#Emerge Episode 16 with My Town My Music

This week on #Emerge we sit down with the entrepreneurs behind My Town My Music: Dustin Hart, Bekkie Hart, and Jonny Yucuis. My Town My Music is a platform that gives the community a voice in the types of music acts they want to see in Rochester through their community memberships. In the video today, we talk about initiatives in the music scene right now that My Town My Music is excited about, how they’ve been building their business, and the challenges they’ve been facing to make Rochester a city that attracts both big name acts and showcases homegrown talent.

Press Release: Local Businesswoman Seeks to Discover the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

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Rochester, Minn. – Did you know Sam Walton opened Wal-Mart when he was 40 years old? Or that the inventor of the new Snow Slugger -due out this fall by Frisbee producer Wham-O- was 50 upon developing his hyped snow-slinging toy? What Rochester resident Renee Berg learned from them was that it’s never to late to start a business, and so at age 44 she started hers: Tomorrow’s Bosses, which connects aspiring, self-starters ages 9-18 with established entrepreneurs for coaching. Think of it as Entrepreneur 101 for youth.

Tomorrow’s Bosses was test run last summer by a handful of Rochester kids. The take-homes?

Henry, age 14: “Thank you for showing me the process of running and maintaining a successful business. I’m sure it will help me out in the future.”

Olivia, age 13, “I learned if you want to start your own company you should find something you love and make a business.”

Or take Derrick Chapman, the local restaurant owner who toured Olivia through his Twisted Barrel Wood Fired Pizza food truck on a blistering summer afternoon, who remarked, “Having an aspiring entrepreneur watch and ask questions gives me hope as a business owner!”

Berg founded Tomorrow’s Bosses after seeing an unfilled need in the market. She wanted to register her son for business classes, but found nothing was available for his age group. And so Tomorrow’s Bosses was born from one mom seeking to help her son with his future.

In Rochester, most kids grow up with doctor dads and engineer moms. But not everyone does. And what about those kids who want something else? What about kids who are natural-born leaders? Those who stand out from the crowd but who aren’t interested in medicine? And what of helping our community grow its economy beyond Mayo and IBM? Aren’t entrepreneurial pursuits one answer to that ongoing growth conundrum which our community faces?

Tomorrow’s Bosses launches this summer and has a one-time offer: all classes are free to those youth who qualify for scholarship. An exclusive few will be selected by Berg and a panel of entrepreneurs. All kids need do is apply, and all they need to do to qualify is exemplify the traits of an entrepreneur. 

Tekcitadel Seeks to Connect African Tech Talent to Emerging Rochester Startups to Bolster Ecosystem

 Kenneth Ngah, Founder of Tekcitadel. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Ngah.

Kenneth Ngah, Founder of Tekcitadel. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Ngah.

Rochester entrepreneur Kenneth Ngah has his latest startup venture in focus. This Cameroonian native launched the technology company Tekcitadel to connect information and communication technology (ICT) specialists in Africa to budding companies in the Rochester area in need of web development services, bridging the ever-narrowing gap between the two continents.

Tekcitadel specializes in app development, content management, and web development. Ngah sees the startup as a way “to give Rochester’s entrepreneurs access to Africa’s rising affordable ICT talents, while helping both parties achieve their entrepreneurial dreams.”

With Tekcitadel Ngah, in addition, seeks to discover and curate responsible web and app development agencies already existing in Africa and to assist them in perfecting and mastering the techniques and specifics required for remote work, all the while maintaining a high standard of quality.

Ngah himself has a depth of experience in remote web development; he created websites for Danish, German, and American contractors without ever having to leave Cameroon. A graduate of the University College of Technology in Buea, Cameroon, Ngah largely built his own career from learning by doing. He runs another startup, called WandaGuides, that connects tourists to government recognized travel agencies within Cameroon.

Ngah served as an active community builder during his time in Cameroon; he assisted in creating three hyper-focused tech communities, including JavaScript and WordPress hubs. He also functioned as Community Manager of ActivSpaces, a Cameroonian tech network composed of two coworking spaces and an accelerator program.

Even after moving to Rochester in late 2016, Ngah maintained a strong connection with this community. He still plays an active role in Silicon Mountain, the nickname for the tech ecosystem in the mountainous region of Cameroon, which includes the city of Buea. Ngah maintains contact with ActivSpaces and information and communication technology agencies within that region. He also still coordinates the activities of JS-Junkies, a hyper-focused tech community in Silicon Mountain that advocates for the JavaScript programming language.

 Photo courtesy of Kenneth Ngah.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth Ngah.

Ngah sees something like Tekcitadel as an effective way to connect Africa’s developing tech sector to the needs of emerging entrepreneurs in the Rochester ecosystem.

“Developing skills in web programming is hard. Hiring programming skills in the USA is expensive,” he explained. “When we are able to outsource our programming tasks around prototype development, entrepreneurs in Rochester will be able to build their app ideas faster, hence promoting entrepreneurship as we minimize the risk of not being able to transform an idea into a product.”

Ngah believes this capability will allow more products to launch from the Rochester area, attracting increased investment and bolstering the region economically.   

Local Woman Honors Father's Legacy with Four Year Anniversary of Med City Foundation

 Med City Foundation Founder Kristina Hesby speaking at the nonprofit's annual fundraiser.

Med City Foundation Founder Kristina Hesby speaking at the nonprofit's annual fundraiser.

“It’s very humbling as somebody who takes an idea that was written down on a scrap of paper to see it turn into something,” explained Kristina Hesby, Founder and President of Med City Foundation. “I think it is very inspiring to see because I did not do this on my own.”

Hesby believes that Med City Foundation would likely not be what it is today if she had launched the organization in any other city; the four-year- old business was made even better, she explained, because a whole community came together to make it happen.

Med City Foundation is a grassroots, one hundred percent volunteer-led nonprofit that meets the non-medical needs of lymphoma, leukemia, and myeloma patients being treated in Rochester. Hesby said in the early stages of the organization, patients would fill out an application and in turn would normally be gifted financial assistance, like a gas or grocery card. After a few years of experience, the nonprofit has learned not to ask, but to simply listen to identify the true needs of the patient.  

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“We started out every conversation not telling [patients] what we help out with but asking them what they need help with. That has really changed the type of care we have given in the last year or year and a half,” Hesby explained.

After the initial travel to Rochester, locating lodging is one major issue patients and their caregivers face.

“None of our patients can come to Rochester alone. They are all required by their physician to come with a caregiver,” said Hesby.

As part of this process, whole families could be transplanted to Rochester anywhere from two to ten weeks. Hesby’s organization can help patients understand the hospitality homes that exist in Rochester- such as the Gift of Life Transplant House and Hope Lodge- and may even provide lodging for the patient until a room opens up at these locations.

Med City Foundation really fills in the gaps when the patient is not a child, is traveling with a significant amount of family, or desires more privacy than is offered in the communal lifestyle at Rochester’s hospitality homes. The organization can help patients secure lodging elsewhere, such as in a hotel, or can even house patients and their families in Med City Foundation’s very own apartment, which they were gifted just this year.

In addition to the immediate needs of medical care and lodging, patients and their caregivers have to continue to live their lives as unhindered as possible during their stay in Rochester. To fill these gaps, Med City Foundation has taken on a bit of a community navigator role, helping families connect to the local school and library system if they are visiting with children, linking caregivers up with places they can continue to work from, and helping families just understand what they can do with their time when not consumed by medical appointments.

None of the assistance provided by Med City Foundation is based on financial need; Hesby aims to grow the nonprofit to the point where they never have to turn anyone away.

In a sense, Med City Foundation is the realization of a lifelong commitment by Hesby. A Registered Nurse by training, she began fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at age eighteen. When she started Med City Foundation, she had no prior experience running a business or a nonprofit.

“I literally googled ‘opening a nonprofit’ when we were coming up with the idea. It has been just asking a lot of questions, learning from other people, looking for best practice, and just kind of trying to absorb myself in as much of it as I can,” Hesby explained.

Hesby’s father, Dr. Ralph Wright-Peterson, inspired her to create something like Med City Foundation and keep the funds she raised local.


A pillar in the community, Dr. Wright-Peterson served as Principal at John Marshall High School and helped to start Mayo High School as the Rochester community grew. He continually looked for ways to be involved with and to improve the community, leading him to host foreign exchange students in his home, be heavily involved in his family’s church, and serve as one of the first members on the Community Food Response Board.

Dr. Wright-Peterson’s death in 1995 after an eight-month battle with leukemia prompted Hesby’s lifelong fundraising efforts for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in his memory. When she first started to raise money in her father’s name, Hesby was deeply impacted by the both the amount of money she raised locally and the number of Rochester residents who attended her fundraisers and shared stories of their own battles with blood cancer.

 Hesby and her father, Dr. Wright-Peterson, in 1994.

Hesby and her father, Dr. Wright-Peterson, in 1994.

“That’s when I really felt like, for the work that Dad had done in the community and the love he had for it, we should really keep it local,” she explained.

Hesby’s goal for this year is sustainability for Med City Foundation, including the establishment of meaningful partnerships that will help to nonprofit continue to exist.

“We are not going to be here in ten years just by doing our own thing. I am really hoping to make relationships, and have conversations, and figure out how we can best serve these patients and this community moving forward,” Hesby explained.

Finding balance in her own life, which Hesby admits she struggles with the most, is one key piece to help her meet this goal.

“Number one, I’m very transparent with anybody and everybody I’m talking to,” she explained.

Because Med City Foundation is made up solely of volunteers, Hesby is honest with patients about the turnaround time they should expect to receive assistance from the nonprofit. Personally, Hesby says she takes advantage of every spare moment she’s given to hop onto her computer or phone to maximize her efficiency.

For those interested in helping Med City Foundation by volunteering or any businesses looking to partner with the nonprofit, please contact the organization at info@medcityfoundation.org.

Strong Women Creating Value, Part Four: Sherry Sonnenberg

This week we wrap up our Strong Women Creating Value series, where we highlight four women in the community who are making waves and creating things of real value in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota. 

This week, we're focused on local entrepreneur Sherry Sonnenberg.


Who are you?

My name is Sherry Sonnenberg. I am a mother, an entrepreneur, a business owner, a personal trainer, a business partner, an author, a speaker, and a driver.


What value are you creating in the community? 

My success is determined by helping as many other people reach success in life personally and professionally as I can. I help business owners succeed by providing them with the software my company (Next Level Suite) developed to be able to communicate effectively with their prospects and customers via phone, email, text message, and video messages. I provide opportunities for health and wellness professionals by providing a space at a low cost for other personal trainers to train their clients without all of the overhead costs on their own. This helps to make it affordable for them to be an entrepreneur and in turn help more people in the community reach their fitness goals here in Rochester (Fitness 4 Ever) and in my second location in Fargo, ND, with upcoming locations in Grand Forks, ND and Tampa, FL. I also work directly with people as 1:1 personal training clients via online personal training. I am an independent associate for IDLife, where I help people determine what supplements and vitamins will help them function at their highest capacity. As I build a team of other health/wellness professionals with IDLife, we will help people lose weight and function at 100% on a daily basis anywhere in the country. 

You will find me driving for Lyft on the weekends while my kids are with their dad. I do this as a way to meet more people and get some really great stories! It allows me to not only make but save money versus going out myself and spending it. I want to provide the best possible life for my children and that means saving for their future and mine, so I can work hard now and play hard when I can retire by the time I am 50. The more people I can help now in my different adventures, the more likely this goal will be able to be achieved.

In my free time, I like to read and write. I co-authored a book called LUCK- Where Preparation Meets Opportunity in 2016. I am currently working on writing books on multi-cultural families and co-parenting. Although the father of my children and I have been separated for two years, we have nailed down the co-parenting like rock stars. We 100% always focus on what is in the best interest of our kids. For example, we just took a trip together to Disney World and Universal Studios to surprise our twin daughters for their 9th birthday.

What are your responsibilities in your day to day job?

My main responsibility from day to day is to ensure that each of my businesses is operating at the highest level. That all of my customers are happy and taken care of is the utmost important thing that I address each and every day, not just Monday through Friday.


What does it mean to you to be a woman in business?

Being a woman in business means I am showing my daughters that they can be anything they want to be with a little determination, hard work, and dedication. I was raised to work hard on the farm where nothing was taken for granted. I want to teach my daughters that anything of value is earned, not given to you, and you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

Being a woman in business means giving my 100% in everything that I do in every aspect of my life. It means being able to support my dad in North Dakota by physically being with him for five to fourteen days every month for the first seven months after my mom passed away while still being able maintain and grow my businesses from a distance.


What ask do you have for women in the SE Minnesota business and entrepreneurial community?

I ask that you believe in yourself. You are 100% possible of achieving 100% of your dreams and goals 100% of the time. Be the example of a powerful independent woman for those young girls and boys who are watching you. I ask that you build other women and men up instead of knocking them down. Support local business as much as possible and see the good/positive in every aspect of your life. When you practice gratitude in your own life, you view everything and everyone in a different light.


What challenges do you think that women face in today’s society?

With social media and filters on all of our pictures, the perfect image that society holds for a woman is unrealistic. I think that so much pressure is put on the youth today because of additional challenges that come from social media and how quickly rumors and falsities can be spread. It is easy for a person to sit behind their computer and knock another person down with their hateful words. Being on the receiving end of this hate can be detrimental to a young person. We need to teach our daughters and sons to build others up, to not let other's hate affect us, and to stand up for what they believe in.

Rochester Rising Publishes Insta-zine to Showcase Stories from Winter 2018


Welcome to our first Insta-zine edition of Rochester Rising (click the link the head over to our Instagram site to check it out)! I have to give complete credit to this idea to Becky Montpetit of Rochester MN Moms Blog for bringing this creative concept to my attention. It’s so important as an entrepreneur and a content creator to keep innovating and trying new things. We did put out a print version of Rochester Rising last fall, but the cost of doing that was so high that we could only print 100 copies to distribute in the community, in addition to an online edition. While you’ll have to do a bit more work to access our stories from this insta-zine, it’s still yet another method to amplify the stories of our entrepreneurs.

Our first Insta-zine contains most of our stories and podcasts published from January through March of 2018.

I wanted to thank all of you so much for continuing to support our mission. As you all (hopefully) saw in my letter to the community, I’m stepping back just a bit from content creation on Rochester Rising, but this news site and podcast is by no means going away.  Please continue to submit your press releases and opinion pieces to us at RochesterRising@gmail.com so this can continue to be a voice for all of our entrepreneurs.

You can find any of the stories mentioned on our Insta-zine on our website and on iTunes (search for “Rochester Rising”). The best way to follow us is to sign up for our weekly newsletter. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, and of course Instagram.

Thank you for your continued support. Please help us share this content so we can continue to amplify the stories of our entrepreneurs.

-Amanda Leightner

Strong Women Creating Value, Part Three: Neela Mollgaard

As part of Women's History Month, we are highlighting four women in the community who are making waves and creating things of real value. Check back in next week as we share the final part of this series and amplify the stories of some real female innovators who are making significant impact in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota. 

This week, we're focused on local entrepreneur Neela Mollgaard.


Who are you? 

I’m the Executive Director of Red Wing Ignite.  After Red Wing was named a partner with US Ignite in 2012, I was part of a dedicated group that created the nonprofit, which fosters innovation with students, entrepreneurs, and businesses.

Though, my most valued roles are being a mother, wife, and friend.

What value are you creating in the community? 

I am helping to create a foundation for success for students, entrepreneurs, and businesses as we build a culture of innovation and strive to stay competitive in this global economy.

This is done in three ways: 

-       Providing learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom to prepare students for the workforce of tomorrow. 

-       By connecting entrepreneurs with mentors, investors, customers, and technical advisors to help bring ideas to reality.

-       Supporting businesses by convening talent, technology, and resources such as a maker space and co-working space. 


What are your responsibilities in your day to day job?

I guess you can say I am a matchmaker of sorts;  I bring together entrepreneurs, business, and schools with needed resources, expertise, and talent in an effort to advance their goals.    


What does it mean to you to be a woman in business? 

To be honest, I don’t think about it.  I just see the work that needs to be done and do it.


What ask do you have for women in the SE Minnesota business and entrepreneurial community?

My ask would be that we all work collaboratively across city limits and organizational boundaries to place businesses' and entrepreneurs' needs first.

The African Proverb, says it best: “ If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together.”


What challenges do you think that women face in today’s society?

The entrepreneurial ecosystem is predominately male-driven but, I am encouraged to see more women entrepreneurs, investors, and female students involved in STEM career paths. 

Press Release: TEDxZumbroRiver Announces Big Plans for the 2018 Experience - 3 Salons!


ROCHESTER, Minn. — TEDxZumbroRiver announces a Salon Series for 2018.

The TEDxZumbroRiver organizers have spent the off season going to TEDx “School,” talking with other TEDx Organizers, and attending other TEDx events throughout the country. Because of the thirst for TEDx content in this area, TEDxZumbroRiver will be bringing TEDx Salons to Southeast Minnesota for 2018.

Salons will take the place of the traditional single large event in 2018, and 2019 will see the return of one large event. Salons are specialty TEDx events that require a license from TED, which was granted to TEDxZumbroRiver organizers Ben Creo and Barb Spurrier earlier this month.

Ben Creo had this to say: “The TEDxZumbroRiver planning team began discussing a three-series salon format for 2018 back in Fall 2017. The team unanimously agreed that making 2018 the year of salons is something our fan base will really enjoy. They are excited for the possibilities and creativity salons provide through unique venues, audience participation opportunities and topics.”

Here’s what attendees experience at these highly popular TEDx Salons:

● Format: The TEDxZumbroRiver team is planning unique and engaging formats to enhance the experience in a manner we’ve never before experienced.

● Lively Discussions: A critical element of salons is lively discussions, allowing attendees to actively participate in the event.

● Size: With smaller audiences than a standard TEDx event, salons bring attendees together in more intimate spaces, providing more chances to get to know and exchange ideas.

● The Single Subject: Having the ability to focus on one subject creates a focused audience and atmosphere.

TEDxZumbroRiver salons will be smaller and have a more intimate audience (100-200 rather than 1,000), shorter programs, more creative formats, a smaller ticket price, and speakers with single-topic themes with opportunities for audience engagement/participation.

The TEDxZumbroRiver Salon experience will be a series of three salons held throughout the year and will lead up to another grand event in 2019.

The First Salon is scheduled for May 10th, 2018. 

#Emerge Episode 15 with Zoey Jantsan

This week on our #Emerge video we sit down with local entrepreneur Zoey Jantsan. Zoey served as Miss Minnesota US International in 2017, is about to hit the two year mark in her real estate career, and is the new chair of the Women's Roundtable for the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce. This is one show not to miss about one female entrepreneur who is on fire!

Strong Women Creating Value, Part Two: Dawn Finnie

As part of Women's History Month, we are highlighting four women in the community who are making waves and creating things of real value. Check back in over the next few weeks as we share the stories of some real female innovators who are making significant impact in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota. 

This week, we're focused on local entrepreneur Dawn Finnie.


Who are you?

I’m one half of Little Thistle Brewing Company, along with my husband, Steve. I’m officially the CEO, but it’s really a team effort.

What value are you creating in the community? 

We’ve lived in Rochester for almost 20 years and we’ve seen its evolution progress over the past few years. My husband and I both grew up in small towns – he grew up in a little village in Scotland and I grew up on a farm in Iowa. Like a lot of people here, we never thought we would stay in Rochester, but we did.  Rochester has that small town feeling, like seeing people you know in the grocery store.  It has just enough to do and it just keeps getting better. We are invested in this community and we want to see it continue to grow and change, but still keep that small town vibe.

We’ve been going to breweries for a long time and we’ve always had the dream to open our own brewery and incorporate some of the cool things we’ve experienced along the way. We’re passionate about beer, and we’re passionate about family, and we love the Rochester community. While we’re a brewery and will be making and selling beer, we’ll also be community focused and family friendly. Traditionally, pubs were gathering places for family and friends to get together – a relaxed, social atmosphere where people can feel like a home away from home, but without laundry or dishes to do! We will have a game room with shuffle board and video games, an outdoor space with games, and we’re right on the Douglas Trail. We’ll have some fun family-focused programming, and we’ll be dog friendly.

We’re also hoping to create value in the Rochester community by partnering with other local businesses and entrepreneurs. There will be opportunities for local art and local music, and we have an amazing outdoor space and event space. I’m sure there are some opportunities that we haven’t even thought of yet. It’s exciting.

What are your responsibilities in your day to day job?

My day to day job is actually as a health services analyst at Mayo Clinic. I work with the Care Experiences Program in the Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery. I coordinate the qualitative research unit, which includes pairing investigators with a qualitative research question with the resources they need to help answer that question. Our resources happen to be people with qualitative research experience and expertise.

My beer job so far has involved pulling together the messaging and building our brand. I also read a lot – what’s going on in the brewing industry, what are people brewing, what are people drinking, how are they running their business, what kind of social media are they putting out – those type of things. It also involves a lot of beer tasting and talking about beer – a lot.

What does it mean to you to be a woman in business?

I’ve been fortunate to work at Mayo for the past 15 years, and while there have certainly been situations when I’ve felt frustrated over being treated differently because I’m a woman; for the most part, and certainly on a daily basis, I’m surrounded by smart, successful women who are respected and supported for what they do. I’m sure others have had different experiences, but I often look around a meeting room and see women who speak up and are respected for their expertise. It’s allowed me to feel empowered to do the same.

The brewing industry has a long way to go. It’s made up of mainly white, bearded guys. But there are so many smart, creative people in the industry that are leading the charge to create an environment that supports and elevates women as well as those for whom gender identity is a barrier and people of color. Other women in brewing in Minnesota have been so supportive of our project and of me personally. I’ve been reaching out to try to get ideas on hiring and retaining a diverse crew of employees. It’s important to us that we hire good people with the same mentality and drive that we have. We can train people to understand, sell, and even love beer. We’re a family business, so we want to support our staff and help them grow as individuals just like we want to do for our family.

What ask do you have for women in the SE Minnesota business and entrepreneurial community?

There are so many amazing women doing great things in Rochester and in SE Minnesota. Supporting small businesses in general is essential, and that’s especially true of women in business. To me, supporting women means lifting each other up, knowing when to ask for help and when to stop and listen. Respect and kindness goes a long way.

What challenges do you think that women face in today’s society?

That’s a complex question. I think things are getting better every day. I think there’s still a lot of gender-divided roles and jobs, and that’s a good place to start. Teaching and educating women to pursue things that interest them, whatever those things might be. Diversifying the workforce by providing education and support – it’ll take time for things to shift, but each generation will continue to grow and change. We’re raising two boys and I’m quite sure they have a different perspective on work, women, gender, etc. It’s exciting to see these changes, and as a woman in business and as a mom, I hope that I can provide support, education, and opportunity – wherever I can.

My Open Letter To Our Entrepreneurial Community


I want to start by saying that I am proud to be a member of this city’s entrepreneurial community. Over the past four years of working with our entrepreneurs I’ve been inspired, motivated, and at times even sustained by the passion, drive, and creativity of this community.

Building Rochester Rising has been an unimaginable experience for me. It’s opened me up to a number of people in Rochester who are pushing boundaries and making their own way, for which I am truly grateful. But as any entrepreneur knows, being “all-in” in an entrepreneurial endeavor is extremely trying. While I know that Rochester Rising has made real impact in the community, it has been an immense financial struggle. There’s no experience quite like launching into a panic at the grocery store while calculating out the cost of your food for the week, wondering how you’re going to pay for a handful of bills, or living out an extremely stressful existence just figuring out how to survive financially.

For me, I know that this struggle has been worth it to create this platform, connect with the community, and learn and grow myself. But building Rochester Rising has also spurred many different opportunities, including a new role for myself in the community to help develop programming and resources to help our entrepreneurs succeed.

To pursue this path, I have to step back a bit from Rochester Rising to fully immerse in this new endeavor. Rochester Rising is not going away. I would continue to push forward with this platform, despite the hurdles, if I did not think this new position was an invaluable opportunity for myself to learn and grow as an individual and to create more things of lasting value in the community. You will continue to see me typing away and running around with my recording equipment in the evenings and weekends to continue to develop new stories about our entrepreneurs.

I am so proud to be a part of this community and am dedicated to helping it succeed.

As part of my step back from creating as much content here, I’m asking the community for help.

This platform was always meant to be a voice for all sectors of entrepreneurship in our community. It can only be strengthened by adding more voices. Please, if you are already writing and creating content related to business development, related to innovation, related to our entrepreneurs, consider sending it here for potential publication to help strengthen and diversify this platform.

We have always accepted press releases and opinion pieces related to this entrepreneurial community. Now, I’m just asking you for more to help Rochester Rising keep chugging forward to make this a lasting place to amplify the stories of our entrepreneurs.

For more information about how you can contribute, please take a look at our guidelines for submissions.

Bike Repair, Apps, and Improved Shared Decision Making: Here's What Happened at the Latest 1 Million Cups Rochester


The community heard from two Rochester-based entrepreneurs at the past 1 Million Cups Rochester who are operating in very different spheres.

First up was Ken Zaiken with KZaiken Enterprises. Zaiken is developing a patient-oriented app to improve the process of Shared Decision Making (SDM) called EZSDM.


SDM- the process where the physician and the patient work together to plan out tests and treatments based on the patient’s values- is a well-documented method. The problem is, the actual implementation of SDM into the clinic does not always happen. Poor communication between patients and physicians, Zaiken explained, is a large part of the issue. When talking to physicians, patients may be overwhelmed or completely zone out and fail to effectively communicate during these challenging moments.

Zaiken said there needs to be a better way to tap into the patient mindset and have their values and desires play a role in their own healthcare. He believes that his app, EZSDM, is a viable solution to this problem.

Zaiken is using his twenty-eight years of software and project management experience to develop this tool to break down communication barriers and take into account the value of five different factors to the patient: duration of treatment, pain, life expectancy, success rate, and cost. Zaiken envisions EZSDM as a modern tablet interface where the patient can rank the importance of these five values to their treatment. The patient can then share graphical output of these rankings with the physician to influence the treatment plan.

“The important thing is to have a meaningful discussion,” Zaiken explained.

So far, he’s received positive feedback on EZSDM from the medical community. Now, he’s looking for a physician flagbearer for the product, which he hopes will help to drive funding to fuel the creation of a beta version of his vision.

Next up at 1 Million Cups Rochester was Charly Tri, Founder of My Bike Guy. My Bike Guy is a mobile bike repair business that Tri runs out of a van. This emerging startup is built off of Tri’s twenty-five-year history of bike repair.

Tri, a self-described “go-getter,” began working in a bike repair shop in Rochester at age fifteen. He first conceptualized his business four or five years ago but put the idea on the backburner until his oldest child entered kindergarten. Tri built his business as conservatively as possible to save funds, designing the website, logo, and even the wrap for his van himself.

Tri’s mobile bike repair shop is nearly as well supplied as any brick and mortar facility. The best part is the convenience of Tri’s service; My Bike Guy comes to you to repair your bike, regardless of location.


“You literally don’t have to get out of your pajamas,” Tri joked.

The biggest threat to My Bike Guy, Tri explained, is the establishment of other mobile bike repair businesses in Rochester. However, he’s not too concerned. Tri thinks that you should have at least ten years of bike repair experience before launching into a mobile endeavor. Bike sales are the biggest opportunity for his business that Tri sees right now. He’s done fairly well in this avenue so far and can currently source any type of bike to retail.

1 Million Cups is a free, national education program developed by the Kauffman Foundation. 1 Million Cups takes place every Wednesday at 9AM across 174 US communities to support and encourage entrepreneurs. The program is based on the idea that entrepreneurs connect and discover solutions over one million cups of coffee.

Join the community at the next 1 Million Cups Rochester on Wednesday April 4th.

Strong Women Creating Value, Part 1: Corrie Strommen

As part of Women's History Month, we are highlighting four women in the community who are making waves and creating things of real value. Check back in over the next few weeks as we share the stories of some real female innovators who are making significant impact in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota. 

 Corrie Strommen: Assistant Manager of Cafe Steam, Photographer, and Content Creator. Photo by Will Forsman.

Corrie Strommen: Assistant Manager of Cafe Steam, Photographer, and Content Creator. Photo by Will Forsman.

Who are you? What is your role/title?

Corrie Strommen, assistant manager of Café Steam, freelance photographer, content creator.

What value are you creating in the community? 

At Steam, I'm striving to maintain our hard won title of Rochester's best coffee shop. Each and every one of our employees work hard to maintain that title, in every customer interaction and shot of espresso-it's all about staying focused on turning out a quality product with attention to the smallest details. In my role as a manager, I do my best to help create a work environment that is conducive to job satisfaction and efficient work flow. It's wonderful doing work here both behind the scenes and behind the bar. 

As a photographer, I'm striving to convey my artistic vision in combination with the desires and personalities of my clientele. As of late this has become a wonderful opportunity to work with artists and musicians in the work I'm doing for Collider Coworking and their efforts to incorporate local art and music into their space. I love working with local creatives and combining visions to become something really special. The connections I've made through photography have really changed my view of Rochester in such a positive way. 

What are your responsibilities in your day to day job?

Preparing and serving hundreds of kick a** coffees to the general populous of Rochester as well as managing Café Steam's schedule, reservations, and designing our monthly oatmeal recipes. In my extra time outside of that I often find myself at Collider, taking or editing photos, planning out and organizing future photo shoots, and generally trying to keep my life organized. 

What does it mean to you to be a woman in business?

Autonomy. My business ventures have occurred since being a single woman. Upon finding independence and self reliance, pursuing business came naturally. There was a certain level of risk and uncertainty that I embraced because I had nothing to lose and no one to let down but myself. But, in all honesty, I never wondered if my gender would affect my successfulness or lack thereof. I've found that when hard work and dedication are put out in my work, acceptance and success follow. 

What challenges do you think that women face in today’s society?

The same we've been facing for decades, societal expectations, a degree of dismissiveness toward our abilities, wage gap, sexual harassment, etc. etc. It's wonderful that these issues are becoming more widely spoken about and hopefully we'll see more improvement as time goes on. 

#Emerge Episode 14 with May Larios Garcia and Jim Fricker

This week on #Emerge, we sit down with husband and wife team of Jim Fricker and May Larios Garcia to talk about their emerging language education business, Spanish and Go. Spanish and Go consists of a blog and highly successful YouTube channel that serves as “your resource for learning real-world, travel Spanish.” Jim and May travel back and forth between Rochester and Spanish speaking areas, both inside and outside of the US, to experience and share the local culture, customs, and intricacies of the Spanish language in these regions. The pair focuses on getting people actually speaking Spanish as soon as possible to inspire their audience to really connect and feel comfortable to travel and engage with Spanish speaking cultures across the globe.

"The Hatchery" To Provide Lab Space to Emerging Rochester Life Science Startups


Midwestern states are historic dry beds of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding. SBIR and STTR are competitive, federally funded programs for US small businesses to aid in the commercialization of research and development activities to encourage, and in some cases, require collaborations between small businesses and nonprofit research institutions to bring scientific and tech innovations onto the market.

In the approximate thirty-six year history of these programs (SBIR was established in 1982 and STTR in 1992), funding has primarily focused along the coasts, particularly in California (with ~$9.7B in obligations), Massachusetts (with ~$6B in obligations), Virginia (with $2.7B in obligations), and Maryland (with $2.2B in obligations). Only two Midwestern states have garnered over $1B in obligations from these programs over the same amount of time (Ohio leads with ~$1.75B followed by Michigan with ~$1B); the states of Illinois (with ~$839M in obligations), Minnesota (with ~$645M in obligations), and Wisconsin (with ~$519M in obligations) trail closely behind.

Over the past five years (from 2013 to 2017), 4 companies in Rochester were successfully awarded 7 different SBIR/STTR grants, totaling about $5M. For comparison, in these same five years 5 entities in Fargo, North Dakota successfully received 12 different SBIR/STTR grants, totaling about $4.8M. Across this same time span, 55 different companies in Madison, Wisconsin were successfully awarded 162 different SBIR/STTR grants.

Compared to at least some similar Midwestern towns, Rochester is on par. But we can do better to increase the amount of SBIR/STTR grant applications, improve the positioning of Rochester startups, and begin to capture government funds that are leaking to the coastal regions.

One key factor that could fuel the growth of science and tech startups in Rochester, and in turn spur more SBIR/STTR submissions, is wet lab space. Currently, areas for life science startups to build and develop life science technologies in Rochester is slim if not non-existent.

Dr. Stephen Ekker, Director of the brand-new Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship, thinks he may have a solution with “The Hatchery”.

This concept utilizes unoccupied lab space within Mayo Clinic, which would otherwise go unused, to house emerging science startups and fuel biotech innovation in this city. The Hatchery provides some lab equipment including glassware, gloves, water baths, a thermocycler, and incubators along with desk and lab space to startups at low cost: $12/square foot or an equity agreement.

Space is currently available for interested life science startups in Mayo’s Guggenheim building.

Want to learn more about wet lab space and its potential? Check out the suggested stories below.

Press Release: ROCKchester 'In Their Element' Series Releasing Later This Month

 Photo courtesy of ROCKchester.

Photo courtesy of ROCKchester.

ROCHESTER, MN -- Throughout the month of March, ROCKchester will be highlighting the talents of local youth musicians with the 'In Their Element' video series. 

The series will capture four local groups playing small, intimate acoustic sets in places that define them as artists and Rochesterites. These places capture the essence of all corners and cultures in Rochester, from the soft undertones of Cafe Steam to the fluorescent glow of a Graham Arena hockey rink.

Videos will release every Friday through the month of March, beginning with indie-punk artist and Century High School junior Wyatt Moran.

Sam Butterfass, an alt-Americana musician and 2015 Mayo graduate, will follow Moran, with indie electronica outfit Fauna & Flora, and indie-folk artist Greentop finishing the series.

ROCKchester founder and curator Dylan Hilliker is excited about the direction of the series.

“Music often influences the connections we make, both with people and with places,” Hilliker said. “The ‘In Their Element’ series puts ROCKchester artists into settings they are most familiar or most associated with for personal, intimate performances.”

Cinematography and audio recording for the series was handled exclusively by local artists. Kevin Andrews, Emily Nelson, Jack Hilliker, and Will Forsman combined to produce all video content, while Mitchell Nelson recorded, mixed and mastered all audio.

The sessions will be released in their entirety on ROCKchester’s official website, rockchesterfestival.com.

Coworking: What You Should Know About This Global Trend and Where to Cowork in Rochester


Coworking- office space where an individual or small group can rent open or semi-private workspace- is a business trend on the sharp rise. As of 2017, approximately 13,800 coworking facilities exist globally, growing at a 22% rate each year, according to the 2017 Global Coworking Survey. Over 1,180,000 people around the world work out of these types of spaces. With 12,500 square feet of coworking space in operation in this city, we thought it was time to take a deeper dive into this trend and better understand the true coworking value.

 The Vault coworking space in Rochester. The Vault is located above Grand Rounds Brew Pub.

The Vault coworking space in Rochester. The Vault is located above Grand Rounds Brew Pub.

On the surface level, coworking spaces are exactly that- places to work. They typically include some sort of open work area, where people can rent individual desks on a monthly, or even daily, basis. Some coworking facilities offer semi-private office space, like the small group “campsites” at COCO Coworking. Most coworking facilities also contain sound-proof areas to take phone calls, meeting room space, snacks, beer, lots of coffee, and a mailing address outside of your home. Some even have in-house bars, lockers, showers, daycare, and discount partnerships with local business (such as WeWork and Lyft in Minneapolis).

 Rochester Area Foundation non-profit incubator space.

Rochester Area Foundation non-profit incubator space.

Coworking spaces are not just for the uber-hipster, either. And they’re not just for the solo entrepreneur. Small teams, freelancers, remote workers, startups, and teams from Fortune 500 companies can and do operate from coworking facilities.

The extreme flexibility of coworking spaces is perhaps their biggest value add in today’s dynamic business climate. Coworking rental agreements are typically no longer than one month and are renewed on a monthly basis. This allows businesses to avoid long-term leases and offers the ability to scale up or down both the real estate and team in a financially responsible manner.

Coworking facilities come in a variety of flavors. There are massive, one-size-fits-all, chain entities like WeWork and Industrious, both of which have locations in Minneapolis. WeWork is the giant, for-profit entity in coworking; the business has a $20B valuation (Crunchbase), with 305 office locations in 62 different cities. Industrious, also for-profit, has 25 locations in the US and just raised $80M (Axios).

While all general purpose coworking facilities can’t all be unicorns, they can be francized, even on a smaller scale. The Beauty Shoppe is a prime example. This private-public partnership began as a single entity, in a beauty shop in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood. Now, The Beauty Shoppe has four additional locations around Pittsburgh and one facility in Cleveland.

COCO Coworking, another for-profit business, is a great example in our region. COCO now has four Twin Cities locations and has set up shop in Chicago. COCO recently rebranded to Fueled Collective, where their facilities will blend into a hybrid coworking space and social club, linking this community to other Fueled Collective spaces in New York and Cincinnati.

Coworking spaces can also be targeted to specific demographics, when the community is large enough to support it. Several examples exist in the Los Angeles region including One Roof Women, a space specifically for females; The Hatchery Press, a work area just for writers; and Kleverdog Coworking, a facility for the dog lover.    

While there certainly are a plethora of coworking facilities on the global scale, only 41% of coworking spaces are actually profitable. The bottom line: they just take a lot of money to run and receive little money in return. On a non-financial level, coworking spaces can also fail if they do not create an identity, offer no or poor business programming to their members, are not involved in the local community, and fail to develop an inspiring physical space.

 Inside of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator.

Inside of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator.

“The success of a coworking space depends on the community that you’re in,” explained Jamie Sundsbak, Community Manager of Collider Coworking in Rochester.

Some particular standout successes occur when coworking spaces popup in repurposed, old buildings and activate that space. This helps to drive foot traffic, interest, and activity to perhaps otherwise unutilized areas of a city. This was the case with Collider Coworking, which took space in the over 100-year-old Conley-Maass-Downs Building in 2016.

Success also occurs when coworking facilities bring distinct educational value to their tenants, such as The Corner, a Beauty Shoppe location in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. This facility offers a ten-week training program in conjunction with Penn State University to support product commercialization.

The most effective coworking spaces, by far, are those that add value to both the surrounding community and to their tenants. They are useful tools to cluster creative minds together to generate synergy, spur innovation, and fuel collaborations to solve real problems. They also provide cost-effective office space to get emerging companies off the ground.

 Rochester's newest coworking space, Collider, located in the Conley-Maass-Downs building.

Rochester's newest coworking space, Collider, located in the Conley-Maass-Downs building.

In a city the size of Rochester, coworking spaces may be more effective as non-profit entities, where they “turn more into an economic development play than a co-working space alone,” explained Sundsbak.

Red Wing Ignite, a non-profit that provides coworking space in Red Wing, Minnesota practiced this concept since 2013. Red Wing Ignite subsidizes rental costs to tenants and keeps the lights running through a variety of private-public partnerships including support from Xcel Energy, Goodhue County, Red Wing Shoes, the City of Red Wing, and the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation.

In Rochester, we have four different co-working spaces, financed in a variety of ways, including: The Vault, Collider Coworking, the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, and Rochester Area Foundation. We are on par with the global coworking trend; most of these facilities in Rochester are at 75-100% capacity.

To learn more about the coworking options and culture in Rochester, check out our Rochester Startup series that we created with Ambient House Productions.    

Statewide Initiative "Ignite Minnesota" Launches Today to Keep Greater Minnesota Competitive


Ignite Minnesota, a new, statewide initiative, launches today out of Red Wing. This regional partnership works to convene, elevate, and promote the work of innovative businesses, entrepreneurs, and technologies in Minnesota to keep the region connected and globally competitive in an ever-evolving digital space. Ignite Minnesota aims to support students, businesses, and entrepreneurs throughout Greater Minnesota.

The program officially takes off this evening from the Red Wing Ignite coworking space; Red Wing Ignite is a non-profit that provides a work space, gigabit internet access, business programming, connections, and more to help entrepreneurs turn their innovations into reality.

The steering committee for Ignite Minnesota includes 3M, Xcel Energy, Winona State University, Minnesota State College SE, the City of Red Wing, Collider Coworking, Rainsource Capital, Goodhue Country, and multiple entrepreneurs.

The goal is to create a connection point for people, ideas, and resources in Minnesota to foster innovation and develop technology in clean energy, healthcare, advanced manufacturing, education, and agtech.

“Our work will help rural America and Greater Minnesota stay competitive,” explained Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director of Red Wing Ignite.

The ground work for Ignite Minnesota began in 2013 when Red Wing Ignite became an original member of the brand-new non-profit, US Ignite. This program was launched to help communities and entrepreneurs develop new technology to influence the way people “work, learn, and live.”

After linking up with other US Ignite communities, Mollgaard said that Red Wing Ignite “really started focusing on entrepreneurs and startups and trying to give them the resources that they need to succeed.” In 2015, US Ignite, in partnership with the National Science Foundation, launched a Smart Gigabite Communities (SGC) Program to develop and deploy these newly developed technologies in the real world. Red Wing Ignite became the very first rural community to be designated as an SGC by the program and the only SGC focused on agtech.

Now, Red Wing Ignite is looking to expand its mission to fuel innovation in Greater Minnesota, connect entrepreneurs and institutions, and further support and elevate the innovation already occurring in this region with Ignite Minnesota.

While the program officially opens today, the work is far from over to implement Ignite Minnesota across the state. A number of tech ambassadors have been hired in outreach positions for the program. These ambassadors will link up with meetup groups, developers, students, stakeholders, and other entrepreneurs across the state to provide education about Ignite Minnesota and to discover needs and gaps in these communities.

“Throughout the whole year, we will also be planning events to gather these key stakeholders to continue to work together to help foster new innovations,” explained Mollgaard.

Red Wing Ignite serves as the community piece in this puzzle, forming a tech hub for Minnesota’s entrepreneurs and reaching out to other Ignite communities to share best practices.

Learn more about this new initiative by attending the Ignite Minnesota launch this evening in Red Wing.

Ignite Minnesota is also interested in connecting with entrepreneurs in need of resources, potential business mentors, and any individuals interested in hosting or co-hosting events with the program.

How to Develop Your Personal Brand: A Lesson from Local Experts

 Sidewalk art (with photo filter) by Eric Anderson.

Sidewalk art (with photo filter) by Eric Anderson.

This Wednesday The Commission, a Rochester-based young professionals group, held their latest Professional Development Panel discussing how to develop personal image. The expert panel included: Michael Wojcik, Rochester City Council Representative and owner of Elite Consulting; Sarah Miller, brand strategist and owner of White Space; and Christian Mogensen, Interactive Media Director at Think Mutual Bank.

Here’s what these local authorities had to say about personal branding, personal vision, and how to develop as a young professional in any community.


What is a personal brand?

A personal brand can be thought of as your legacy. It’s what you want to be known as and what you stand for as an individual.

Are personal brand and personal vision the same thing?

They are related but separate entities. A brand is like your personal theme, which develops from self-discovery. Brand also is a type of promise. How well you keep that promise becomes your reputation. Personal vision is more forward thinking and encompasses your ultimate goals and desired accomplishments.


Did you sit down and write out your personal vision or did it develop over time?

Personal brand and personal vision can change based on experiences, passions, and opportunity. Typically, our branding and personal vision development starts at a very young age when we don’t really know much about ourselves as individuals. When you develop more experience or desire to leave the safety net of an employer or perhaps even a field that you’re highly trained in to seek out something more rewarding, you’ll likely need to re-invest in yourself and develop a different, more focused vision and brand. Part of this involves learning your strengths and weaknesses and following your assets down a singular path.


How do you seek out mentors to help develop your personal brand and vision?

Look for mentors in roles that you aspire to hold some day. But mentors that failed to reach these positions might be even more valuable and have many lessons to pass on. Remember that mentorship can develop from unexpected people, so don’t close yourself off to opportunities. Always keep in mind that mentors provide opinions; you have to process feedback from these mentors and understand how it applies to you, personally.


How do you seek clarity in your personal vision?

Remember that learning is a lifelong activity. We often choose fields of study, such as during college, without really knowing ourselves. What you studied or were trained in doesn’t define you. Your actions “on the field” are what people will remember. Don’t be afraid to re-invent yourself and keep learning and exploring as an individual.

#Emerge Episode 13 with EatRochMN

This week on #Emerge, we sit down with Rochester transplants Cheyenne Labott and Katie Zupancic Wymer to talk about EatRochMN. EatRochMN is a food blog and Instagram account that Cheyenne and Katie developed after meeting in an art group. The account documents the girls' journey through the Rochester food scene, helping them to connect with the community and share useful information for others looking to enjoy this city.