Welcome to our new blog suitably titled Made in Minnesota where we will explore different Minnesota-based businesses and learn some helpful tips along the way! The blog format will be a Q&A, conversational style that allows you as the listener to lean in and get to know some great Minnesota business owners on a personal level. You will hear stories of big dreams turned reality, obstacles encountered and how they were overcome, things business owners would love to go back in time and change and fun little tidbits you wouldn’t otherwise be privy to! Sound like fun? Pull up a chair and get ready to meet Winnie!
Today’s featured Minnesota business owner is Winnie, co-founder of ChopRoom, located on Hennepin Ave South in Uptown.
Q. We would love to hear a little bit about how ChopRoom got started!
A. Sure! I grew up in the food industry. My dad had a successful business in the industry and I learned a tremendous amount from him. I went on to spend 10 years as an event producer and 10 years in the Air Force. My business partner, Jay Schultz, has been in corporate for over 15 years. At one point, he was attending a leadership conference for his company, and they were given access to the kitchen of a restaurant. Their challenge was to make anything – work with their teams and create a dish with any ingredients in that kitchen. The event was a huge success and everyone loved it. Between our love of cooking and the growing need for team building activities, we knew we could make a go at this. We have been in business since April of 2017. We had our soft opening in July and our grand opening in August.
Q. So when a group comes to ChopRoom what can they expect?
A. Round 1 is the appetizer round. Round 2 is the entrée round. At the start of each round each team is given a basket with three mystery ingredients and access to a pantry full of fresh food. The teams have 30 minutes to create an appetizer that is judged on presentation, complexity, flavor and creativity. Then they get a new basket of mystery ingredients and another 30 minutes to create an entrée judged on the same criteria. An event at ChopRoom typically takes 2-3 hours from start to finish. Our clients range from corporate employees to birthday parties to guys/girls night out groups.
Q. As you reflect, do you think you were destined to start ChopRoom?
A. Absolutely. It combines the team building experience I gained in the Air Force and corporate world, my childhood cooking industry exposure and my event planning experience.
Q. What do you find most challenging about the business you’re in?
A. Doing things on a non-existent budget! But I do feel like I’m exactly where I need to be.
Q. What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in your business and what did you learn from it?
A. Boy, I have to wear a lot of hats at the same time –sales, human resources, accounting…But it is through this process I’ve really learned the importance of asking for help. My dad often helps me out and I know I can lean on him when I need advice. He really seems to enjoy being involved with ChopRoom.
Q. If you could start your business all over again what is the number one thing you would do differently?
A. I would be more proactive with my marketing efforts. The way it is, we didn’t really start marketing until the soft opening in July. I would go back in time and get the word out earlier – that way there is a crescendo of awareness, excitement and anticipation leading up to the grand opening.
Q. Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of juggling. How do you stay focused or re-focus when necessary?
A. I rely on my business partner, family, and a close circle of friends to keep me focused. They’re good at helping me separate what’s truly important from the small stuff that’s easy to get too wrapped up in.
Q. If you only had $500 to spend on your growing business where would you spend your money?
A. I would absolutely spend it on marketing. I would call a marketing expert and ask them what to do with the money to make the biggest impact.
Q. Technology is revolutionizing how we do business. What’s your favorite app or software tool that you use at ChopRoom?
A. Honestly I’m kind of a grandma when it comes to technology! I like Yelp for Business and all my mobile apps.
Q. Here’s a fun question for you…if you could start any business today what business would you open?
A. Can I say that I would open ChopRoom all over again?! It’s so fun, new and fresh and it’s so rewarding to watch my clients have fun!
Q. What’s the best advice you would give a new business owner?
A. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it, whatever it is. Surround yourself with people who believe in YOU even if they don’t necessarily believe in your business venture.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Winnie, and for a behind-the-scenes peek into all the good stuff you’re cooking up at ChopRoom!
If you‘d like to learn more about ChopRoom you can visit them online at www.ChopRoom.com.