The self employed dream

We’ve been looking and thinking recently about entrepreneurs in Minnesota.


We wanted to try to keep that discussion going and wanted to hear from Minnesotans who’ve taken the leap. They’re self employed. Some are rolling the dice as older entrepreneurs in a recession.

None of it’s easy. Many of the sources in MPR’s Public Insight Network who responded to our query on entrepreneurs weren’t making a ton of money from their independent gig and still held on to a job that could pay the bills.

(Tell us your story.)

“I have an office management business but currently have no clients. I also raise German Shepherds dogs but can’t afford to buy a new male so there are puppies,”

said Suzette Riches, a Network source from Holloway in western Minnesota.

“I work one day a month as a finance manager for a manufacturing company,” she added. “Without social security and unemployment, I would not be able to live.”

Click on the map icons below to read what dozens of other Minnesotans told us about the dreams and realities of being self-employed.

Philip Lacher of Brooklyn Park told us about working full time while trying to pursue his wood carving passion as a small business.

After I came back from Iraq I really delved into my wood carving as a hobby. I had been carving since the age of 12 when my grandmother taught me. However, it really helped me with my transition back to civilian life in that I was able to relax and focus on creating something, rather than breaking/destroying something.

During my transition, someone stated that many vets coming home start their own businesses, because they want to be in control of their own work lives, rather than doing some other person’s bidding. Someone in my family suggested I start selling my carvings, so going online was the logical next step. It required very little in terms of start up costs, as I already had most of my tools already.

This business does not sustain me, but really helps support my wood carving. My dream job would be to open up a shop on the North Shore and carve full time. However, with the economy the way it is I really have no illusions that someone buying something artistic is much lower on the totem pole.

There’s been a healthy discussion lately about how entrepreneurial we really are in Minnesota.

Much of that discussion, though, has been tied to high tech business creation. Minnesota has a new “angel tax credit” providing tax incentives to investors willing to take a risk on high tech start-ups.

But should we paying more attention and doing more to support the entrepreneurs that are helping rebuild the economy but don’t have the sexiest business?

A lot of the folks we’ve heard from are people with great plans who might not get the attention they deserve. People like Chuck Waibel from Milan.

“We run a winter-only CSA (community sponsored agriculture business) operated out of a special greenhouse that I designed,” he wrote us.

My wife still has a full-time job, and I two part-time ones. In the next few years we intend to transition to complete self-employment.

Our business is unique, offering fresh Minnesota vegetables in the winter. We also have published a book on our efforts, and have spoken widely in the Mid west and Canada on our techniques.

We plan to greatly expand our efforts- it’s just a matter of time, funding and effort.

Why’s he doing it?

“We saw a need that wasn’t being met,”Waibel said, “and realized that it was our task to meet it.”

But “everything, from insurance to supplies, assumes that a person is in effect indentured to some big corporation,” he added. “We can work around this, but it’s annoying.”

Tell us what you’re seeing when it comes to small business, entrepreneurs and the self-employed dream. Post below or contact us directly.


The research group EMSI. recently looked at the number of micro businesses by state for 2007. Here’s their graphic showing the states with the greatest and smallest percentages of micro (fewer than 10 employees) and small businesses (click on the graphic for a larger view).


Minnesota came in with 72.6% micro businesses, just below the national average.

  • Reuben

    a lot.

  • Leatrice Dalby

    Apple now has Rhapsody as an app, which is a great start, but it is currently hampered by the inability to store locally on your iPod, and has a dismal 64kbps bit rate. If this changes, then it will somewhat negate this advantage for the Zune, but the 10 songs per month will still be a big plus in Zune Pass’ favor.