October 2005

Cover Story

Practical visionary

There was liquid laundry detergent all over the floor.

The day before Thanksgiving, 2001, Products Inc. of Minneapolis faced one of its worst moments.

The company markets environmentally friendly cleaning products made from biodegradable, nontoxic plant ingredients such as soy, orange, coconut and corn.

It also operates ?refill stations? in grocery stores that allow customers to refill their bottles so they don?t end up as waste.

Four years ago, one of these refill stations exploded all over the floor of one of its premier clients, Whole Foods, the day before the biggest shopping day of the year. ?They weren?t happy,? recalls Laurie Brown, the firm?s founder and president. ?But they didn?t kick me out of the store.?

In fact, since that stressful day the manager of that Whole Foods, located in St. Paul at 30 S. Fairview Ave., has done a testimonial for Products. Continue reading →

Letter From the Editor


I talked to two local CEOs in the same business, selling meals that customers assemble themselves, who are taking opposite routes. Their stories, in this month?s Informer, present a rare opportunity to consider a common entrepreneurial debate. Continue reading →

Back Page

How Joe Heron, Ardea Beverage, tries to create a worldwide brand from soda pop

The idea: a soda to boost people?s immune systems so they wouldn?t get sick on airplanes. The company: Ardea Beverage Co. in Hopkins, selling Nutrisoda to relieve stress, boost energy, increase focus and more to spas, restaurants and high-end hotels. Joe Heron, president and CEO, says the company will hit $3 million in sales its first full year, an impressive amount for any new company but just a blip in the beverage market, he says. Continue reading →


Benefits trim

A new section of the federal tax code, 409a, governs the deferred compensation plans that are popular among small businesses. Everything from bonus plans to phantom stock to severance agreements need scrutiny to comply by December 31. Wendy Citron, an employee benefits expert with Halleland Lewis Nilan & Johnson in Minneapolis, explains. Continue reading →

Rural revival

Though he grew up on a farm, Donny Smith was fortunate enough to be exposed to leading-edge technology at a young age.

He got his first teletype terminal, a screenless predecessor to the personal computer, as a high-schooler in the 1970s. On it, he accessed the DARPAnet, an early government-created network from which the Internet evolved.

?As crude as it was, it was state-of-the-art back then,? says Smith.

Now, as CEO of Owatonna-based Jaguar Communications, he wants to make sure other rural kids have that same early flirtation with new technology. But most are merely playing catch-up to their urban peers, who?ve been surfing the Web and dabbling in digital for years, he says. Continue reading →

In or out?

Trying to prevent adhesions after endometriosis surgery? Contact Inlet Medical Inc. and someone at the company can probably help. Need to figure out how to treat uterine prolapse or retroversion? The medical device company specializes in minimally invasive laparoscopic products.

But if you?re looking for advice on the best way to pay employees or handle your Cobra insurance, you?ll probably have to go elsewhere. Continue reading →

Business Builders

How to distinguish smart coverage from superfluous

A few years ago, there was a supermarket tabloid article touting an exciting new insurance service. For a monthly premium of $15, parents could purchase a ?child replacement policy,? an innovative new approach to the problem of child theft and skyrocketing ransom demands. Continue reading →

Factoring can bridge cash gap for growing firms

When businesses become pressed for money, they generally turn to banks for loans or perhaps they look to borrow money from family and friends.

However, what happens when you have no collateral to support a bank loan or perhaps family and friends are unable to lend money to fund new business or new equipment you might need? Continue reading →


Keeping up with new technology options may seem daunting to busy business owners, but thinking hard about how best to use technology within your organization can yield big returns: Costs are lower, employees are more productive and management is more informed. Continue reading →



Sociale Gourmet opened in August its third location, in south Minneapolis. That followed by a couple of months the opening of its second location, in downtown Minneapolis. Continue reading →

Real estate

The fight to build the Lagoon project in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis is the toughest of his career, says Stu Ackerberg, president of the Ackerberg Group. Continue reading →


The new Roth 401(k) has people in the employee benefits business talking. Authorized by Congress in 2001, but scheduled to start Jan. 1, 2006, it works like a traditional 401(k) but money goes in after-tax, not pre-tax. Continue reading →


The founders of Let?s Dish! have raised $4 million from private investors for a national expansion that comes just in time to beat circling competitors, co-CEO Darcy Olson says. Continue reading →

‘Birthing of Giants’ program for growth

John Folkestad, co-owner of Salo LLC in Minneapolis, is a big believer in education for entrepreneurs.

He is one of 60 and the only Minnesotan in the class of 2007, for the ?Birthing of Giants? program, sponsored by Inc. magazine, Young Entrepreneurs Organization and MIT. Continue reading →

Dear Informer

You can glean competitors’ price info honorably, Informer learns Continue reading →

2-minute meeting

?Ten years ago, the Internet was just a twinkle in Al Gore?s eye,? joked Stuart DeVaan, CEO of Implex.net. Now companies can use it to deliver information to more and more targeted audiences. Continue reading →


Attention to detail trumps courtroom bluster, owners say

Although Hollywood portrays the best lawyers as purple-faced, fist-pounding litigators, the true test of a great lawyer is whether he or she can prevent such courtroom drama scenes, say small-business owners. Continue reading →