MN Cup director fosters connections

MN Cup director fosters connections

MN Cup director fosters connections

MN Cup Director Jessica Berg brings five years of experience in account management at PwC in Minneapolis. She is also president and co-founder of WomenConnect, an organization that promotes personal and professional growth for women. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)

Name: Jessica Berg

Title: Director, MN Cup

Education: B.A., international communications and Spanish, Emory University

Hometown: Edina

The MN Cup competition for Minnesota entrepreneurs has attracted thousands of competitors and awarded $2 million in seed money since its inception in 2005. Now it has a new director.

Edina native Jessica Berg recently took over the position held by her friend Melissa Kjolsing since 2012. They had worked together briefly at Minneapolis law firm Fredrikson & Byron before Berg joined PwC in Minneapolis.

Berg watched Kjolsing’s career at MN Cup and more recently started to internalize Kjolsing’s comments about how Berg would be a terrific successor. Kjolsing left the competition, headquartered at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, in November to start a business with her brother. When the job was posted, Berg was ready to apply.

Berg brings five years of experience in account management at PwC in Minneapolis, where she rose to client strategy leader for the company’s consumer markets sector. She is also president and co-founder of WomenConnect, an organization that promotes personal and professional growth for women. Here’s what she had to say about her background and her new position:

Q: You received a bachelor’s degree in international communications and Spanish from Emory University in 2009. What attracted you to business?

A: I always knew that I would be interested in business and in potentially getting an MBA. I was a big liberal arts fan and a big writer in school and was trying to figure out what part of the business school I’d be in. Emory had an interdisciplinary studies program that allowed you to create your own major and capstone it with a thesis, and I went that route.

Q: How did your previous job and leadership of WomenConnect prepare you for running the MN Cup?

A: I really enjoy connecting people and helping people navigate situations. A big part of my role at PwC was helping people navigate PwC, providing the highest level of service possible to a certain echelon of our clients. Much of what this role [at MN Cup] can offer is direct connections and resources for the entrepreneurs in Minnesota, whether to individuals or resources.

It’s a big web of things to navigate. The MN Cup seeks to demystify those things and democratize, and make tools and coaching available for a lot of the fields. Everybody convened through the cup has those things. The magnitude multiplier impact of that for me is so cool and exciting and rewarding.

Q: During Kjolsing’s tenure at MN Cup, the competition more than doubled the number of judges and mentors, and the amount of prize money rose to $450,000. It also added divisions and events, and boosted the number of sponsors by 67 percent to 75. What changes are you hoping to bring to the competition?

A: What I’m so aware of is how much the cup grew and how much the impact expanded and how much the awareness of it grew while Melissa was in the job. I will focus immediately on keeping that continuity as smooth as possible. I just want to get myself up to speed with how things have gone so far, so I can keep the plate spinning. I definitely look forward to having my fingerprints on the cup in the future and I’m so excited about what the vision and the mission of the cup are.

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