Meet Jasmine Russell
Co-founder and CEO, Monicat Data
A search on LinkedIn led Jasmine from Indiana to Minneapolis-Saint Paul. Today, she is helping to power one of the world’s leading creative communities.
Jasmine is powering creativity.
Monicat Data is the business behind creativity. Here in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Jasmine discovered one of the world’s most vibrant creative communities and economies.
Co-Founder and CEO, Monicat Data
With the house lights down, Jasmine Russell stepped to the stage at Saint Paul’s Gremlin Theater to welcome 75 guests to the first ever Yellow Summit, a creative technology conference. Designed to strengthen artists’ business acumen with a focus on technology, Yellow Summit brought leaders from Minneapolis-Saint Paul’s creative and technology communities together in September for a full day of presentations and collaboration. As set designers mingled with virtual reality developers, Jasmine’s vision of gathering the art and tech ecosystems in one place came to fruition. “There’s something really interesting about bringing these two groups together [to] see what happens,” Jasmine said.
Yellow Summit was an ambitious extension of Jasmine Russell’s other venture, Monicat Data, a consulting and technology company focusing on the “business behind creativity.” With a rapidly growing technology sector and a well-established creative economy, Minneapolis-Saint Paul is an ideal place for Jasmine to establish Monicat Data. Arriving here, however, was unexpected.
Born and raised in Fort Wayne, the second largest city in Indiana, Jasmine grew up participating in performing arts. “I was either singing in the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir, playing in band or dancing,” Jasmine recalled.
Jasmine also excelled in sports, particularly Track and Field. Later, while attending Purdue University in her home state, Jasmine ran varsity track for one year before losing the passion for it and deciding to concentrate fully on academics.
Not unlike many college students, Jasmine was uncertain where to focus her academic attention. After considering a range of majors from pharmacy to fine arts, Jasmine settled into a psychology major.
“That [was] where I really got into data and analytics,” Jasmine says. “[The Psychology Department] is really big on the quant side of psych at Purdue.”
After graduation, Jasmine honed her data analytics skills while working full-time at a research agency in Indianapolis. At night, Jasmine went to school part-time for an MBA, which she finished in 2013.
With a psychology degree, data research experience and an MBA, Jasmine had cultivated a valuable skill set just as many companies were exploring how to use data to build better products and experiences for their customers. Jasmine then began searching for a place to live and work.
“I had some really late nights on Linkedin looking for digital analytics roles,” Jasmine recalled. One of the open roles she discovered was located in Minnesota.
“I went through the [application] process, they flew me up for an interview, and then after [being offered the job] I moved here to Minneapolis.” Moving to Minneapolis-Saint Paul was unexpected, says added.
After just six months on the job, however, uncertainty arose. The company that brought Jasmine to Minnesota was acquired. Under the new ownership, Jasmine no longer felt like the organization was a good fit. Jasmine considered moving back to Indiana but ultimately chose to stay in Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
“I didn’t have any family connections [in Minneapolis-Saint Paul] but I had been doing some networking, improving my skills as a data lead and started to understand the market.”
Jasmine had short stints in data analytics roles at a mid-sized print technology company and then a small digital marketing agency before landing a job leading customer analytics at a large manufacturer where she stayed for two years. All the while, Jasmine continued to network and cultivate relationships in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul community.
With each work experience, Jasmine began to learn how organizations of different sizes could better use data to support their mission. Jasmine took to writing, creating a blog to share her perspective on the matter.
“I had this blog, called Data Minimalist,” Jasmine said. “I just started writing, basically about my woes and concerns about data within corporations and what was frustrating me about how data was used in corporations.”
Blogging was a step towards entrepreneurship for Jasmine. In 2016, she left the comfort of full-time corporate employment to start Monicat Data.
“We call ourselves the business behind creativity,” Jasmine said. “For the past two years we’ve been technology consultants” to creative businesses, independent digital artists and performers, and the organizations that support them.
Seeing a need in the marketplace, Jasmine and Monicat Data are now building their own software product to assist clients in their creative endeavors. “We’re starting to fundraise [to build] a creative feasibility tool for individual creatives,” Jasmine described, “helping them understand the [business] management of their creative idea.”
Minnesota leads the nation in arts funding per capita, which means there are plenty of prospective customers for Monicat Data. “That puts us at a really unique position,” Jasmine said, “for [Monicat Data] to be able to do service work but also build this [software] platform.”
Alongside an established creative economy, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul tech ecosystem is on the rise. A growing collection of technology and startup resources are available for entrepreneurs like Jasmine. One of those rising resources is Lunar Startups, a Saint Paul based accelerator at the Glen Nelson Center that is “driven to create equitable opportunities and access for underestimated entrepreneurs.” Earlier this year, Lunar Startups selected Monicat Data for their first cohort of startups.
After the conclusion of Yellow Summit in September, Jasmine reflected on bringing together the arts and technology communities in one place. “We had people from museums, set designers [and] costume designers, [along with] VR technologists, graphic designers and general technologists,” Jasmine describes. Yellow Summit was unique in bringing such a diverse group of people together, something many are eager to see continue. “Bringing together these two worlds, we were able to really see what could happen in making Minnesota the leading creative technology state.”
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The unique thing about Minnesota is we are the leading funding state for the arts, per capita. We are leading the charge with creative innovation, creative funding, and how things are distributed. There’s still a lot of work to be done. But that’s where Monicat Data has that opportunity to infuse some of those practices.
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