New Initiative to Gage Interest in Shared Community Kitchen Space in Rochester

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In the wake of the food truck and specialty food movements, another movement is growing.  The past four years have seen an increase in the number of kitchen incubators in the U.S.  Kitchen incubators are shared use commercial kitchen spaces that are rented out on an hourly or monthly basis to food entrepreneurs.  They may or may not include other support services for new businesses such as food safety education, technical assistance, and office space.  For one Minnesotan example, Midwest Pantry just recently unveiled their plans for a building in the St. Anthony neighborhood of Minneapolis that includes six commercial kitchen spaces and additional office space.

With the passage of Rochester's food truck ordinance and growing farmer's market, Rochester is poised on the verge of a local food renaissance.  A shared commercial kitchen space could be the key for a new entrepreneur to finally sell their grandmother's famous lefse or host their first pop up dinner.  In addition to increased food diversity, communities have also benefited from a shared commercial kitchen through food literacy programs, cooking classes, and training for at risk youth.  Successful businesses "graduate" from the incubator to opening their own space which contributes to the local economy.  Local farmers could reduce their food waste through using the kitchen to freeze or can their unsold produce.

In order for a shared commercial kitchen facility to become a reality in Rochester, general interest in its usage needs to be measured.  Any interested food entrepreneurs should fill out the survey located here.

Rochester Rising to Mark One Year Anniversary with Community Celebration

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Rochester Rising was launched in July 18, 2016 to amplify the stories of Rochester entrepreneurs and give a voice to the city’s emerging entrepreneurial community. Over the past year, we’ve told the stories of over 104 different entrepreneurs, operating across ten different industries. Hopefully, we’ve helped to make a difference in Rochester’s entrepreneurial community during this time.

To celebrate this milestone, we’re throwing a one year birthday party on Wednesday July 19th from 4:30-6:30 PM at Grand Rounds Brew Pub. So mark your calendars. More information and ticket sales will roll out in a few weeks.

Rochester Rising would not exist without the support of the growing entrepreneurial community here. This birthday event is not just to mark a milestone for Rochester Rising, but is a time to celebrate the progress of the entire entrepreneurial and innovation community of Rochester over the past year.

As part of this festivity, we would like to invite one entrepreneur who has told their story on Rochester Rising over the past year to give a brief talk at this event to tell a bit more of their story or share a big idea they have about entrepreneurship.

We want you, the entrepreneurial community, to tell us who you want to hear more from.

Click here to access a form with some of the local entrepreneurs that we’ve featured on Rochester Rising this year. Choose up to three innovators that you’d like to hear more from at this celebration.

Voting will end on Monday June 26th.

Funding Sources for Rochester Startups and Small Businesses: Tax Credits, Venture Competitions, and Investment Groups

Today, we wrap up a two part series on funding sources for Rochester startups with a focus on tax incentives, venture capital competitions, and investment opportunities in the state. 

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Funding Sources for Rochester Startups and Small Businesses: Part 1- Business Subsidies

Capital drives any business. Lack of an angel investment fund in southeastern Minnesota or strong venture capital presence here can hinder cash flow. Here are some business subsidies that can serve as funding options for startups and small businesses in Rochester. Check back in later in the week for Part 2, detailing tax incentives, venture competitions, and other funding sources that all Minnesota businesses should have on their radar.

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Five Reasons Why Your Startup should Present at 1 Million Cups Rochester

Derrick Chapman and Twisted Barrel Wood Fired Pizza.

Derrick Chapman and Twisted Barrel Wood Fired Pizza.

1 Million Cups is an educational program for entrepreneurs to share ideas, discover solutions, and engage the community. This national event was brought to Rochester, by the entrepreneurial community, this February. 1 Million Cups Rochester takes place the first Wednesday of every month in the Bleu Duck Kitchen. In addition to Rochester, we have nearby 1 Million Cups communities in Saint Paul, Willmar, Eau Claire, Fargo, Des Moines, Grand Forks, Sioux Falls, and Madison.

Tori Utley and Tinua.

Tori Utley and Tinua.

At this point, hopefully you have heard of 1 Million Cups Rochester before. Maybe you are on the fence about bringing your business front and center at this program.

Here are the top five reasons why your startup should present at 1 Million Cups Rochester.

 

Spark DJ's James Jones and John Boss.

Spark DJ's James Jones and John Boss.

1.     It focuses your thoughts about your business.

1 Million Cups presentations are six minutes long. That’s not a whole lot of time to tell your story and explain your business. Fine tuning a presentation into this short time frame helps to clarify thinking around your own business and practice delivering that message in a clear, concise manner. Prepping for a 1 Million Cups talk also helps to identify holes in your business plan.

 

2.     1 Million Cups is a friendly, community-oriented event.

Amanda Leightner and Rochester Rising.

Amanda Leightner and Rochester Rising.

1 Million Cups is not a pitch event. Entrepreneurs are not selling their business or promoting their products through a presentation. This is not the cut-throat world of Shark Tank. At its very roots, 1 Million Cups is an educational program. It’s not a networking group. It’s not a mechanism to gain sales. It is an opportunity to present your business concept to a community of people, mostly entrepreneurs themselves, who are just there to help you think about and develop your business. No one is there to cut a new entrepreneur down or criticize their business model. It’s a time to tell your story as an emerging business.

 

Nadia Wood with The Hybrids.

Nadia Wood with The Hybrids.

3.     It’s an opportunity to make connections.

1 Million Cups is all about leveraging the power and expertise of the community. At the end of the presentation each entrepreneur is asked, “What can this community do for you?” This gives entrepreneurs the chance to bring forward a very specific, direct ask for the community to solve.

 

4.     It’s great exposure and experience for your business.

Jocelyn Raymundo and Rochester Home Infusion.

Jocelyn Raymundo and Rochester Home Infusion.

1 Million Cups offers free exposure for your business to the people in that room (and those connected through the 1 Million Cups Rochester Facebook live feed, live tweets, and Instagram account), which immediately extends the reach of your startup. The main stream television and newspaper companies have covered 1 Million Cups Rochester during its early stages. There will always be coverage of 1 Million Cups Rochester, and in-depth stories of presenting Rochester entrepreneurs, on Rochester Rising. But more importantly, 1 Million Cups offers a time to practice talking about your startup and telling your story in a low key, minimum pressure setting. It is a time investment to prepare a six-minute talk, but it’s worth the effort. And if you’re up-to-date on your business plan, the information is already in place.

 

Frank Spaeth at Med City FC.

Frank Spaeth at Med City FC.

5.     You enjoy the benefits of participating in a national program.

1 Million Cups just celebrated its five-year anniversary in April and now takes place in 116 different communities across the United States, always at 9AM local time. Each 1 Million Cups is locally organized by entrepreneurs. 1 Million Cups was developed by the Kansas City-based Kauffman Foundation, a non-profit that supports and educates entrepreneurs. The 1 Million Cups program aims to “educate, engage, and connect entrepreneurs in their own community, gathering over cups of coffee.” 1 Million Cups offers connections to not only the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, but to the 116 different 1 Million Cups communities as well.

 

Our startup and entrepreneurial community here in Rochester may be young, but it is strong and continues to grow every day. 1 Million Cups is an opportunity for emerging entrepreneurs- people taking risks and starting something in the community- to come forward and share their story to help us learn and grow together.

The 1 Million Cups Rochester organizing team is always willing to speak with entrepreneurs who want to hear more about the program and see if it is a good fit for their startup.

To learn more about 1 Million Cups Rochester, follow the community on the 1 Million Cups Rochester page or through their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts. Startups can apply to present directly through the 1 Million Cups Rochester page.

Rochester Youth Startup Via Moves on to Semifinal Round of Minnesota Cup Business Competition

The Minnesota Cup, the largest statewide startup competition in the United States, moved into the semifinal round yesterday. This year’s competition will award over $450,000 in seed funding to emerging businesses across eight different divisions. One entrant from Olmsted County, the minority and women-led tech startup Via, moves on into the Minnesota Cup semifinal round in the Youth Division.

This year’s Minnesota Cup competition began in late March with an application launch party and culminates in a final awards event on October 9th at the McNamara Alumni Center in Minneapolis.

This is the 13th year of the competition.

Since its inception, Minnesota Cup has drawn in over 12,000 Minnesota-based startup participants from 93% of Minnesota counties. Finalists have raised over $230M since 2005.

Any startup in Minnesota with less than $1M in annual revenue can enter the Minnesota Cup competition in eight different divisions: Food/Ag/Bev, General, High Tech, Energy/Clean Tech/Water, Impact Ventures, Life science/HealthIT, Student (anyone enrolled in graduate or undergraduate school between the ages of 19-30), and Youth (anyone under 18 years of age).

Besides gaining access to seed capital, throughout the Minnesota Cup competition startups receive input on their business plan, gain access to mentorship opportunities with key industry leaders, and receive media coverage.

On May 30th, the eighty semifinalists for the 2017 competition were announced, ten from each division. Over the next seven weeks, the semifinalists will be paired with mentors, tweak their business plans, and compete for the top spot in their respective divisions.

Each divisional winner will receive $30,000 in seed capital and move on for the chance to win the $50,000 grand prize. The youth division leader will be awarded $20,000 and will also move on in the competition.

This year, both student and professional division winners in Walleye Tank, a life science business pitch competition developed in Rochester, gained automatic entry as life science division semifinalists. Look for the Twin Cities-based startups Dolore Biotechnology and Dose Health as Minnesota Cup progresses.

In Olmsted County, one entrant moved on to the semifinal round, the Youth Division tech startup Via.

Via is addressing the prevalent health issue of distracted driving from texting, especially among teens. Via is developing an easy to use app that places phones into “driving mode” when the user is operating a vehicle to mute notifications and avoid unnecessary health risks.

Press Release: Stewartville, MN Economic Development Authority Receives $9,000 SMIF Grant for New Business Incubation Program

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Stewartville, MN (Tuesday, May 30, 2017) -- The Stewartville, MN Economic Development (EDA) was recently notified that they have been awarded a $9,000 Incentive Grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF). Joya Stetson, who serves the Stewartville EDA, successfully authored the grant for the implementation of a new business incubation program that will be launched this summer. 

The new and exciting program will encourage the creation and support of new for-profit businesses that contribute to a sustainable and diverse business climate within the City’s business/commercial districts. The program will provide business owners with Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) coordinated education and tools to promote long-term success while filling currently vacant commercial properties in Stewartville. Although the EDA will not have a central incubation space, the provision of rental assistance over 18 months is expected to aid startup success rates. 

New businesses leasing eligible, vacant properties may receive rental assistance at a decreasing rate for 18 months in accordance with the following scale: Months 1-6: 50% subsidy or $830/month max; Months 7-12: 33% subsidy or $560/month max; Months 13-18: 17% subsidy or $275/month max. 

A series of entrepreneurial educational classes will be mandated for participants and will be open for existing businesses to attend as desired free of charge. The following 90-minute courses will be mandatory for participants in the program: Business Planning and Financial Projections (Prerequisite), Market Research, Pricing and Inventory, Marketing Strategies, Customer Service and Business Etiquette, Online Marketing, Websites and Social Media, Basic Bookkeeping, and Legal Considerations for Small Businesses. All courses will be coordinated by CEDA Senior Vice President and Small Business Development Center Counselor Cris Gastner. 

Businesses accepted into the program will also be required to participate in quarterly meetings with open financials and to deliver a public presentation after one year outlining challenges, achievements, and plans for future sustainability. 

The generous grant from SMIF will allow the City to fully commence the program and leverage resources to maximize benefits to the businesses and the community as a whole. 

“[The City] is pleased to offer this tool as a part of our economic development efforts,” said Mayor Jimmie-John King. “We understand how difficult the first year of business can be, and are hopeful that the assistance being offered here will be advantageous for new businesses locating to our community.”

 

About the Stewartville Economic Development Authority (EDA) 

Established in 1857, the City of Stewartville is a municipal government that serves an estimated population of approximately 6,252. The City's Economic Development Authority (EDA) works to promote community vitality and provide services to both residents and businesses to maintain and enhance their quality of life. The EDA is committed to the support of new business in addition to the provision of service and support to existing businesses within the community. The EDA assists these organizations and individuals with education, monetary assistance through programs/services, and creative and beneficial collaborations with partner entities. For more information about the EDA, please visit: http://stewartvillemn.com/government/economic-development/ 

 

About Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) 

CEDA was created in 1986 as a private, 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation then called the Southeastern Minnesota Development Corporation. In 2010, the agency became Community & Economic Development Associates (CEDA) as a result of increased interest and inquiries received from communities outside of the agency’s original service area of Southeast Minnesota. The name change reflects CEDA’s commitment to provide services to fit the needs of any rural community. CEDA provides onsite and/or project based economic and community development services to rural communities and counties in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa currently. The team brings with it over 150 years of collective development experience. For additional information about CEDA and the services they provide, check out their website at www.cedausa.com. 

 

About Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) 

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), a donor-supported foundation, invests for economic growth in the 20 counties of south central and southeastern Minnesota. The Foundation has provided more than $100 million in grants, loans, and programming within the region during the past 30 years. SMIF's key interests include early childhood, community and economic development. To learn more about our work and mission, visit www.smifoundation.org. 

Mayo Clinic Partner AliveCor Predicts Major Disruption on Horizon in Healthcare

This is the second and final part of the story of a dynamic event in Rochester last week, “A Conversation with Vic Gundotra” with seasoned entrepreneurs and senior management team of AliveCor, Vic Gundotra and Dr. Dave Albert. AliveCor is a wearable healthtech startup based in Silicon Valley. This event was organized by Collider Coworking and sponsored by Rochester Home Infusion and Mayo Clinic Ventures.

In the previous article in this series, Gundotra spoke about his seminal work at both Microsoft and Google during the early stages of both companies. After logging a combined twenty-four years at these major tech moguls, Gundotra retired to spend time with his teenaged children.

“And then my kids got tired of me,” he joked.

To re-enter the workforce after retirement, Gundotra required three things. First, he wanted to work on a project that involved machine learning, which he believed was going to change the world. Second, he wanted to work on wearables. And lastly, he needed to work for a company that was doing something that mattered, something that could make a real impact.

Dr. Dave Albert and his AliveCor met all those criteria.

“This is a six-year-old startup. It’s an overnight success that’s taken a decade,” Albert quipped.

Together Albert, Gundotra, and their AliveCor team created a small device called Kardia, which is about the size of a stick of gum and contains two, square electrodes. Users place their fingers on the electrodes and perform an electrocardiogram, or ECG, within thirty seconds to display their heart’s electrical activity right onto their smart phones. Software in the AliveCor app utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to determine the normal range of an individual’s ECG and sends an alert when that rhythm becomes abnormal.

Each year, more people die from heart disease and stroke than from any other disease. Atrial fibrillation, the most common type of irregular heartbeat, can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other forms of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. These arrhythmias can easily and quickly be detected using AliveCor’s device “without having to go to the doctor’s office, taking off your shirt, and having a technician put leads all over to do one to two ECGs a year,” explained Gundotra. “AliveCor was producing this device that could save people’s lives.”

Today, AliveCor is using ECG technology based on intellectual property and work initiated at Mayo Clinic to estimate serum potassium levels from ECG readings. People with high levels of potassium, a condition called hyperkalemia, can die without displaying any symptoms. Albert says AliveCor is “honored” to work with Mayo and sees the partnership only growing from here.

AliveCor is also in pilot studies with technology built into Apple watch bands to continuously monitor heart rate. Again, using AI and machine learning to recognize a person’s “normal” heart rhythms, the technology alerts users to take their ECGs on AliveCor’s Kardia device when it detects abnormalities. Albert sees this pairing as technology that can “guard your heart” for a lifetime.

Both Gundotra and Albert anticipate a “tsunami” coming that will disrupt healthcare and other daily activities as we know them today.

“When I left college, that was a risk, a very dangerous risk. But I believed that the world was about the see the transformation and the role of personal computers. When I left Microsoft after fifteen years, that was a risk,” Gundotra said. “I think there’s a bigger shift than in all the things I’ve ever witnessed in my life.”

He believes that AI is going to revolutionize healthcare as we know it.

Gundotra says that yes, it’s going to be great to look back to this time in history and say that AI allowed for things like autonomous cars and facial recognition in photos.

“But it [will] fundamentally transform society. And I think one of the biggest place that AI’s going to have an impact is on our health,” explained Gundotra.

AI, he said, will change how we track, treat, and identify disease.

“If I were an entrepreneur in Rochester, I would be working with Mayo Clinic and doing AI. That’s what I would spend my life on,” he affirmed. Gundotra said the opportunity before us is the biggest he’s observed in the last twenty-five years.

Albert expects AI to impact multiple aspects of our lives and to even change ingrained industries, such as truck driving. “But these transitions are often disruptive and scary,” he explained.

Both Albert and Gundotra see AI as an enhancement, not a threat, to today’s healthcare system that can allow for improved patient care. The AliveCor device, for example, is a “function of cost.” Gundotra’s own father suffered from a heart attack after having a recent, normal ECG at his cardiologist. However, his family could detect the deterioration in his health when a device in a physician’s office could not.

Gundotra suspects that if his father’s ECG was monitored continuously, along with other layers of his physiology, these changes in his heart may have been caught. But today’s doctors don’t have the time and the healthcare system can’t pay the cost for a physician to look at an ECG every day. A machine, however, can do this at an exceptionally low cost.

“AI is going to revolutionize medicine. It’s not going to replace doctors. It’s going to extend the doctor’s sight,” predicted Gundotra. 

Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Vic Gundotra Shares Stories of Risk, Uncertainty, and Failure with Rochester Startup Community

From left to right: Dr. Dave Albert, Vic Gondotra, and the author. Photo courtesy of Jamie Sundsbak.

From left to right: Dr. Dave Albert, Vic Gondotra, and the author. Photo courtesy of Jamie Sundsbak.

It was my immense pleasure to be asked to interview Vic Gundotra and Dr. Dave Albert last week at this event “A Conversation with Vic Gundotra.” Thanks so much to Jamie Sundsbak of Collider Coworking for this opportunity, which I will never forget.

Last week, the Rochester community was privileged to hear from Vic Gundotra and Dr. Dave Albert, senior leaders at the Mountain View, California healthtech company AliveCor. The event was organized by Collider Coworking and sponsored by Rochester Home Infusion and Mayo Clinic Ventures.

Both Gundotra and Albert are entrepreneurial leaders with extensive careers in disruptive technology. Albert, Founder of AliveCor, left academic medicine in the late 1980s to launch his first company. At that time, he already held fifty-seven patents and had sold three inventions. An expert in startup growth, Albert sold three companies before beginning AliveCor.

The journey of Gundotra, CEO and President of AliveCor, is just ever so slightly different. Gundotra, a man of Indian heritage, said his parents expected him to have one of two jobs.

“You can either be an engineer or a doctor,” he explained.

Instead, Gundotra became interested in coding during high school and figured out how to redirect the graphics buffer of his video game, the 1980s classic Lode Runner, to the LPT port of his printer.

“I had never been cool in my life until the day I went to school and my book covers had screen shots of video games. And people talked to me! It was amazing!” he reminisced.

These coding skills eventually became very useful when meeting Bill Gates during Gundotra’s time at George Washington University. Gundotra dropped out of college in the middle of his freshman year to join, as his mother called it, “that Meekrosoft company.”

Gundotra entered the tech world of Microsoft in 1991, just a few years after the company’s IPO. He says it was “Bill [Gates’] little company” at that time. “It was all driven by Bill. Startups are driven by their founders and culture is driven by their founders.”

Gundotra said people forget that Microsoft was a company under siege at that time. The business spent six years prior to the IPO pushing Windows, which was not successful then, and was going through a very public separation from IBM. Gundotra explained that IBM had more people in one building than were employed by all of Microsoft at that time, “which is how I got hired,” he explained. “Nobody wanted to work at Microsoft. The hiring standards were very low. Bill was just desperate for any engineer.”

In the early 1990s, there was no Microsoft Office. No Microsoft NT. The company essentially bet everything on Windows 3.0 in 1990, which was thankfully very successful.

“Everyone forgets those early days when Microsoft was struggling and it wasn’t clear that we were going to be successful,” said Gundotra.

Gundotra spent fifteen years at Microsoft, eventually working up to the position of General Manager, and was responsible for the overall platform and all of Windows development. He launched the very first developer’s conference, called the PDC, a precursor to today’s Worldwide Developers Council and Goggle I/O, and one of the first efforts to build a community of platform developers.

However, Gundotra famously “got sideways with Bill [Gates] because [Gundotra] believed in the internet. Bill did not believe in the internet.” Gates insisted that the internet was not a platform, but instead was a series of webpages with limited capability.

In 2007, Gundotra got courted by Google, also during the early stages of development, and left Microsoft for a business that he says was essentially just a search company at the time. While at Google, Gundotra ran Google Maps for mobile and all mobile application development. In the early stages, both his Gmail and Google Maps teams consisted of only five people.

Eventually, Gundotra became responsible for all the social efforts for Google, an attempt to stop top talent leakage to Facebook, leading the drive on projects like Google Photos and Google+. Neither product was as successful as the business hoped.

“Google does not get social. Google is the most anti-social company there is,” Gundotra admitted. Google failed to comprehend, and Facebook clearly saw, that people wanted their social networks prioritized.

“Facebook really understood what matters to people the most is other people. Like Microsoft missed the web…I think Google really missed social.”

Please check back in tomorrow for the second half of this story, where Vic Gundotra and Dr. Dave Albert speak about AliveCor and a “tsunami” they say will revolutionize healthcare as we know it.

Beyond the Brand: How to Form Deep Connections to Consumers

“Without branding, there’s no connection between what you want people to think about your organization and what they actually do,” explained Sarah Miller, Owner of White Space, a Rochester-based company specializing in brand strategy, brand identity, and brand experience. We’re branding our company, our community, and ourselves constantly, regardless of our awareness. To make a real connection to potential consumers, and be successful with branding efforts, Miller says we need to tell a deeper story and create an experience to attract and retain consumers with similar vision.

Miller, a native of Plainview, Minn., has a twelve-year career in graphic design, branding, and marketing. When her son was six months old, she left the safety net of an established graphic design firm in Rochester and struck out on her own, with no real plans or financial stability.

“I ultimately just had to make a change in my life. Sometimes we wake up and we think that life’s just too short,” she said.

Miller loves design, but is passionate about branding. She’s helped local businesses like Jimmy’s Salad Dressings and Dips, Limb Lab, and Rochester Downtown Alliance think “brand first” to tell their stories.

Today, the term “brand” can encompass multiple things like a business name, logo, marketing, and company culture. A brand is all these things. But foremost, it’s your reputation as a business. Miller explains brand is how yourself, your company, and your community makes people feel. It’s the experience people have after an interaction with these entities. This includes immediate, visual perceptions a consumer has with a website, brochure, or perhaps even the look of a community or town. These components make up the “identity” portion of a brand.  

But to gain a deeper, lasting connection, Miller says consumers have to buy in to the emotional component of the brand.

Many people, even experts in the field, often fail to appreciate the difference between branding and marketing, Miller explained. Both, she said, are essential for a business and are closely intertwined.

“Branding is your ‘why’. Marketing is ‘how,’” she said. Branding is a long-term process that builds loyalty. Marketing is a short-term tactic that generates response.

Miller segments marketing into two steps: the identity phase and the visual phase. Branding plays a key role in each stage.

The first portion of marketing, the identity phase, is a time of self-discovery where a business builds its foundation, sets goals, and determines a core audience it would like to reach. Brand story and brand identity are a critical part of this process. These are the “why” components.

“Why do you exist as a company? As a person, what is your purpose on earth?” Miller explained. “What’s the story that makes you stand out versus someone else?”

After the identity phase, where the story behind the business is built, comes the “fun, refreshing” phase where the company visually comes to life.

“But before we get dressed, we have to figure out what we’re dressing,” Miller explained.

Now in the visual stage of marketing, the business determines how they want to be seen by others. This includes things like the website, business cards, pamphlets, the layout and décor of the office building, even the way we dress. These immediate impressions, the visual identity, are the tip of the iceberg, Miller explained, the tiny fraction of the business above water that everybody can see.

However, the largest part of that iceberg, the submerged, subliminal portion, makes up the foundation and base, the real structure and identity. For a business, this unseen portion is the core, purpose, and values of a company. It’s the personality and vision of the business that helps to form strong, lasting connections with consumers and attracts like-minded people to work for the company.

It’s the brand.

Sharing this deeper vision of a business- the branding- is essential to position the story behind the company to the target audience and find this elusive connectivity. Miller says to reach this deeper relationship with potential consumers- to brand- requires purpose, personality, positioning, and promise.

“People don’t buy what you do. They don’t buy based upon your services, your amenities,” she explained. “It’s not about the product. It’s about the experience.”

Successful brands, like Apple and Harley-Davidson, have built a culture and community that people want to join. These brands have explicitly communicated their “why” to consumers and connected their deeper vision.

“How are you making conscious decision on your own brand?” Miller asked. People are already googling you, looking at your website, and searching your social media feeds.

“Don’t let other people tell your story. They’re going to do it in a thousand different ways. Maybe right. Maybe wrong. You tell your story,” she advised.

This talk on branding by Sarah Miller was part of the Marketing in the Morning series developed by Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA), a non-profit organization that serves businesses and communities in southeastern Minnesota. CEDA runs Marketing in the Morning sessions quarterly to help businesses grow and stay on top of the latest marketing techniques. This talk on branding can also be viewed on the CEDA Facebook page.