February 2005

Cover Story

Creative juices

With one successful startup company under his belt, Minneapolis entrepreneur Phil Hotchkiss is back at it again. While his first venture focused on the online investment market, the latest targets the big business of consumer market research ? but with a high-tech twist.

Hotchkiss, founder of BigCharts Inc., an investment charting and research site, sold the company in 1999 to CBS Marketwatch.com in a multimillion-dollar deal. He then patiently waited for his next startup opportunity, which came along in 2003 with Talkingpoint Inc.

Talkingpoint develops and services wireless, in-store customer feedback kiosks that report real-time customer research. Hotchkiss, 35, started testing the touch-screen kiosks in December 2003 and has since surveyed more than 150,000 consumers. The company has seven employees, which Hotchkiss hopes to expand to 15 to 20 by the end of the year, plus a small team of contracted engineers. Continue reading →

Letter From the Editor

Big deal

Lorie Line, of Lorie Line Music of Wayzata, remembers the day the CEO of Musicland called.

She had borrowed $2,500 from her husband, traveled to California to produce her own album of piano music, and convinced a few small distributors to start selling it after big retailers turned her down. Buoyed by her first royalty check of $350, she had just quit her $40-a-day job playing the piano in Dayton?s department stores.

?The Mall of America was under construction? in the early 1990s, she said, ?and one day the CEO of Musicland visited the store and said, ?What?s the best-selling item?? and the employees said, ?We don?t have her. Everyone wants Lorie Line.? Continue reading →

Back Page

Back page

You read that headline right. Alebra Technologies grew by 10,530 percent over the last five years, and ranked No. 1 on the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 in Minnesota. How did CEO Gerry Fisher and his team do it? Well, it helps to start with low revenue in the base year, he jokes ? in Alebra?s case, $50,000. Getting to $5.7 million in 2003 took some strategy. His latest coup: a $2 million deal signed at year end with Wal-Mart Inc., for Alebra?s communications software. Continue reading →


Banking: Big vs. small

Most small-business owners have felt the changes among local banks in the last few years, as giant out-of-town banks bought large and small banks here, and a half-dozen new banks were started by those displaced.

John Crinklaw has an insider?s view. He helped start Windsor Bank in the early 1990s, and stayed with Windsor when the large Wisconsin-based Associated Bank bought it a few years ago. Now he?s left to open a new downtown Minneapolis branch for Crown Bank, started as a ?de novo? or new bank in Edina in 2000.

The plus side for owners, regardless of their preference for big bank vs. small: lots of choices, according to Crinklaw. Continue reading →

New tricks

New tricks Start to Furnish concept charges up old-time furniture firm by Andrew Tellijohn   While in high school, Larry and Russ Schneiderman would attend basketball practice at Toivola-Meadowlands High School in northern Minnesota. They would then stock shelves at their father’s furniture store, help load a delivery truck and then do homework before turning […] Continue reading →

Banking: Fancy flavors

Small Business Administration (SBA) loans are often an initial shot of vitality into young companies ? that first big break for entrepreneurs looking to carve their niche in the marketplace. But they can also be rolled into financing packages for more established small businesses that for a number of reasons, from rocketing growth to unusual inventory, may be deemed too risky for traditional bank loans. Continue reading →

Business Builders


Selling shares to employees or others closely related to the business raises capital for the company, but those shares are not readily marketable to investors outside the business.

For these reasons, shareholders in such businesses are generally treated as partners. As partners, the shareholders are required to treat each other in a different manner than they would in a standard employer/employee setting. Continue reading →


Your business is much more than a balance sheet. It is a product of your vision and hard work. It is a company that has, with strategic planning and support, immense potential to grow and develop.

So shouldn?t your bank be more to you and your growing business than a glorified ATM?

To support the current and future success of your enterprise, you need to forge a long-term, mutually beneficial business relationship with a bank and people you can trust.
Financial institutions offer a variety of products, services and, yes, even personalities. To find your money match made in fiscal heaven, you?ll probably have to do a little bank dating.

But by investing time in a search for the right bank partner now, you can reap years of benefits. Consider these points as you begin your bank courtship. Continue reading →

How to make your business collectable, not a commodity

One person?s trash is another person?s treasure. Welcome to the odd and fickle world of collectables.

People collect all kinds of things: stamps, toys, glassware, memorabilia of one sort or another. But what makes something collectable and valuable? In most cases, it?s scarcity, desirability and marketability. Continue reading →



It was business as usual one November day at StoneArch Creative, when a small group of staff members turned down a proposed project at the medical marketing firm in Minneapolis. Continue reading →


Webb Lake Software of Little Canada is rolling out its first product, called eWebSplash, a $200 piece of software that allows users to create their own Web site. Continue reading →


You can load up a plastic card to pre-pay for coffee, so why not for Web development services? That?s what Tom Niccum, president of Lancet Software in Burnsville, and his team figured when they launched their pre-paid consulting card, called the LancetCard. Continue reading →


AbbeyMoor Medical Inc., the urology company in Parkers Prairie, has a name that has nothing to do with prostetic stents.

John Reid, AbbeyMoor?s chairman, was searching for a name for his new company that would reflect his Scottish background. Continue reading →


For almost four years, Roxanne Cornell stuck to wallpaper stripping only with her business, LaPrep Wallpaper Stripping in Minneapolis. She would refer painting jobs to others.

Midway through last year, she realized how much business she was giving away and added painting services. ?It?s kind of fallen into my lap,? Cornell says. ?I?ve got a captive audience.? Continue reading →


Tony Carideo?s public relations company in Minneapolis, The Carideo Group Inc., is about to live up to its name.

?Right now we?re The Carideo Couple,? he jokes, himself as president and a second employee whom he hired right out of college. In December, he was looking to hire his third employee, a PR person with mid-level experience, to keep up with business. Continue reading →


?This time of year it?s in the press. You can?t turn around without seeing this,? says David Carlisle, an independent contractor based in Edina for Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc.

?This? is identity theft. ?You are five times more likely to have your identity stolen than to get in a car accident,? Carlisle says. With that in mind, he has added a product line to his offerings: insurance against identity theft, which he sells to employers (as a benefit for employees) and individuals. Continue reading →

Dear Informer

Hire a media coach if you must, but keep it real DEAR INFORMER: I’m a business owner trying to get more press attention, and I’m wondering if I should hire a media coach. Do you recommend it? DEAR PUBLICITY-SEEKER: “Nevvverrrrrrrr!” bellowed the Informer upon first considering this would-be media darling’s question. There’s nothing worse than a prepped […] Continue reading →

2-minute meeting

Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 spin out dizzying growth rates By Beth Ewen Can you imagine growing revenue over five years by 10,530 percent? What about 5,358 percent, or 1,928 percent? Those are the dizzying figures from Alebra Technologies Inc., The Protomold Co. Inc., and Veritec Inc., respectively, as toted up by the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 and […] Continue reading →


Consider company type, age, industry when managing assets

Most asset managers preach diversification. But for owners of small, growing companies, the only religion they want to practice is their business.

Asset managers realize this, and admit that most of their conventional advice ? such as allocating money into a separate investment portfolio, thus balancing the risk involved with a business ? goes unheeded by many entrepreneurs. Continue reading →