Umut Kaplan

Coccinella, Edina, MN

The son of entrepreneurial parents, Umut grew up in Turkey. After his parents hosted a foreign exchange student, they saw the benefits of being immersed in another culture and offered him the chance to study in America.

“My parents were so grateful to everyone who made me feel at home by sharing a part of their culture,” he recalls, “that they wanted to share a part of our culture. And being the entrepreneurs they are, they opened a shop in Edina that sells premium extra virgin olive oils sourced from my family’s groves in Turkey and authentic Turkish textiles.”

Umut immersed himself in every aspect of running the new family business. He’d built up a network of about 150 retail partners when suddenly the pandemic hit—and all his plans were put on hold.

“What we learned is you have to adapt to the present day’s reality,” Umut says. “Because of COVID, we branched into corporate gifting. I believed there was a market for more unique gifts than the usual coffee mugs and cheese baskets, and I was looking for help expanding from a traditional B2C retail model to the B2B corporate gifting space.”

The Edina Innovation Lab opened Umut’s eyes to all kinds of opportunities, from introducing his products to new clients, to developing an effective online marketing strategy, to growing his team to serve new customers.

“The Lab pushed me to get it done,” he says. “You’re surrounded by like-minded people who are sharing ideas on how to solve problems we’re facing and it’s very energizing.”

When asked who would benefit from the Edina Innovation Lab, Umut says, “If you’re looking to grow yourself as a business professional, this is like a mini-MBA. It will show you clear paths to grow your business. It will help you see them more vividly.”

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