Minneapolis and St. Paul’s long history of innovation has lead us to today’s thriving entrepreneur community. With so many fresh new ideas flowing through the startup and small business community today, it can be easy to overlook some of the early inventions that came from the area. Below are some well-known products and innovations that were founded in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
Walter H. Deubner patented the shopping bag in 1912, in St. Paul, MN. Deubner ran a grocery store and invented the bag to encourage shoppers to buy more items. The first shopping bags were paper bags with handles. For strength, a cord ran through the bag. Within three years Deubner was selling over a million shopping bags a year.
Minneapolis’ Bruce Johnson invented the Breathe Right Nasal Strips in 1991. Johnson had a deviated septum and created the strips to help him breathe easier.
St. Paul’s Ed Lowe created “Kitty Litter” in 1948. It was one of the first cat litters to be available commercially.
St. Paul’s Richard Drew invented adhesive tape in 1925 while he was employed at 3M. When Drew first started at 3M they were a sandpaper manufacturer. The first tape Drew created had adhesive along the edges, but not in the middle. In 1930, Drew invented the Scotch Brand cellulose tape.
Reyn Guyer of St. Paul invented the Nerf ball in 1969. By 1970, it was being marketed by Parker Brothers as the “world’s first official indoor ball”. In 1967 Guyer invented another fun indoor game, Twister.
Looking for a place to create the next great Minneapolis/St. Paul invention? Schedule a tour of Assemble today.
Coworking can be the perfect working environment for many individuals. The flexibility and social aspects of coworking allow many entrepreneurs and freelancers to work in a professional environment without the cost of a private office. For some, coworking isn’t a longterm solution though and private office is necessary. Below are some clues that it may be time to migrate from coworking to a private shared office.
This one may seem obvious, but may not always be. If you find that you’re storing a lot of your work materials in random places at your home, it may be time for your own office space. If you find that you’re hauling a lot of stuff back and forth from home to your coworking space, it is probably time for a private office.
You may want to consider a private office if you find that you have more client phone calls and it’s difficult to talk in an open coworking space. Even if your coworking space has phone booths (like Assemble), they can be used by other members at times. It can be annoying to other members of your coworking space if you’re talking on the phone while they’re working all the time. And it can come off as unprofessional to your client if there is a lot of background noise while you’re trying to have an important conversation.
A private office allows you to simply close your door and talk to clients as often as necessary.
Once your company becomes more than just you, it can be difficult to work as a team in an open coworking space. Having a private office in a shared space like Assemble allows you to collaborate privately, while still giving you opportunities to network with other members.
Concentrating and being productive in an open coworking space can be challenging at times. Even in the best coworking spaces, distractions are common. If you find that you’re not able to complete everything you need to in a day, it might be time for a private office. With a private office at Assemble, you’re able to decorate your office as you wish. You can create the perfect environment for you to be as productive as possible every day.
If you’re ready to migrate from coworking to a private shared office, schedule a tour at one of Assemble’s four locations today.
The start of the new year is a great time to assess the efficiency, strengths and weaknesses of your small business. As tax season approaches, financial reviews are obviously important. But it’s also important to review other aspects of your business to ensure that they are as effective as possible. Below are some things you may want to review heading into 2017.
If your small business still relies on an internal server for your email and/or web site, consider migrating to the cloud. Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps both provide flexible solutions to business email hosting. There are a number of efficient and secure web site hosts available as well.
Migrating to the cloud can increase security and greatly reduce risk.
Even the smallest of businesses should pay attention to their company’s cyber security. Ensuring that your data is secure is an important aspect of day-to-day business operations. From spyware detection software to strong passwords to secure internet gateways, keeping your data secure should be an ongoing priority.
Remind employees about the importance of cyber security as well. Ensuring that everyone is following the same security protocols will help to keep your company’s information safe.
Your company’s web site is often the first place potential clients or partners go to learn more about you. If you don’t regularly update your web site, you may want to at least do a thorough review once a year.
Studies have found that over half of web site traffic now comes from mobile devices. If your web site is not mobile-friendly, consider upgrading to a responsive format. Web developers are often able to make your existing web site responsive if you do not want to overhaul the design of the site.
If your startup is just getting off the ground, consider equity crowdfunding. Sites like Kickstarter have been popular for crowdfunding costs of product development, but company-specific crowdfunding has only recently gained momentum. Sites like Crowdfunded allow individuals to invest in startups online. Depending on your startup, it may be a great way to secure needed funding.
The holiday season is supposed to be full of joy and celebration. For busy small business owners, it can be difficult to embrace the holiday season when you’re schedule is full of projects or you’re working on plans for next year. For the health of you and your family, it’s important to keep stress in check over the holidays. Below are a few tips that can help.
Heading into the holiday season, take note that colleagues and clients are likely to be a little less responsive this time of year. There are a lot of distractions, so projects may not progress as quickly as usual. Give your project schedules a little padding so that you won’t be off schedule.
If at all possible, consider cutting back your hours a bit over the holidays. A planned reduction in hours can help reduce stress about income and productivity. If you’re able to cut back on your hours during the holiday season, be sure to let your customers or clients know. You don’t want to confuse or frustrate them by being unavailable at a time they’d expect you to be open.
If you notice that one day’s schedule is a little lighter than other days, step out of the office for a little while to do some holiday shopping (or shop online). If you’re able to get some shopping done while most other people are at work, there will be less of a crowd and shorter lines.
Assemble members enjoy 24 hour access to our shared offices, so you can head back to the office and finish the day’s work at anytime. You’ll be able to work with fewer distractions after normal business hours.
Holiday parties can be a lot of fun, but they can also cut into productivity. Determine which holiday parties you need to attend. If one is across town and would require you to take a lot of the day off, consider skipping it. Or if you decide to go, keep the booze to the minimum so you can head back to the office after and finish up your work.
Take a deep breath and realize what the season is all about. Being busy is a good thing. It means your business is successful. Using the holiday season to celebrate the year with colleagues, friends and family is a great way to regroup for the new year.
Thanksgiving is coming up in a couple days. Holiday season is in full swing after that. Many startups and small businesses have embraced the idea of giving back in some way during the holidays. If you’re just getting going with your startup, it can be difficult for your company to make a substantial monetary donation. There are other ways your startup or small business can help others during the holidays though.
Below are some ways you can make a difference during the holiday season.
One way you and your employees can help others during the holidays is to volunteer at a local non-profit. You don’t necessarily need to volunteer before the end of the year if it isn’t possible. Schedule a company-wide volunteer day sometime in 2017. You and your team can meet at the office, then go to a food pantry, animal shelter or other non-profit for the day. You will be helping others whole working together outside the office, which is a great team building exercise.
Hold a food drive at your office for a local food pantry or collect toys for Toys for Tots. Ask employees to collect food, toys and other items, then donate them on their behalf. Many individuals want to give back during the holidays anyway. By allowing employees to simply items to their work, it makes it easy for them to contribute to a great cause.
Assemble Minneapolis members, we’re holding a food drive this holiday season! Visit the member portal for more information.
If your company provides goods or services that may be of value to a non-profit organization, consider donating them. Legal, technology, graphic design, web development, shipping and printing are often in high demand at non-profits.
Many events over the holiday season give their proceeds to a charity. Sponsoring one of these events allows your business to give back to a worthy cause while also getting some publicity. For some events, sponsorship can simply include the donation of a gift certificate or product. It can be an easy way to help make a difference during the holidays.
If you sell products online, consider adding an option to allow customers to add a small donation at checkout. If you’ve ever ordered a domain or other service through GoDaddy, you may have noticed that they give you the option to round up your order price for charity. Many eCommerce systems offer ways to let people add-on items during checkout. You can use this option to let customers make a donation to a non-profit of your choice.
Consider asking employees to pay $1-2 for drinks at your holiday party, then donate those proceeds to a local charity. You can put a sign on the bar letting people know that the money is going to charity. Be careful though, if your employees are in the giving mood they may get a little carried away!
Making a difference over the holiday season doesn’t have to break the bank of your small business. If you’ve been hesitant to get involved with charitable giving, consider one of the options above this year. It will help to make the holidays better for you and others.
Many of Assemble’s new members are upgrading from using their kitchen table as their office or another less-than-idea situation. Assemble’s shared office space is their first actual office space for their company. It’s an exciting time, but can also be a little nerve-wracking. What can you look forward to on your first day in your new coworking space? Below are some things you can expect when you become a member of Assemble.
On the day you move into one of Assemble’s coworking spaces your community manager is available to help you coordinate your move and set up your office. Moving into Assemble also provides you with a host of amenities and benefits. We provide these resources to make your life easier and they’re available as soon as you become a member.
Whether you’re working at our Minneapolis coworking space or one of our two Chicago locations, you’ll find a community of existing members who are friendly and receptive. You’ll likely meet a few fellow members on your first day.
If your Assemble membership includes a private office, you can expect your office to include a desk and comfortable work chair. You’re welcome to bring in your own furniture and decorations as well. We love when members make their office their own!
Great, locally-roasted coffee is always free at Assemble. Snacks are also provided throughout the day in the kitchen areas.
If you’re hesitant about whether or not working at a coworking space or shared office is right for you, we encourage you to schedule a tour of one of our locations. We’re confident that you’ll enjoy the creative and friendly environment that allow our members to flourish.
Running a successful small business is excited, but there are also many difficult decisions that need to be made in order to ensure longevity. One of the hardest things to consider is expansion. How do you know when it’s time to expand your business? Below are five signs that it might be time for your small business to expand.
If you’re finding it difficult to keep up with demand, it may be time to increase your workforce. The increased demand means that people like what you’re offering, whether it be a product or service. Smart expansion will allow you to offer those products or services to a larger client base.
How long have your employees worked for you? Do they know your products and services inside and out? Experienced employees who have been with you for a long time are a great foundation for expansion. These employees will be able to effectively train new hires and manage growth. Your established relationship with them should make for a smooth expansion.
Do you have customers asking you to provide services you don’t already provide? Or maybe they want you to offer your product in a different city or country. Customer requests are an obvious sign that there is great demand.
Review your books to see where your income has been over the past few years. If you notice that your income has been steadily increasing you are likely in a good financial place to expand. If you notice that your income has fluctuated or decreased, review your invoicing procedures and workload to see where the weaknesses are. You’ll want to have your small business working as efficiently as possible prior to expansion.
Before deciding to expand it is good to ask yourself how personally invested you are in your business. Do you still wake up and love going to work everyday? If you find that you are a little burnt out, it may be best to take a short vacation or reevaluate how you do business. Expansion will likely result in extra work hours for you, at least initially. If you’re not as focused on work as you would like to be, it will be easier to make adjustments now.
One of the great things about working at one of Assemble’s coworking spaces is our flexibility. If you decide to expand your company, we’re able to accommodate you and up to nine employees. Schedule a tour to learn more today.
Just about everyone who runs a successful start up or small business spends a lot of time in front of their computer, tablet or phone. After a while, you might feel like your eyes are going a little bonkers. Eye strain from looking at a device too long is common, and it’s hard to avoid when you have a lot of work to do that requires a computer.
A couple of years ago we posted some tips for preventing computer eye strain. Those tips were focused around your environment and reducing exposure to the screen. There are also some apps and programs you can install that can help. Below are some of our favorites.
f.lux makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. Depending on the time of day, it may gradually turn your display red, orange, blue or another color. The change is fairly gradual, so once you’ve used f.lux for a while you likely won’t even notice it. But by the end of the day you’ll likely feel less strained.
f.lux is free and available for Macs, Windows and Linux computers. You can download it at www.justgetflux.com. It’s also available for Android devices. It’s available for iOS devices too, but not through the app store. Click here to learn more about how to install it on an iOS device.
One of the best ways to combat eye strain is to take periodic breaks. Remembering to take a break can be difficult though. That’s where Time Out can help. Once installed, it will dim your screen and notify you to take a break when necessary.
Time Out comes with two kinds of breaks. A “Normal” break is for 10 minutes every hour so you can get up and move around. A “Micro” break is a short 15 second break every 15 minutes so you can move your eyes away from the screen and not tense up too much.
Windows users looking for similar functionality to Time Out can install EyeLeo. This free program lets you adjust the settings for your breaks. When it’s time for a break, a little mascot pops up on the screen to remind you. EyeLeo also includes a “Strict” mode, that doesn’t allow you to skip the break.
If you don’t want to use an app to help with your eye strain, there are glasses available that help to filter out the blue light emitted from screens.
Tired of the stressful drive to work each morning? Is the “L” or light rail too crowded? Biking to work provides many benefits to your physical health, mental health and efficiency. Below are five reasons why biking to work may be your best way to commute.
With the exception of the cost of your actual bike, riding it to work each day is free. You’ll save a surprising amount of money when you don’t need to pay for public transportation or parking every day.
Members of Assemble’s Chicago and Minneapolis shared office spaces enjoy free bike storage as well. And if you don’t own your own bike, our members receive exclusive discounts on Divvy shared bikes.
Being stuck in traffic or crammed in a train car can be stressful first thing in the morning. It might not be the best way to start your day. Riding your bike allows you freedom during your commute. You can ride past car congestion or take an alternate route to avoid construction.
Your bike is a gym on wheels. You’ll burn calories and get your blood flowing before your work day starts. Biking is a great cardiovascular workout. It’s also a great way to start working out if you haven’t done so in a while because it isn’t as taxing on your body as running or other fitness exercises.
Whether you work at one of Assemble’s two Chicago coworking spaces or at our Minneapolis space, you’re in a city that is pretty bike friendly. Minneapolis has consistently ranked at or near the top of lists of the most bike-friendly cities in the world (Star Tribune). Chicago is consistently named in the top ten biking city in the US by Bicycling Magazine (Minneapolis is #1 this year).
Since 2012, you can get up to $20/month in tax-free reimbursements for biking to work. You just need to bike at least three days/week. The reimbursement covers bike repairs, storage costs and other expenses (More info).
We all need a vacation once in a while. They relieve stress, help you regroup and allow you to spend some quality time with loved ones.
When you run a small business, scheduling a few days off for a much-needed vacation can be difficult enough. Once you’re on vacation, it’s easy to get pulled into work emails or trying to catch up on a project. Below are some tips to help you enjoy a relaxing vacation without stressing about your small business.
When you’re running a successful small business, scheduling is always important. Most small business owners can’t drop work on a whim and head to the beach for a week. It’s important to schedule your trip at least a couple of months ahead of time. Doing so gives you time to schedule projects around your trip. It also gives clients and colleagues fair warning that you won’t be available during your vacation.
Change your voicemail greeting to let those calling you know when you’ll be back in the office. You’ll probably want to change it on your business line and cell phone if they are separate numbers.
Set up an email autoresponder that lets people know the dates you’ll be out of town as well. If possible, give them the email and phone number of a colleague they can call in an emergency.
A couple of weeks before your vacation, start letting clients know that you’ll be out of town. Remind them at least one more time before you leave as well if possible. While the voicemail and autoresponder are important, reminding people ahead of time is a nice courtesy. If a client has an issue, it can be frustrating to find out that you’re out of town for a week after your trip has already started.
Give yourself 30 minutes or so each day to check email and voicemail. If a major issue arises, it will be more stressful if you find out about it too late. Don’t use this time to work on actual work projects though. You simply want to monitor email and voicemail to ensure that everything’s okay.
Smart phones are incredibly convenient. Sometimes they’re too convenient. It can be hard to disconnect from work when your email is always accessible. If you find it hard to disconnect, consider taking a vacation to an island without cell phone or internet service!
Photo credit: Jonathan Lin via Flickr