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ISSUE 121 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/25/2008

Entrepreneurship thrives

By Peter Meng
Staff Writer

Friday, April 25, 2008

The sixth annual Entrepreneurship Week, or E-week, was held from April 15-19. This year, events focused on the power of entrepreneurs to bring about social change within their local communities.

E-week kicked off with a business plan pitch competition on Tuesday sponsored by Ole Ventures. Contestants were given three minutes, approximately the amount of time it takes to ride an elevator, to gain financial support from an investor. Judges for the competition included Sean Benson '90, co-founder and vice president of technology for provation medical; Jodi Hubler, managing director of Lemhi Ventures and William McCormack '69, executive vice president of Schwan Food Company. Doug Goodmundson '08 and Michael MacMillan '08, winners this year, split the $300 prize.

This year's Braulick Speaker was entrepreneur Jacquie Berglund, co-founder and president of Finnegans Brewery. Finnegans donates 100% of its profits to charities that alleviate poverty. After deciding to pursue a career in which she could exercise her ideals, Berglund left her job as a marketing coordinator for several Minneapolis pubs to start her own nonprofit organization back in 2000.

Last year, Finnegans grew by an astonishing 64 percent. This past December, the $100,000 mark in donations was surpassed. Finnegans operates entirely on a sustainable model. No government funding is provided to assist the company. To keep costs low, volunteers and interns run Finnegans. Law and marketing firms perform services pro bono.

In addition to procuring donations from beer sales, Finnegans also runs several campaigns to raise funds at local bars. Pub Crawls, and "Drink Like you Care" events are frequently held. Distributors are also encouraged to match donations. "This is the Finnegans that gives back," Berglund said.

A panel was held on Thursday with members from nearby nonprofit organizations. Panel members included Mark Crea, Executive Director of Feed My Starving Children; Clea Dezio, Development Director at the Cookie Cart and Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin from the Latino Enterprise Center (LEC).

Feed My Starving Children is a 20-year-old Christian organization and was founded to provide food to malnourished children in countries where hunger is endemic. Teaming with scientists at General Mills and Cargill, Crea developed carbohydrate and nutrient rich foods to rapidly restore the health of malnourished children. Crea boasts having a 95% efficient donation system.

The Cookie Cart serves as a youth development agency, training youth from impoverished backgrounds in North Minneapolis with vital career and job skills. Many children are hired starting at the age of 15 and are taught to arrive at work on time, to dress properly and how to properly fill out job applications. Successful employees have served as project managers at Target, completed work assignments in Belgium and attended the University of Minnesota.

The Latino Center in Northfield helps local entrepreneurs acquire the skills necessary to own and operate their own businesses. "I can't just grab a group of Latinos from Northfield and talk about foreign trade, foreign policy & it doesn't work like that," Haslett-Marroquin said. Proper leadership and knowledge is required to create change. By supporting the infrastructure to bring out entrepreneurship within interested parties, entrepreneurs can become successful and eventually take on leadership positions within their local communities.

E-week concluded with the Finstad Grant Marketplace on Friday. Winners of the Finstad Entrepreneurial Grant showcased their businesses and products in the Buntrock Crossroads.

Aidan Currie '08 founded Happy Roots Root Beer, a root beer catering company. After having previous brewing experience, entering the root beer market seemed to be a good idea. Unlike other root beer companies, Currie is actively working towards using all organic ingredients.

Plagiarists, a local band including members Eric Wilson '08, Davis Willie '08, Mikael Witte '08, Blake Wergeland '08 and Brendan Golle '08 used the Finstad Grant to record their second CD. The Plagiarists have also struck a distributing and marketing deal which will result in the CD being available nationwide.

In following with St. Olaf's theme of Sustainability, seniors Danielle Starmer '08 and Katie Godfrey '08 have produced a sustainable cookbook. Recipes from students, staff and alumni are organized by seasons in the cookbook. "We want people to know where their food comes from," Starmer said.

Sian Muir, associate director of entrepreneurial studies, said, "This year the focus was around social entrepreneurship and I think the weeks events and speakers nicely demonstrated the variety of ways that innovation and creativity can add value and change lives."

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