Minnesota Business Venture, Session 2: Day 4 Empowerment Day, Sponsored by the Allstate Foundation

MBV’s concluding theme is Empowerment Day. Thank you to the Allstate Foundation for sponsoring the final day of camp. The Allstate Foundation works to empower all people to imagine — and achieve — better for themselves and their community. We can’t imagine a better sponsor of our Empowerment Day.


Throughout the week, students dared to dream by getting started on their MBV journey, they learned the importance of balancing values and financial goals, and they took steps to successfully prepare for their careers. Today, we empower students to reflect on their camp experience so that they can take everything they have learned and turn their dreams into actions. 

Final keynote speaker, Dionne Sims presented on how she turned her own “Dream Into Action.” Dionne is a queer, Minnesotan designer and founder of Black Garnet Books. After receiving her Bachelor’s in Communications from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, she dove into a career in User Experience Design before deciding to support her community by creating what was the only Black-owned bookstore in Minnesota during the Summer of 2020.

Sims has changed her dreams “multiple times” since she has graduated from college, but “honestly, it should.” Starting as a Communications major at the University of Minnesota, Sims found a new dream in User Experience Design. Looking back, Sims developed a three step framework to turn your dreams into action. 

  1. Say your dream OUT LOUD.
  2. Always keep your dream and reality side by side.
  3. Know that nothing happens without risk. Minimize risk by seeking help and advice from others!

To accomplish such a drastic shift in careers, Sims started turning her dream into action by first saying her dream out loud. In under 140 characters, Sims brought her dream of pursuing User Experience Design into the world with a single tweet. This tweet led to Sims enrolling in the Prime Digital Academy where she learned about User Experience Design and would go on to work with Fortune 500 companies only a month after graduating from the Prime Digital Academy. Never one to settle, Sims had accomplished her dream of a career in User Experience Design but found herself “dreaming of something else.” 

In another tweet, Sims asserted her new dream. This time, the tweet gained traction, going viral and led to the launch of Black Garnet Books, the first Black-owned bookstore in Minnesota when it launched in the summer of 2020. Having no business experience, Sims kept her dream and reality side by side. Despite “seriously” having “no business experience,” Sims persevered and found support to launch one of “the best dreams” she has ever had.


Sims encourages students to “lean into” the process of figuring out their dream. It takes time, “be okay with that, your dreams will come to you.” And with Sims’ three step framework for turning dreams to action, we are confident that students will be able to do just that.


Ask an Influencer! sessions are always incredible experiences to hear from changemakers making an impact in their field, but when you get TWO sessions in one day, that is really something special.


Today’s first influencer was Hart Johnson, Chief Operating Officer of TivoliToo. TivoliToo is a theming company that creates a wide variety of themed elements for many different industries including amusement parks, shopping centers, resorts, restaurants, stadiums, cruise ships, children’s hospitals and more. 

Johnson had numerous important pieces of advice for students. His first insight was for students to “get as much exposure” as possible “to as many different things” that they can. “You never know what it might be that inspires you,” and as young people there is still plenty of time and opportunity to keep exploring and broaden our horizons. When discussing his inspirations, Johnson said that “you just never know what you’re going to end up doing” but that “a business education was the best opportunity” because he was “able to take it and use it for something really, really fun.” He highlighted that “the nice thing about a business background … is that you can use it anywhere you want to.” Johnson’s emphasis on flexibility and having fun is a great point for students to keep thinking about. Finally, Johnson talked about the importance of being creative. “Creativity has a huge impact on the success of what you do” because “every day you’re faced with new challenges and new ways of having to think about things” and if you can remain creative and flexible, you will “figure out the best way to move forward.” 

Our second guest on our Ask an Influencer! segment was Melvin Carter, mayor of St. Paul. Mayor Carter helped end the day on a call to action. When sharing what inspired him to run for mayor, Mayor Carter shared that it was because of his belief that “St. Paul can be more than we really ever endeavored to be.” Now, in his role as mayor, Mayor Carter has focused on the inclusive economic development of St. Paul, lifting up underprivileged and underrepresented communities and serving as an inspiration to young people across the state. “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up” jokes Mayor Carter, but “that’s not really how the world works anymore,” it is not just about your occupation. “What do you want to learn about? What do you want to see? Who do you want your network to be? What’s the impact you want to have on the world?” Mayor Carter asks students to “think about those things just as clearly as ‘what do I want to be?’” Whatever direction students feel drawn towards, Mayor Carter says to “just get involved” in it and start making the impact they want to have on the world around them. 


Today marks the end of the MBV session two experience. Students have successfully pitched their business plans, many of them receiving full or partial investments, and are now left to celebrate their work. As MBV draws to a close on Empowerment Day, students have engaged with so many inspiring messages and have learned so much about themselves, the business world, and the importance of creating a meaningful life. 


Though this may be the end of MBV 2021 Session Two, this is not the end of the fantastic learning that has happened over the last four days. We encourage students to follow up with speakers, to stay in contact with all the friends they have made, and to pursue being a lifelong learner. For the students interested in continuing their business development, they may apply to return to MBV next summer as a CEO and lead their own company to success, or as a Communications Specialist where they will capture the MBV experience. These experiences are extremely formative and make for an unforgettable summer at camp. 


Thank you to our amazing program sponsors for making MBV an accessible program that serves as many students as possible. Thank you to all the BestPrep staff and student staff that made sure MBV was an incredibly rich experience that ran smoothly. And finally, thank you to our fantastic students who continuously bring their best to make MBV an environment where we grow, learn, connect, and succeed. Together, all parties involved have — in the words of Mayor Carter — made MBV “a family of people.” Thank you.