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Entrepreneurship, Faculty, Newsroom

Outside consultant: 4 tips for working with a retailer

UST Faculty regularly answer questions in the Star Tribune’s Ask The Consultant column. Here’s the most recent question. Ask your own question.

Board game inventors looking for a break
I created an award-winning board game a few years ago that teaches what it’s like to be a lawyer and run a small business. Anyone who plays the game says this should be in Barnes & Noble. How do you get a sit-down meeting with a large company? Sending marketing materials does not work. These companies are inundated with products. How do you separate yourself from the pack on a limited budget?

Tina Nelson, CEO, Professional Games Inc.

Mark Spriggs, Ph.D., associate professor and department chair of Entrepreneurship Department, offered 4 specific tips to increase your chance of success.

Ethics, Faculty, Local business, Media, Newsroom

Outside Consultant Round-up

UST Faculty regularly answer questions in the Star Tribune‘s Ask The Consultant column. Here’s a round-up of a few recent questions. Ask your own question.

How to find a reputable lawyer for a small business
What is the best way for a small-business owner to find a reputable lawyer? When you’re looking for trademark and intellectual property lawyers, what are some good criteria to help you find a match?

Amanda Feeley, owner, Esscentual Alchemy Continue Reading

Entrepreneurship, Faculty, Newsroom, UST MBC

Ask the Consultant

UST Faculty regulary answer questions in the Star Tribune‘s Ask The Consultant column. Here’s a round-up of a few recent questions. Ask your own question.

How to improve visibility on the Internet?
Being in the wig business since 1969, we have seen many changes in our business. We find the Internet the most challenging. To promote our website ( we have been doing search engine optimization and pay-per-click. We have tried in-house and freelance companies to do the work for us but we still feel we are not getting enough qualified leads. Any suggestions?


Read the answer from Mike Porter, director of the Master of Business Communication Program

How do I manage family members who work for me? Continue Reading

Entrepreneurship, leadership, Media, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

St. Thomas Class Project Warms Heads and Hearts

If you have a chance, check out Gail Rosenblum’s column in the Star Tribune describing some very thoughtful and enterprising students in our ENTR 200 “Foundations of Entrepreneurship” course.  The student project, Love Your Melon,  fits our mission of using business knowledge and skills to help make our world a better place.  This course, co-developed by Jay Ebben and Alec Johnson is also a finalist in a national entrepreneurship education competition sponsored by USASBE.

In talking to local Children’s hospitals, we heard that individuals and organizations donate hats to their cancer patients. Though appreciated, these hats are mismatched, all different sizes and made of a multitude of materials. With Love Your Melon we set out to give warm, colorful, 100% cotton hats to children going through the treatment process. To be able to give away these hats, we created the “buy one give one program,” selling hats identical to the ones that we are giving away. While sticking to the belief that products should be made in America and out of natural fibers, our colorful hats will brighten people’s days. Love Your Melon knit hats will be sold for $20 and $25 because of their attractive design and high quality. Included in that price, for every hat we sell, we will give one hat away to a child undergoing cancer treatment in one of the Twin Cities Area Hospitals.

With the terrible news about the shooting tragedy in the Connecticut grade school on Friday, our students’ project reminds us that many young people are working hard to make good things happen for children.  Our hearts go out to the families who suffered this unconscionable loss. We pray they will somehow find solace in their faith, but there simply are no words to add.

Christopher P. Puto, Ph.D.
Dean and Opus Distinguished Chair
Opus College of Business
University of St. Thomas

Faculty, Health Care MBA, Media, Newsroom

Ask the consultant: How to reward one person without causing team problems

In the Star Tribune‘s weekly “Ask the Consultant” column, Charles Tran of CreditDonkey asks about the best way to reward one member of a team without fostering a cutthroat work environment. Dr. Jack Militello, director of the Opus College of Business’ Health Care UST MBA program, says that ideally everyone on the team should understand the criteria for rewards, and then lays out some practical tips for making this happen.

Originally published: 09/02/2012 in the Star Tribune.

Newsroom, OCB Commentary, UST MBC

Strategic Planning: Use Strategic Planning to “Get the Word Out”

In a recent request from Kohnstamm Communications  for a response to the Star Tribune “Ask the Consultant” column, the inquiry came from someone with an online service attempting to “monetize” blogging with a “free” service.  While there may be a way to appropriately deliver such a service, the web site and offering of this company were amateurish, clunky and seemed a bit shady.  The question, however, was legitimate: How can I get the word out?

In this case, it needs to start with a legitimate product, service or mission (for you non-profit types).  That being established, define the audience.  For this recent request, the site appeared to be suggesting the service to a completely undifferentiated audience, and when you try to send a generic message to everyone, you get no one to listen.

So, once you’ve defined target audiences, before trying to “get the word out,” strategic planning would dictate that there must be something appropriate for the audience to visit once they hear about the “deal” and show up at your web site.  It’s not rocket science, but our questioner has a site that reminds me of the first ones we cobbled together by writing code line by line, using trial and error, back in 1994… seriously.  Depending on the audience and the offering, it may not take a sophisticated or complicated site to accommodate your persuasion and call to action, but it needs to at least look somewhat professional.

On the other end of the spectrum, Axl’s Closet put out an online coupon code in the middle of July good for $20 in free kid’s clothes – no additional purchase required, and free shipping.  Word got out!  However, the viral traffic nearly shut the site down, and made it very difficult to complete an order.  Do I know this from a news article?  No.  My wife was caught in the frenzy.  Still, even though many frustrated people now exist, how long can they stay mad at Axl for running out of free stuff.  Plus, the site has VERY cool products for kids.  Pricy, but cool.  Will we be back?  I bookmarked the site, which rarely happens anymore.

So, the key things about getting word of mouth happening for your online presence – have something worth talking about, and start the conversation with the right people.  That means people who represent active voices to your key audience, about things directly related to your offering.  Then, be prepared for prospects to arrive.  Unless you have the coolest stuff in the category, you may only get one chance.  Make it count.

Of course, explaining this in under 500 words over-simplifies things, a lot, but it highlights the core strategy.

Entrepreneurship, Media, Newsroom, OCB Commentary, UST MBC

Ask the consultant: How do I build a strong local customer base?

Question is an e-commerce site through which we sell brand-name uniforms for both the medical and restaurant industries nationally. My question is about winning the local market. It would be incredibly helpful for us to build a strong local customer base to help stabilize revenue and provide a platform to continue to expand nationally.

Unfortunately, this has proven much more difficult than I expected. Do the experts have any advice on tips to win local support?



If you want a local customer base, the first thing you need to do is create a “local” presence for your online business. That begins with some basic search-engine optimization (SEO) with the local market in mind. In doing a Google search for “scrubs Minneapolis” the first page lists seven resources — with street addresses (after the paid ads).

You could also use some help in overall search engine marketing, since searching “scrubs apparel” delivers a number of local businesses mixed in with online retailers, but Scrubadoo is not listed on the first six pages.

This post was originally published in the Star Tribune’s Ask the Consultant column, read the rest of the answer there.

Media, Newsroom, social media, UST MBC

Ask the consultant: Advice for creating a blog?


I’m a massage therapist with decent writing and technical skills. I’m considering a blog for marketing and educating clients about massage therapy. As a first-time blogger, what’s the best way to approach this project?

New Feeling Therapeutic Massage


As someone who has published a blog monthly since 1999, I understand the purpose of the blog you are suggesting — assuring you and your practice remain top-of-mind when clients need massage services. For the marketing-oriented blogger, start with two key elements: audience and content.

You need to know your target for a couple of reasons: how will your blog get in front of them; and what are their needs/interests (which leads to content). Continue Reading

Media, Newsroom, social media, UST MBC

Ask the consultant: Is Pinterest worth my time?

Q. I’ve noticed an explosion of interest in How can I determine if it is a worthy pursuit for the marketing of my business? Does it deserve resources that would otherwise be invested in other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter?

Albert Hepp
Buyself Realty Inc.

A. The dilemma you face regarding will continue to haunt businesses of all sizes as social media continues to evolve — something that likely won’t slow down anytime soon.
The foundational question you are asking really settles on whether committing resources to this new channel of communication is like getting on board early at Facebook or getting on early at Friendster. So, what to do? Continue Reading