Monday, March 27, 2017

Minnesota Angel Tax Credit: Time for Action!

I returned to work this morning from a spring break trip to Mexico. I certainly expected to have missed plenty of communication about governmental issues (after all, I hadn’t been following any Twitter feeds from our Commander in Chief or even watched one minute of cable news in over a week).

While I gathered there was plenty happening during my absence (including more Russian intrigue and the withdrawal of the Republican health care regulation), I was surprised to see in my inbox an email from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) about the state’s Angel Tax Credit program. The email was a call to action because the Omnibus Tax Bill introduced by House Tax Chair Greg Davids failed to include any provisions for continuing the state’s Angel Tax Credit program beyond the current calendar year. This bill is likely to be followed by similar legislation in the Senate. 

The email asks supporters to contact Roger Chamberlain, Senate Tax Chair, along with Governor Mark Dayton, today to express why this program is important for the growth of entrepreneurial businesses in Minnesota. Here is the contact information for both parties:

The Honorable Roger Chamberlain

Chair, Taxes Committee
Minnesota Senate
2303 Minnesota Senate Building
95 University Avenue West 
St. Paul, MN 55155

Governor Mark Dayton

Lt. Governor Tina Smith
Office of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor
116 Veterans Service Building 
20 W 12th Street 
St. Paul, MN 55155 

Frequent readers know that I have been highly supportive of and posting about the tax credit as far back as 2011, just after the program went into effect. I’ve even posted previous calls to action in support of the credit. The state’s program, as very effectively promoted and administered by DEED, has been a catalyst for early-stage investing in Minnesota-based technology startups. As I indicated way back in that 2011 post, in addition to helping Minnesota startups access the capital they need, the credit may help us keep that one great startup that becomes the next big engine of entrepreneurship—which would more than justify the time and expense involved in retaining the program.

Please act now to preserve this important resource for our entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sweet Facts for Maple Syrupers

I recently attended a Maple Syrup Festival. The festival included learning the history and basics of maple syruping, participating in a taste test of real maple syrup and artificial “pancake” or “table” syrup, and tasting maple sugar (which, for the record, was delicious). 

I left the festival with not only a greater understanding and appreciation for the amount of time and labor that it takes to make maple syrup, but an interest in the maple syrup industry and how maple syrup production differs among hobby maple syrupers and industrial maple syrupers. Below are some of the “sweet” facts that I found:

  1.  The Basic Process. Maple syrup production generally requires four steps: (1) find a healthy maple tree; (2) make a hole in the tree trunk; (3) place a spile in the hole to collect the sap; and (4) cook the sap over a fire to boil off the extra water. Once the water is boiled off, you are left with syrup! 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Buyer (and Seller) Beware: Crowdfunding

A few weeks ago, I spoke on a panel to entrepreneurs and potential investors about equity crowdfunding. Takeaway: Lawyers are a bunch of downers (which, I guess, is hardly news to most of you). 

First, however, let me begin by acknowledging the wonderful things about crowdfunding:

  • If you are a “regular person,” you can now invest on the internet!
  • If you have an early-stage company, you can now raise capital on the internet!

Although you may infer from my tone that I’m a skeptic (disclaimer: I may be), I don’t want to detract from the fact that crowdfunding offers another tool for both investing and raising money. And since raising capital is one of the most challenging aspects of being an entrepreneur, having another tool to do so is a good thing. If you are an investor, crowdfunding provides an avenue for directly investing in companies you want to see succeed, which is obviously empowering.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Being in the Center of the Naf Naf Triangle

Long-time readers of my posts on entreVIEW (all 4 of you…) may recall that I discovered the entrepreneurial spirit of Israel on a trip there about 18 months ago. However, they may not know (or care) that I’ve been pretty obsessed with Mediterranean food ever since that trip.* 

That’s why I was so excited when I learned (just after returning from that trip) that a new Mediterranean fast casual restaurant Naf Naf Grill, had opened in downtown Minneapolis in U.S. Bank Plaza about three blocks to the north and east of my office. A second location followed last fall in City Center (one block West) and I just read that another location is opening soon about a block and half east and south of me in the TCF Tower! I guess that essentially puts my office in the middle of the Naf Naf triangle—they’ve got me surrounded.

If you haven’t yet discovered Naf Naf, you should. It is the fresh and delicious 
“Chipotlized” version of Mediterranean food. It’s also a great entrepreneurial success story. Nine years ago, the Founders of Naf Naf, Sahar Sander and Elan Burger, started the first Naf Naf in a small shack in suburban Chicago with no air conditioning. With help from some local business people who loved the product, David Sloan and Justin Halpenny, they started to expand to new locations in Illinois. In 2015 the Company received an infusion of growth capital from Roark Capital and has expanded to dozens of locations in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The ADA in the digital age: Is your website compliant?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all aspects of society. Whether, under the ADA, websites must be accessible to people with disabilities has been a hot topic in the legal and disability communities for some time. Before the internet became so pervasive, it was assumed that the ADA applied only to physical structures. But because the law doesn’t specifically state whether it applies to brick-and-mortar vs. digital “places,” its applicability to websites has been open to interpretation. 

A string of lawsuits brought against private companies for inaccessible websites, web services, or digital communications, has created a precedent that the ADA does apply to the internet, although the precedent is not entirely consistent across all jurisdictions.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Magnolia Story

On HGTV’s Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna Gaines “take the worst house in the best neighborhood” and “turn it into their clients’ dream home.”  A husband-and-wife team, Chip manages the demolition and construction, and Joanna designs and styles the interior.  At the end of each episode, Chip and Joanna ask, “Are you ready to see your fixer upper?” as their clients eagerly await the first look at their newly-transformed home.  Now in their fourth season, Chip and Joanna have millions of viewers captivated by their playful rapport and signature modern, rustic style. 
In addition to raising four kids on a working farm and starring in a top-rated TV show, they run quite a few businesses in Waco, Texas. Their empire includes a real estate company, Magnolia Realty; a construction company, Magnolia Homes; a furniture line, Magnolia Home; another furniture line, Magnolia Home Furniture; a collaboration with Loloi rugs; a quarterly lifestyle magazine, Magnolia Journal; a bed and breakfast, The Magnolia House; a real estate subdivision, Magnolia Villas; their quarterly lifestyle magazine; and the Magnolia Market, a shopping and dining destination in downtown Waco. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Can Can Wonderland: A Cure for the Winter Blues

Some of you have read my prior posts professing my love of mini-golf and my exploration of new activities throughout the Twin Cities (again, many of which involve mini-golf). It was fitting, then, that within the first month of Can Can Wonderland opening in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood of St. Paul, I counted myself among the visitors. This most eclectic of entrepreneurial ventures is certainly heating up the winter.

Can Can Wonderland is housed in the former American Can Company, which—you guessed it—manufactured tin cans. The factory (approximately 20,000 square feet) has been converted into an artist-designed amusement park and boardwalk.

Its crowning achievement is an 18-hole indoor mini-golf course, with holes of every type imaginable (or not) designed by artists from around the world.  My husband thought it was the coolest mini-golf course he had ever played – and he has a lot of mini-golf experiences to draw upon.  I won’t spoil all of the surprises, but the holes range from a St. Paul Saints-themed batting cage in which you hit your ball off a tee, to a floor-to-ceiling rotating tornado, to the hole formerly known as the world’s longest mini-golf hole, to holes with all manner of hydraulics to transport your ball.