April 2006

Cover Story

Fast food

When the co-founders of Let?s Dish Inc. were plotting their expansion with an adviser in 2005, they knew they had to move fast. Just how fast quickly became apparent.

Local competitors were starting retail food preparation companies, in which customers come to a store to prepare large batches of food to freeze and take home to serve. Big national players, including Super Suppers and Dream Dinners, were moving toward 150 stores in 30 states each.

Ruth Lundquist and Darcy Olson mapped out three potential business models, with the help of Allan Hickok. He is a restaurant industry consultant in Minneapolis, and a former investment banker who has raised money for many companies. The best plan, they decided, was to develop some corporate-owned stores, but rely mostly on franchised stores throughout the nation. They would sell rights to open those stores to area developers, who can ?gobble up big cities? quickly, says Lundquist.

That would take serious expansion capital. Starting in mid-2005, they raised $4 million in six months and started the expansion. Hickok himself joined the company as president to connect them with investors and sell the first franchises. By the beginning of 2006 he was gone, back to his own practice, and the founders were hiring a new executive with national expansion experience as they prepared to return to their co-founder titles. (See this month?s Informer.)

The first Let?s Dish store opened in Eden Prairie in October 2003. By January 2006, there were four stores in the Twin Cities, as well as three in Maryland, two in Virginia and one in Washington state. By March 2006, area developer agreements were secured in Kansas, St. Louis and Boston. Continue reading →

Letter From the Editor

great day

last October, 30 business owners gathered for an extraordinary morning: They presented their best tactics for growing companies at the first Upsize Business Builder Awards & Seminar. Continue reading →

Back Page

Why Sue Jeffers wants to fight the smoking ban all the way to the governor’s office

Sue Jeffers has owned Stub & Herb?s restaurant and bar for 26 years, on a popular corner at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. She started fighting eminent domain, or the taking of private property by government, in New Brighton. But when smoking bans were passed in some cities and counties, she became an outspoken opponent and is now running for governor under the Libertarian Party banner. Continue reading →


Good fences

It?s easier than ever for companies to encroach on your company?s brand, now that the wide-open Internet has replaced the bricks-and-mortar marketplace. Two Merchant & Gould attorneys, Chris Schulte and Andy Ehard, tell how to build good fences. Continue reading →

Into the ring

?Why can?t I have this?? Lisa Bauch asked herself when she first entered a gym. ?Why can?t I do this??
But traditional boxing gyms are run by ex-fighters who work full-time jobs and volunteer spare hours in the evening, concentrating on the young boys and men there to compete and have careers.

Bauch wanted to be professionally involved, but not as a fighter. So she designed a program catering primarily to a clientele older than 20, many of them over 40, who enter the gym with no previous experience. While she respects the not-for-profit approach of her predecessors, she knew there was a demographic willing to support a for-profit endeavor.

She used her background in the nightclub and restaurant business to combine a traditional boxing gym with the atmosphere and profit potential of a health club. She began the endeavor in 1996 after a call to the local Golden Gloves directed her to a gym in Minneapolis, where she learned the basics. Continue reading →

Choose your weapon

Intellectual property. The whole concept is daunting for many small-business owners who spend enough time, energy and money on marketing, staffing, budgeting, buying, selling and all the necessities.

What is intellectual property and what qualifies? Is it really important to protect it and how does one do that? How does one defend it? Supposedly the process is expensive and time-consuming, so is it really worth it?

Those are the questions that may caowners to put off or ignore their intellectual property altogether. But what many don?t know is that protecting intellectual property could mean protecting the future of the company. Even further, it could mean helping the business grow, building a reputation and even opening up new business venture opportunities. Continue reading →

Business Builders


Many business owners know they need an online marketing program but they struggle over how to implement these efforts. Here are some basic tips for using search engine marketing and e-mail marketing effectively. Continue reading →

Consider basic options when dreaming of starting a business

Many people dream of being their own boss someday, but not everyone has the courage or know-how to start their own business. If you are one of those people, put your fears aside and act now, because in an age when entrepreneurship is alive and well, your timing is good. Continue reading →

It takes a process, not a deadline, to boost creativity

How many times have you encountered this? ?We need a creative idea for Product X. Let?s get the entire team into the conference room on Friday from 4-5 and hammer it out.? Continue reading →



To celebrate Brigham Group?s 25th year in business, founder Jennifer Brigham hopes to contact as many temporary employees as possible that her company has placed over the years. Continue reading →


Linda Hall Whitman left MinuteClinic Inc. near the end of 2005, and she says she?s not sure what she?ll do next.

She was CEO during the money-raising stage of the firm, and prepped it for national expansion. The company began in May 2000, offering quick, inexpensive health care for common ailments. Continue reading →

Management II

Allan Hickok was president and chief operating officer at Let?s Dish Inc. in Burnsville for only six months in 2005, then he was gone. Continue reading →

Certifications rise
for women-owned firms

Minnesota companies certified as Women Business Enterprises ? and thus potentially attractive to corporations seeking supplier diversity ? number more than 100, up from as few as 30 about two years ago. Continue reading →

Real estate

?We?ve been crowded for two years and really, really crowded the last year,? says Rich Nazarian, CEO of Minnetronix Inc.

He?s signed a lease to add 23,000 square feet at current headquarters in St. Paul, with Wellington Management overseeing the expansion. They have 21,000 square feet now.
Continue reading →

Dear Informer

Teams can help cultures merge, Informer learns DEAR INFORMER: I need to blend in many new employees who used to work at a remote office, and now are moving to our main office. How can I do this? DEAR MERGING: Mark Hoffman learned a lot about merging two cultures when he completed his first acquisition […] Continue reading →

2-minute meeting

Delicious food and wine, the latter provided by a member, were among the draws at a meeting to court new members to the Women Presidents? Organization, in February. One chapter already exists in the Twin Cities. Continue reading →


How to cope when your ISP changes hands

Over the past couple of years, Twin Cities-based Internet service providers have been merging at speeds faster than a broadband connection. But any deal that involves a commingling of technology can cause complications ? especially for customers. Continue reading →