This series is in partnership with Ambient House Productions, a Rochester based full service video production company specializing in high quality corporate, commercial, & promotional videos.
Coworking spaces add significant value to an entrepreneurial ecosystem. But it's really the people within them that make up the soul and grit of a community. We've had the distinct pleasure to speak with several current tenants of the Rochester coworking space The Vault over the nine month existence of Rochester Rising. Here are some of the their stories.
The Med City Beat
When Sean Baker moved to Rochester from Green Bay, he was frustrated with the quality of the media establishments in the city. As a transplant to Rochester, he saw the opportunity to produce a higher quality of journalism in the area.
Sean started an online news website, called the Med City Beat, in November 2014 to bring a new voice to the publishing and news scene in Rochester.
“I started out with just a couple hundred followers who were mostly just my family and friends. And I had a part-time job and I just started banging out content,” Sean related.
As those in the online publishing world know, growth happens slowly. Sean started out small and gradually built up his name, brand, and connections in Rochester. He invested the time and the breaks finally started to happen. He landed some high-profile interviews; his first in-person video interview was with City Councilman Randy Staver. Shortly afterwards, he interviewed Sheriff Kevin Torgerson.
“In that winter of 2015, my audience grew considerably. So I had a couple thousand followers. And I actually saw the opportunity to make this a real asset for the community.”
Sean had worked in the broadcasting and journalism industry for several years. He attended University of Wisconsin-Green Bay for Journalism and also worked at WBAY-TV during that time. He studied players in the field, from the big fish to the smaller, regional participants. They all had a similar problem: bringing in revenue was difficult. While social media allowed the Med City Beat to gain a large audience quickly, it also disrupted the traditional advertisement revenue model, Sean said.
The Med City Beat had a strong following in the community, but it, “…was not where I wanted it to be. But I knew there was potential. And I was hoping that other people saw that potential in me as well,” Sean explained. He decided to just ask the Med City Beat audience to support the news site if they thought it was something of lasting importance to the community.
Sean turned to crowdfunding, a method to raise small amounts of money from a large number of people, to help support the Med City Beat. “I was at the point where it either works and this is a good idea, or I decide to head in a different direction and get a real job,” he said.
Sean’s crowdfunding campaign was highly effective; he received the ten thousand dollars he set out for and the Med City Beat is alive and thriving today.
“It wasn’t just the funding that helped this succeed to this day. But it was the actual support that really drove me to realize that this has value. This is important to the community.”
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Fuse Digital Creative Services
Fuse Digital Creative Services was launched by emerging entrepreneur Jeff Bell over one year ago and is anchored by design and branding services. Fuse also provides a wide range of business assistance from brainstorming facilitation, to brand analysis, to visual note taking. Jeff can help, as he puts it, “interpret visually.”
Jeff says that Fuse “is really me getting back to the things that I love to do.”
“There's just so much that can be done with it and it touches everything; it touches products, it touches systems, it touches of course aesthetics and usability.” Design, Jeff believes, is applicable to everything.
“Every problem is a design problem. Every business problem is a design problem,” he said. “What I try to bring with people that I work with is, yes they get aesthetics. They'll get that. And they will get top shelf aesthetics. But I believe that I bring [. . .] this kind of thinking about how to [. . .] look at something a little differently,” he explained.
Formerly in charge of creative services at Mayo Clinic, Jeff has years of experience that can benefit large and small clients in sometimes unexpected ways. “Sometimes people are trying to solve a problem and they don't have that problem, they have a different problem,” he said. Jeff feels that he can come into a situation and illustrate, perhaps literally and figuratively, things from his perspective.
By starting Fuse as a new business in Rochester, Jeff has first-hand experience with and understands the challenges of growing a business. This knowledge provides him with a great deal of respect for anyone starting a business. “If someone's trying to start something, to me that is so noble and so admirable, and so brave. . . . I admire my clients,” he said.
“I would tell anybody who has even thought about starting something on their own, and I would tell them encouragingly in a very positive way, before I even met them, ‘You have no idea of what you are capable of yet. You don't even know. You don't have a clue. In the best way!’ In other words, there is so much more in you than you have any idea.”
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