Startup Grind 2019: Our Top Takeaways from Airbnb, Google, ClassPass, Backstage Capital, Stripe and more

Startup Grind 2019


This past week, Laura and I attended a conference for entrepreneurs and startups in Redwood City, California called Startup Grind. With a mission to cultivate friendships and create a space for like minded people to share in their struggles and victories in their start-up journeys, Startup Grind has evolved into a massive community all over the world.

Startup Grind Core Values:

We believe in making friends, not contacts.

We believe in giving, not taking.

We believe in helping others before helping yourself.

The structure of their conference revolves around intimate interviews, Q+As, breakout sessions, and lessons from brilliant innovators, founders, CEOs, investors, and others whose work have forever changed the landscape of their industry - think Airbnb, LinkedIn, ClassPass, Stripe and more. There were also businesses that submitted to exhibit, taking the stage to do “quickfire pitches” in front of an audience of potential investors and fellow startup cohorts.

The knowledge and lessons we gained from this event were invaluable. There was an overload of information we consumed in these two short days and we wanted to share the key lessons we learned.

"Design for Startups," Garry Tan

Co-founder + Managing Partner of Initialized Capital

4 Main Pillars of Great Design:





Tan got right to the point - the pillars of great design are simple in nature. Clearly communicate what is is your do for your customers in a sensible design.

It doesn’t matter if you have the flashiest site with the most epic design elements - if you’re not immediately answering a customers problems, they will tune you out. You have about 15 seconds to make an impression. Do not be overly complicated in this moment. Be simplistic in copy. Be certain your value proposition is loud and clear.

A tip from AirBnb co-founder, Joe Gebbia, is to test out your value prop. If you’re a new business, ask your early adopters. Ask your your friends or family that are completely outside of your industry or know nothing about what you do navigate your website. Ask them if they understand what you do and the problems you're trying to solve. If they can't pick up on it in the first minute, it's time to reevaluate.

"Learning from Failure"

Levi King, Nav CEO and Founder

This guy was hands down, one of our favorite talks. He was HILARIOUS, honest and for someone as successful as himself, refreshingly humble and human.

Nav is a free way for business owners to manage their business credit and get streamlined access to financing . Before starting Nav, King has started and sold over 5 companies and continues to be a serial entrepreneur.

Our favorite key points:

  • Complete a personal 360 review. Ask your business partner, your coworkers, your friends, your family, everyone, to review your performance in work and how that affects your personal life. King points out that though you may not like a lot of what you'll hear, this kind of evaluation forces us to see when our egos / shortcomings / bad behaviors can negatively affect the people around us and in turn the success and function of our company, cohort or family.

  • Great companies aren't fueled by bosses controlling employees - great companies are fueled by people collaborating and respecting one another. If we look at one another as simply human beings, humans that simply want to be fulfilled, grow, be loved, our management issues aren't really so large.

  • Money and success do not give you any right to be any less human - especially in how you interact with others who may be on different paths in life. Respect is key.

“How to Build a Brand Like Google”

Lorraine Twohill, CMO of Google

We were a bit starstruck when this powerhouse of a woman came on stage. Whether you’re a Google fan or not, you have to admit they kill it in the brand / ad game. Many thanks to Twohill, an incredibly intelligent and creative pioneer for all women in male dominated industries.

If you watched the SuperBowl, you saw this ad featuring Google Translate. (And maybe even shed a tear? .. No.. just us? Okay).

In regards to this ad, Twohill explained the crucial balance between emotional storytelling and product selling, a strategy Google has molded into the foundation of all their advertising. In this particular ad, Google is “selling” their translate tool, but as Twohill reiterates, that’s not the purpose of this ad. The purpose is to help the audience feel something and create an emotional connection to the brand - which in turn will likely influence them in future purchasing decisions.


It can feel tempting to constantly push your work, your products or your services on your customers. But too much and you’ll lose the relationship. What we learned from Twohill was the importance of striking a balance between these two advertising strategies and how building a strong relationship with your customers is what makes a brand so strong.

“Breaking Rules While Breaking Ground”

Arlan Hamilton, Founder of Backstage Capital

After listening to Arlan's story on Gimlet's podcast "Start Up," founder Laura has been a huge fan. Arlan's approach to VC is shaking things up in an industry that certainly needs it. She invests in founders that have typically been ignored by venture - females and people of color. To Arlan, this is a giant missed opportunity in the market. We are so inspired by her work and drive to push change and diversity.  Check out her full talk below. 

There’s so much we learned at Startup Grind and we’re excited to reflect on what strategies we can begin to implement in our own business!

Galentine: The Best Gift For Your Gal Pal, Work Wife, Mom or Girlfriend

Photo Credit: NBC

Photo Credit: NBC

Valentine’s Day - for some, this day is filled with chocolate, flowers and romantic dinners. For others, this dreaded holiday can feel like a big sucker punch to the heart. What may be even better than Valentine’s Day is Galentine’s Day. Made popular by famous Leslie Knope (a personal hero of the M&P team) Galentine’s Day is the celebration of female friendships.

Our edition of the Galentine gift set is a collection of all things pink, tasty treats and good smells. While we created this set for a friend to friend exchange, the Galentine gift set works great for a myriad of relationships - your work wife, bestie that lives across the country, your mom who could use an extra “I love you”. Or, of course, gift it to your partner who’s really not into the whole flower-chocolate-dinner thing.

Pink Mini Binny 02.jpg

Let’s dive in!


Coconut Milk Mango Candle - Illume, @illumecandles

The most refreshing smell from one of our favorite local brands, Illume. This candle burns for up to 20 hours! Pro tip - once the wax has burned down, reuse the canister for storage on your nightstand or desk.

Coconut Milk Mango.jpg

Lip Sugar Scrub - Miss Violet Lace, @missvioletlace

For soft exfoliation and shea butter finish. A necessity for your lips in the dry, winter air. Based in southern Minnesota, Miss Violet Lace is natural, vegan and cruelty free beauty brand.

Cosmic Cocao - The Love Bar, @cosmiccacaompls

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Made with all natural, organic ingredients, like local honey, maca root, vanilla bean, rose petals and more, this chocolate bar is sure to give you all the right feels. Perfect to share with a coworker or enjoy as a late night dessert.

Top 4 Tips To Staying Productive When You Work At a Small Business

If you work for a small business, you probably wear many hats. Here at M&P, every day looks different. Though my own title is Business Development, you’ll likely find me peppering in a bit of writing, social media planning, art direction, managing vendor relationships and more. Though I believe this kind of diversity is beneficial as it forces our entire team to be well-rounded and equipped to help on a myriad of tasks, it can also be a bit stressful and challenging to finish our own work every day.

To help find balance and stay productive, I’ve outlined my top 4 tips to accomplishing it all below.

1) Set specific, clear Goals at the beginning of your day / week

At the beginning of each day, I set goals for what I want to accomplish. Over the years, I’ve realized what’s realistic and what’s not - i.e., don’t be too ambitious that you get discouraged by what you don’t finish. For example, here at M&P, we start our all-hands company meeting by setting 3 big goals. We then decide what smaller tasks fall out of the big goals and delegate who will complete what. By creating a clear picture of what we want to finish at the beginning of our day / week, we’re more likely to accomplish those goals and - bonus! - feel good about it.

M&P Pro Tip: If you feel your plate is too full yet a team member or manager keeps piling on tasks, don’t be afraid to speak up. It’s for the better of the business that you have the appropriate amount of time to finish to a project so you can produce the best work for the biz.

Know a team member who deserves a “well done” or “keep up the good work?” Send them a box full of goodies to keep their spirits high! Shop all our gift sets here.

2) Plan Your Schedule With Allotted Time Blocks

Maybe this is an obvious one, but I find the days I’m most productive is when I designate chunks of time to finish tasks instead of starting the day with no specific plan. This also prevents me from spending too much time on one item and ensuring I get to everything each day. Here’s an example day:

7-8:00 - Catch Up on Emails / Set Daily Goals

9-11am - Company Meeting / Weekly Plan / Social Media and Content

11-12pm - Online Orders

12pm - Lunch

1pm - 4pm - Custom / Corporate Orders and Planning

4-5pm - Inventory

By structuring your day ahead of time, you’ll know from the start that you have time for xyz so nothing will slip through the cracks or fall behind.

3) When In Doubt, Clean It Out

There are two scenarios where a desk cleaning rules above all else. 1) A creative rut or 2) I am so completely overwhelmed by the amount of to-dos I have on my list, I simply don’t know where to start and I’d rather abandon them all and make my desk look nice. Can anyone else relate? And while #2 may be a bit of an excuse to avoid actually working, I do believe it helps to clear my mind and by the time I sit back down, I’m ready to dig in.

Need a fun accessory to organize all your desk knickknacks? Check out our canvas binny - it’s a great storage piece for books, pens, glasses, plants and more.

4) Leave Room to Turn Off and Unplug

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One way to be most productive is to turn off and unplug. This may seem counter-intuitive, but we feel most invigorated and ready to tackle our work after a good nights rest, a yoga class or and a few hours away from our computers and phones. While we understand that sometimes in a small business this a lot easier said than done, we know that we produce some of our best work when we prioritize a balanced schedule.

If you don’t already, challenge yourself to put your phone and laptop away by 8pm every night. Notice how the rest improves your productivity the next day.

P.S. A great way to unwind after a long day? Our Pamper gift set including bath salts, body creme, a gardenia candle and more.

2018: A Year End Review + What's To Come

2018. What a year it’s been! Though no year comes without mistakes or challenging moments, this past year we grew in so many areas of our business and we’re really proud of what we accomplished.

From new collaborations, corporate expansion, to community partnerships, we wanted to share a bit of what we’ve been up to this past year and give you a few sneak peeks of what’s on 2019’s road map.

In no particular order, here are our top 10 moments of 2018.

Top 10 Moments of 2018

Corporate Catalog

For months, our team worked on building a gift catalog that would enable our corporate clients to more easily purchase gifts that would impress their customers. This guide features 18 brand new gifts sets with themes like “Coffee Addict,” “Happy Hour” and “Savory Foodie.” Our catalog was featured in Twin Cities Business. Shout out to our graphic designer Claudia for dealing with the many many iterations ;)

New Vessels: Binny & Oatmeal Paperboard Box

  • The Binny: We partnered with our friends at Byrd & Belle to craft this unique, reusable vessel. The binny comes in multiple sizes, colors and is adorned with a leather hook for hanging. It quickly became the most popular vessel choice among customers. Read more on its versatility here.

  • Oatmeal Paperboard Box: To up the ante, we decided to add another vessel option to our collection. Cue the oatmeal paperboard box. We sourced the box from a local Plymouth based business, Federal Industries. To add an extra special touch, we worked with Todd at Angel Bomb (just down the hall from our studio) to make a letterpress sticker detail on the box. He photographed the vintage map of the Twin Cities in our studio as the background.

LAB Collaboration

This past spring, we teamed up with local business, LAB, to create a unique line of hands-on creative kits. Curated by LAB, each kit includes a step-by-step guide, a locally made MN product and an M&P box or binny. We are currently sold out of these but working on getting these back to our customers!

Growing Team

As our business grew, our team did as well! This year, we hired a full-time Business Development Manager & Marketing Strategist, Annie Ketcham. We also grew our social media / design team with part time team members Claudia Dube and Jo Buckellew. There is not enough room here to describe how important these women are to the success of Minny & Paul.

Wayside Partnership

This was a big one for us. This past fall, we partnered with Wayside Recovery Center, a local treatment facility committed to breaking the cycle of addiction and trauma for women, children and their families. After a few meetings and brainstorming, we decided to partner through employment opportunities to the women at Wayside. To hire and empower women in our community has been one of our proudest moments at M&P. We look forward to our continued partnership.

Noteworthy Press

Every season we feel grateful to be featured in local press. This past year, we are humbled to have been featured in these awesome publications.

“Side Hustle To Empire” Panel - Public speaking can be scary - especially when it’s not something you feel comes naturally. But when Sarah Edwards and Bumble asked our founder, Laura to speak alongside the owners of Sota Clothing and Fly Feet Running (two kick ass businesses if you didn’t know,) about her experience growing a side hustle into a thriving, successful business, well she couldn’t pass it up. And wow, it was fun!

Studio Build out - Many of you know that we share a studio space with our gal pal and local artist Ashley Mary in the Northrup King Building. Over the past year, we’ve worked hard to fill it in and establish a home for our products, boxes, shipping materials, work space, meeting space and more. See some photos of how the space has evolved below.

Minny Maker Wall

With our friend and local creative / photographer, BethCath, we worked to design a space outside our studio that really highlighted our mission and gave anyone who walked into our space a clear picture of what we are trying to do -celebrate our community. We brainstormed, sketched, and installed our Minny Maker Wall in a matter of 2 weeks. All before Art-A-Whirl, a huge weekend long event that takes place in our building. The wall features a rotating set of local makers we are proud to work. Read more about the entire process here.


Expansion of corporate clients

This year, the corporate side of our business grew exponentially. We are proud to have worked with companies and brands like the Timberwolves, Bridgewater Bank, The Tile Shop, and more. We are excited to grow even more in 2019!


What’s to Come…

We’ve hit the ground running with huge goals for 2019. We will continue to serve our strong community by putting forward the highest quality goods across the state of Minnesota. We will be releasing a line of high end crates, a few more curated gift sets for new families, new pup owners and new jobs and milestones to celebrate. We will continue investing and growing into the custom side of our business by expanding our reach into new communities and verticals.

Focus Group

Are you interested in joining a focus group to help us further define our 2019 projects? We'll be talking products, themes, markets and more. Add your email below and we'll reach out with details! Focus group will be two hours long, take place at our studio in Northeast. Small gift provided.

Name *