a variety of asset classes.
“Equity crowdfunding appeals to investors who want to support promising ideas and assets,” as they would on classic crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, says Saunders. “The difference is that it allows investors to take an actual stake in the asset,” and, hopefully, see a return on their investment.
SaundersDailey officially debuted at a July 14 launch party in Minneapolis’ Kenwood neighborhood. The company began with a single investment opportunity: Residential Fund One, a bundle that includes more than a dozen residential properties throughout the region. “Residential Fund One is basically a local real estate mutual fund,” says Saunders.
According to Saunders, future investment opportunities — including some that should become available in the coming weeks — will focus on discrete properties, mostly multifamily residential buildings. Saunders cites a seven-unit building on Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, currently part of Residential Fund One, as an ideal SaundersDailey property.
For now, SaundersDailey owns, or has under contract, most of the properties listed on the site. But in the future, SaundersDailey plans to serve as a sort of clearinghouse for property owners and developers looking to raise funds for their own investments.
The platform already has one listed property that it doesn’t directly own: a retirement community in New Ulm, Minnesota. The community’s owners pay SaundersDailey to use the site and put its offering in front of a growing cohort of MSP-based investors; Saunders is betting that this arrangement will appear increasingly attractive to property owners who might otherwise struggle to attract backers.
Saunders says SaundersDailey is developing a thorough vetting process for future third-party property listings. He sees SaundersDailey-owned properties representing the bulk of the company’s business for the foreseeable future, but estimates that third-party listings “could represent 20 to 25 percent of our revenue stream” over the medium to long term.
Most SaundersDailey properties, including third-party listings, are residential. “Residential is what I know best,” says Saunders, who cut his chops at the helm of RE/MAX Results, now Minnesota’s third-largest residential real estate brokerage. In the future, SaundersDailey may “dabble” in commercial real estate, but Saunders expects residential to remain the focus. And though Saunders doesn’t categorically rule out the possibility of expanding to other midwestern markets, he’s cautious about setting his sights too high, due both to stricter legal standards for interstate offerings and the simple fact that “every market is different.”
For MSP residents keen to own a piece of the region’s hot real estate market without actually buying a house or condo themselves, SaundersDailey has a big catch. By law, the platform can only accept investments from accredited investors — individuals who earn at least $200,000 per year (or married couples earning at least $300,000 per year) on a consistent basis, or individuals worth at least $1 million.
Saunders is optimistic that the laws restricting equity crowdfunding investments to accredited investors will change as the concept goes mainstream. He’s also hopeful that regulations made possible by the recently passed MNvest legislation will ease the burden for non-accredited investors, though he estimates a year or more will pass before those regulations are ready.

COCO sets up fourth coworking location in Northeast

Nordeast continues its growth boom with the addition of COCO. In June, COC) revealed the location of its fourth coworking space — 1400 Van Buren Street NE — in a century-old building that’s been almost totally remodeled and updated to meet the demands of the modern workspace.
COCO’s Northeast Minneapolis outpost joins locations in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, and Uptown Minneapolis. The Northeast location is also right around the corner from another Nordeast fixture that’s also in the midst of a growth boom: Indeed Brewery. Bauhaus BrewLabs is just across Central Avenue, too. Thirsty COCO tenants certainly won’t lack for happy hour options at their new digs.
COCO Northeast looks to be a bit cozier than the two downtown locations. According to the release announcing the move, the new space will feature 10 closed-door startup suites designed for two- to 14-person teams. These suites function as separate offices with all the benefits of COCO membership; rents are likely to be in-line with or lower than prevailing rents for standalone suites in Northeast.
COCO Northeast also has plans for six campsites, semi-open — literally tented, in some cases — workspaces designed for teams of four to eight. For “solopreneurs” and remote workers, the space will feature 14 standalone, dedicated desks arranged in a bullpen-style configuration. A mishmash of tables, benches and standing areas, all perfect for solo work in a social environment, will flesh out the main space. Off the common bullpen, COCO plans to make five meeting rooms available for meetings and group presentations. The common area is available for meetings, too, though privacy is limited.
Tours of the entire space are available on Fridays at 11 am. Prospective members are encouraged to register online; others should contact COCO directly for arrangements.
COCO’s new space has a tech-y pedigree: It’s the former home of Sport Ngin, an MSP-made software platform that provides comprehensive web publishing and management solutions for sports organizations. Sport Ngin vacated the space for larger digs a few blocks south, at the corner of Broadway Street NE and Quincy Street NE.
COCO’s move adds mass to an emerging tech cluster running along Central Avenue NE, from roughly 18th Avenue NE in the north to St. Anthony Main in the south — the heart of Nordeast’s startup scene. In addition to Sport Ngin, the area is already home to BuzzFeed, SmartThings and Code42, among dozens of smaller startups.

Handsome creates centennial bikes inspired by MIA's artworks

Handsome Cycles and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts have entered into what could be MSP’s coolest creative partnership so far this year. In celebration of its 100th year, the MIA commissioned Handsome to create three custom cycles inspired by works in the museum’s world-famous collection. Handsome and MIA unveiled the bikes at MIA’s most recent Third Thursday event, on July 16. The event, dubbed “Bike Night,” turned into a celebration of all things bike.
Cyclists pedaled to the event from St. Paul’s Onmium Bike Shop. When they arrived, they were invited to bike right through MIA’s front doors and into its atrium. Minneapolis’ One on One Bikes was on hand with free bike checks, and both One on One and Twin Six unveiled new bike gear at adjacent booths.
Key MSP bike advocacy groups, including the Midtown Greenway Coalition, 30 Days of Biking and Powderhorn 24, were on hand. Custom frame builders, including Peacock Groove and Prairie Cow, networked with discerning cyclists.
“[MIA’s] continued support of the bike community is absolutely amazing,” says Jesse Erickson, Handsome Cycles co-founder and COO.
The custom bike design process unfolded over the course of several months. “Handsome Cycles...shares the museum’s commitment to embracing the local and integrating great design, technology and experimentation, while staying true to its core values and community,” says Hunter Wright, MIA’s Venture Innovation Director.
Handsome Cycles took inspiration from several works in MIA’s collection, notably the 1948 Tatra T87 Sedan, a petite car housed in an MIA hall; Claude Monet’s Grainstack; and Frank Stella’s Tahkt-I-Sulayman Variation II. The finished bikes blended the inspiration works’ color schemes, shapes and themes in attractive, functional packages that looked (and rode) like regular bikes.
The MIA-Handsome partnership didn’t end on July 16. Handsome Cycles is making a limited number of “MIA bikes” available for sale in its Northeast Minneapolis store and through MIA’s gift shop. The sleek single-speed bikes, available in white or black frames, are listed at about $1,100 on Handsome’s website.

International Impact Hub opens MSP office for entrepreneurship

Minnesota Social Impact Center, a North Loop coworking and social entrepreneurship organization charged with “connecting change agents” from disparate professions and walks of life, is now Impact Hub Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The name change is about more than semantics. Impact Hub Minneapolis-St. Paul joins more than 80 other Impact Hubs worldwide — the latest addition to a disparate network of cohesively branded, locally controlled organizations that offer “a unique ecosystem of resources, inspiration and collaboration opportunities to grow the positive impact of the work of impact-focused innovators,” says Danielle Steer, Impact Hub’s manager of operations and member services.
As part of the global Impact Hub network, Impact Hub Minneapolis-St. Paul gains access to a “shared international database” that leverages the experiences and expertise of Impact Hub’s global membership, dubbed “Hubbers.” The global Impact Hub network provides consulting and logistical support to each member organization, a helpful perk as Impact Hub Minneapolis-St. Paul grows its membership and deepens ties to the MSP community.
With a much higher profile and the cachet of an international social entrepreneurship brand behind it, Impact Hub Minneapolis-St. Paul is “actively seeking organizational partners, financial support and more members to make this venture a success,” says Steer. The board is also expecting to outgrow its North Loop “prototype space” and is looking for larger digs nearby. And Impact Hub Minneapolis-St. Paul is looking to expand its day-to-day programming and special event schedule, building off a launch event in May and a just-finished meeting/event space at its current headquarters.
Before the organization could officially adopt the Impact Hub brand, Steer, her teammates and Impact Hub’s six-member board of directors (led by board chair Terri Barreiro and staffed, among others, by organization founder Katie Kalkman) put the question to an up-or-down vote of the full Impact Hub membership.
According to Steer, preparing the necessary applications and supplemental materials — including a polished team video — took the better part of a year. Throughout the process, Steer and her colleagues solicited input from Impact Hubs that had recently achieved full membership in the global network: Impact Hub Sydney (Australia), Impact Hub Oakland, Impact Hub Boulder and Impact Hub Malaysia.
The Impact Hub concept was born in Vienna, Austria, and now has a presence on four continents. Impact Hub Minneapolis-St. Paul is the first and only Impact Hub in The North; other U.S. locations include Boston, New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco.

Cologix deal secures MSP's position as Internet hub

Minneapolis’ status as the Internet hub of The North (and IOT, or Internet of Things), is now even more secure. Just months after opening an ultra-connected “Meet Me Room” in a new, state-of-the-art facility at the 511 Building in downtown Minneapolis, Cologix has announced a high-profile partnership with Nebraska-based Great Plains Communications, a network provider for carriers and enterprise clients across the Heartland.
The deal sees Great Plains establishing a major presence, known as a Point of Presence (POP), at Cologix’s Minneapolis data center, colloquially known as a “carrier hotel.” Great Plains’ Minneapolis POP will serve about 75 clients in MSP, greater Minnesota and other areas throughout The North.
According to Lynn Mead, Great Plains’ head of carrier and wholesale communications, the new POP is part of a major expansion and modernization drive that includes the laying of about 5,000 miles of additional broadband fiber in Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota.
“Across our markets, we saw new demand from customers seeking connectivity into Minnesota, including both carrier and enterprise clients,” says Mead. “Our customers want low latency and high bandwidth connections into The North” — two advantages Cologix’s carrier hotel, part of the “most connected building in Minneapolis,” is equipped to provide.
“Cologix’s Minneapolis facility is designed very well and the staff accommodates customers by ensuring the framework to extend fiber is in place,” she adds.
Cologix’s staff is thrilled to have another high-profile partner to add to the likes of Netflix, a key bandwidth user at its carrier hotel.
“We are thrilled to add a prominent company like Great Plains Communications to the ecosystem of our Minneapolis data center,” says Mike Hemphill, general manager at Cologix’s Minneapolis facility. “As we continue to increase the fiber connectivity with a robust collection of carriers, the network fabric of [The North] is strengthened to sustain the increasing demand we continue to see in this market.”
Cologix’s carrier hotel isn’t the only super-connected hub in MSP. The area is home to several other major data centers, most clustered at or near the intersection of several high-traffic fiber lines in downtown Minneapolis. For instance, the AT&T Building hosts IronGate’s main data center, which itself hosts dozens of network providers and high-bandwidth enterprise clients.
MSP has emerged as the Internet hub of The North — the most connected place between Chicago and Seattle, and the north-central United States’ only real data center alternative to Chicago — for a host of economic reasons. Two are worth singling out.
In 2011, the Minnesota State Legislature passed a 20-year tax holiday on qualifying data center investments, including infrastructure and power generation. That dramatically lowers the cost of opening and maintaining data centers here.
MSP’s climate helps, too. The long cold season reduces year-round cooling bills — typically a huge overhead expense for data centers, which are prone to overheating. In places like Dallas and Jacksonville, both popular data center hubs with famously scorching summers, cooling costs can eat into centers’ profits and raise costs for carriers and enterprise clients.

Slow, steady start to MSP's medical marijuana industry

Medical cannabis or marijuana officially became legal statewide on July 1, with MSP quickly emerging as the de facto hub for sales and cultivation. Two MSP-area companies, Minnesota Medical Solutions (MinnMed) and LeafLine Labs, are leading the way.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, more than 200 healthcare practitioners were certified to recommend patients for medical marijuana during the first month of registrations. About 100 patients are certified to purchase medical marijuana statewide, though that number is expected to increase as the state works through its backlog of patient applications and more providers come online.
MinnMed’s flagship clinic, where medical marijuana cardholders can purchase cannabis oil and other derivatives, recently moved into the old League of Catholic Women space in downtown Minneapolis. LeafLine’s first clinic is located in suburban Eagan.
Each organization plans three more dispensaries around the state: MinnMed in Moorhead, Rochester and Eden Prairie; LeafLine in St. Paul, St. Cloud and Hibbing. LeafLine grows its product at a tightly controlled, 24-acre facility in suburban Cottage Grove, while MinnMed works a state-of-the-art greenhouse complex in rural Otsego.
Combined, LeafLine and MinnMed have already raised about $30 million in venture capital funding, with more potentially in the works. But with some of the nation’s most restrictive medical cannabis laws here in Minnesota, it could be a while before funders see a return on their investment. Unlike California, Colorado, Washington State and other pro-cannabis states, Minnesota — even liberal MSP — won’t have ostentatious storefront dispensaries or open-to-the-public cannabis clubs anytime soon.
‘‘The [national] industry doesn’t do it this way,’’ MinnMed principal Dr. Kyle Kingsley said in a recent interview with the Boston Globe. ‘‘It’s all new.’’
The law also sets strict qualifying standards for prospective patients. Patients need to demonstrate — and healthcare providers must confirm — that their conditions are truly debilitating or life threatening. Qualifying conditions include glaucoma; Crohn’s disease; cancer or cancer treatment associated with nausea, vomiting, wasting and/or severe pain; HIV/AIDS; seizure disorders; severe muscle spasms, such as caused by multiple sclerosis; ALS; and Tourette’s Syndrome.
To promote safer modes of ingestion and prevent patients from smoking their medicine, Minnesota’s law forbids direct sales of plant material. Instead, producers are required to extract the plant’s active ingredients, condensing them into potent oils that can be incorporated into pill capsules, oral sprays, tinctures, suspensions and oils designed to be heated, vaporized and inhaled.
Dosages vary between and within each mode. Both MinnMed and LeafLife offer detailed dosing instructions to patients and healthcare providers, with MinnMed advocating a “start low, go slow” approach for patients unfamiliar with marijuana’s effects. Over time, each patient is encouraged to develop a customized dosing regimen in consultation with their healthcare provider.
“Different patients have different needs, and there are a lot of compounds in cannabis that are helpful to patients,” said Kingsley in a recent interview with KSTP. “[W]e want to...make these medications for specific patients.”
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