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5 lessons from Mary Grove on fostering growth in Minnesota business

How to make Minnesota a place to start and grow a business

Recently, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce held its 2022 Women in Business Conference. Hundreds of women and men business leaders came together at the Mystic Lake Center to network, learn from one another and hear presentations from renowned speakers like Mary Grove.

Mary Grove is the Managing Partner ay Bread and Butter Ventures, a seed stage firm that is based in Minneapolis and invests nationally in what they believe are the bread and butter sectors of the modern economy like food tech, health tech and enterprise SaaS. Bread and Butter Ventures has invested in 60 companies to date. In Minnesota, they look to leverage the Minnesota Fortune 500 and large corporation backbone to support companies after they invest.

This background in helping drive business growth and entrepreneurship in Minnesota gives Grove insight into lessons business, start-ups and investors can learn to help businesses flourish in the state. 

Here are five lessons to help foster a culture of business creation and growth in Minnesota. 

1. Constraint breeds creativity

“When you are forced to bootstrap, because you have limited resources, amazing things can happen. This is the case in many of the very emerging markets that I worked in,” said Grove.

So how does this apply to Minnesota? In the past, capital in Minnesota was more difficult to access. 

“I have met so many teams here and invested in some that have literally bootstrapped their way from day one, up to $1-$2 million in annual revenue… It was difficult, challenging that they lacked the access, that the capital wasn't here. Now, fortunately for us, the funding environment is becoming much more developed here. And that's really, really good news, but it's to our advantage, that constraint breeds creativity,” said Grove.

2. In the global economy, everything is connected

“As we think about this from a Minnesota lens is think about your TAM, total addressable market. Think about your go-to-market opportunity as truly global from day one."

With a global economy, Minnesota has an opportunity to lean into its strengths in the global market. 

“Health, health care, food tech, ag tech, retail, we are a bar none, and we should take our place at the helm of leadership there,” said Grove. 

3. Investing in quality teams remains the number one determinant of success of a startup at an early stage

“It's all about investing in founders who are A+, who are then going to be investing, building, leading and scaling teams who are an 11 out of 10,” said Grove.

How does this apply to Minnesota? 

“We have a pretty exciting stronghold of talent here,” said Grove. “If you think about that base of Fortune 500 talent who could permeate between big corporation and startup, we have an amazing backbone of colleges and universities, and one of my questions in working with startups for the past few years, could we lean in, in Minnesota, to be the unique bastion of talent in areas that emerging companies are actually struggling to hire." 

4. Investing in diverse teams leads to better financial outcomes and leveling access to that participation field is one of the key drivers of economic growth

“U.S. companies founded by women have consistently exited faster than the broader VC market through acquisitions or going public with the median time of 6.7 years versus 7.5 years,” said Grove.

And Minnesota is a strong candidate to promote and invest in diverse teams.

“Minnesota is number two in the nation for labor workforce participation for women. We rank number two as a state for working moms and dads,” said Grove. “We have a lot of work to do still, but we have conditions here that are ripe for more equitable participation, which is really exciting.”

5. Create the right business culture

“Embracing a lack of fear of failure, providing really blunt and iterative feedback, shipping products early and often to get in the hands of real users that you are designing for," said Grove. "We see this in so many different markets where I experience this a lot abroad in emerging markets where founders would hold their idea close to the vest for two or three years and not want to share the idea because someone might steal it or they might replicate."

And this can be tangible advice in Minnesota, said Grove. 

"We have an opportunity to lean in a lot more here and again, as a business community, to be super direct and super blunt to ask for and provide candid feedback early and often to talk about celebrate the success of Minnesota and elevate us on the national and global radar," said Grove.  

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Interested in other Women in Business events?

Join us on December 7 for the Women in Business: Annual Legislator Luncheon. Enjoy stories of public service on the front lines from female legislators and state officials at your table – an annual favorite! Check back for details on the keynote speaker.