The Minnesota-made 'Uploma' seeks recognition on college campuses

Made in Dayton, Minn., the Uploma is a personalized, five-sided trophy aimed at college graduates. Uploma is a unit of Titlecraft, a Maple Grove-based company that manufactures and sells trophies.

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Chris Deanovic of Uploma held a trophy at the University of Minnesota bookstore in Coffman Union.

Photo: JOEL KOYAMA • jkoyama@startribune.com,

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Having already purchased two class rings — one for high school graduation, the other for passing basic training — First Sgt. Aaron Tyler decided to commemorate his graduation from Park University in Missouri in a different way. He bought the “Uploma,’’ a five-pound, desktop sculpture adorned with his name, school, year of graduation, degree, concentration and accomplishments.

“I wanted something different for my university graduation,” Tyler said in an e-mail interview from Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. Besides, he added: “I only have so many fingers.”

Made in Dayton, Minn., the Uploma is a personalized, five-sided trophy aimed at college graduates. Uploma was unveiled earlier this year and is sold at more than 100 colleges, universities and military academies, said Chris Deanovic, Uploma’s director of operations and business strategy. Uploma is a unit of Titlecraft, a Maple Grove-based company that manufactures and sells trophies.

At a recent two-day grad fair at the University of Minnesota, 19 Uplomas were sold.

That’s “an impressive number for a new product. We think it’s a winner,” said Kari Erpenbach, the University of Minnesota’s marketing manager. They cost between $189 and $229.

As Uploma gains a footing, some say the market for graduation gifts is changing altogether. Many high schools have noticed that, as the years go on, fewer students are buying class rings.

“Students are less traditional and the price of gold has gone up,” said Dave Brennan, professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, referring to reasons for the falloff in class-ring popularity.

Tom Washburn, vice president of sales at ICS Rep Group, the national sales force for Uploma, agreed. “They don’t necessarily want to wear a ring, but they want to show that spirit,” he said.

David Duckworth, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, received a Uploma when he graduated from the University of Kansas. Duckworth explained the appeal of the Uploma this way:

“Everyone should get one for working their butt off for four or five years.”

STEVEN FISCHER

Habitat headS for another top year

Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, which emerged during the Great Recession as one of the biggest local builders, is heading for another good year.

Last week, Women Build, the all-female crews that raise funds for their specific projects and work alongside working-poor Habitat-selected recipient families, started work on three housing projects, which will involve several hundred female volunteers.

Habitat is on pace to complete 55 new and renovated houses and 125 home-repair projects this year.

In the two-year fiscal period that ends in June, Twin Cities Habitat built or substantially renovated more than 150 homes sold to Habitat buyers; completed about 400 home repairs by partnering with elderly, disabled, veteran and single-parent homeowners, and trained hundreds of families through homeownership classes. The nonprofit also prevented the foreclosure of several hundred homes through education and advocacy work with lenders and owners. The goals for the next couple of years will be announced in June.

Habitat relies on thousands of volunteer laborers and donors who work alongside buyer-families who invest hundreds of hours of sweat equity in their homes. More info: www.tchabitat.org.

St. Paul Foundation originates loan fund for job creation

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