Our region is hitting the reset button on the culture it has created in supporting innovation. Through the leadership underway across our region’s leading universities, high schools and entrepreneurially-oriented non-profits (i.e. MN Cup, Beta.mn, and Minne*), additional resources and mentorship are being directed at young entrepreneurs who represent the future of job growth and prosperity in the state and region we love.
Our private sector is coming together, too, through the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation’s leadership and our new early stage venture fund, Great North Labs. Our State government is also pushing forward with new initiatives to improve the culture for innovation in our region.
Let’s look at the history and current efforts underway at St. Cloud State University. Former St. Cloud State students have gone on to found some of our region’s most successful startups. Before Travis Kalanick founded Uber, Mynul Khan founded Field Nation while studying computer science at St. Cloud State.
Field Nation could be described as the Uber for field technicians. The company Mynul founded now employs over 200 employees and has a platform which processes thousands of field IT worker orders per year.
Then there is the story of Peter Taunton, another fellow Husky. Peter recognized the need for no frill gyms which could be run with significantly lower membership dues than larger gyms and founded Snap Fitness. Snap Fitness now has 2,000+ global locations in over 18 countries and is one of the largest fitness companies in the world.
At the core of these two massive entrepreneurial successes were extremely driven, tenacious founders whose ambitions carried them far. It is with this context that it was my pleasure to stop back to St. Cloud State to see what ideas are being incubated by current St. Cloud State students through the annual Husky Pitch event, led by St. Cloud State’s Entrepreneurship Club.
Although each of the final seven final startup teams which presented at the Husky Pitch showed plenty of ambition and vision, the two startup teams which stood out the most to me were OUT Café and Remedy Club.
Since moving to Greater St. Cloud area in 2013, co-founder Catherine Larson found it challenging to find a place that felt safe for the LGBTQ+ community and also fostered a culture of acceptance. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a problem in St. Cloud. LGBT youth, who typically come from highly rejecting families, are 8.4 times more likely to have a suicide attempt.
While youth have little to no public LGBT space that allow them to participate, adults struggle for a place of acceptance as well. Statistics show that 25 percent of the general LGBT community has a moderate alcohol dependency, compared to 5-10 percent of the general population.
One of the drivers of this higher alcohol dependency among the LGBT community can be attributed to bars as being the lone public space where they feel safe and accepted. The idea behind OUT Café is to create an LGBTQ+ safe space and sell a culture of acceptance. Plans are underway to develop the first OUT Café retail location in downtown St. Cloud.
Brothers Andrew and John Dahlberg have been experimenting with various entrepreneurial endeavors throughout their time studying at St. Cloud State. Their latest startup pursuit is called Remedy Club, a natural wellness monthly subscription box.
Congratulations to each of the seven finalists in the 2019 Husky Pitch! Thanks to Entrepreneurship Club President, Caitlyn Casper, for leading the charge to keep the Husky Pitch going and for continuing the tradition of entrepreneurial ambition from St. Cloud State students.
If you’re interested in supporting the St. Cloud State Entrepreneurship Club, you can join me in contributing to their $10,000 fundraising campaign to continue to grow their program: https://www.gofundme.com/st-cloud-state-entrepreneurship-club