Twin Cities Rising

Twin Cities Rising highlights diverse women-led businesses with culturally-responsive educational products and services that promote literacy, wellness, and social-emotional development. In partnership with Prudential Cares, these founders are building a new, more authentic narrative around the vibrancy and diversity of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

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Businesses in Twin Cities Rising

Eboni Bell

Dream Girl Box

Black-Owned Subscription Box Focused on Youth Empowerment

Brook LaFloe

Niniijaanis

Social Enterprise for Indigenous Children

Artika Tyner

Planting People Growing Justice Bookstore

Black-Owned Bookstore Focused on Leadership

Erika Quezada

Lotus Life & Wellness Coaching

Wellness Coaching and Consulting Practice

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Dream Girl Box

Eboni Bell

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Niniijaanis

Brook LaFloe

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Brook needs your help to take Niniijaanis to the next growth level. Explore the challenge below by clicking the icons and interacting with the content. Provide any feedback in the comment box and please rate the experience.

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Planting People Growing Justice Bookstore

Artika Tyner

Challenge: Pitch in with PPGJ Bookstore

Artika needs your help to take PPGJ Bookstore to the next growth level. Explore the challenge below by clicking the icons and interacting with the content. Provide any feedback in the comment box and please rate the experience.

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Lotus Life & Wellness Coaching

Erika Quezada

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Erika needs your help to take Lotus Life to the next growth level. Explore the challenge below by clicking the icons and interacting with the content. Provide any feedback in the comment box and please rate the experience.

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Origin Story

Dream Girl Box

Dream Girl Box means everything to me because I created what I would have loved as a young girl. As a child, I was always a big dreamer. Whether it was going door-to-door to sell handmade bracelets or greeting cards, I was always trying to make someone’s life happier, while making a dollar. I watched my single mother, as she ran her own insurance company for over 30 years. I admired her strength, her determination, and her drive. The character, leadership, and entrepreneurial skills that I gained from my mother are the same skills that we share in the Dream Girl Subscription Box.

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Business Basics

Founders

Eboni Bell

Founding Date:

2018

Geo

Saint Paul

Identity

Black / African American Woman-Identified Multiracial

Solution

Product

Impact Area

Youth & Education

Advising Needs

Business Models and Financials Growth, Scaling, and Investments Marketing and Communications

Problem:

Dream Girl Box is providing a source of empowerment and inspiration for girls, ages 6-16, who want to be connected to a community of dreamers and doers. We provide a point of connection between a parent and a child in order to strengthen relationships. We are helping to build female leaders by teaching character and leadership skills.

Solution:

We provide a quarterly subscription box, including a social emotional learning book series, an inspirational tee shirt, kid-created items, and other useful products for girls, ages 6-16. We also provide a community of ambassadors, comprised of girls all across the nation, who encourage, empower, and inspire each other to dream BIG! In addition, we provide access to our Dream Nation community, which provides monthly virtual programming, reiterating the social emotional themes of the boxes.

Market:

Our target market consists of parents, grandparents, mentors, and entities, such as non-profits, foster care agencies, and schools. We serve those who need a unique, educational, and fun resource to connect with girls, ages 6-16, in the United States and abroad.

Traction:

Thus far, we’ve shipped to over 600 homes all over the nation, and subscribers stay with us for an average of 130 days. We currently serve 100+ families with our quarterly box. Also, we’ve worked with 3 Title 1 schools to provide products and programming, and we've implemented our Dream Nation Programming into a Saint Paul Public School. We have partnered with a global non-profit, She Saves a Nation, to provide boxes to refugee girls in Kenya, Africa. We've donated nearly 1,000 boxes and hygiene products to girls over the past two years. We’ve participated in the Shark Tank Diversity Tour, making it to the second round; we were the Burnsville Business Pitch Competition Winner; and we’ve been featured in Black Parent Magazine, Women Own Excellence Magazine, WCCO Back to School Feature Story, and Minnesota Business Review. We are also a Ramsey County Small Business Grant Recipient. Our most recent win is that our Founder, Dr. Eboni Bell, will be speaking at the Subscription Box Trade Association Conference, sharing stories about the many partnerships she’s been able to establish to empower youth across the nation. We have an email list of nearly 2,000 people, a social media following of nearly 7,000, and an ambassador program of over 50 young girls across the nation.

Origin Story

Niniijaanis

My baby brother was the first Montessori kid in our family, and he inspired my mother to open a Native Montessori school. Then, they both inspired me to start the business - Niniijaanis One of Ones - to bring culturally relevant learning to early childhood educators and families.

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Business Basics

Founders

Brook LaFloe

Founding Date:

2020

Geo

Saint Paul

Identity

Indigenous / Native Woman-Identified

Solution

Creative

Impact Area

Youth & Education

Advising Needs

Business Models and Financials Growth, Scaling, and Investments Operations and Administration

Problem:

Niniijaanis seeks to address early childhood disparities in Native communities across Minnesota through educational redesign and equity.

Solution:

We create, sell, and give away culturally-relevant learning materials and curriculum, and fundraise with our one-of-a-kind handmade items. Currently, we sell online but we are ready to hit the road - literally by pairing our products with statewide educational services through our Niniijaanis War Pony! We launched a crowdfunding campaign to purchase and refurbish a van / mini bus, our "War Pony," to transform into a dual purpose mobile learning environment / store so we can directly serve families and communities.

Market:

Our target market consists of early childhood educators and families throughout Minnesota, especially those working with Native populations. Products can be used in the home, in early childhood settings, at schools, on the go, etc. We know there is a need for us to expand beyond our products by pairing them with additional educational services including home visits, family nests, curriculum consultations, teacher trainings and arts-educational workshops to teach how we make some of our products.

Traction:

We are a grassroots collective that established ourselves as an LLC after our pilot grant sunset. We measure our success through a traditional Anishinaabe cultural practice with our Niniijaanis giveaways. We track our sales and fundraising efforts to donate as many Niniijaanis items as we sell in order to create access to culturally relevant learning materials.

Origin Story

Planting People Growing Justice Bookstore

As a civil rights attorney, many of my clients learned how to read while in prison. I desired to interrupt cycles of incarceration by focusing on promoting literacy and diversity in books. Through the transformative power of reading, our community can gain the valuable tools to create, reimagine, and build a more just and inclusive society.

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Business Basics

Founders

Artika Tyner

Founding Date:

2017

Geo

Saint Paul

Identity

Black / African American Woman-Identified

Solution

Product

Impact Area

Race & Equity

Advising Needs

Business Models and Financials Marketing and Communications Vision and Strategy

Problem:

There is a reading crisis among Black children. On national tests last year, only 18% of Black fourth-graders scored proficient or above in reading. Fourth-grade students who are not reading at grade level are four times more likely to drop out of school. Nearly nine-in-ten (85%) children in the juvenile justice system are illiterate.

Solution:

PPGJ Books addresses the reading crisis among Black children and the failure of the industry to support BIPOC authors on two fronts: PPGJ Bookstore provides Black children books that help them discover joy in reading. PPGJ Publishing focuses on working with diverse authors and training the next generation of publishing professionals. PPGJ Books specializes in the creation, promotion, and distribution of books written by BIPOC authors.

Market:

The bookstore gathers, merchandises, promotes, sells, and distributes books by BIPOC authors to Black young readers through their families, schools, libraries, and community members committed to supporting literacy among children of color. The bookstore, its authors, and titles are promoted on its website, through its e-newsletter, and on social media. We also are an affiliate of Bookshop where we share monthly top book picks.

Traction:

We have spent the past three years raising awareness about the importance of Black books, advocating to end the literacy gap, building partnerships, and gaining national brand recognition. We have had 5,491 unique visits to our website and e-commerce site (2020-21), 5 published books in our PPGJ exclusive collection, and 10 Black authors have been supported. We have partnered with 17 retail partners to increase sales and customer engagement. In 2020, we opened a physical store in partnership with a local barbershop and community hub, Gideon CC.

Origin Story

Lotus Life & Wellness Coaching

As a first generation immigrant in this amazing country, I found myself feeling lost navigating the mental health system in an unfamiliar language. I was disappointed at the lack of wellness and preventative tools / modalities available for Spanish-speaking individuals in search of a mind-body-spirit connection. These experiences inspired me to choose a career in the behavioral health field and to continue to learn. Most recently, I opened Lotus Life & Wellness, a wellness and consulting practice focused on serving the most vulnerable by helping them live better lives, reach new levels of success, and find lasting happiness in their own language and in a culturally sensitive environment.

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Business Basics

Founders

Erika Quezada

Founding Date:

2018

Geo

Minneapolis

Identity

Hispanic / Latino / Latinx Woman-Identified

Solution

Service

Impact Area

Health & Food

Advising Needs

Growth, Scaling, and Investments Marketing and Communications Vision and Strategy

Problem:

I'm addressing the lack of coaching, training, and consulting services for the Spanish-speaking community of the Twin Cities.

Solution:

By providing bilingual (English / Spanish) services in a unique and holistic approach to health and wellness, I am addressing the needs of the Spanish-speaking population (individuals / businesses) who are interested in transforming their lives and the lives of those around them through education, coaching, personal development workshops, and corporate wellness days.

Market:

I am mainly serving small business / community health organizations such as libraries, community agencies, and schools (80% of my clients are women; many of my clients are parents; and almost all speak Spanish or are bilingual (English / Spanish). Although I started with a brick-and-mortar location, I now provide most of my services online and it’s going better than ever. Most of my clients are word-of-mouth or referral-based.

Traction:

In the last two years, I have earned the trust and confidence of many organizations for which I’ve had the honor of working with. (Waukegan Public Library, Highwood Public Library, Del Valle Migrant Head Start, Vista Cancer Center, among others). Most recently, I was invited to submit a proposal for a mental health educational project in the Spanish-speaking community, and I was granted the opportunity to do a needs analysis, create the curriculum, and present via Facebook Live weekly topics on mental health and wellness. I’m growing my social media presence by sharing quality information (social media is an area that I’m still working on). My goal is to increase my revenue to at least $60K in the next two years.

Funding & Impact

How we'll use it

Operational Expenses (25%)

Marketing Materials and Services (25%)

Conference Attendance (50%)

Our biggest challenge is more funding to hire more staff in order to scale. With more staff, we can expand our programming, product offers, and marketing efforts. The vision is rich and profound and having the funding to support more staff will be the game changer for Dream Girl Box.

Funding & Impact

How we'll use it

Minibus Equipment (50%)

Artists / Educators (25%)

Operations (25%)

Funds would be used to support the War Pony Campaign. The War Pony is an innovative idea to prepare communities to battle educational disparities in our own Native and tribal communities across Minnesota with our youngest learners by making a culturally relevant mobile model.

Funding & Impact

How we'll use it

Book Production (65%)

Sales & Marketing (10%)

New Staff Hires (25%)

Funds collected in the campaign will be used to help scale PPGJ Press and Bookstore. PPGJ will use the funds to produce a new book and develop a virtual learning academy. We are also seeking support with our strategy, marketing, and business model in order to reach our goals: within the next 12 to 24 months, PPGJ Books plans to increase its number of writer workshops / webinars from 2 to 10, add 10 new authors, publish 15 new titles, and add 20 new retailers. The bookstore plans to increase its offerings by 50 titles, add 200 customers to its database, and increase its monthly sales to $2,000. PPGJ Books is planning to expand its offerings to include audio and digital books which will increase its average sales transaction from $21 to $54.

Funding & Impact

How we'll use it

Marketing (30%)

Technology Enhancements (30%)

Supporting New Hires (40%)

I need guidance and resources to effectively reach more individuals and businesses in order to grow and scale Lotus Life & Wellness. Marketing and communications have always been important, but I need someone to show me the strategies that work and step-by-step instructions on how to do it. As Lotus continues to grow and evolve, a clear vision and strategy will also be vital for the success of the business.