May 2003

Cover Story

High stakes test

Carla Bainbridge was on the beach in St. Thomas in 2001 when she got the phone call. ?The venture boys came in today, and those 150,000 shares of founders? stock are not worth anything,? she recalls hearing. ?So I ordered another mai tai and started making my list.?

The list had new rules about how she wanted to run the rest of her life. Worn out from three start-ups and tons of traveling, from now on she?d always be there to put her daughter on the school bus, she decided.

The big rule: Never again would she rely on outside funding. ?I had a bad experience with venture capitalists. I was na?ve,? she says. ?I could go to a bank but I?m scared ? it?s probably not even rational at this point.?

Bainbridge, who?s 39 and the president and CEO of two-year-old Predictive Profiles Inc. in Bloomington, says she never misses a morning at the bus stop. Her vow against outside funding, however, is becoming harder to keep as she looks for ways to attack a huge new market. Continue reading →

Letter From the Editor


Bootstraps Who’s funding your company, I asked Carla Bainbridge. “Me,” replied the CEO of Predictive Profiles Inc., this month’s cover story subject. And what is that like, I asked. “Expensive,” she said. Debt is our friend, I shot back when she said she didn’t want to go to a bank, either. It’s not venture capitalists […] Continue reading →

Back Page

Back Page

Kim Pearson, president of New Boundary Technologies Inc. in Minneapolis, stands out from his tech company peers.

He doesn?t focus on sales growth. Rather, he focuses on profitability per business line and per employee. Nor does he care about the next hot tech thing. Instead, he wants to build a sustainable company that outlives any single technology.

Pearson could be called a prophet on profits, or at least a singular voice choosing to grow his company more slowly, using mostly internally generated funds, than those who seek outside investors. Upsize asked him to describe his business philosophy for his $3-million firm, formerly called Lanovation. Continue reading →


Work/life balance

Recent world events have left Americans with the sentiment that while work is important, it shouldn?t overshadow personal and family time. But striking a work/life balance is difficult without the understanding of employers.

Employers of all sizes have become receptive to more flexible work arrangements as they?ve come to realize that contented employees increase worker retention and productivity. Small employers, especially, have the edge becathey can create a flexible culture from the start.

Anita Baker has had a hand in changing workplace attitudes, starting at her own firm. She was the first woman at LarsonAllen, the large Minneapolis-based accounting firm, to become a principal while also raising small children. ?Working through that opened my eyes to what employers could do better to accommodate employees? needs,? she says.

During her 18 years at LarsonAllen, she has proposed ways to complement personal with professional priorities. And in October 2002, she was named chair of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Work/Life and Women?s Initiatives Executive Committee, which develops products and services to help accounting firms and professionals strike their own work/life balance. Continue reading →

Sweet acquisition

The owners of Deephaven-based What A Gift!, a corporate and special occasion gift basket company, received a phone call in February 2002 that would forever change their business.
Simple Gourmet, one of their biggest competitors, made them an offer that was as tempting as the chocolates, cookies and other gourmet assortments that fill their executive gift baskets.

Simple Gourmet owner Margaret Tortorella Cronin left a message saying she wanted to discuss an opportunity, says Betsy Discher, who launched What a Gift! with Tauron Ferguson in 1999. That opportunity was acquiring Simple Gourmet.

?After we picked our jaws up off the floor, we called her back,? Discher says. The partners had never done a buyout before, and it certainly wasn?t in their business plan. However, they say it was an opportunity just too good to pass up. Continue reading →

St. Cloud Area: Old and new

When Granite City Food & Brewery searched for a location for its first microbrewery and restaurant, St. Cloud topped the list.

The city, about 65 miles northwest of Minneapolis-St. Paul, is a mid-tier market, CEO Steve Wagenheim and his colleagues figured, and often ignored as some of the better restaurant chains focused on bigger cities. ?We wanted to prove the strength of the concept in smaller towns and then work our way to major markets,? Wagenheim says.

?So they took a risk and decided that they would target St. Cloud,? says Av Gordon, an attorney at Briggs & Morgan in Minneapolis who does legal work for the publicly held firm. ?It?s been a wild success.? Continue reading →

Human Resources: What employees want

Remember the bad old hiring days of the 1990s? When positions went unfilled for months and small-business owners were always worried about star performers jumping ship to a place that could offer them a new car just for signing on?

Sure, those days are over. But creating a good, strong culture and keeping employees happy is still important.

Although it?s been proven that happy employees equal higher profits, it may seem too difficult to keep employees happy when your company is struggling through a recession. But many employees may be simply hanging on to their job until the economy improves, says Lissa Weimelt, co-president of Minnetonka-based The Hiring Experts Inc. Once things turn around, unhappy employees will jump ship quickly. Continue reading →

St. Cloud Area: Strength in numbers

The final blow came in 2002. After laying off workers in 1999 and 2000 from a peak of 4,500, Federated Department Stores wanted to close Fingerhut, at one time St. Cloud?s largest employer, unless a buyer could be found.

Business leaders sprang into action. They recruited buyers for the company, eventually enticing Tom Petters and Ted Deikel to buy and restart part of the catalog operations. Deikel and Petters are keeping the 1.2 million-square-foot warehoand shipping facility that Fingerhut built, says Tom Moore, president of the St. Cloud Area Economic Development Partnership. Fingerhut got a catalog out prior to the Christmas rush, and the new owners are planning a second catalog and may hire people. Continue reading →

Business Builders

Five critical things you can
do to find out if your site is loafing

While some "traditional" marketers suffer from chronic feelings of online inferiority, others have delusions of adequacy. Their companies' sites sit on the Internet, looking gorgeous, attracting hoots, like "Heeeyyy, nice-looking Web site," while budget leaks out onto the driveway. Continue reading →

Developing brand evangelists

Sometimes fleeting, often fickle, faith can be a funny thing. It measures what we believe, why we believe, and the depth of conviction we have for the things we believe in. Continue reading →

Using background checks before hiring

A pizza parlor hired a delivery driver. A few weeks later the police were called into a situation involving the assault of a 22-year old babysitter who had ordered out for pizza after putting the children to bed. She was beaten and nearly raped before screaming loud enough to scare away her attacker.

The victim named the pizza delivery guy as her assailant. The pizza parlor ended up paying more than a million dollars in damages because it had failed to do a background check on the driver. If they had, they would have learned that the driver had been jailed twice for sexual assault. Continue reading →

Securing credit for Small-Business

Like the old bank joke says, all you have to do to qualify for a loan is to prove that you don?t need the money. Many entrepreneurs, frustrated by the business loan application process, may suspect that there is some truth to the story. But by better understanding and preparing for the process, business owners can avoid frustration. Continue reading →


Bamboo receives the
Best of Show Award

Bamboo has snared the Best of Show Award for its Campiello Regional Poster Campaign in the HOW International 2002 Design Competition. Bamboo is a two-year-old Minneapolis design firm specializing in corporate and product brand identity development and packaging. Continue reading →

SimonDelivers.com Expansion

First, the online grocer will begin services to apartments in downtown Minneapolis, followed by accepting phone and fax orders, and finally the company plans to expand its delivery services beyond the seven-county metro area. SimonDelivers has 60,000 customers and revenue of $80 million. Continue reading →

MainStreet Cooperative Group
cuts members costs

MainStreet Cooperative Group is reaching critical mass since spinning off from its parent organization in late 2001. The group now has 13 affiliate members, most of which are cooperatives themselves, that comprise more than 1,600 members, nearly 2,000 locations, and aggregate sales topping $7 billion. Continue reading →


Nominations for the 2003 Tekne Awards began April 1, although the awards ceremony itself won?t take place until October 23. A new feature in the technology community?s night to meet?n?greet is the requirement that all nominations are made online. The annual event is once again co-sponsored by the Plymouth-based Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) and Minneapolis-based Minnesota Technology Inc. Continue reading →

Health Care

Small employers were socked with a 25.9 percent increase in HMO premium costs last year, while PPO premium costs increased 14 percent.

And because large employers negotiate their contracts earlier in the year while small employers must wait until the end, there was no time to adjust. ?The shock of the 25 percent was pretty critical for both sets of employers, but small employers basically had to eat it,? says Blaine Bos, a principal at Mercer Human Resource Consulting in Minneapolis. Continue reading →

Charter Solutions

Dee Thibodeau, CEO of Charter Solutions Inc. in Minnetonka, can be seen every year hosting several tables at the annual holiday gala for the National Association of Women Business Owners. Last year she held court wearing a fur-collared jacket. Continue reading →