General Division Winner

Go Home Gorgeous
General Division Winner

Each year, Americans spend $7 billion on supplies for babies and lavish attention on pregnant women. But what about the exhausted, sore, and anxious new mother who just gave birth? Rachel Swardson, a mom of three, knows what it’s like to feel achy, overlooked, and overwhelmed in a sterile hospital room, and she turned her yearning for support and healing into a service for new moms. 


Dedicated to offering postpartum care, healing, and extra attention to help women handle the transition to motherhood, Go Home Gorgeous caught on and has grown beyond Swardson’s expectations. The company’s 30-plus massage therapists serve women in all 11 Twin Cities hospitals, and its geographic scope expanded this fall to New Jersey. 


Swardson is pleased with these achievements. Yet she also revels in her company’s success at shifting some focus back to preparing new moms to take care of that precious newborn. “I had an ‘aha’ moment after giving birth to three children in three years,” she says. “I really wanted to create something that would support women on their fourth-trimester journey. What we’re becoming known for is changing the birth culture in hospital care.”


Go Home Gorgeous provides a range of services at price points between $60 and $199 that aim to lower anxiety, create a calming and healing environment, ease aching muscles, reduce swelling, and improve circulation. That might mean post-natal body therapy, including scalp, neck, and back massage; a foot and ankle massage; or treatments to relax the dad, which include him in the birth event. Swardson markets the company’s services as the perfect gift for new parents. Gift certificates are available, as are at-home services—bed-rest and pregnancy massages before the birth and at-home massage therapy afterward. 

 

After her post-birth epiphany and sketching out her business idea while resting in her hospital bed, Swardson spent more than two years researching hospitals, birth culture around the world, herbs and aromatherapy, and the physical and mental needs of postpartum women. She was well suited for the task, having spent five years as a producer for the PBS show Health Diary. On New Year’s Day in 2008, she decided to go for it. With financial backing from her brother and best friend, as well as her own investment, Swardson got the business ready in six months and started spreading the news through word-of-mouth. 


Noticing the Go Home Gorgeous therapists in their identifiable pink lab coats and the happy new moms they had worked with, Fairview Southdale was the first hospital to make the company a vendor. This allowed Swardson to expand her offerings, store equipment at the hospital, and obtain marketing support for Go Home Gorgeous. Other Twin Cities hospitals quickly followed suit.


Having served about 1,000 local customers, Swardson has big plans for expansion. Twin Cities’ hospitals have asked her to begin offering treatments for cancer patients, people with long-term illnesses, and caregivers—and other hospitals nationwide continually ask when Go Home Gorgeous will open a franchise in their markets. Swardson is rebranding the company as a comprehensive patient-care business and will expand to two other markets in 2011 after lining up financing.


“The best gift for baby is a relaxed and happy mom. All the flowers in the world can’t do what we do,” says Swardson. “It’s been incredible. Every single night in hospitals around the Twin Cities, mothers are getting the care I was only able to dream of. That’s not lost on me for one moment.”
 

Division Finalists

 

Fruchi

Rob Carr married experience in food, finance, and management to spur innovation, creating the first portable and ready-to-eat frozen fruit smoothie. “You really won’t find a product like ours anywhere in this market or the country,” says Carr. “We think our business, brand, and product have the potential to be successful on a national level.” 


Carr should know. He worked his way up to CFO of Pillsbury’s Häagen-Dazs division and served as CFO and CEO of several companies during a 25-year corporate career. Yet he always wanted to start his own business. While running a traditional smoothie franchise, Carr was inspired to make a line of portable smoothies, and he pursued that instead. The first iteration of Fruchi—made with fresh fruit, fruit juice, and fat-free frozen yogurt or sherbet—came in Styrofoam cups.


As schools sought healthy meal options, Carr landed 35 middle and high school customers across the Twin Cities. Now the same-ingredient smoothies come in custom-made, flexible pouches instead of cups, and they are sold in lunch lines, at school concession stands, at Target Field, at some grocery stores, and as fundraisers—a powerful growth engine for the company. 


Working with 10 employees in Hopkins, Carr will hit revenue of $300,000 to $350,000 this year. His next target market: warehouse stores with a national presence. Talks are underway, and he projects a leap to $3 million after finalizing arrangements.

Fresh EcoHarvest


As consumers continue cultivating a strong interest in fresh, locally grown produce, the timing for Fresh EcoHarvest couldn’t be better. The Redwood Falls-based business is developing greenhouse technology that will help growers produce fruits and vegetables faster, closer to home, and without pesticides and herbicides. 


CEO Denis Zeug achieves this by utilizing NASA discoveries in aeroponic farming, a process of growing plants by suspending them in the air and misting them with a nutrient-rich solution. Fresh EcoHarvest uses a rapid, 30-day growing cycle that produces more nutritious food more efficiently and safely than traditional methods, says Kris Sundberg, chief marketing officer and a former SuperValu executive.


Fresh EcoHarvest uses LED bulbs to provide the perfect wavelength of light needed for plants to grow. Its vertical, high-density growing system also maximizes greenhouse space. The system creates a highly productive growing environment that is 450 percent more productive than hydroponic growing, 1,000 percent more productive than a standard greenhouse, and 5,600 percent more productive than field-grown produce, Sundberg notes.


When Zeug, an engineer, started investigating horticulture, “what immediately struck him was how inefficiently we go about growing food,” Sundberg says. “This system keeps food from being contaminated by the environment, food-handling practices, or tampering.”