RPS Girls Earn $2,500 in Minnesota Cup’s Youth Division


MINNEAPOLIS – A team of five young women from Century and Mayo high schools was awarded $2,500 last night at the awards ceremony of the 15th annual Minnesota Cup business startup competition held by the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. They finished third in the youth division.

The team of juniors, called Sh.A.U.C.K., developed a cell phone app named DiscoverMe to help young people grapple with mental health issues. The app makes it easy for users to track their moods and sleep, offers soothing music and meditation sounds, and points them to local counseling resources.

The team initially coded its app for Minnesota’s sixth annual Technovation “Appapalooza” meet, a competition for middle and high school girls that is part of a global program. Rochester-area schools have had considerable success at and after Appapaloozas, beginning with a Kasson-Mantorville middle school team that qualified for the 2015 global finals in San Francisco.

Rochester Technovation teams have also done very well in recent Minnesota Cup competitions. One year ago a team of three middle school and two high school girls from Rochester Public Schools won the $10,000 Sunrise Banks prize of the Minnesota Cup, and in 2017 a team of high school girls sponsored by the local chapter of the Black Data Processing Associates was a finalist in the 2017 Minnesota Cup youth division as well as in the Women-Led teams division, in which they competed against adult teams. In 2016, a team of girls from St. Francis Catholic School in Rochester had the highest middle school division score at that year’s Appapalooza and thus qualified automatically as a Minnesota Cup semifinalist.

The Minnesota Cup is the largest statewide startup competition in the country. For more information, see https://carlsonschool.umn.edu/mn-cup/the-competition/2019divwinners.


What is Technovation [MN]? A 12-week program that connects professional mentors to all-girl teams to enable girls to dream up, design, and code mobile phone apps. Coaches keep the teams on track with the support of a few professional mentors. Each team of up to five girls develops a real-world combination of technical and entrepreneurial skills as they code an app and prepare to pitch their idea at Minnesota's statewide event each May, the Appapalooza. Selected teams have the opportunity to advance and compete in the global Technovation Challenge, as did a middle school team from Kasson-Mantorville in 2015 (which also led to participating in the 2016 White House Science Fair). At the Appapalooza in 2017, an RPS high school team sponsored by the local chapter of the Black Data Processing Associates became a first runner-up globally and thus was awarded $5,000 in scholarship money.

Technovation was brought to Southeastern MN by Code Savvy, Technovation[MN], Preventice Technologies (Rochester office), and STEM Forward (formerly the Rochester Area Math Science Partnership), a program of the Southeast Service Cooperative. Among Rochester area businesses it has received financial support from IBM and the Mayo Clinic.

Rochester Celebrates Local Innovation during Upcoming Entrepreneurship Week


Rochester, Minn., October 11, 2019: Join the Rochester entrepreneurial ecosystem for Entrepreneurship Week from Tuesday October 22nd through Friday October 25th. Entrepreneurship Week is a four day celebration of local ideas and innovators open to anyone in the community who is already integrated with or wants to learn more and connect to our entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

This four day celebration includes nine different events hosted all around the city of Rochester to tell the story of and recognize contributions from our entrepreneurs. This year’s Entrepreneurship Week includes staple events like Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc’s. R.A.V.E. event on Tuesday October 22nd. The 2019 celebration also includes a brand new Business Legends LIVE on Wednesday October 23rd sharing lessons learned from Garwin McNeilus, Founder of McNeilus Truck & Manufacturing. Programming also includes a Managing Wellness as an Entrepreneur panel discussion with local business owners during the afternoon and a close look at Rochester’s art community during the evening on Thursday October 24th.

Entrepreneurship Week is a grassroots event organized this year by Collider, Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. (RAEDI), Rochester Rising, and Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse. The week is also supported by Destination Medical Center, Mayo Clinic Ventures, 1 Million Cups Rochester, Sterling State Bank, the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, The Musicant Group, and Mortenson

All are welcome and encouraged to attend. Find more information and registration details at: rochester-ew.org.

#Emerge Episode 27 with Crystal and Jim Whitmarsh

Today on #Emerge we sit down with local entrepreneurs Crystal and Jim Whitmarsh. This husband and wife team own Trail Creek Coffee Roasters, a business that was built by a garage, a vintage popcorn machine, and “how to” video tutorials. Crystal and Jim were set up on a blind date fifteen years ago, where they went to the ever-romantic Pizza Hut and a coffee shop. That same coffee shop became a staple in their early dating relationship, and they dreamed of one day owning their own such business. Now that dream is getting closer to reality as Trail Creek Coffee Roasters has recently moved to a shared commercial space in downtown Kasson.

“We were hustling really hard. It almost came to a point where it was like, we either do this and jump all in or we hire somebody to help.” -Crystal Whitmarsh

Local Social Club Weirdcards Aims to Enhance Community and Charitable Giving through Games

Image courtesy of Weirdcards.

Image courtesy of Weirdcards.

Rochester group Weirdcards is a charitable club seeking to increase social interaction and enhance giving by uniting people through a love of game playing.

Weirdcards began as an informal gathering of people who liked to play cards and tabletop games around a break room table at Mayo Clinic. This small meeting over lunch eventually got so big, the gathering was moved into founding member Jason Egginton’s basement to play Magic: The Gathering, a trading card game modelled after fantasy role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. The group used these first larger gatherings as fundraisers for both national and local nonprofits.

“But the catch was once we did it, people wanted to keep doing it and we quickly outgrew my basement,” Egginton explained.

After several repeated basement successes, the group hoped to challenge people to perform acts of charity more frequently, not just once a year. They wondered, if they set up a website that was always “on” and hosted more frequent fundraising events, would people buy into the idea?

To pursue this question, the group formed a 501(c)7 social club called Weirdcards in the fall of 2016 to bring like-minded people together monthly to raise money for a local cause. Since that time, the group has also spun out a 501(c)3 educational nonprofit called MagiKids to teach children how to play Magic: The Gathering through donated cards and other gaming items.

Egginton says the social club now runs itself through an extensive svolunteer network and gets 25-30K hits per week on their website. Weirdcards and MagiKids have come at a vital time, Egginton explained, when people want to get themselves and their kids away from screen time and cell phones and interacting more with others. MagiKids is engrained in the curriculum at Kellogg Middle School and is part of the local Boys & Girls Club.

The entrenchment of game playing in these organizations, Egginton says, has felt really good.

“It has felt really meaningful and it has felt really impactful. We’re doing what we love to do,” he explained.

Weirdcards is 100% volunteer led.

“We have been very fortunate to pick up club members who have skill sets that come in just at the right time,” Egginton explained.

The organization has about forty core volunteers who are very diverse in terms of age, gender, race, and skill set. Egginton says the biggest success of Weirdcards has been the cohesion and flexibility of this team of volunteers.  These dedicated members have been key to managing the rapid rate of growth the club is currently experiencing. 

“The appetite for whatever it is that we’re doing here is formidable,” he explained. 

In less than three years, the group went from meeting around a lunch table to attending thirty person events to now having website traffic of over 100K people from around the world each month.

Weirdcards has also established their own format to play Magic: The Gathering, which they call Oathbreaker. This style of play, Weirdcards believes, enhances the creativity of game players to enable a fun, casual interaction and values the comradery of the game over winning.

With 30 million Magic: The Gathering players across the globe, Egginton says it’s a major win to see Oathbreaker succeed and not be crowded out by other game playing formats.

“Embedded in the speed of growth is this idea that Weirdcards isn’t just a bunch of do-gooders. We’ve actually developed a format for a very complex game. And we are thought leaders, which is crazy cool,” he explained. 

Weirdcards and MagiKids are currently part of the Rochester Area Foundation, an incubator space for nonprofits.

Weirdcard’s success thus far has enabled the group to raise “a lot of money for local causes, which is obviously a great feeling,” Egginton explained.

Some members in the group, Egginton explained, work close to full time on Weirdcards. He wants to remain open to ideas that will help to facilitate growth, including potential hiring of staff to help run operations of the nonprofit and social club.


Join Us for Our June Communication Session on Mental Health for Entrepreneurs

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Join us for our June Communication Session focused on Mental Health and Wellness on Wednesday June 26th at 5:30 PM at Collider 424. This session will be a safe space to communicate mental wellness challenges with the goal to help create a community of support for Rochester entrepreneurs.


The session will be moderated by Jay Franson of JF Coaching. Jay Franson is a Life and Business Coach in Rochester and has been working with business owners and business professionals for the past three years. He has a degree in Counseling Psychology and has worked with company teams to improve communication, collaboration, and connection through education and group events.

Disclaimer: The organizers are not licensed therapists. This event is meant to be an informal, supportive gathering of entrepreneurs to provide peer-to-peer support for mental wellness issues we're facing while running our businesses.

This event will be held in Collider 424 (not Collider Coworking, which is located above Bleu Duck). Collider 424 is located on the Mayo Clinic Campus on the corner of 4th Ave SW and 3rd Street SW. The building is directly north of the Mayo Clinic Opus Building and directly south (and across the street) from the Baldwin Parking Ramp. The building is also marked with the orange "C" Collider logo. There is plenty of street parking available around Collider 424 for parking. The doors to Collider 424 are along the west side of the building off the patient parking lot. Please enter through the door closest to 3rd Street SW.

***All ticket sales go directly toward making this a sustainable event in the community.***

Klobuchar Staff to Hold Public Entrepreneur and Small Business Resource Roundtable Discussions

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MINNEAPOLIS – On Thursday, June 20, representatives from U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office will hold meetings with small business owners and entrepreneurs, economic development specialists from federal, state, and local government, and local organizations dedicated to helping entrepreneurs start and scale businesses. Meeting participants will have the opportunity to hear from successful local businesses, learn about government resources available to local entrepreneurs, and discuss the challenges faced when starting and expanding a business. The conversation will focus on the local entrepreneur ecosystem and improvements that can be made in delivering government resources to better support Minnesota’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.

 Business owners large and small, as well as anyone considering starting their own business are encouraged to join these public discussions to learn about government resources available to them and share their thoughts on how to better align government resources with the needs of entrepreneurs.

Thursday, June 20

7:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.

The Garage Co-working Space

123 Lafayette St.

Winona, MN 55987


11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

LAUNCH Co-working Space 
109 1st Ave SE 
Suite 4 
Austin, MN 55912


3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Riverland College, Room 140

965 Alexander Dr. SW

Owatonna, MN 55060


In March, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tim Scott (R-SC) launched the bipartisan Senate Entrepreneurship Caucus to address the most pressing issues facing entrepreneurs. Startup rates have recently fallen to near 30-year lows, threatening the fundamentals that lead to sustained economic growth and the caucus will work to diagnose the causes of this “startup slump” and formulate a comprehensive strategy to counteract it. The caucus will also serve as a clearinghouse for proposals from interested groups who wish to share their ideas with policymakers who are committed to supporting our nation’s entrepreneurs.

The caucus is supported by the Center for American Entrepreneurship (CAE), Economic Innovation Group (EIG), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Majority, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Main Street Alliance, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, Small Business Investor Alliance, the American Investment Council, and the National Venture Capital Association.

Yoga Tribe Finds New Home at Castle Community


Three years after launching her entrepreneurial vision, innovator Heather Ritenour-Sampson has found a new home for her business, Yoga Tribe. After growing her community for wellness in the former location of Cube Coworking on South Broadway, Ritenour-Sampson continues to expand her tribe alongside other like-minded creatives at the Castle Community.

Yoga Tribe, Ritenour-Sampson explained, is a yoga studio that provides a community for adults centered around health and wellness. The studio offers a variety of classes including restorative, yin, and vinyasa yoga and is open to people at all levels of yoga experience. 

“Fundamentally I want people to know that you are welcome here,” she said. “You are going to find all kinds of people [at] all ages and different physical ability levels.”

The first time Ritenour-Sampson tried yoga herself, which was incidentally from a rented VHS tape from her student union, she hated it. It wasn’t until after the birth of her first son that she got back into yoga again, this time having a much more positive experience through classes at the local YMCA. 

“It was hard. It was challenging. It confused me and frustrated me in a really good way because I needed that in my life at that time. And every single time I got done, I felt so much better,” she explained. “I feel that it started to get me more in touch with myself in ways that I hadn’t really considered before.” 

Propelled by a canceled yoga session at the YMCA, Ritenour-Sampson decided to get trained so she could teach classes herself. She enrolled in a weekend long training program to become a certified yoga instructor, eventually moving on from the “Y” to teach yoga classes with the Rochester Athletic Club (RAC).

Ritenour-Sampson said her time at RAC was incredible for mentorship and her own personal growth as a teacher. During this period, she also enrolled in an online coaching program to think about her career path. 

“What I realized from doing that process and kind of giving myself permission to dream bigger is that I was really treating my work like a hobby,” she explained. “I just had this feeling of really wanting to see what it felt like to do it on my own.” 

Ritenour-Sampson came from a very entrepreneurial family. She herself is artistic and innovative. Prior to opening Yoga Tribe, she was teaching yoga as a freelance instructor. She also does floral design and contract writing. In the end, opening up her own yoga studio, where she didn’t need to ask permission to do anything, didn’t seem like such a big leap. She felt the need to create something in the Rochester community focused on yoga that could bring people together to “laugh and cry and sweat and flow together.” Now, she has over five hundred hours of yoga teaching certification and is approved to teach others to become yoga instructors.

Three years after opening the business, Ritenour Sampson has learned multiple lessons.

“I feel like is has been baptism by fire for sure,” she laughed. “When I went into [Yoga Tribe] then and what it is now, the mission and values are similar, but the execution is different. I feel really grounded and I feel confident with what I am doing now compared to not really knowing and shooting arrows into the dark.”

A coach at her fundamental core, Ritenour-Sampson joked that “transformation is really my jam.” Connecting with people over a long period of time and witnessing their breakthrough moment remains her favorite part of yoga instructor life.

After growing Yoga Tribe for a few years on South Broadway, on April 1st Ritenour-Sampson moved her business just a few blocks north into the second floor of the Castle Community. She said the space and collective artistic community just feels right to her from a scaling standpoint. 

“For me being in a space with artists here, I feel like it’s going to help integrate who I am as a person because I am a writer, I play music and sing. I like to draw and paint and sometimes make things,” she said. “So I just feel this is more authentic to who I am. I really see yoga as a movement art and I see art as healing. So I just feel this is the right place to be.”

Six Local Startups Steamroll into Semifinal Round of Minnesota Cup Business Pitch Competition


Six Olmsted County teams will advance this year into the semifinal round of the Minnesota Cup. Minnesota Cup, now in its fifteenth season, is the largest state-wide business plan competition in the United States. This five-month long competition, run through the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, provides teams with mentorship, connections, and more. Teams also compete for a slice of seed prize money, totaling $500,000 this year. 

Ninety Minnesota-based teams remain in the competition, spread across nine different divisions. Semifinalists from Olmsted County include: Busy Baby LLC, HipStar LLC, Phenomix Sciences, Phraze, Amicii, and DiscoverMe.


Busy Baby LLC (General Division, Women-Led, Veteran-Led)

Busy Baby LLC, led by mompreneur Beth Fynbo, has developed a 100% silicone mat that suctions to smooth surfaces. The mat contains a proprietary tether system to attach toys to the mat so toys remain within baby’s reach and germ-free.


HipStar LLC (General Division)

HipStar has created a hands-free travel cart, which attaches to the hip, to increase mobility during travel.


Phenomix Sciences (Life Science/Health IT Division)

Phenomix Sciences, founded by Mayo Clinic physicians Dr. Andres Acostas and Dr. Michael Camilleri, aims to fight obesity. Phenomix Sciences has developed a blood test to categorize obesity patients into specific sub-types for improved targeting of therapeutics.


Phraze (Life Science/Health IT Division)

Co-founded by Mayo Clinic physician Dr. Brandon McCutcheon, Phraze has developed an AI medical scribe that reduces screen time between patients and physicians, increases the note taking capacity of physicians, and enhances clinical workflow.


Amicii (Youth Division)

Amicii, founded by John Marshall High School student Daniel Fleury, utilizes deep learning to deliver medical diagnostics for diseases such as pneumonia or skin cancer in under five seconds.


DiscoverMe (Youth Division, Minority-Led, Women-Led)

The DiscoverMe app was created by an all-female team of Mayo and Century High School students as part of Technovation[MN]. Technovation[MN] is the local chapter of the global Technovation challenge to empower teen girls to use coding to solve real problems they see in their everyday lives.


Congratulations to the six Olmsted County teams remaining in the competition! The semifinal round of Minnesota Cup will run into late August. Each division will narrow from ten semifinalists to three finalists to enter into the next stage of the competition this September. The Minnesota Cup will culminate in a final awards ceremony on October 14th in Minneapolis.

Rochester's Tech Startup GoRout Selected as Finalist in NASA iTech Competition

Photo courtesy of GoRout.

Photo courtesy of GoRout.

Rochester company GoRout was selected as one of only ten competitors for NASA’s prestigious NASA iTech competition. NASA iTech, an initiative of the organization’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, challenges entrepreneurs to apply their technology to solve pressing issues related to space exploration.  Ten finalists remain in the competition , including GoRout, and will present their ideas at the upcoming iTech Forum in Sunnyvale, California on July 10-11th. Chief technologists from NASA, additional federal agencies, and industry will then select three winners from these finalists for the 2019 NASA iTech Cycle I competition. The ten NASA iTech finalists span a range of industry including medical, data, and materials. The three Cycle I winners will receive no monetary compensation but will gain on-going mentoring to help commercialize their product.

 Congratulations to GoRout and best of luck in the competition! GoRout, run by CEO Mike Rolih, is a Rochester-based hardware and software company eliminating the need for huddles and scout cards. GoRout’s technology works to improve on-field communication for hundreds of high school and small college football teams across the US. GoRout won the NFL’s 1st and Future startup competition in 2017. CEO Rolih was also named among SportsTechie’s 20 Innovators in 2017.

Four Rochester Biotech Teams Showcase Technology at Seventh Walleye Tank Business Pitch Competition

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Four Rochester biotech startup teams competed in the seventh Walleye Tank business pitch competition this May in Minneapolis for the chance to enter into the semifinal round of the Minnesota Cup. Eighteen total startups pitched their technologies at this event. At the end of the competition, Twin Cities startups Ascension and Morari Medical walked away as overall winners.  

Startups enter into this biotech competition in two different categories: the Junior Angler or Professional Division. Junior Anglers are newer teams with ideas at the pre-prototype stage. Professional teams are further along in the business development process and may have a minimal viable product, market traction, and sales. 

Teams are judged by a panel of startup and business development experts called Walleyes. This year, Junior Anglers were judged by: Perry Hackett, serial entrepreneur and Professor of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development at the University of Minnesota; Susan Kimmel, market research expert and Gopher Angel; Traci Downs, serial entrepreneur and founder of Collider Coworking and Area 10 Labs; Mary MacCarthy, entrepreneur and Venture Center Program Manager with the University of Minnesota’s Office of Technology Commercialization; and bio tech expert Fernando Bazan. Professional teams were judged by: Sara Russick, entrepreneur and founder of investment groups Gopher Angels and Capita3; Julie Henry, Director of Business Operations for Mayo Clinic Ventures and Mayo Clinic’s Department of Business Development; Russ Straate, Associate Director of the University of Minnesota Venture Center; and Meg Steuer, Manager of Forge North with Greater MSP.

Four teams from Rochester participated in Walleye Tank including Smart Lead and MD to Me in the Junior Angler Division and Phenomix and Phraze in the Professional Division.

Smart Lead, presented by Dr. Alaa Sada, is tackling an uncomfortable garment, the radiation shield, that’s required to be worn by healthcare providers anytime they are exposed to radiation. The vest weighs about ten pounds and is often worn for very long hours. Use of the garment can lead to discomfort, bodily pain, burnout, and musculoskeletal injury. To solve this problem, the team behind Smart Lead is developing a more ergonomic vest that will continue to provide radiation protection with increased comfort due to added technology. The Smart Lead team of Mayo Clinic physicians is now working with Mayo Clinic’s Department of Business Development and Division of Biomedical Engineering to develop their first prototype. They estimate a $2.75M market for their product at Mayo Clinic alone. 

MD to Me, presented by Mayo Clinic graduate student Chris Paradise, aims to “take back control of high blood pressure.” Approximately 100M Americans are affected by high blood pressure. Only 50% of these patients have the disease under control with about 1,000 deaths occurring each day from hypertension related conditions. To solve this problem, MD to Me is developing an IoT blood pressure cuff paired with an app platform to provide real time blood pressure data to patients. Blood pressure data will additionally be monitored by a physician. The team aims to reduce medical and ER visits with their technology.

Phenomix Sciences, presented by COO Ross Higgins, is a Mayo Clinic startup founded by two physician researchers. The business aims to provide a precision medicine, multi-omics approach to treat obesity. Over 40% of the US adult population is obese, leading to $480B of direct costs to the healthcare system annually. In addition, two-thirds of obesity patients do not respond to their prescribed treatments. To solve this problem, Phenomix is pairing an AI-driven algorithm with a panel of biomarkers, which they’ve licensed from Mayo Clinic, to develop the first blood test to segment obesity patients for therapeutic targeting.

Phraze, presented by COO Jack Schneeman, has developed an AI-driven medical scribe to automate a significant portion of physician medical note taking requirements. More than 50% of physician time is spent on Electronic Medical Record (EMR) documentation. This amount of documentation is the number one cause of physician burnout. Burnout, in turn, can cause a 300% increase in the medical error rate. Phraze’s technology was shown to save about 1.5 hours per day for physicians based on simulations and testing. 

Twin Cities-based team Ascension was named the overall Junior Division winner of Walleye Tank. This startup, presented by product design engineer Lyndsey Calvin, is developing innovative solutions for transgender health. Vaginoplasty, a current care option for transgender women, involves the surgical reconstruction of the vagina. This procedure has a 50% complication rate, costing over $25,000 per patient to treat. To solve this problem, Ascension is creating a single use flushing stent to provide an improved care option. The stent is placed in the vagina during the vaginoplasty procedure and is replaced monthly for the first ninety days with a larger sized stent. This process replicates dilation and reduces the burden of compliance barriers for vaginoplasty patients. Ascension is currently targeting a $1.5B marketing that’s growing at a 41% rate.

Minneapolis-based Morari Medical won this spring’s Professional Division of Walleye Tank. This startup, presented by CEO Jeff Bennett, is developing the first ever device-based solution to premature ejaculation (PE). PE is the number one sexual dysfunction in men. It affects one in three men and results in decreased quality of life for both men and women. The Morari team is addressing this problem through neuromodulation with a small, band-aid sized device to inhibit neural activity and delay an ejaculation.

Congratulations to all the Walleye Tank participants. Best of luck to Ascension and Morari Medical in the Minnesota Cup! Look for Walleye Tank to return to Rochester for the eighth edition on December 6th. 

#Emerge Episode 26 with Leah, Eileen, and Tyler

Just in time for the one-year anniversary of their ownership of the business, we sit down with Canvas and Chardonnay owners Leah Joy Bee, Eileen Bruns, and Tyler Aug. Canvas and Chardonnay is a cooperative art space located in downtown Rochester that offers a variety of classes including painting, weaving, plant classes, and yoga. Today on the show we talk more about the business and what initiatives are taking place in Rochester right now that these innovators are particularly excited about.

MPR Hosts "Conversations on the Creative Economy" Discussion to Highlight Medical Entrepreneurship in Rochester

From left to right: Chris Farrell, Eric Lucas, Joselyn Raymundo, and Scott Snyder.

From left to right: Chris Farrell, Eric Lucas, Joselyn Raymundo, and Scott Snyder.

Last week Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) held a live recording in Rochester for their “Conversations on the Creative Economy” series. The recording, hosted by Chris Farrell, placed a spotlight on medical innovation in Rochester with an in-depth discussion about creativity, innovation, and risk taking. Local entrepreneurs Eric Lucas, Founder and CEO of The Oxygen Plan, Joselyn Raymundo, Founder of Rochester Home Infusion, and Scott Snyder, Founder and CEO of Geneticure, joined Farrell for this conversation.

This portion of the “Conversations on the Creative Economy” series is tentatively set to broadcast on MPR May 29th at noon and 9PM.


Rochester Home Infusion- Joselyn Raymundo

Raymundo launched Rochester Home Infusion (RHI) in 2013 in Rochester to serve what she saw as a huge unmet need in the region. RHI provides intravenous medication to patients to extend the level of care patients experience in the hospital setting to the home, allowing patients to return to their normal lives as quickly as possible. 

While not from Rochester, Raymundo’s market research suggested a home infusion provider would have an “attack market” with no other similar independent businesses in southeastern Minnesota. Although she never saw herself as an entrepreneur, Raymundo knew from over ten years of experience in building similar services within large organizations that she needed to strike out on her own to get closer to her patients and to feel the real power of her impact.

With the support of her husband and the vision to create value in healthcare, Raymundo mortgaged her home to self-fund RHI. 

She said the entrepreneurial journey has been tough and she knew there was a chance for failure, but she always believed in her mission.

“Why would you not take a chance if you know you can create value?” she asked. 

Raymundo and her first employee waited six months for the phone to ring with their first patient referral. But her persistence paid off. Twelve months after launching, the business was already profitable.

“Overall, the business entrepreneurs in Rochester have been incredibly supportive,” Raymundo explained. “They welcomed me with open arms. I wouldn’t be where I am without their help.”

For other innovators, Raymundo said you can’t have a backup plan if you’re serious about entrepreneurship and believe in what you’re doing.


The Oxygen Plan - Eric Lucas

Founded in 2011, The Oxygen Plan is providing solutions for the mental health space. This business created a measurement called the stress number to reduce stress and positively impact culture.

Lucas says he was always inspired by innovation.

“But the Holy Grail for me was always just creating something of value, impacting the world positively, and then just running the show,” he said.

After working for over twenty years in marketing at General Mills, Lucas struck out on his own to launch The Oxygen Plan. To date, he has self-funded the business.

While Lucas was primarily operating within the food industry prior to The Oxygen Plan, he saw healthcare moving toward disease prevention, especially in mental health. He said it took years to get a meeting with the right person within Mayo Clinic, but persistence paid off.

Lucas said his time at General Mills taught him how to take an idea to execution the right way. He also learned how to innovate and survive in the long run in the consumer market.

To other innovators, Lucas said to “fail cheaply” and to remember that progress isn’t linear. He encouraged rapid prototyping early on in the startup process to gage consumer interest in your product or service.


Geneticure- Scott Snyder

Snyder spent several years in executive positions with Target Corporation before co-founding Geneticure in 2014 with his brother Eric. Geneticure operates in the precision medicine space and examines specific sites within DNA to help physicians select the most effective prescriptions for their patients. The company is currently focused on hypertension patients but has two additional tests in the pipeline. Geneticure’s tests spent the last four years in clinical trial work. The startup hopes to commercialize their first product soon.

 Snyder, a Rochester native, always knew he would be an entrepreneur and spent years inside and outside of Target in many innovative roles.

“I always produced the best result when I was under the most pressure,” he explained. 

Although Snyder never thought he would run a medical startup, the opportunity just aligned between his business expertise and his brother Eric’s extensive biomedical training.

Snyder was the first source of capital for Geneticure, deliberately choosing not to seek external funding until the business hit certain milestones.

Snyder learned many lessons during his time at Target, which he said moved quickly for a large corporation.  

“In the roles I was in innovation was rewarded but you weren’t unbridled,” he said.

A strong supportive network was essential to Snyder’s entrepreneurial journey.

“I don’t think I would have executed in the early years of the business if I didn’t have an incredibly supportive spouse and partner,” he said.  

Snyder advised entrepreneurs to have a backup plan and know how extensive that plan needs to be before going “all in” on your startup.

Join Us For a Communication Session on Mental Health for Entrepreneurs

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Join us for our first Communication Session focused on Mental Health and Wellness. This session will be a safe space to communicate mental wellness challenges with the goal to help create a community of support for Rochester entrepreneurs.

The session will be moderated by Jay Franson of JF Coaching. Jay Franson is a Life and Business Coach in Rochester and has been working with business owners and business professionals for the past three years. He has a degree in Counseling Psychology and has worked with company teams to improve communication, collaboration, and connection through education and group events.


Local Businesses Ambient Clinical Analytics and FAVR Inc. Share their Startup Stories at Latest 1 Million Cups Rochester


Last week two local startups earned the spotlight at 1 Million Cups Rochester: Ambient Clinical Analytics and FAVR Inc. Ambient Clinical Analytics, led by CEO Al Berning, is a digital health startup delivering innovative bedside predicative analytics. FAVR, an app-based tech startup led by CEO Solomon Antoine, serves as a peer to peer platform allowing customers to request a task at their own set price.

Serial entrepreneur Berning has started four companies in the last twenty-five years including LiquidCool Solutions, a Rochester company developing cooling solutions for electronics, and Pemstar, an electronics manufacturing firm. Berning’s newest startup, Ambient Clinical Analytics, is based on Mayo Clinic technology, which was developed over the past ten years in the Mayo Clinic ICU and emergency departments. Ambient Clinical Analytics sells real time clinical decision-making support tools to reduce clinical staff decision rate time and to eliminate errors. The startup has been in operation for five years selling to hospitals and hospital systems across the globe. The company has raised $7M in funding to date and is in the process of closing a $1M convertible note bridge round. Ambient Clinical Analytics has four products on the market, all aimed to reduce information overload on clinical caregivers and to organize and present data to enable rapid and informed clinical decision making. 

FAVR Inc.’s iOS app connects users with freelance workers to perform on demand lawn care and home chores. The app solves the users’ need to complete these tasks without use of their limited time while allowing a younger demographic of freelancers to earn money in their spare time. FAVR fills a unique space, allowing users to request tasks at their own set price. The app currently has two hundred fifty users on the platform, including customers and freelancers, all based in Rochester. The startup plans to expand its reach into four communities with a strong college base including Minneapolis, Brookings, Winona, and Mankato.

1 Million Cups is an educational event for entrepreneurs that takes place in one hundred eighty-two communities across the United States. 1 Million Cups Rochester occurs the first Wednesday of every month at 9AM in the Bleu Duck Kitchen event space. Join the community at the next event on Wednesday June 5th to hear the stories of two more entrepreneurs in our ecosystem.

Castle Community Aims to Create Welcoming Location in Rochester for Art and Cultural Community


Born from a shared passion, the Castle Community aims to provide a space for art and cultural community within the city of Rochester. Located in the historic Armory Building on Broadway Avenue, the Castle Community is open to all and aims to offer patrons a new experience each time they visit.

Castle Community’s Naura Anderson explained that the building actually came first, and then the idea for what to do with that space followed. In 2017, the City of Rochester released a Request for Proposal (RFP) application for purchase or lease of the Armory Building, piquing the interest of Rochester natives and real estate professionals Scott Hoss and Ross Henderson. Hoss and Henderson began brainstorming ideas to utilize the space to fill gaps within Rochester. The men brought Anderson into the mix to involve the art community in their concept. 

“For us, community has always been important, along with unique gathering spaces that were not necessarily event driven. A place where you can just come and hang out and feel welcome, meet up with people, meet new people, discover something new,” Anderson explained.

Anderson, who has a long background in the arts, was especially driven to create a space for artists at all different levels of their practice. 

“My big passions are community and art, and finding that place where those connect is great. That means supporting artists as well as exploring your own creativity and learning something new,” she said. “I think if we can challenge that creative side of our brain more often, we'd all be in a better place.”

In May 2017, Castle Community LLC submitted a proposal to the City of Rochester to transform the Armory Building into an art and cultural community center. The team was selected to purchase the building in July 2017. Castle Community LLC obtained ownership of the Armory in December 2017 and began the demolition process within the 104-year-old space in early 2018.

“A lot of the work was removing that inner shell to discover what was behind it. We knew that there was history in this building and we wanted to preserve and showcase as much of that as we could,” Anderson explained.

The building interior, Anderson said, was basically gutted, with drywall removed to expose brick, drop ceilings torn down, and layers of flooring ripped up to expose the original hardwood. 

The Castle team selected Benike Construction for renovation work in the space, which began in July 2018. Benike had also restored the Conley-Maass-Downs building just a few years prior.  

“[Benike] was an awesome team to work with,” Anderson said. “Working with them is what got the project completed on time, on a deadline, and in a way that surpassed our expectations for quality.” 

The Castle Community opened its doors for the first time in November 2018.

The first-floor of the Castle Community houses brand new restaurant Cameo, run by Zach & Danika Ohly. The second floor contains businesses Collective Books & Records, Latent Space, Neon Green Studio, Queen City Coffee & Juice, and Yoga Tribe. This floor also includes an open area called the Castle Commons, a community space with free public WiFi, tables and chairs, soft seating, and games, where anyone is welcome to work, play, meet, and connect completely free of charge.

The 501(c)3 nonprofit Threshold Arts, of which Anderson serves as Director, also leases space on the second and third floors of the Castle. Threshold Arts programs and activates the community and event spaces and manages the artistic programs within the Castle. Threshold Arts contains private artist studios, an event hall, gallery, community studio, artist makerspace, green room and a community darkroom. 

To activate the artist studios, Threshold runs an Artist in Residence program which provides local artists with subsidized space to make, show, and sell their art for a period of three to six months. This program was designed, Anderson explained, to ensure turn over and to open up opportunities for even more artists. Threshold is currently wrapping up their very first Artist in Residency cohort. Anderson said the contributions made by this first group, both in their art and to the community, have been incredible.

The Community Studio on the third floor is a conference-style room which is available for community groups to use for meetings at no charge. The 4,500 square foot event venue, Les Fields Hall, can accommodate up to 450 people and is used for concerts, weddings, banquets, and other community celebrations.

“It is truly a great community of tenants and partners within the building,” Anderson said. “And seeing the community that is developing within that has been wonderful. Seeing people come together, discover what we’re doing here, and return regularly is everything we dreamed of and more. We are developing relationships in the community that would not have happened without this space.” 

As the Castle Community continues to gain traction in the city, Anderson said to expect more art and additional ways to connect with the community at the space. 

“Little things are always changing around here, and our goal is for there to be something new to see or do every time you return,” she said. “We want this to be a place where people continue to come back to because they know it’s never going to be the same twice.”

New Rochester Microcinema Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse Hosts Grand Opening Celebration this Friday

Photo courtesy of Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse.

Photo courtesy of Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse.

Rochester’s only microcinema, Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse, is set to open its doors this Friday. Theater owner Andy Smith hopes the business will help to build and support a vibrant film community in Rochester while retaining a distinctly Minnesotan vibe.

A Los Angeles native, Smith has a strong love for film, the film production industry, and spaces that build community around film. A former teacher, he had never launched his own business before but had always enjoyed starting something new and creating. Driven by this passion, Smith and his wife Anna developed the concept for a new microcinema business with their sights set on the upper Midwest. After looking at multiple locations and communities, Smith responded to a property listing by local commercial real estate agent Bucky Beeman and quickly narrowed his search to Rochester. 

Smith said Beeman was instrumental in not only finding the eventual end location for Gray Duck, he also introduced the couple to many local small business owners to begin their relationship building process.

Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse, located at 619 6th Avenue Northwest, will be smaller than your typical cinema, seating about sixty-six people.

“But we like that and it will build community, build intimacy, while not sacrificing any of the excellence that you’re used to in a move theater,” Smith explained. 

Gray Duck aims to showcase a “well rounded film diet” Smith said, including independent films, documentaries, large budget films, and the classics.

“We’re going to show excellent movies here. But we also just love movies,” he explained.

In addition to films, Gray Duck will offer a full-service coffee shop at the location in partnership with Fiddlehead Coffee. Movies will show Friday through Sunday. The coffee shop will be open all week, including outside of movie showtimes.

Regular movie tickets at Gray Duck will run for $8. Theater patrons can also purchase a “Flying V” subscription membership for $20 per month to attend an unlimited number of regular movie showings at no additional cost. The Gray Duck venue will also be available to rent for private showings or events outside of the regular movie showtimes.

While Smith developed his love for film in LA, he wants Gray Duck to be authentic to this region.

“We’re very purposefully being local and Minnesota centric,” he explained.

All of the concessions offered at the business will be locally sourced, from coffee to popcorn. Smith additionally hopes to build out a nonprofit arm of Gray Duck to help empower local film makers and to support a vibrant local film culture.

“We’re just excited to be here and we really want to build a really strong community,” he explained. 

Gray Duck will host its grand opening party this Friday night showing the 1925 Charlie Chaplin silent film The Gold Rush. Tickets are on sale for $75 a piece for this formal red-carpet event, which includes live musical accompaniment.

Gray Duck’s complete movie showing schedule for May is currently available on their website.

Thanks to The Commission for hosting a “Sneak Peak” last Thursday of this new-to-Rochester business!

9 Tips to Sharpen Your Sales Skills

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Here are nine sales tips from local business expert Marianne Collins. Professor Collins has over three decades of business development experience. She’s currently a Professor of Marketing, Department Chair, and Director of the Strauss Center for Sales Excellence at Winona State University.

Professor Collins’ “Sharpening Your Sales Skills” talk was part of the Business Expert Series held by the Winona State University College of Business and Collider Coworking.


Nine Tips to Sharpen Your Sales Skills:

  1. Remember that the buying journey has changed, especially with the Internet. Now, a buyer is 2/3rds of the way through the buying process before approaching sellers. But the marketplace is even more complex and often overwhelming to buyers.

  2. Develop long term relationships with potential buyers instead of trying to rapidly close sales.

  3. Selling is a conversation. Make an effort to understand what your buyer needs. Ask questions to help the buyer understand what you can offer.

  4. Think of your interaction with potential buyers more as consulting than selling. Position yourself as an expert in your field and know your competition.

  5. Serve as a “buying Sherpa” and help to guide buyers through the complex marketplace. Become a partner to potential buyers and help navigate alternatives and guide them through the buying process.

  6. Stop cold calling. You need to disqualify leads to buyers for which you cannot provide a solution. Don’t chase buyers for which you aren’t a good fit.

  7. Create buyer personas to understand your customer and what experience they want.

  8. Changing the status quo is your biggest competition as a seller

  9. Shorten the sales cycle by creating your value proposition to clearly understand what value you bring to the table and how you are differentiated from your competition.

New iOS App Quizzem Aims to Gamify Learning to Bridge the Gap between Parents, Teachers, and Students


Rochester entrepreneurs Ahmed Makkawy, Gregg Smidt, and Nick Rogness have launched a new app to connect parents, teachers, and students to gamify learning. The official launch party of this trio’s product, called Quizzem, took place last week at Collider Coworking.  

The original idea for the app developed from a gap Smidt observed between teachers and parents. He saw a product like Quizzem as a way to incentivize and accelerate the learning process with rewards. In June 2018, Smidt paired up with app design expert Makkawy and iOS programmer Rogness to bring this vision to life.  

Inside the Quizzem app, parents or teachers can upload quizzes or sync with curriculum in the classroom. Students then earn customized rewards for completing the quiz, such as unlocking screen time on their favorite device.

“There are other apps out there, like Quizlet, that let the teacher create quizzes for their class. But then there isn’t that connection with the parent. So, this lets you take something you’re learning in the classroom and directly turn that into a reward of some sort,” explained Makkawy. 

The Quizzem app is now available for Apple devices. The app is free for the creation of one student profile and one quiz and is $4.99 for creation of unlimited quizzes and unlimited student user profiles.

These innovators are already incorporating user feedback into the next version of the product.

“We’ve already received exciting offers to bring the app into the classroom in mentor/tutor settings across the Midwest and think this tool will help parents get looped into helping the student excel in and out of the classroom,” said Makkawy.

Now, the team is looking to launch a Kickstarter campaign to gain local support to help with the buildout of the next release of the app.

Congratulations to the Quizzem team for bringing this product to market and for shining a light on mobile application development and innovation taking place in Rochester.

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.