November 2005

Cover Story

Learning curve

Joe Keeley, 25, started with a student project that he?s working to build much, much bigger.

As a 19-year-old college student, he launched a successful summer nanny placement business matching college students with families. Around graduation, he attracted the attention of Minnesota businessman Peter Lytle.

Lytle, well known for business turnarounds and his 2002 bid for Fingerhut, was so impressed with Keeley?s business model that not only did he invest in Keeley?s company ? providing an infusion of much-needed capital ? but also partnered with him to design a bigger and better concept that expanded into tutoring.

Now, the pair are in the process of nationally franchising the Wayzata-based business ? called College Nannies & Tutors Inc. ? with plans of opening 200 locations in five years.

Keeley, president and CEO, says the business hasn?t always been smooth sailing. When he launched what was then called Summer College Nannies in 2001 during his sophomore year at the University of St. Thomas, he was running it from a hohe shared with a bunch of guys.

He says that wasn?t exactly conducive to running a company, especially one dedicated to kids. He also was balancing the life of a full-time student and business owner. Continue reading →

Letter From the Editor


Liza Minnelli is not only still standing, but she also can still belt out a song.

This astonishing fact was revealed to me in September, when I saw her in person at a benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina victims in New York City?s Gershwin Theater.

There she was, boot-cut pants showing off dancer?s legs, glittery swing coat concealing ponderous upper body, big eyes made huge with a pound of makeup. Backlit, and fronted by the opening to ?New York, New York? played by the Liza Minnelli Band, she started delivering her number.

And I thought: If Liza can keep kicking after everything she?s been through, so can Upsize, so can any growing company. Continue reading →

Back Page

Two years’ worth of owners, on what it’s really like to be in business

The advice of Monica Little, quoted above, seems particularly wise when one considers that she’s spent a good chunk of her lifetime, more than 25 years, being an entrepreneur. Despite her veteran status, or perhaps because of it, she believes that a rich life must include many experiences, pursuits and passions. She founded design firm […] Continue reading →


Dakota County: Listening ear

When Mendota Heights-based CPA Richard Schmitt needs to find answers to questions on workers compensation or employment law, he knows he can find ideas through other small-business owners he?s met through the Northern Dakota County Chamber of Commerce.

When Phil Brunger of Intellifeed Inc. needed assistance attracting highly skilled employees to the Rosemount-based company, he consulted with Joe Klein of the Department of Employment and Economic Development Division in West St. Paul. Continue reading →

Dakota County: Down South

If Joe Robbie had gotten his way, Dakota County would be a far different place than it is today.

In the early 1960s Robbie was the chairman of the Minnesota Municipal Commission, a government organization that had strong input on annexation issues.

Robbie, who eventually became the popular owner of the Miami Dolphins NFL franchise, believed bigger was better. He dreamed of one giant city consisting of what is now Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan, Inver Grove Heights, Lakeville and Rosemount.

Those six cities today make up the economic heartbeat of Dakota County, now the third most populous county in Minnesota. Continue reading →

Business insurance: Risk management

Just after Sept. 11, 2001, the stock market had gone south, which led insurance companies to charge more for coverage.

Furthermore, the number of claims and their monetary cost had skyrocketed at Driessen Culligan. The company?s rates had doubled, and the water purification franchisee in Northfield had become almost uninsurable.

After speaking with an insurance salesman, Dan Driessen, CEO, entered an unusual partnership with RJF Agencies Inc., an independent insurance broker that also works with companies to install safety measures, action plans and other strategies to reduce the risk and likelihood of future claims. Continue reading →

Business Builders

Customer relations

The person you've worked with for years at a large account suddenly leaves the company for a new position. So what happens to your relationship with the client company now? Continue reading →

Human resources

Who reads employee handbooks? A) No one. B) Human resource directors. C) Disgruntled employees looking for ammunition for a lawsuit. D) Good employees looking for clarification of rights or benefits.

Unfortunately, on any given day, any one of these might be true. The answer should be you, your managers and your employees. Continue reading →



Kris Sundberg, Lynn Nelson and Cathy Kennedy are familiar names on the local public relations scene.

Each most recently put in a few years as independent consultants, after careers variously in corporations, academia, government (Kennedy worked for Gov. Al Quie) and large public relations agencies, Continue reading →


The findings of Sherry Sweetnam?s new survey aren?t surprising: ?People are just overwhelmed with e-mail volume,? she says.

She operates Sweetnam Communications Inc. in Annandale, and had conducted training programs to help people deal with e-mail. But the findings were ?so clear and consistent, I decided I needed to focus on that.? Continue reading →


This year is the first that business owners can take the so-called made-in-America deduction. It offers a tax deduction on income of eligible companies that produce goods in the United States. Continue reading →


The voyageurs on the St. Croix a couple of hundred years ago were hard-working, hard-drinking and short ? so their legs didn?t get cramped on long canoe journeys, says Suzanne McGann. Continue reading →


Sally Macut and Kathy Brown Zerwas employed their high-powered corporate backgrounds when setting out to buy a business. They closed April 1 on the purchase of Designer Sign Systems in Blaine, a $3-million maker of signs with about 20 employees. Continue reading →

Dear Informer

Here’s how to track return from marketing efforts Continue reading →

2-minute meeting

GeigerBevolo celebrated its 10th anniversary with a swanky party at the Fine Line Music Caf? in downtown Minneapolis this summer. Scott Geiger and Chris Bevolo founded the marketing firm in 1995. Continue reading →


Commercial Real Estate Brokers Preventing Depreciation

Investors usually rank appreciation as a top financial benefit to owning commercial real estate. But for a limited time, depreciation can also reap some economic rewards, especially for owners planning or pursuing renovation of their properties.

A little-known tax provision, which expires at the end of the year, allows owners to write off depreciation on many building improvements over a shorter period: 15 years, rather than the usual ? and some owners would say too long ? 39 years. During tax season, such sped-up depreciation means property owners pay less in taxes or get a refund check from Uncle Sam. Continue reading →