Busy Baby LLC Wins Fourth Annual Ignite Cup

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Tuesday night entrepreneurship took center stage at the Ignite Cup in Red Wing. Five startups, including four with Rochester ties, pitched their innovations for a guaranteed spot in the semifinal round of the Minnesota Cup, the largest statewide business pitch competition. Oronoco-based business Busy Baby LLC walked away as the winner of the 2019 Ignite Cup and will compete in the Minnesota Cup for the second consecutive year. 

Busy Baby LLC was launched by entrepreneur, US veteran, and mom Beth Fynbo. This innovator has created and manufactured a 100% FDA-approved silicone mat with a proprietary tether system to keep babies from tossing toys and other items onto the floor, keeping these objects germ-free. Since Fynbo’s run at the Minnesota Cup last year, where she made it to the semifinal round, she developed a prototype of the Busy Baby mat and has earned $12,000 in sales this year. Fynbo currently manufactures the mats in China but hopes to move production to the US at some point. She currently sells the product from her website and is beginning to formulate retail packaging. 

Additional startups pitching at Ignite Cup included GoAdvntr, Phraze, Shrpa, and SkyWorks.

GoAdvntr is a Winona-based business to help people seek adventure and “experience something new.” This business, pitched by CEO and Founder Brian Kugel, is an online marketplace where local businesses can list their experiential adventures and connect with consumers. GoAdvntr aims to use a “community first approach” and is focused on launching their product in southern Minnesota. GoAdvntr currently has sixteen host businesses offering twenty-eight different adventures in line for when the product launches. They aim to scale to 125 hosts by the end of 2019.

AI medical scribe Phraze was pitched by current Rochester resident and co-founder Brandon McCutcheon. Phraze automates documentation for physicians, reducing physician burnout and beginning the documentation process before the physician even enters the exam room. The startup’s four co-founders estimate that Phraze will save ~1.5 hours of physician time per day based on early testing, leading to over $9M per month in cost savings. Phraze filed a provisional patent on their technology in March and aims to obtain one hundred users by the end of 2019. The startup has raised $135,000 of seed funding to date.

Shrpa, a Rochester-based app to connect people to their communities, was pitched by co-founders Chris Lukenbill and Andy Vig. Shrpa provides users with handcrafted itineraries created by local guides, allowing users to experience a community and navigate the logistics of that experience like a local. The idea for Shrpa was created this January and the MVP will launch this month. By the end of the summer Lukenbill and Vig aim for 20K trips to be taken via Shrpa. The original focus for the product is on Rochester and the immediately surrounding area. 

SkyWorks, also based in Rochester, was the final pitch of the night. This startup was founded by Sam Barsness, AJ Hawkins, and Ahmed Makkawy. SkyWorks aims to provide a new standard in commercial real estate transaction processing to create less work for agents, reduced risk for brokers, and more loyal clients. The startup is tackling a $65.1B target market.

Congratulations to all the teams that pitched at the fourth annual Ignite Cup. Best of luck to Beth Fynbo as she represents the region at Minnesota Cup. And a big ‘thank you’ to Red Wing Ignite Executive Director Neela Mollgaard and her team for creating another engaging platform for entrepreneurship.  

Local Entrepreneur Hopes to Unite People Through Tacos with Taco JED

Photo courtesy of  AB-Photography.us.

Photo courtesy of AB-Photography.us.

Local entrepreneur Steve Dunn is filling a gap in the Rochester food scene with his business Taco JED. Dunn aims for his restaurant to be welcoming to everyone in the community and to bring people together through a love of tacos.

Dunn, a native of Grand Forks, North Dakota, began his career in insurance and commercial real estate before setting his sights on food.

“I got into the whole taco business is because of the recession,” Dunn explained. 

The economic downturn hit the commercial real estate market hard, causing financial strain for Dunn’s employer. At that point, Dunn decided to leave real estate behind, launching a taco restaurant in 2010, called Rusty Taco, in Dallas, Texas alongside Rusty Fenton. After Rusty passed away, the restaurant was acquired by Buffalo Wild Wings in 2014 and is now owned by Inspire Brands. Rusty Taco franchises have opened in thirty-one different locations in eight states. Dunn moved from Dallas to Minneapolis to help grow the brand working with Buffalo Wild Wings. He spent several years growing the Franchise business as CEO of Rusty Taco, before deciding it was time to move on yet again and open up a restaurant of his very own.

Dunn knew he wanted to launch his newest business somewhere in Minnesota to stay close to family. His siblings currently live around the Twin Cities and parents live in Bemidji.  His son attends Concordia Saint Paul and his daughters study in Nebraska. After researching several markets, Dunn chose Rochester.

“Rochester is the fastest growing city in Minnesota,” he explained. “I checked out the competition and felt that I had a little niche that I could fit into.”

Dunn found a location for his business along South Broadway and opened his newest endeavor, Taco JED, on October 4th of last year.

“We want [the restaurant] to be open and inviting to everyone. Our motto is ‘Tacos Unite People,’” he said. 

Dunn hopes to keep Taco JED as local as possible with Rochester beers on tap, local art on the walls, and live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

While building Taco JED, Dunn has been very intentional, down to the details. The restaurant itself is represented by a cartoon of a tousled-haired, sun glassed, cap wearing, bearded character called JED, who stands for whatever Dunn wants at any given moment. However, the name JED pays homage to Dunn’s father, grandfather, and great grandfather, all named Joseph Edward Dunn. In addition to the JED mascot, many other seemingly random items in the restaurant have significant purpose. A rooster image in dining area of the restaurant is from Dunn’s mother. Photography from Dunn’s brother adorns the walls, including an image for one of Dunn’s daughters. Albums lining the walls were chosen by people who worked on the restaurant. Gifted fan art of JED hangs on a wall near the kitchen, created by local artist Brian Jungers. Motorcycle helmets donated by customers, representing one of JED’s favorite hobbies, line the restaurant. A large display Dunn built himself hangs along a side wall displaying patches from all sixty national parks, encouraging people to “Go see the world and eat tacos.”

While the layout of the restaurant is similar to what Dunn was accustomed to with Rusty Taco, he called on Dallas designer Brent McMahon to help bring his new vision to life. Beyond a common blueprint, Dunn was able to apply many lessons learned from Rusty Taco to the current business, but said staffing was originally a challenge. Dunn says he’s happy with the progress Taco JED has made over the last few months and feels the food itself has been well received in the community. 

Taco JED will soon be open on Sundays, along with more live music. JED’s Shed, the bar portion of the restaurant, is currently building a patio for outdoor seating, which will be serving margaritas soon.

Meet Rochester's Newest Startup: Shrpa

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Entrepreneurs Chris Lukenbill and Andy Vig are modernizing tourism with Rochester’s newest tech startup, Shrpa. This soon to launch service connects people to communities to experience the community like a local with highly customized itineraries to help people “get out and discover.”

The original concept for Shrpa stemmed from an experience Lukenbill had with his own family. He had visited LARK toys in Kellogg, Minn. several times with his wife and children. But instead of their normal one-stop trip to the store, Lukenbill received a handcrafted itinerary from a colleague, which led to a multi-phase adventure at several businesses and tourist spots in that region.  

“All these other things were there, but we had never been to them. And the fact that we did that in a whole event was a memory,” he explained. “That was an experience that was a full memory that wasn’t something that we would know how to put together on our own.”

Prior to that experience, this entrepreneur was working on a different startup concept, which he quickly reduced to its most basic elements into what he calls Shrpa: a service that “connects people to their communities by providing guided itineraries that match a user’s interest and available time.” 

Lukenbill paired up with Vig to bring this vision to life. Vig, a software engineer, brings extensive knowledge in building architecture software systems that scale for large companies to the Shrpa team. Vig spent over eleven years at Microsoft and most recently worked at the computer gaming company NCSOFT.

Shrpa, Lukenbill explained, is like micro-travel agency that puts together a set of experiences in a way that make sense for each set of users. The service helps to reduce the friction associated with visiting a location for the first time by providing users with “tips and tricks” to reduce uncertainty, to achieve a memorable reduced-stress experience, to allow users to experience a community like a local. 

Shrpa is not a service users would seek out every time they left home.

“This is going to be the thing you use to go to have a new experience and along that experience you’re going to find cool stuff that you are going to want to go back and do again,” Lukenbill explained.

 Shrpa will be a highly customized service driven by locality. To get that authentic experience, itineraries in each community will be built by local people, which Lukenbill and Vig call Sherpas, with a high level of passion and knowledge about that particular location.

“We want to make sure there is a feel of this high touch type of connection because there is the experience of it, this human side of it, to be able to put all these things together. That’s again where all the value is,” Lukenbill explained. “It’s not just like here are five cool things that we created, some randomly created itinerary to go and see those things. Here is what actually makes sense to put together to experience because this is somebody who knows what these places are and knows how to experience it because they’ve been there before.”

Lukenbill and Vig have identified some of their first Sherpas, people already providing this type of work or creating similar content. They plan to plug into additional experience and adventure resources as the scope of Shrpa grows. 

As a serial entrepreneur, Lukenbill knows how to grow a startup. He previously founded a greenhouse business called Fresh with Edge and an agtech startup called Able.ag. His plan with Shrpa is to start small, get a minimal viable product onto the market, and really understand how people use and derive value from the service. Right now, he sees information obtained from Shrpa’s early adopters as useful as the itineraries these users will gain from the service. Once Lukenbill and Vig better understand the direction of Shrpa, they’ll pursue monetization strategies. 

Now, the pair is excited to provide a highly customized, modern way for people to explore their community and experience brand new adventures. Look for the first version of Shrpa to launch this month. 

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#Emerge 25 with Laura Elwood

Today on our latest #Emerge video we sit down with Rochester native and fierce female entrepreneur Laura Elwood, owner of Chamberlain Concierge & Lifestyle Management. This business just reached its three-year anniversary, providing limo service coupled with a concierge menu to bridge the gap between a client’s need for visiting Rochester to the local hospitality industry.

“If you tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to find a way to make it done. And I’m going to find a way to make it done better than what you expected. I think it’s really easy to be competitive with other people. It’s harder to be competitive with yourself.” -Laura Elwood 

Check out the full interview with Laura in podcast Episode 125

Potbelly Opens Second Location in Rochester Today

Congrats to local Potbelly owners for opening up their second location in Rochester! Six years after opening the original Potbelly on 1st Avenue, franchisee owners have opened the doors to a second restaurant at 3801 Market Place Drive NW. The new location will be managed by Laura Hessling, with the original downtown Potbelly under the management of Jessica Conrad. Oversight at both restaurants will continue to be run by Kirk Gordon. Both Rochester Potbelly locations are owned by Kirk and Kim Gordon, Bill and Erin Nystrom, and John and Sandy Rogness.

Strong Women Creating Value 2019: Stacy Lequire, Co-Owner of Vitality Chiropractic

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Local entrepreneur, mom, and volunteer Dr. Stacy Lequire is helping her patients achieve control over their total health one step at a time. After returning to southeastern Minnesota from the Boston area in 2008, Stacy and her husband Ed co-founded their second business, Vitality Chiropractic, in Rochester and have been caring for patients, locally, ever since. 

“I’ve always been a questioner and a seeker of answers,” said Lequire.  

After obtaining her chemistry degree from University of Wisconsin- La Crosse, she knew her career was headed in a different direction, enrolling in Northwestern Health Sciences University to obtain her Doctor of Chiropractic. Since that time, she’s seen the difference chiropractic care can make and how one change can cause an “upward spiral” towards better health.

“For me, health is about habits. So, I try and look at those little things we do. I don’t think there’s one big thing that changes everything. It’s a lot of little habits,” she explained.

Lequire’s observed a definite need in the community for the services Vitality Chiropractic offers, where she and Ed develop long term relationships with their patients and help them make lifestyle changes. 

“We try to come in in the early innings to say, ‘Hey, this is about you making choices. This is about you being empowered to do things for your own health,’” she explained.

Launching a business like Vitality Chiropractic in a highly medical community is always a challenge, Lequire said. As a wife, mom, entrepreneur, and volunteer, time is another challenge to building her business and forging more connections in the community. 

While the Lequires are growing their own business, they’re also incubating other small health and wellness companies at their northwest Rochester location. Vitality Chiropractic houses several partners in their building- including Kim Kraft Therapeutic Massage and Fitness 4 Ever- to help keep costs low for these entrepreneurs and to help them flourish.

“We feel like we are creating something unique in the community with the partners that we have here. I love being able to get into people’s lives in that way when it comes to health,” Lequire explained.

Strong Women Creating Value Season 1, Episode 4: Stacy Lequire

This week we wrap up our Strong Women Creating Value series for 2019 sharing the story of Stacy Lequire, Co-Owner of Vitality Chiropractic.

"I'm always in awe of people, women entrepreneurs, because I know from the handful of people that I interact with regularly, that it's a huge juggling act." -Stacy Lequire

Press Release: Female Entrepreneur Launches Home Organizing Business, Filling Service Gap in Rochester

Photo courtesy of Simple Home Method.

Photo courtesy of Simple Home Method.

 ROCHESTER, Minn.—April 1, 2019—Simple Home Method opened for business this week, offering home organizing services to Rochester and surrounding areas.

To help clients transform their spaces through decluttering and organization, Simple Home Method is the first of its kind in Rochester to specialize in the KonMari Method, the popular tidying method developed by Marie Kondo and made famous by her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and the companion Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo .

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to offer this service to my community because I’ve found it can have such a long-lasting positive impact on people’s homes and lives,” said Simple Home Method founder Sara Messina. “Our homes should fill us with joy, but when they become cluttered, we feel stressed and overwhelmed. My goal is to help clients get organized so their homes can be a source of peace and inspiration instead of clutter and disorder.”

Messina chose the KonMari Method for working with clients because of its effectiveness and overall impact on clients’ well-being.

“Most organization systems fail because they advocate a little-by-little approach or because they are not sustainable,” she explained. “In contrast, Simple Home Method helps clients get organized quickly, and for good. We partner with our clients to create homes filled with belongings they love and that support their ideal lives.”

 During in-home organizing sessions, Simple Home Method teaches clients how to make decisions about what to keep, recycle, toss, or donate. Clients also learn how to simplify, organize, and store the items they keep, enabling them to make lasting change.

Simple Home Method offers organizing sessions in three- to five-hour increments, as well as a monthly membership package that includes both in-person organizing hours and supplemental virtual support —useful for clients who want to DIY some of the work. Add-on services include custom organization product shopping lists and services. The firm can also facilitate donation, recycling, and disposal of clients’ discarded items.

About Simple Home Method

Make Space for What You Love.

Simple Home Method offers home organization services to help clients create homes filled with belongings they love, enabling them to make lasting change and live their ideal lives.

Simple Home Method specializes in KonMari, the best-in-class tidying method developed by Marie Kondo and made famous by her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and the companion Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

Over one or more sessions, Simple Home Method teaches clients how to make decisions about what to keep, recycle, toss, or donate. Clients learn how to simplify, organize, and store the items they keep, so that they can maintain an organized home forever.

New MN DEED Commissioner Steve Grove Stops in Rochester to Hear from SE MN Entrepreneurs

Photo courtesy of RAEDI. Back row from left to right: Ryan Nolander, President of RAEDI; Chris Schad, Director of Business Development for Discovery Square; Samantha Strand, Executive Director at Garage Co-Work Space; Jame Sundsbak, Community Manager of Collider Coworking; Andy Vig, Cofounder of SHRPA; Sean Williams, Cofounder of Comicker LLC. Front row from left to right: Judy Lundy, Innovation Coordinator with Austin Community Growth Ventures; Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director at Red Wing Ignite; Carla Nelson, Minnesota State Senator; Shruthi Naik, Cofounder at Vyriad; Steve Grover, Commissioner at MN DEED; Amanda Leightner, Founder of Rochester Rising; and Xavier Frigola, Director of Entrepreneurship at RAEDI.

Photo courtesy of RAEDI. Back row from left to right: Ryan Nolander, President of RAEDI; Chris Schad, Director of Business Development for Discovery Square; Samantha Strand, Executive Director at Garage Co-Work Space; Jame Sundsbak, Community Manager of Collider Coworking; Andy Vig, Cofounder of SHRPA; Sean Williams, Cofounder of Comicker LLC. Front row from left to right: Judy Lundy, Innovation Coordinator with Austin Community Growth Ventures; Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director at Red Wing Ignite; Carla Nelson, Minnesota State Senator; Shruthi Naik, Cofounder at Vyriad; Steve Grover, Commissioner at MN DEED; Amanda Leightner, Founder of Rochester Rising; and Xavier Frigola, Director of Entrepreneurship at RAEDI.

Newly minted Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (MN DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove visited with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ecosystem builders from across southeastern Minnesota in Rochester this Friday. His mission: to listen and learn about the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and to receive input on Governor Tim Walz’s proposal to spur innovation in the state.

Grove, a native of Northfield, Minnesota, was appointed into the Commissioner position with MN DEED by Walz after a long career in the private sector. As a trained journalist, Grove spent time at The Boston Globe and ABC News. Although new to MN DEED, Grove is no stranger to tech innovation. He spent over four years as Head of News and Politics at YouTube prior to his most recent post as Director of Google News.

While building his career on the west coast, Grove retained strong roots to the Midwest. He and wife Mary co-founded the nonprofit Silicon North Stars in 2013. This organization connects underserved tech-driven Minnesotan youth with tech startups and venture capital firms in Silicon Valley for an immerse learning experience. Mary Grove currently runs the Minneapolis office for the venture capital firm Rise of the Rest, an organization launched by AOL founder Steve Case to increase investment outside of the coasts. 

Now, Grove and Governor Walz are thinking of ways to grow the innovation economy in Minnesota to help foster the region as a powerhouse to start and grow tech companies.

Grove visited Rochester last week to meet with local entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial ecosystem builders, and local government to tour innovation sectors in Rochester and to better understand strengths and weaknesses in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Grove also received feedback and questions about the Governor’s $9M proposal to create a new Minnesota Innovation Collaboration (MIC). If approved, the MIC would utilize grants and other resources to make Minnesota a more attractive place to start a tech company. The program would be administered by MN DEED.  

“I think it’s great that the Commissioner comes to the position with private world experience in the technology and innovation sector. The program that he and the Governor are proposing seems to be on track and I think it was important that we were able to provide input,” said Ryan Nolander, President of Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. “Hopefully they take that input and create programs that are flexible enough to truly assist us with growing our regional entrepreneur ecosystem.” 

Walz’s MIC proposal includes a number of incentives to help lower the state’s risk aversion and encourage startup growth. Proposed incentives include one year of health insurance coverage and research and development vouchers. Walz’s proposal also includes the revival of the Angel Tax Credit in Minnesota to encourage investment in early stage Minnesotan startups. The credit expired in 2017.

“MIC could mean big things for all of Minnesota. We need to reduce barriers such as access to affordable healthcare to allow our makers, doers, and dreamers to start companies right here in Minnesota,” explained Jamie Sundsbak, Community Manager of Collider Coworking. “The MIC plan will also empower local ecosystem builders and will increase funding for entrepreneurial education at the local level. I applaud Governor Walz, Commissioner Grove, and everyone working on the legislation for their efforts.”

Strong Women Creating Value 2019: Amanda Steele and Brittany Baker, Owners of MedCity Doulas

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Rochester entrepreneurs Amanda Steele and Brittany Baker are breaking down barriers and working together to serve families and other “bad ass” women in the community. In 2016, the pair founded MedCity Doulas to offer support to women from pregnancy through postpartum.

These strong women are here to prove that being a doula- a trained professional that offers physical, emotional, and informational support to mothers- is a sustainable career option for themselves and for others seeking to help women with these highly specialized services. The pair specifically works to build “bridges between patients and medical staff for a more positive experience on the patient’s end,” Baker explained.

These entrepreneurs were driven to create MedCity Doulas in response to a general lack of support, especially postpartum, for mothers in the community. 

Baker’s personal postpartum experience was extremely positive- she was hired late in her pregnancy by her employers and was encouraged to bring her newborn to work- although she quickly learned this was not the norm. Steele saw many families having negative and traumatizing experiences as new parents. She became passionate about supporting parents during that time frame and molding new parenthood into a positive experience. 

While fueled by passion to bring MedCity Doulas to life, these innovators faced significant challenges to get the business running. The first obstacle was basic education about the role of doulas and convincing people it was a professional service that deserved a cash exchange.

“We are women selling traditional women’s work as a professional service. So, wrapping people’s heads around that idea, that we are here to mother mothers and that has a dollar value, has been a hard concept for some people,” Baker explained.

Steele said the pair was not taken seriously when they first started out. Although both women are highly educated- Steele is finishing up her master’s degree and Baker has a degree in design plus management experience- the doula field is not always taken seriously. They faced particular roadblocks when seeking financial assistance for the business.

“We didn’t give up. We went to four different banks before somebody believed in what we were doing,” Steele explained.

With the three-year anniversary of MedCity Doulas fast approaching, these women are looking forward to continued growth of the business in the community to support families.  

“It’s exciting that we have a women-owned business in 2019 in Rochester, Minnesota in an industry that is related to healthcare,” Baker said. “We are really lucky to be operating here specifically.”

While MedCity Doulas has certainly blossomed over the past years, these entrepreneurs have also witnessed much change in the female entrepreneurial community in Rochester, especially with increased events and resources for women in business.

“I’m really hopeful for all the things I’ve seen so far in the community and all the things that are being built,” Steele explained. “But it’s also hard because now that we have more things we’re pulled in more directions.”

She said in particular we still need more balance to integrate moms into these events and activities, especially those individuals without childcare options.

Strong Women Creating Value Season 1 Episode 3: Amanda Steele and Brittany Baker

In the third part of our "Strong Women Creating Value" series we chat with Rochester entrepreneurs Amanda Steele and Brittany Baker, owners of MedCity Doulas. MedCity Doulas is a Rochester-based doula agency providing emotional, physical, and educational support through pregnancy, brith, and postpartum.

"We're women offering women-based care and sometimes that's not looked upon as a profession." -Amanda Steele

Strong Women Creating Value 2019: Danielle Teal, Founder of Caring Acts of Kindness Everywhere

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Rochester woman Danielle Teal says kindness has changed her life and impacts her every decision. She believes that kindness is an underrated tool to motivate community change. Fueled by this passion, Teal founded the initiative Caring Acts of Kindness Everywhere (CAKE) to publicly share local acts of kindness to normalize the behavior and to inspire acts of kindness on a larger level. 

CAKE is a volunteer group in the community that utilizes social media “to motivate change and influence people to carry out acts of kindness,” Teal explained. 

Some individuals strongly believe that acts of kindness should remain anonymous, which Teal says, CAKE supports. She hopes, however, that CAKE is changing any negative connotations associated with sharing acts of kindness publicly. Teal says studies demonstrate that both recipients and witnesses of public acts of kindness are inspired by that act, enough to often perform an act of kindness themselves.

“Our goal is to share public acts of kindness to create opportunities for people to do it collectively as a group in mass quantities and to really motivate and inspire change in the community to normalize kindness,” she said. 

Acts of kindness don’t necessarily have to be big. They can be as simple as buying someone a cup of coffee, volunteering, or just offering a stranger a genuine smile. 

Kindness, Teal explained, also involves giving people grace and the space and forgiveness they need to navigate their feelings and experiences. This doesn’t excuse abusive behavior, she explained. However, Teal says we are all human and perfection does not exist. 

While operating CAKE takes a large amount of effort, Teal’s driven by “the impact and the results from the recipients and watching a kindness initiative continue. It truly is a ripple effect and you can see it.” As a mom of two, she wants her daughters to be positive individuals who promote kindness. 

“[Kindness] has changed the way I parent. It has changed the way I interact in a work environment. It’s changed me in the community. I am not perfect by any means,” Teal said. “I am absolutely not perfect. But I try to do my best every single day.”

Join us for this new workshop event to bring forth our best selves. Ticket prices will increase on March 25th. Click image for more information and to register.

Join us for this new workshop event to bring forth our best selves. Ticket prices will increase on March 25th. Click image for more information and to register.

Inspiring acts of kindness in others, however, does sometimes have hurdles. At times, when a call to action for a kindness initiative is shared there’s a large outpouring of support. Such is the case in the fall when seeking volunteers to pack Thanksgiving meals. However, Teal said, sometimes kindness is not seen as a viable option to resolve an issue or bring about change. She sees this gap particularly in leadership and teamwork.

Kindness and compassion, Teal said, are surprisingly effective tools to increase productivity and to influence team dynamics.

Kindness, she explained, promotes long term change. 

“It makes people feel valued and it increases the bridge of connection to understanding. It cultivates a culture that makes people want to be a part of and that’s what makes things continue to be enhanced, to get better,” Teal explained. 

Kindness, she said, matters.

“It’s not that [CAKE] is looking for the gratitude and it’s not that we are looking for the ‘thank you’s. It truly is the group and myself. We are not looking for anything in return,” Teal explained. “But when you see the impact that [kindness] really changes someone else’s day and it impacts them in a positive way and you know that it’s an enhancement in their life, that’s why it matters.”

Strong Women Creating Value Season 1 Episode 2: Danielle Teal

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we continue our “Strong Women Creating Value” conversation by chatting with Danielle Teal, Founder of CAKE - Caring Acts of Kindness Everywhere. CAKE is a community initiative that “utilize[s] social contagion through public Random Acts of Kindness in mass efforts to help cultivate positive inspiring change”.

"I would say if you have a dream, if you have a goal, the first thing to do is to act on it." -Danielle Teal

Strong Women Creating Value 2019: Christine Beech, Director of the Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies

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To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re bringing back our popular “Strong Women Creating Value” series, telling the stories of four innovative women in Rochester. This year all four women were selected based on nominations from the community

To launch this series for 2019, today we chat with the amazing Christine Beech, Director of the Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

In her role at the Kabara Institute, Christine fosters a spirit of entrepreneurship among her students and connects them to the surrounding entrepreneurial communities in both Winona and Rochester.

Christine’s nominator explained that she “goes very unrecognized for all of her efforts. As a newer member of the Rochester community, she put in a large amount of time and effort to meet with people in the community to understand the culture, understand what was needed, and understand where she could plug in. She always listens and asks advice of others. She does all these things without expectation of anything in return.”

Christine recently developed and launched a series of women-focused events, called WE (Women Entrepreneurs) forums, in partnership with Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. and others in the community. She held her first packed house event in January during a snowstorm. Her second event, a business development workshop, will be held in late March.

“What I think we are creating now is a platform for women-focused and women entrepreneurial community development with conversations around the issues that are facing them,” she explained.

Christine hopes to hold forums, which utilize a panel format, quarterly, and workshop events, where women focus on and work ona specific business skill sets, in between the forums. 

“One of my hopes is that one of the things that we’ll do with this forum is to create a place where women can come together and collaborate and work together,” she said.

Christine sees many talented women in the community who can speak at these forums and lead the workshops.

“We would like to create a venue where we are tapping into that talent for the benefit of the growing ecosystem,” she explained.

She sees new businesses as the “lifeblood of the economy.” However, many entrepreneurs starting new ventures lack focused business training and don’t know where to go for support. 

“I think there’s a need in the community for imparting those skills,” she explained. “We are starting with the female-focused group because I think that group specifically seems to be craving that kind of support for their business efforts.” 

This event takes place on Sunday March 31st from 10:30-12PM. Click the image for more information and to snag your ticket!

This event takes place on Sunday March 31st from 10:30-12PM. Click the image for more information and to snag your ticket!

This initiative is partly driven by her own experience. Christine spent fourteen years in business development before joining Kabara and recognized a lack of support for these efforts in her community. After joining academia, she saw a chance to give back to people who were in the early stages of building a business or had reached a plateau in business growth.

Christine additionally sees an immense need for evidence-based information on business development- putting numbers behind what works and what doesn’t work- instead of the typical personal anecdotes supplied by most mentors. She hopes to gather this type of informative data through the WE Forum events. 

While Christine knew these women-focused events were needed, there were several challenges she faced to get women to actually attend them. The first was brand recognition. Most people in Rochester associate the name “Saint Mary’s” with a hospital, not an academic institution. Many people are also unaware that Saint Mary’s even has a presence in Rochester, which is located in the northwest region of the city at the beautiful Cascade Meadow Wetlands. Her second challenge was connecting these events to the women most in need. To do this, Christine utilized her network, partnering with over twelve different institutions to help spread the word to diverse groups and get buy in from the community.

As a whole, Christine thinks it’s a good time to be part of the female entrepreneurial community in Rochester.

“We have incredible, brilliant physicians. We have women leading regional initiatives. We have women in a lot of very key points. So that, I think, is going to make a more attractive environment for female business startups,” she explained.

To accomplish this, Christine thinks women need to have their own network that’s collaborative, not competitive.

“And they need to plug in and start leveraging each other. I feel like that’s just building. It’s not quite there yet,” she said.

Strong Women Creating Value Season 1, Episode 1: Christine Beech

In celebration of Women's History Month we chat with Christine Beech, an example of just one strong woman creating value in the Rochester community. Christine is currently the Director of the Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. Christine is also a mom, veteran, entrepreneur, business owner, consultant and a strong female leader in this city.

Local Young Professionals Group Celebrates Five Year Anniversary

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Last week The Commission, a Rochester-based young professionals’ group, celebrated their five-year anniversary. Launched around a table in 2013, The Commission has undergone many transformations since that point. This nonprofit organization serves as a vital connector for young professionals in Rochester to facilitate community involvement, networking, and collaboration.  

As part of this celebration last week at Pure Rock Studios, The Commission honored four individuals in the community.

Collider Coworking Community Manager Jamie Sundsbak won the “Connector of the Year” award. Jamie has brought knowledge and experience from other entrepreneurial communities to Rochester. He always finds time to meet with individuals to assess their needs and help to connect them to vital resources in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Leah Joy Bee, Owner at Canvas and Chardonnay, received the “Giver of the Year” Award. Leah hosts weekly events at her downtown business to highlight local talent and frequently donates her studio space for community causes. Leah plays a significant role in the local arts and culture scene and helps to make “dreams become reality for creative souls in our community.”

Kady Olson, owner of Wholistic Family Chiropractic, won the “Startup of the Year” award. As a newcomer to the Rochester community, Kady has built her practice patient by patient. She also invests much of her time to community outreach, education, and networking to grow her business.

Julie Brock, Executive Director at Cradle to Career, received the “I.M.P.A.C.T. Award.” As a workforce development professional and educator, Julie “inspires her students to think critically, write deeply, and give kindness out freely.” Julie is currently leading a brand-new initiative with Cradle to Career to improve educational outcomes in Rochester.

Congrats to The Commission (and all the Awardees) on reaching this milestone. Here’s to year number six!

Rochester Rising Seeking Your Nominations of Visionary Women in the Community for Return of "Strong Women Creating Value" Series

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This March marks the 41st anniversary of Women’s History Month, a celebration of female contributions to history and society. This festivity is also, historically, associated with a theme. This year, Women’s History Month is focused on “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence.” 

To celebrate this month and to showcase local visionary women making lasting contributions to our community, we’re continuing our “Strong Women Creating Value” series that we began on Rochester Rising last year.

This year we’re asking for nominations for this series.

What visionary Rochester women do you know who have identified a real need in the community and launched a business or non-profit, created an initiative, or brought about needed change in this city to address that need?

Please use this form to send your nominations by Friday February 22nd.

Your name
Your name
Who are you nominating for the "Strong Women Creating Value" series? *
Who are you nominating for the "Strong Women Creating Value" series?

Here’s to all the strong women creating value in our community.

Is your business interested in sponsoring this series? Send us an email for pricing inquiries.

Rochester Rising Creates Online Communication Group to Support Entrepreneurial Mental Health in Rochester

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­After three attempts to hold our listening session on mental health needs in the Rochester entrepreneurial community, we have decided not to reschedule this event. ­However, we­ would still greatly appreciate your help and input on this important subject. If the mental health needs of our entrepreneurial ecosystem and creating solutions to support these needs is of value to you, please take a few moments today to fill out this brief survey.

The goal of this survey, and of the weather-thwarted listening session, has two purposes. The first is to better understand current mental health issues facing Rochester’s entrepreneurs. The second purpose is to brainstorm possible events or programming that may solve these pain points. Perhaps some of these events or programs could be provided by Rochester Rising

If this is something of importance to you, please take five minutes to complete the survey so we can create things of user-driven value in the community. 

While we collect these responses and have additional conversations in the community, we’ve created an online communication group to facilitate some of these needs. This group is not meant to be a place to offer medical advice or to provide professional mental health guidance. It is meant to be a platform for community-based communication to connect and share best practices, information, and resources related to mental health.

To request permission to join this closed group, search for “RochMN Entrepreneurial Communication Group: Mental Health” on Facebook.

Redefining Entrepreneurship: A Look At The Current Model

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“It’s your right to be uncommon if you can. You seek opportunity to compete. You desire to take the calculated risk, to dream, to build, yes, even to fail, and to succeed.” -Ewing Marion Kauffman

What is an entrepreneur? Why does entrepreneurship matter? 

According to Investopedia an entrepreneur is “an individual who, rather than working as an employee, founds and runs a small business, assuming all the risks and rewards of the venture.” A simple web search indicates that an entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.” Finally, the Kauffman Foundation defines entrepreneurs as “people who turn ideas into reality, charging directly into the headwinds to create something of value where there was no value before.” 

These definitions have several common threads, with room for additional thoughts to be added to the concept.

Consider these thoughts. 

An entrepreneur is someone who: 

1.     Takes some sort of calculated risk. Entrepreneurs are not pursuing an idea that is a “sure thing”; failure of some sort is on the table. The risks involved can include a novel product or service or an aggressive business model. Entrepreneurs face financial risks and have their own money as some of the first invested to launch their businesses. Entrepreneurs may also face job insecurity. Exploring entrepreneurship often involves leaving long and stable careers behind to pursue the uncertain.

2.     Has expertise that gives them a competitive advantage in their target market. This knowledge, experience, and insight allows only this particular entrepreneur to bring forth this business in a specific market.

3.     Has created a product or service that a business can be built around. An entrepreneur develops a product or service that’s driven by market demand and customer need. Even if no sales have been made, an entrepreneur has identified a customer base that will pay for their product or service.

4.     Is driven by passion to bring forth a solution that no one else is currently providing.

We often think of entrepreneurs as individuals operating in the tech space, creating high growth potential businesses that can reach multiple markets with expansive revenue streams. However, anyone with a solid business idea bringing something of value to the market is an entrepreneur. This includes people building highly scalable startups. But it also includes small business owners, including people with zero or few employees. This definition also includes franchise owners. These individuals are creating a business in a specific geographic market in which the business did not exist. This still involves risk, market research, and financial investment.

Why is entrepreneurship important?

Entrepreneurs are economic drivers. They create new businesses, jobs, and opportunity for themselves and for others. Entrepreneurs are driven by a need to solve real problems facing our society. They often encourage a different way of thinking and doing. The entrepreneurial mindset and problem solving based on a defined need and customer feedback is of value in small and large organizations alike.

 Entrepreneurship matters. It’s time to start rethinking our definition of an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneur Launches MedCity Studio to Serve as Resource for Local Photography Community

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Entrepreneur and Baltimore native Brendan Bush looks to change up the photography scene in Rochester with his business MedCity Studio. Located right next to Silver Lake, Bush aims to use the business to build and connect the local photography community and to serve as a resource for those just getting started in the business.

Bush himself comes from strong photography roots. His father was the Director of Photography at The Baltimore Sun and Bush always grew up with a dark room in their family home. Later he attended the University of Western Kentucky University for photojournalism; Bush worked in the newspaper business for several years before moving to Minnesota in 2014 with his wife and children. 

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After relocating to Rochester, this creative decided it was time to try something different. Digital photography had opened up the market to a variety of people including new professionals, amateur photographers, and people who just wanted to take better photos in their everyday lives.  

Bush launched MedCity Studios in May 2018 as, at the surface level, a rental studio for those seeking an affordable indoor location to shoot photos and meet with clients. However, the value add of the business runs much deeper. Bush himself serves as a resource for people as they are using the space, offering assistance for things like lighting set up to adjustment of poorly taken photos. 

“This is an opportunity for [new photographers] to have a place to learn from and experiment and practice,” Bush explained.

He hopes the business also creates a connection point for the local photography ecosystem to host events and serve as “an exchange center for photography information in the community.” 

Bush began running photography classes from the studio to help support and provide education for local photographers. He ended up landing on a huge value add for the community. 

“I never thought that photography classes were going to be that big of a deal. But, yeah, they’re really selling like crazy,” he laughed.

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MedCity Studio’s first DSLR basics class wrapped up at the end of January. Bush aims to run the class again in February as well as host photo walks in the springtime. He hopes to create a real experience with MedCity Studio through the classes, support for the photography community, and with the rental space itself. 

“The market is changing, and they say millennials are more about experience than they are about product. And I think that lends itself well to here,” he explained. 

Bush said his studio space has been gaining a steady following of repeat customers, including those that don’t fall into the traditional photography space. He’s had people use the studio for product photo shoots as well as to record video commercials.

“Photography is an art that has a strong technical side that attracts some people just for the technical aspect,” he said. “Some people just like the creative aspects and then there are all those shades in-between. But I think, in this town, photography could work because it has technical aspects that would attract technically minded people.”