Land O’Lakes and Grow North: a conversation with Lauren Pradhan

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - 12:15pm
City Girls

The team from City Girl Coffee, a Duluth based company that sources coffee from women-owned or women-managed farms around the world

North Mallow

Land O’Lakes employees sampling s’mores from North Mallow, maker of all-natural, gourmet marshmallows

Weber and Pradman

Morgan Weber, CSOM senior and MN Cup marketing strategist with Grow North Director Lauren Melher Pradhan


Jennifer Barta and Kira Bohmann from Land O’Lakes Dairy Foods Innovation

Grow North came together as an idea through the Carlson School of Management’s MN Cup, which is the largest statewide startup competition in the country. Learn more about Grow North and its partnership with Land O’Lakes in this conversation with its director, Lauren Mehler Pradhan:

Q - How did Grow North get started? The Food and Ag division is the MN Cup’s fastest growing division, and that rapid growth really drew the community together to start asking,  “How can we capitalize on this energy and accelerate growth?” Grow North got started thanks to Melissa Kjolsing of the MN Cup, who helped set the vision and gather support. Work began last summer and we’ve been moving quickly ever since.

Q - How can Minnesota's food and ag entrepreneurs benefit? Grow North enables them to grow and scale their businesses faster by acting as a resource and connection hub. We want to help them focus on what’s important: their business. Grow North makes it easy for them to find the resources and information they need to grow. For example, they have access to our new Resource Navigator database and library as well as programs and events that foster connections between entrepreneurs and experts.

Q - Why did Land O'Lakes sponsor Grow North?  We were fortunate to connect with R&D leadership at Land O’Lakes who were looking for ways to inspire entrepreneurial thinking in their teams—new ways to innovate and tackle challenges. By sponsoring us, Land O’Lakes saw an opportunity to support their community and work with entrepreneurs to spark new ways of thinking. So we brainstormed together: how can Land O’Lakes and entrepreneurs learn from each other? We looked for ways that everyone can win.

Q - How did Maker Mentors Market work?  Land O’Lakes sponsored our first Maker Mentors Market on January 27. Seven entrepreneurs had a chance to offer product samples and get feedback. They also were matched with specially selected employee mentors, who asked them questions like “What keeps you up at night?” Four entrepreneurs said that meeting with their mentors actually helped them solve a problem. One employee/entrepreneur pair continues to meet monthly. And 100 percent of the participating Land O’Lakes employees said they enjoyed the experience. This was a great start!

Q - With a global population of 9 billion by 2050, can Grow North help feed the world? Feeding the world will take creative minds and entrepreneurial thinking in both large and small companies as well as people working together. Grow North hopes to interstitch our food and ag ecosystem so it works harder and smarter together.

Read more about Grow North


CFANS-College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

CSE-College of Science and Engineering

CSOM-Carlson School of Management

ICA-Intercollegiate Athletics


The U of M is Minnesota’s skilled workforce