ID=9292901GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - KARE 11 spoke with four Minneapolis business owners who have excelled as entrepreneurs.

Common themes to their success include finding quality workers and creating a fun environment to work.

When it comes to the service or product, it's clear hard work and high quality expectations go together.

Abir Sen, Gravie

When Abir Sen, 39, left his homeland of Mumbai, India, population 16 million, to attend college in the small Wisconsin town of Appleton, he knew his life would change forever. He just didn't know how much.

Abir worked his way through Lawrence University by delivering pizzas. After moving to Minneapolis for a consulting job, he and a few co-workers decided to start a business. But it wasn't until he experienced a serious "health care event" that he knew what he really wanted to do.


Dealing with a confusing medical insurance system sparked Abir into starting what would be a string of very successful health care related companies, including Red Brick Health, Bloom Health and the original start-up, Definity Health, which sold for $300 million.

"Our vision is to be on the consumers side and give them power," Abir's said of his most recent effort, Gravie, a consumer based company that assists individuals and employers in selecting appropriate health care plans.

READ MORE: Secrets of success from a local entrepreneur

Mike Derheim, The Nerdery

Imagine working at a company where the employer asks YOU what hours you prefer to work, what you want your work space to look like and if you would like to bring your dog to the office every day.

Sound like nirvana? Actually, it's called The Nerdery.

The main requirement for getting hired at The Nerdery is that you have to be a bonified nerd, aka an IT whiz. From designers to developers, these "creative technologists" are the cream of the crop.


CEO and co-founder Mike Derheim created the Bloomington based IT and interactive production company based on partnering creative minds with compelling problems to solve.

He and his partners found a clear path to success.

"If people love their jobs and love what they're doing, and are happy with their jobs and feel that they understand that, ultimately, everything that makes a business successful will improve."

READ MORE: The Nerdery's secrets to success

John and Kim Puckett, Caribou Coffee and Punch Pizza

John Puckett's recipe for a successful business starts with one word: passion.

Just out of business school, John and Kim Puckett knew they wanted to work at something they felt passionate about. And then, during a trip to Alaska, the idea gelled; start a chain of coffee shops geared to the T-shirt wearing, casual customer that just wants a quick, good cup of coffee.

So, the Pucketts launched Caribou Coffee in 1992. They raised about $40,000 and daringly spent most of it on graphic design, according to John.


"We just thought we needed to look like we were a player, and so when we opened our first store, the store looked like it was put together."

That store on 44th and France would be the first of more than 100 stores the Pucketts would build in less than 10 years. Then in 2000, they sold the chain for more than $80 million.

But, their next adventure turned into a partnership with the very popular local pizza chain, Punch Pizza.

READ MORE:Caribou Coffee, Punch Pizza co-owner talks success

Julie Allinson, Eyebobs

The vision started here, in Minneapolis, the day Julie Allinson realized she could no longer read the small numbers on a spread sheet. After checking out the not-so-trendy readers at a drugstore, she went to an optician, who recommended a pair for more than $500.

Julie had an aha moment; "People would put on drugstore glasses, and yes they can see, maybe, but how do you look? So I wanted to go out to show people you can look fantastic and you can wear reading glasses with confidence."


So, in 2001, Julie took the leap from her job as president of a high end children's clothing company to ground zero of starting her own business. She wholeheartedly jumped into every aspect of the business, from creating designs to sourcing manufacturers in China to selling her concept door to door to mostly optical stores.

READ MORE: Eyebobs founder talks about starting new business