STAR’s debut at Twin Cities Startup Week

Kitty Hart

29 October 2018

The frenzy of Twin Cities Startup Week has come to a close. But the team here at STAR is still feeling the buzz from its fifth and biggest year yet. Thanks to all who ventured up to Brooklyn Park for our session featuring Chuck & Don’s. We were thrilled to see people from startups and well-established brands alike walk through our doors ready to discuss, share, learn and connect.

Participating in #TCSW18 was new for us. We wanted to get involved for two reasons. First, 25 years ago, DSC00769-2STAR was a startup. We know the trials and tribulations that come with turning an idea into a reality. Our industry, like many, has gone through ups and downs. And yet here we stand, in 2018, celebrating 25 years and actively strategizing for the next 25. Along with our mission to help our clients succeed, we feel the same desire and commitment for the amazing business community in which we live. 2018 has not just been a significant anniversary year for us. It has been a year of renewed commitment to education. #TCSW18 and our Look Who’s Talking speaker and blog series’ are demonstration of that focus. These events are designed to share learnings from others in our community who are doing amazing things. So, keep an eye out for future events. This education train is full steam ahead.

Second, feeling that general education on physical retail has been a bit underserved, we knew the story of Chuck & Don’s would be new to the startup community. This was a great opportunity to dig into the topic of how the design of the physical environment along with customer engagement worked hard to build this brand in a very competitive market. Once a startup, this retail brand now includes multiple stores in four states, and growing.

Joined by Carol Moline, Megan Hulse, David Zimmerman, and Christine Schraml, we heard about the early days of Chuck & Don’s as the retail idea blossomed from two friends that had bonded over their passion for dog training. With a training business, Chuck and Don were repeatedly asked to sell dog food. Shortly after they dipped their toe into that pond, the demand increased and their vision for a more complete pet supply offering was born.


Chuck and Don were both doting pet owners themselves and like many, felt only the best would do for their furry friends. However, “best” didn’t mean expensive. It meant meaningful and purposeful. Thus began their discussion of how they could design a better experience. We got to see early images of the store alongside images of the experience that exists today. While environments like these typically evolve over time, the juxtaposition certainly demonstrates how a focused strategy and commitment to the brand fundamentals delivers on experience.


Thanks to an inquisitive audience, our conversation went into a wide array of topics including  customer research, staff training, retention and career development, customer engagement, Traction EOS, employee ownership, and general marketing practices.

Attendees were also able to tour the facility at STAR for a behind-the-scenes look at how important components of the retail floor are designed and fabricated. We talked materials, textures and brand look-and-feel. We learned about the very important “cricket drawer” that lives behind the cash wrap. Interesting to know those little critters get such a special and dedicated home. We also learned about the special behaviors that are signature to the Chuck & Don’s experience including carry-out for heavy food bags, one-on-one assistance with the pet tag kiosk (delivering triple digit increase in sales), and the new dog wash stalls.



In all, it was an informative session and fun to watch people connect before, during, and after the panel discussion. That’s what #TCSW is all about.

We are already thinking about Twin Cities Startup Week next year. If you have ideas for content or topics that you’re interested in, please let us know. And, don’t be a stranger. Our facility is always open to people interested in learning more about experiential marketing and how designed experiences create engaged and loyal customers.

Until next time!

Kitty Hart


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