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3 Minnesota Millennials Making A Difference

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Forbes recently ranked the Twin Cities in the top 10 for Millennials to live and work.

The metro area has ranked high on many lists for Millennials. That list, however, includes unemployment. Minnesota is fifth in unemployment for young professionals behind the Dakotas, Utah and Nebraska, according to a Joint Economic Committee Report led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Unemployment for young prime age workers:

North Dakota: 3.7 percent
South Dakota 4.3 percent
Nebraska: 4.5 percent
Utah: 4.8 percent
Minnesota 5.4 percent

So, whether it's wood, the world wide web, or helping a client with their latest "look," WCCO This Morning's Ali Lucia profiles three Minnesota millennials, all in their 20s, making a difference.


First, we take you to northeast Minneapolis, where Atlanta transplant Melissa Taylor was finally ready to get out on her own.

"We're not like our parents. We don't feel like we have to be in the same job for "x" amount of years or be loyal to one company" Taylor said.

She moved to the Twin Cities to work for Target after college.

"If something isn't working for us, we kind of create our path and make it work."

Four years later, she left Target to open Beauty Lounge, where there are now three full-time employees.

"I think with doing hair, trust is really important," Taylor said.

She sees clients young and old, including one in her 80s.

"Once people trust you, they will vouch for you. People love writing good reviews and they love to feel they're supporting your business," Taylor said.


Pollen, a website for civic-minded residents who share personal stories in the Dakotas and Minnesota, just moved into a new office as they make plans for expansion.

Texas transplant Jamie Millard, who's now used to Minnesota winters, oversees the business.

"I still remember walking around the U of M and hearing this crunching around my feet, that's the weirdest sound," Millard said, recalling her first Minnesota snowfall.

Look around her work space and you can see the bright colors make it an attractive spot for young professionals. Millard does everything from managing the company's books to making the decisions.

She called social media critical to the company's success.

"It's a really important piece of how our members communicate with each other and with the organization," Millard said.


For University of Minnesota graduate Ben VandenWymlenberg, his idea of wood iPhone covers took off after he received his diploma. That's when he started WoodChuck.

"We were first in campus book stores, Target, Best Buy, and we were aiming it at the wrong demographic," VandenWymlenberg said. "We were aiming it at college students."

After wanting to stay true to their made and manufactured in the USA and Minnesota brand, he pulled the product from big corporate retailers and focused on more personalized product and corporate gifting.

"When we decided to pull our company from Target and Best Buy we needed to focus on where we wanted this company to go, not where retail dictates," VandenWymlenberg said.

It turned out to be a great business decision. The small start-up now has 15 employees and works with behemoths like Facebook, General Mills and he is back working with Target and Best Buy.

"Maybe naïve attitude helped us in the long run still a start-up environment. We're still working all the time," VandenWymlenberg said.


All three of the businesses showed signs of growth heading into 2015. Pollen plans to add at least one full-time, four part-time and 50 freelancers. Woodchuck is focusing on a more direct push for corporate gifting and just recently partnered with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Beauty Lounge just moved into her northeast Minneapolis location and Taylor thinks it will help her cliental expand.

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