Professional connector Lars Leafblad on the interdependence of entrepreneurship

It’s easy to think of entrepreneurship as being driven by a singular visionary, whose drive and gumption forges new ground in an often crowded or complex marketplace. That was not Lars Leafblad’s experience in co-founding the civic recruitment firm Ballinger|Leafblad with long-time partner Marcia Ballinger a just over a year ago. Recently settled into their new home at Vandalia Tower in the Creative Enterprise Zone, Leafblad recognizes that startups rarely achieve success in a vacuum. “It really takes a village,” he says.

“Entrepreneurship is really about interdependence, which is, I think in many ways, what the Creative Enterprise Zone is about,” Leafblad says. “I think I hadn’t really experienced that fully until this last year and half.”

Pulling together partners, investors, clients, consultants and all the other pieces of the puzzle that set a new business up for success requires a network of relationships that can continue to grow alongside the venture itself. That’s even more true when your business is connecting people to each other and to new opportunities.

Ballinger | Leafblad specializes in executive recruitment for civic and nonprofit organizations. It’s a different sort of exercise compared to other types of corporate executive search practices. “When you’re working with a civic organization or anyone in that social enterprise and non-profit space, when there’s a leadership transition, that’s a transformational moment, that’s an important moment for the future direction of the organization…to be a trusted partner and advisor to that type of organization in that moment is a wonderful exercise and experience,” Leafblad says.

It’s an exercise Leafblad has a career of experience in, too. He currently serves on a number of Advisory Boards, including MinnPost.com, The Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and has also served on boards for CaringBridge.org, Salvation Army, and the Minnesota Council on Foundations.

He says he’s always been passionate about connecting people to opportunities, which in part led to his founding of Pollen, a community of more than 10,000 civic-minded connectors who share ideas, career and civic engagement opportunities, and peer-to-peer recognition to advance the common good in the region.

There are few better places to specialize in civic and nonprofit recruitment. “I think Minnesota has a uniqueness in it’s DNA of the charitable orientation of people who choose to live and work here…This is a rich place to work in finding unique solutions to solving problems,” Leafblad says.

Now located in the heart of the Creative Enterprise Zone, Ballinger | Leafblad is right in the center of that rich culture. In addition to the hundreds of nonprofit and civic organizations headquartered here, the central location within the greater Twin Cities makes it an ideal location for someone whose business is making connections.

“We love being a part of this new community,” Leafblad says. “We’re excited to be here, and we’re honored to join a neighborhood that already has deep legacy and a lot of history to it.”

Julie James