Business Development

"Poultry Patrol" Robot Wins Inaugural Ag Tech Challenge

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After three months of competition, the winner of Ignite Minnesota’s Ag Tech Challenge was announced last week in Red Wing. Rising above over fifty other innovators throughout the contest, engineer Jack Kilian walked away with the grand prize with his concept Poultry Patrol. 

The Ag Tech Challenge was officially launched in October during the Twin Cities’ inaugural Food Ag Ideas Week by Ignite Minnesota, a national network to accelerate next generation technologies. The contest aimed to uncover new hardware, software, or data solutions for agriculture.

During the first phase of the competition at the end of 2018, semi-finalists Poultry Patrol, Tile Drainage Monitoring and Control, and Robotic Sod Weed Farmer concepts were selected from the pool of applicants. Two of these ideas won $2,500 at this stage of the challenge. All three semi-finalists pitched last week in Red Wing during the final phase of the competition for the chance to win up to $10,000 for their projects.

Mark Swanson, a Minnesota State College Southeast computer programming instructor, pitched the concept Tile Drainage and Monitoring System. This idea targets farm sediment and nutrient runoff, a significant problem in the Minnesota River Valley. Currently, farmers may mitigate this issue through methods like protecting exposed soil, slowing down and storing water, or by implementing catchment systems. However, these techniques only serve as partial solutions. Swanson proposed the development of a low-cost monitoring device to help farmers measure runoff and the effects of runoff mitigation on their farms for targeted elimination efforts.

Robotic Sod Farm Weeder, pitched by Nick Fragale, enables non-chemical-based weed removal on an industrial scale with robotics. Fragale is also the co-founder of Rover Robotics, a Wayzata-based tech company that creates cost-effective, rugged robots for startups. Robots, Fragale explained, perform repetitive tasks like weeding very well. Other weed removing robots do exist on the market, such as a solar powered robot that Fragale estimated to cost between $50,000 to $100,000. Instead, he proposed to construct a robotic weeder on a much cheaper scale, primarily by eliminating the use of a robotic arm on the machine, a part that can dramatically drive up costs. Without an arm, Fragale must test the efficacy of other methods, such as drilling and zapping, to kill weeds with his more economical robotic prototype. 

Jack Kilian, University of Minnesota Twin Cities electrical engineering master’s student, pitched the winning concept Poultry Patrol. This idea addresses problems in industrial poultry housing. Poultry growers, Kilian explained, need to walk through these large housing units several times a day to check for and remove dead and diseased birds and to assess the overall functionality of equipment in the houses. These areas are also bio secure, requiring growers to change their clothes and shoes each time they enter or exit the facility. To make this process more efficient, Kilian aims to develop a robot that would identify sick birds and alert the growers of the exact location of the animal using digital mapping. The robot could also check the status of vital equipment in the facility as well, eliminating the need for growers to perform multiple daily surveillance walks through the poultry houses. Much of the hardware for this concept is already created, Kilian explained. He proposed targeting turkey growers for initial use of his robot to stick to the Minnesota ties of the concept. Minnesota remains the largest turkey producing state in the US.

Congrats to all of the contestants in Ignite Minnesota’s Ag Tech Challenge. Head to the Red Wing Ignite Facebook page to view all of the final pitches.

Where Are They Now?: Penz Dental Care

Photo courtesy of Penz Dental Care.

Photo courtesy of Penz Dental Care.

Fifteen months ago, we first shared the story of Penz Dental Care, a brand-new dental practice run by Rochester native Dr. Matt Penz, DDS and wife Kate. The business opened in September 2016 along 2nd Street Southwest. A year and a half later, the office has added extended hours to their schedule and increased their staff to continue their efforts as an open, community-focused practice.

When we first spoke in May 2017, the dental practice consisted of Matt and Kate Penz, an assistant, and a part time staff member at the front desk. The office was open two and a half days a week. Now, Penz Dental Care is full time, open Monday through Thursday with some extended evening hours. The staff has also doubled, operating now with two part time dental hygienists, a full-time assistant, and a full-time person at the front desk. Penz Dental Care has also added a third operatory, increasing their ability to provide care to patients. 

“It’s been exciting to see all the efforts come to reality,” said Dr. Penz.

The office, Dr. Penz explained, functions as one big team, completing tasks regardless of job title. Dr. Penz himself often sweeps the floor and takes out the trash. 

“That has been the really fun part to see, how our staff has come together and just share the common values,” he said. “It took a bit of navigating to get there, but I feel like we have a cohesive staff and everybody’s on the same page and believes in our mission and our vision. Hopefully that radiates to patients who tell other patients who are looking for a dentist.” 

Dr. Penz has learned to hire smarter and more efficiently over the last year, understanding how essential the right staff is for an emerging business. Change and improvements, he explained, can be implemented quickly within a small team. He looks to hire people who are able to buy into the office mission and have pride in what the practice represents. 

Dr. Penz has also learned lessons in marketing and patient growth since the launch of the dental practice. He originally aimed to grow the practice slowly and intentionally, re-investing much of the first profits back into the business. Word of mouth has been the most effective way to grow their patient base since the business opened. However, Penz Dental Care has been very intentional with their social media marketing, using it as a tool to offer glimpses into their personal lives to build relationships with their patients and with the community.

“We wanted to make connections with our patients and wanted to make them feel like this is home,” Dr. Penz said. “Now a days, especially as a startup, if you’re not utilizing [social media], you’re going to be left behind. You can have a great offering and a great story, a great staff, but if nobody knows about you, it doesn’t do you any good.”

The Penz family itself has also grown over the past year. When the business first launched in 2016, Matt and Kate had one child, a daughter named Sophie. Lucy was born shortly after the practice opened. This year, the Penz family welcomed their third daughter, named Ella.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the business’s dedication to the community. As a Rochester native, Dr. Penz loves being in this city and wants to give back to his community. A former Mayo High School quarterback, he’s formed partnerships with several high school teams as well as the Med City Freeze and Med City Mafia roller derby team to provide protective mouthguards. The office has also worked with Rochester MN Moms Blog to co-host events like Donuts with Santa this past December.

Now, Penz Dental Care aims to continue to grow their patient base intentionally, hoping to add more staff as needed. Dr. Penz also looks to bring more technology to the office to help the practice increase their efficiency to provide patient care. 

You can learn more about Penz Dental Care by visiting their website or by catching up on Facebook (@penzdental), Instagram (@penzdentalcare), or Twitter (@PenzDentalCare).

Local Innovators Developing Board Game to Teach Empathy and Understanding

From left to right: James Perreault, Grace Pesch, and Jay Franson. Photo courtesy of Grace Pesch.

From left to right: James Perreault, Grace Pesch, and Jay Franson. Photo courtesy of Grace Pesch.

A trio of strangers spent a single weekend this October innovating and stepping outside of their comfort zones. Now, entrepreneurs Grace Pesch, Jay Franson, and James Perreault are seeking ways to further develop their board game to teach empathy and understanding.

Their product, called ‘What Were You Thinking?’, breaks down the nine Enneagram personality types to better inform players’ professional and personal relationships. The Enneagram is, an arguably, complicated model of the human psyche conveying basic fears, desires, and motivations.

At the surface, the ‘What Were You Thinking?’ game is simple. It’s composed of character cards and scenario cards. Each character card describes a person with one of the nine Enneagram personality types. The scenario cards describe a real-life situation, the funnier the better, plus reactions to that scenario. Each participant plays a character card they think best describes the reaction to the scenario. Whoever convinces the judge that their character card matches the scenario behavior the best, wins. 

On one level it’s just a matching game. But on a deeper note, the game involves rationalizing why your character, with the indicated personality type and tendencies, would react to a situation in a certain manner.  

“It causes the person that drew the card to really think outside of themselves and relate more to the card in hand, to the persona that’s on that card,” Franson explained. “The goal is to bring more awareness to the Enneagram as well as give language to different people’s personality types.”

The team believes this card game could be a unique way to teach empathy, improve relationships, and enhance team building. 

Pesch, Franson, and Perreault developed a prototype for the game during Techstars’ Startup Weekend Rochester. This fifty-four-hour event, held over Halloween weekend, helped participants explore their entrepreneurial tendencies, ideate, perform customer validation, and develop simple prototypes all in a single weekend. 

“I like to do things I’ve never done before. I like to try and expand my horizons and push myself,” Pesch explained. “I knew I was kind of scared and uncomfortable with the idea of doing Startup Weekend and I said, well I have to do it!” 

While Franson entered the weekend with the original idea for the game, Pesch and Perreault quickly joined on to further develop and test the concept.

By the end of Startup Weekend, the team developed a prototype with a minimal set of cards, built a website, and had pre-orders of the product. They also identified a potential game creation company to construct the product, set a price point, and researched drop shipping for product distribution.

All complete strangers at the beginning of the weekend, the team believes their flexibility, open mindedness, and unique skill sets helped them to succeed.  

“I think that personality is more important than actual knowledge. You don’t need an expert as much as you need someone that you can communicate with,” Franson said.

This was the first time that both Franson and Pesch ever participated in a Startup Weekend. Pesch, a person who prefers pacing herself and working well in advance on large projects, appreciated being forced to change her workstyle to deliver in such a limited time span. 

“I think I was most inspired by the lack of instruction [at Startup Weekend] because that’s real life. Really for the most part you go and figure it out. You can find a mentor or take a class, but it’s still up to you,” Franson said. “I thought that was immensely valuable because you learned so much more by doing it yourself.”

Now, the team is looking for help from the community to write more cards to complete their game. You can learn more and follow their progress by visiting their website https://wwyt.squarespace.com

Three Healthtech Teams Win Big at Sixth Walleye Tank

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This Friday, twenty-three different biotech teams traveled to Rochester to compete in the sixth Walleye Tank business pitch competition. This packed house event, organized by the Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship and the Collider Foundation, not only served as a pitch contest. The event additionally brought together multiple pieces of the entrepreneurial ecosystem including venture capitalists, accelerator programs, medical experts, serial entrepreneurs, and business supportive services. In the end, Twin Cities companies NovoClade and ClinicianNexus and Mayo Clinic Florida team The QT Grid walked away as divisional winners. 

Teams competed in three different divisions at Walleye Tank based on stage of business development.

 

Junior Anglers

The first division, the Junior Anglers, included teams in the ideation phase of development who did not yet have a prototype. Nine different teams participated as Junior Anglers at the winter Walleye Tank, the largest group in the competition. 

Adjustable Fracture Nail team from Mayo Clinic Florida won second place in this division. Presented by Mayo Clinic Graduate School student Chris Mehner, Adjustable Fracture Nail targets the 15M patients suffering from long bone fractures in the US each year. These patients are typically treated by insertion of a single, non-adjustable nail into the bone to stabilize the fracture. This process, Mehner explained, it highly dependent on the surgeon’s expertise, resulting in 40% of fracture patients receiving a rotational error of the long bone. This additionally affects bone healing and may lead to joint issues. To solve this problem, the team is creating an adjustable nail containing an internal mechanism to extend the fracture line in the long bone. The nail would also utilize a laser-guided mechanism to finely adjust long bone rotation to the perfect angle. The team believes this product will produce reduced errors, lower surgical time, and decreased medical costs. They currently have a provisional patent on their design. 

Winning the Junior Angler division was the Twin Cities genome editing startup NovoClade. Presented by University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Senior Research Scientist Siba Das, NovoClade is developing SMART technology to control mosquito populations. Current insect management solutions, Das explained, are toxic and not species specific. NovoClade aims to genetically edit mosquito eggs to remove disease carrying insects from the population. The team of four leading the startup include University of Minnesota researchers with over eighty years of combined expertise in genome editing.

 

Mid-Level Reelers 

The second category, the Mid-Level Reelers division, included startups with a prototype or minimally viable product. These companies may or may not have product sales. Eight different teams competed in this division. 

Taking home second place in the Mid-Level category was Twin Cities startup Morari Medical. This startup, presented by healthcare marketing expert Jeff Bennett, addresses the number one male sexual dysfunction, premature ejaculation. Premature ejaculation affects one in three men and can negatively impact quality of life. The Morari Medical team seeks to treat this condition using neuro-modulation based devices to block or delay ejaculation. Neuromodulation is an evolving therapy that alters nerve activity, through chemical or electrical stimuli, at specific nerve sites in the body. With an estimated market size of $15M, Morari Medical is in the early feasibility prototyping stage of development.

Winning the Mid-Level Reeler division was Mayo Clinic Florida innovation The QT Grid. Presented by Postdoctoral Fellow Karim ReFaey, The QT Grid targets the 50M people across the world suffering from epilepsy. Epilepsy, a condition leading to changed electrical activity in the brain, can be caused by stroke, injury, or tumors on the brain or spinal cord, called gliomas. During surgery to remove these gliomas, surgeons also need to monitor electrical activity of the brain through recording electrodes. However, the monitoring devices currently on the market are either too expensive, too cumbersome, or lack complete functionality to perform these tasks. To solve this problem, this team has developed The QT Grid, a ring shaped, patented, and FDA cleared device that allows for 360-degree electrode recordings and readings from all desired areas of the brain simultaneously. The grid is additionally cheaper and more effective than other devices on the market, ReFaey explained.

 

Professional Division 

The final division, the Professionals, were established companies making sales and may be in fundraising mode. This division had six total participants.

Earning second place in the Professional division was Rochester company Ambient Clinical Analytics. Presented by CEO Al Berning, Ambient Clinical has developed a suite of clinical support tools. These solutions address information overload and physician burnout in healthcare settings by taking digital health data, sorting the data, and providing healthcare staff with the 1-5% of the data needed to make an informed decision. These SaaS products received Class II FDA clearance from the FDA. The products are sold on a subscription basis and are in worldwide use. Since launch of the company, Ambient has raised ~$8M to fuel business growth.

Taking home the win in the Professional division was Twin Cities company ClinicianNexus. Presented by CEO Katrina Anderson, this company is targeting the >1M medical students, daily, seeking a clinical rotation experience in over 500K clinical sites in the US alone. Traditionally this matching process is driven by the medical schools using technology as simple as a crowded excel sheet. The ClinicianNexus solution, a collaborative clinical education management tool, assists healthcare sites to proactively address their capacity to teach students; this information can then be shared with medical schools and students seeking to rotate at that particular medical location.

Competing Walleye Tank teams were judged by seasoned entrepreneurs, or “Walleyes,” including: Carla Pavone, Associate Director of the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship; Perry Hackett, CEO at Recombinetics; Julie Henry, Enterprise IP Manager at Mayo Clinic; Mark Laisure, CEO at Vortex Media; Pam York, General Partner at Capita3; Bryan Clark, Fellow, Corporate Research at Boston Scientific; Dan Cunagin, Managing Partner at Invenshure; and Fernando Bazan, biotech expert. 

Rochester startup Nanodropper won the first ever Audience Favorite Award. This company, led by Mayo Clinic Medical Student Allisa Song, is developing a universal eye dropper adapter that administers the correct size of medical eye drops to reduce prescription waste.  

Teams fed into Walleye Tank from four different funnels including an open application, a Mayo Clinic Florida Alligator Tank, DMC’s Assistive Tech Challenge, and a Student Entrepreneurial Showcase. 

The next Walleye Tank will be held on May 3rd at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

Five Local Biotech Student-Led Teams Advance to Walleye Tank

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Allisa Song, Nanodropper.

Allisa Song, Nanodropper.

Last Thursday local student-led innovation stole the limelight at the Entrepreneurial Student Showcase + Walleye Tank Student Qualifying Round, a collaboration between Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, Collider Coworking, and the Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship. Seventeen different student teams from around the region competed in the event. Twelve of these teams pitched with the hope to enter Walleye Tank, a Minnesota-based biotech business pitch competition. From this student qualifying round, five teams were deemed ready to compete in Walleye Tank, which will take place tomorrow in Rochester. Advancing teams included Nanodropper, NeuroCog, Malleus, UVCanopy, and Intelligent Parking Solutions.

Nanodropper, presented by Mayo Clinic Medical Student Allisa Song, is addressing wasted eyedrop medications from unnecessary overflow during application of meds; the normal amount of liquid dispensed from eye drop bottles is five times that which can be absorbed by the human eye, according the Nanodropper team. In glaucoma treatment alone, excessive waste from eye drops can cost up to $500 per bottle. This waste is a large problem for low income patients or patients that run out of medication before their prescription can be refilled. To solve this problem, the Nanodropper team has developed a medical grade, single-use silicone eye drop adapter that reduces the size of dispensed eye drops to a volume that can be absorbed by the human eye to reduce medical eye drop waste. This adapter has a universal fit and is patent-pending. The team plans to deliver the product to customers through eye care clinics at a cost of $12.99, resulting in an 86% profit margin. By 2020, ~80M patients will be diagnosed with glaucoma, resulting in an estimated market size of $90M in revenue in the US market alone. Nanodropper qualified for the Mid-Level Reeler division of Walleye Tank.

Logan Grado and Ian Kitchen, Malleus.

Logan Grado and Ian Kitchen, Malleus.

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities students Logan Grado and Ian Kitchen won first place in the Junior Angler Division with Malleus, a hearing aid technology startup. By 2020 an estimated 45M people will be diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing deficiencies, requiring the use of a hearing aid. However, hearing aids are normally tuned by audiologists in a controlled clinical setting, which can be non-functional in a real-world environment. Consequently, when patients need to have their hearing aid adjusted, they have to return to the audiologist, resulting in a costly and inefficient process. Malleus aims to pair artificial intelligence with Bluetooth capable devices to create more personalized, self-directed hearing fits for patients to reduce the need for excessive hearing aid tuning in a clinical setting.  

James Perreault, UVCanopy.

James Perreault, UVCanopy.

Mayo Clinic Florida researcher and physician team of David Restrepo, Daniel Boczar, Toni Turnbull, and Karim ReFaey won second place in the Junior Angler division with their concept, NeuroCog. Brain surgery patients, the team explained, require frequent pre- and postoperative evaluations of cognitive function, which can be very time and resource consuming. To address this issue, they propose the development of a tablet-based application providing standardized, automatized cognitive testing to complement routine postoperative monitoring of neurosurgery patients. This app would incorporate artificial intelligence-based voice, facial, and text recognition to perform cognitive assessments, targeting the 13.8M neurosurgeries occurring globally each year. 

Also qualifying for the Junior Angler Division of Walleye Tank, and winning the Audience Favorite Award, was Saint Mary’s University Finance Student James Perreault with his concept UVCanopy. UVCanopy is addressing the lack of sanitation on items like wheel chairs and other hospital equipment, primarily targeting nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. The UVCanopy uses germicidal UV-C light to kill bacteria in a tunnel-shaped device. Medical equipment could be pushed through the tunnel for sterilization purposes, additionally eliminating human error involved in the sanitation process and reducing dependency on hazardous sterilization chemicals. UVCanopy proposes to make profits through subscription sales and purchases of replacement parts. The team is currently working with the Saint Mary’s University Science Department to test different light volatility in the disinfection process.  

Sinibaldo Romero, Intelligent Parking Solutions.

Sinibaldo Romero, Intelligent Parking Solutions.

The final team to qualify for the Junior Angler Division of Walleye Tank was the Intelligent Parking Solutions concept, led by Mayo Clinic Post Baccalaureate Fellow Sinibaldo Romero. This concept aims to utilize data analytics to increase parking efficiencies in healthcare organizations. The team proposed using cameras in parking spaces to identify unused spots. The product would leverage machine learning to understand parking patterns for patients and staff to determine more efficient mechanisms for healthcare parking. Parking is a multi-million-dollar industry for healthcare institutions. Missed medical appointments due to lack of parking in the US is documented to cost $150B to healthcare institutions each year.

Student showcase teams were judged by Heather Holmes, Vice President of Marketing at Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc.; Chris Lukenbill, Founder at Fresh Edge; Sunny Prabhakar, Account Strategist at Corporate Web Services, Inc., Jon Ninas, Career Awareness Specialist at Mayo Clinic; Sam Gill, Workforce Development Manager at the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce; and Brady Olson, Human Resources Administrative Assistant at Mayo Clinic. The Walleye Tank Student Qualifying Round was judged by Chris Schad, Director of Business Development for Discovery Square; Joselyn Raymundo, Founder of Rochester Home Infusion; Xavier Frigola, Director of Entrepreneurship at Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc.; and Shuai Li, Lab Manager at Mayo Clinic.

Watch all the Walleye Tank student qualifying round pitches on the YouTube channel. Catch these teams live as they pitch in Walleye Tank tomorrow starting at noon in Rochester. Walleye Tank is a free event that is open to the public.

New Cowork Space Offers Hub for Winona Entrepreneurs

Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

Located just one block from the Mississippi River in Winona, Minn., The Garage Co-Work Space aims to promote and foster entrepreneurship. The coworking facility, Winona’s first, is the fruition of a two-year collaboration among dedicated community members to fuel entrepreneurship and provide a local hub for innovation. 

The Garage Co-Work Executive Director Samantha Strand, far left. Garage Co-Work Owner Eric Mullen, right. Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

The Garage Co-Work Executive Director Samantha Strand, far left. Garage Co-Work Owner Eric Mullen, right. Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

“The Winona Community is and always has been a very entrepreneurial place. One thing it has been lacking is a center for entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial events. This is a key void The Garage can fill,” said Owner Eric Mullen. “The Garage Co-Work Space plans to be a place to host and coordinate these types of things to further connect the community.”

The name of the coworking facility pays homage to the humble beginnings of businesses started in basements or garages, to entrepreneurs who just needed some type of space in which to create. The coworking facility offers a central location for Winona’s entrepreneurs to link up, problem solve together, and allow their businesses to thrive. 

“If you just give people space to think and to dream and to do and to reach out and connect to people, sometimes that’s all they really need,” explained Samantha Strand, Executive Director of The Garage Co-Work Space.

After a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 14th, the coworking facility is officially open to the public. Now, Strand says she’s excited to share the space and help others understand the benefits of coworking in Winona.

The Garage Co-Work has an open space coworking format, with no private offices. The facility also houses two conference rooms, a lounge area, kitchenette, and two private phone booth areas. Desk space can be rented daily, weekly, monthly, or permanently.

The Garage Co-Work is the pinnacle of a two-year brainstorming partnership between many local supporting entities in Winona who wished to create a focal hub for entrepreneurs within the city. Winona State University School of Business, the City of Winona, the Port Authority of Winona, and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, Strand said, were all instrumental in the ideation and launch of the coworking facility.

In addition to the physical space, The Garage Co-Work will also provide business development programming and networking events to help facilitate local business growth and education. Upcoming events include 1 Million Cups Winona on December 12th and The Garage Co-Work’s first Fireside Chat with the Founder of WinCraft on December 17th.

Strand, a Twin Cities native, was drawn back to the area after completing her bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship at Baylor University. Although she has ideas for starting a business of her own someday, now she’s driven to help others succeed.  

“At the core of what I really love is entrepreneurship and helping other people believe that they can be entrepreneurs…and they can go out and do big things and they can make a difference,” she explained.

Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

Strand said there’s a definitive energy around entrepreneurship and strong grassroots entrepreneurial movements already occurring in Winona. She thinks, however, that even more innovation activity could be occurring, which the Garage Co-Work Space could help to facilitate.

Even if you don’t consider yourself entrepreneurial, Strand suggests just placing yourself on the mailing list of your local coworking space. You never know when you might benefit or be able to help someone in that extended network.

Where are they Now: UNRAVELED Escape Room

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Last October we shared the story of husband and wife team Jackie and Ryan Steiner, owners of UNRAVELED Escape Room. The Steiners have always been business owners, but made a dramatic shift in their careers two years ago to open their current endeavor, a sixty-minute locked room challenge, on December 1, 2016.

On nearly the two-year anniversary of its launch, UNRAVELED Escape Room remains a leading puzzle room challenge in Rochester; the Steiners are currently seeking innovative ways to scale the business and are expecting a two-hundred percent uptick in business growth compared to their first full year.

“We are already proving to be Rochester’s top choice for a go-to fun group experience, so being able to share these exciting experiences with other people is our ultimate goal,” explained Ryan Steiner.  

Since we spoke about one year ago, Jackie and Ryan developed a brand-new business category for UNRAVELED, called Wits & Grits. This novel, team-based 5K challenge includes an outdoor obstacle course with escape room style stations “where you challenge your brain and brawn together.” The Steiners have also rolled out Mobile and Mini Escapes- 6’x6’ puzzles or 2’x2’ lock boxes, respectively- that can be rented out for parties or other events.

This past year, Jackie and Ryan have also immersed themselves in several business courses to reframe their mindsets and to allow the pair to steamroll UNRAVELED Escape Room forward. In 2019, they plan to completely revamp all three current UNRAVELED puzzle challenges, including adding on a brand new “Upside Down Room” concept.

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New Childcare Center Hosts Open House Today!

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Stewartville, MN (Wednesday, October 24, 2018) – Sprouts Childcare & Early Education Center, LLC, a newly constructed childcare center in Stewartville with capacity for 99 children, will be opening its doors next week. The Center is holding an open house to showcase their progress to the public for the first time on Thursday. The open house details are included here: 

When:  Thursday, October 25, 2018

Time:    4 p.m. - 7 p.m.

Where: 200 Schumann Drive NW, Stewartville, MN

Sprouts Childcare & Early Education Center is hosting this open house to help families understand the significant features and services offered by their facility and talented team of caring professionals.  The open house will include tours of the premises and light refreshments. 

“Now that construction is completed, we are ready to start inspiring life-long learning in all of our children,” said owner Krystal Campbell. “We’re excited to welcome the public in to experience how we plan to celebrate and the uniqueness of all of the children we will serve!”

This open house is free to attend and is open to the public.

About Sprouts Childcare & Early Education Center, LLC

Sprouts Childcare & Early Education Center, LLC is family owned and operated by Krystal and Patrick Campbell.

The center focuses on the provision of a safe, nurturing, and developmentally appropriate environment for children from six weeks to age twelve. An emphasis is placed on the value and uniqueness of each child that is served.

As caregivers and educators, the team at Sprouts Childcare & Early Education Center strives to promote each child’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. Their programs plant seeds of knowledge in every child to inspire life-long learning.

For more information about Sprouts Childcare & Early Education Center, please visit www.sprouts-childcare.com

Where Are They Now? Escape Challenge Rochester

Photo courtesy of Escape Challenge Rochester.

Photo courtesy of Escape Challenge Rochester.

After first telling their story one year ago, today we check back in with family-owned business Escape Challenge Rochester. Escape Challenge is this city’s first locked room experience, where teams search for clues and solve puzzles to “escape” from the room in sixty minutes or less. The first Escape Challenge location was opened in downtown Rochester by mother and son team Nathan and Cindy Schroeder in 2015, with a second location in northwest Rochester opening one year later.

 Since we last spoke in fall 2017, two additional challenges have been added to the northwest location, while all the challenges were discontinued at the downtown Escape Challenge. 

“This was always part of the plan when we took on the lease at the north location,” explained Nathan Schroeder. “Escape rooms don’t have any replay value. After a person has done a challenge, they would never come back and do the same one again.” 

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The original Escape Challenge downtown location, Schroeder explained, was smaller and more difficult to remodel, shifting the focus of the business to their current northwest Rochester location.

Escape Challenge has experienced a large increase in the amount of team building activities taking place at their current building. Now, they’ve added a meeting room to accommodate this need. The business can also facilitate large groups of up to forty-five people simultaneously performing challenges with the increased number of themed escape rooms at their northwest location.

Currently, Escape Challenge is in the final phase of construction in their current building.

“That doesn’t seem like much to some businesses, but we are a small business run by a mother and son. We built our business entirely on a bootstrap model since we started three years ago,” Schroeder explained. 

Once construction is finally complete, Escape Challenge will enter into a new phase of the business, where they can focus on enhancing the customer experience and capturing new market segments.

The business is focused on a sales and marketing push over the next year to attract more customers during the week days and to get more people through their doors who have yet to experience an escape room.

Escape Challenge has made it this far, Schroeder explained, by word-of-mouth and through providing “an amazing experience for every customer each time.” To capture more of the market and fill up time slots, Schroeder said the business will need to be more proactive with their sales efforts.

Gender Communication Differences: What Can We Learn?

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While most of us have observed communication differences between men and women, these discrepancies are also well documented by psychological and scientific research. This article is not meant to separate genders into strict communication buckets. And it’s certainly not meant to encourage readers to change their own behavior. Instead, this piece is meant to open up the dialogue about different communication styles to help us better recognize patterns within ourselves and to enhance our interactions with others in both our personal and professional lives.

Improved communication, or an elevated understanding of divergent communication methods, can help to manage confrontation, aid in conflict resolution, relieve stress and anxiety, build stronger relationships, and meet our needs as humans for social interactions. Strong communication skills can facilitate goal achievement and improve job performance, especially in customer service and management positions.

Research shows that men and women are more likely to exhibit different styles of verbal communication. Men are more prone to adopt what is called “report talk,” while women gravitate more toward “rapport talk.”

“Report” style of communication is driven by the exchange of factual information to solve a given problem. This type of communication is direct and typically does not include any personal anecdotes or stories, with limited emotional connotation. This type of communication is aimed at building relationships based on solving that task at hand. “Report” communication users typically tend to dominate the conversation and speak for longer periods of time than other types of communicators.

“Rapport” communication, on the other hand, is aimed at building relationships and problem solving with the aid of those relationships. This style of communication includes more listening than “report” communication and involves the inclusion of more personal feelings and past experiences to solve tasks. “Rapport” communicators tend to problem solve as they are speaking and are more concerned with everyone equally contributing to the conversation. 

When speaking, women typically utilize a wider range of pitch and tonal variations compared to men, incorporating five tones into their voice versus the three tones expressed by men. This increased variation may underlie the stereotype that women tend to be more emotional speakers than men. 

Non-verbal signals are also important contributors to communication. Similar to divergent verbal communication styles, men and women tend to gravitate toward different methods in this type of communication. 

In general, women tend to condense their bodies into as compact a space as possible. This involves tucking in elbows, crossing legs, and keeping any materials in stacked piles. Women also tend to display more animated facial expressions, smile more, and make more eye contact than men. Men, on the other hand, tend to expand more than women into physical space and normally resume a more relaxed body posture. 

Again, these data are generalized statements and are not meant to convey that all men fit into one type of communication category and all women into another category. This is also not meant to position one style of communication as superior to the other. This discussion, instead, is just meant to describe two very general forms of communication so we can recognize them with the goal to improve our own communication and relationship building skills. 

However, we can all set ourselves up to be better communicators in the workplace if we practice something called executive presence. You don’t have to be a CEO to implement this style of communication. Instead, executive presence just involves exhibiting confidence, communicating clearly and efficiently, and reading an audience or situation effectively. Executive presence includes eliminating behavior like questioning ourselves as we speak, laughing nervously while talking, overly apologizing, storytelling in excess, and being extremely deferential. Instead, executive presence involves listening, talking efficiently to forward the conversation, speaking firmly, and standing/sitting tall.

Highly important to executive presence is a skill set called emotional intelligence (or EI). EI is a concept pioneered in 1990 by psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey. This behavior involves high levels of self-awareness, including the ability to perceive, understand, and interpret emotional information.

EI is useful for relationship building; highly effective leaders also typically have elevated levels of EI. 

Overall, neither gender appears to have an advantage over the other in the ability to practice or develop EI. Some studies suggest that women might be slightly better than men at displaying emotional empathy, one aspect of EI.

EI has even been observed in chimps. While in this case, female chimps tended to exhibit higher levels of empathy than males when interacting with other chimps. However, alpha males, the troupe leaders, generally displayed higher levels of empathy than even the females.

Want to learn more about differences in gender communication? Take a dive into the references below and join us tonight for a roundtable discussion at Little Thistle Brewing around this topic.

 

References:

1.     Capita3 materials and verbal communication. 2018.

2.     Kinsey Goman, Carol. “Is Your Communication Style Dictated by Your Gender?” Forbes. N.p., 31 May 2016. Web. 13 Sept. 2018.

3.     Nelson, Audrey. “Gender Communication: It’s Complicated.” Psychology Today. N.p., 24 June 2016. Web. 13 Sept. 2018.

4.     Graham, Debra. “Gender Styles in Communication.” University of Kentucky. 13 Sept. 2018.

5.     Mohindra, Vinita and Samina Azhar. (2012). Gender Communication: A Comparative Analysis of Communicational Appraoches of Men and Women at Workplaces. Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences. 2(1), 18-27.

6.     Goleman, Dan. “Are Women More Emotionally Intelligent Than Men?” Psychology Today. N.p., 29 April 2011. Web. 12 Sept. 2018.

7.     Barisco, Justin. “You Need to Learn How to Make Emotions Work for You, Instead of Against You. Here’s the Proof.” Inc. Web. 13 Sept. 2018.

8.     Meshkat, Maryam and Reza Nejati. (2017). Does Emotional Intelligence Depend on Gender? A Study on Undergraduate English Majors of Three Iranian Universities. SAGE Open. July-September. 1-8.

9.     Lipman, Victor. “New Study Shows Women Consistently Outperform Men in Emotional Intelligence.” Forbes. N.p., 11 May 2016. Web. 13 Sept. 2018.

10.  “Gender Issues: Communication Differences in Interpersonal Relationships.” The Ohio State University. Web. 13 Sept. 2018.

Questions with SCORE: Four Simple Marketing Questions for your Business

Today we link up with SCORE Southeast Minnesota to learn more about SCORE and how they can assist in the growth of your business. In the video today, SCORE volunteer Cheryl Thode addresses four questions you should think about as you develop your business marketing plan.

SCORE is the largest organization in the world that helps people start and run businesses through their free consulting services. Find your mentor by clicking the button at the top of the page or by going to directly to the “Find Your Mentor” website: https://www.score.org/find-mentor.

Where Are They Now: Carpet Booth Studios

Photo courtesy of Carpet Booth Studios.

Photo courtesy of Carpet Booth Studios.

Today we check back in with local business Carpet Booth Studios!

Last July, we chatted with Carpet Booth Studios, a full production and recording studio in Rochester, a few months after their official opening. The studio is owned and operated by local entrepreneur Zach Zurn.

Zurn named the studio “Carpet Booth” in homage to the business’s humble roots, a makeshift production studio he and friends constructed in his mom’s basement as teens.

Carpet Booth has made significant strides over the past year, said Zurn. The studio has been working with local and non-local artists spanning most musical genres. The business currently has two interns on staff and celebrated their one-year anniversary this spring.

Carpet Booth has also moved to a brand new space in southeast Rochester over the past few months. Zurn aims to complete renovation of the new studio space by the end of 2018, for which the business is currently seeking funding.

Currently, Carpet Booth is “working to establish ourselves as the premier recording studio in the Rochester, Winona, La Crosse, and Mason City area,” explained Zurn.

Questions with SCORE: Does SCORE Provide Loans or Financial Capital to Small Businesses?

Today we link up with SCORE Southeast Minnesota to learn more about SCORE and how they can assist in the growth of your business. In the video today, SCORE volunteer Brian Alwin answers the question, “Does SCORE provide loans or financial capital to small businesses?”.

SCORE does not loan capital or provide grants to small businesses. However, SCORE does have a partnership with the Small Business Administration, which does provide funds to people starting small companies. Learn more about these programs by visiting with a SCORE mentor or by participating in a SCORE workshop or webinar on this subject.

SCORE is the largest organization in the world that helps people start and run businesses through their free consulting services. Find your mentor by clicking the button at the top of the page or by going to directly to the “Find Your Mentor” website: https://www.score.org/find-mentor.

Press Release: Vyriad Announces Collaboration with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Pfizer to Evaluate Oncolytic Virus in Combination with Anti-PD-L1 Antibody in Phase 1 Clinical Study

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ROCHESTER, Minn., July 18, 2018 – Vyriad Inc., a clinical-stage, privately held biotechnology company focused on the development of powerful first-in class oncolytic virotherapies, is pleased to announce a collaboration agreement with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Pfizer to expand its ongoing Phase 1 clinical trial program in solid tumors to include a combination study of its lead asset, Voyager-V1, with avelumab*, a human anti-PD-L1 antibody. For more information on this novel immuno-oncology combination study, please see clinicaltrials.gov.

“We are delighted to be working with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt Germany, and Pfizer on this innovative combination treatment approach,” said Stephen Russell, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of Vyriad. “Voyager-V1 is being administered to inflame the tumors, and avelumab has been shown to release the suppression of the T cell mediated antitumor immune response in preclinical models.”

“We are encouraged by the potential of Voyager-V1, which has demonstrated early clinical activity in patients with solid tumors,” said Alise Reicin, Head of Global Clinical Development at the Biopharma business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, which operates in the U.S. and Canada as EMD Serono. “We look forward to investigating how combining Voyager-V1 with avelumab may advance patient care.”

“A primary focus of our clinical development program for avelumab is to evaluate the role and potential of immunotherapy combination regimens, in an effort to support patients with challenging cancers,” said Chris Boshoff, M.D., Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Head of Immuno-Oncology, Early Development and Translational Oncology, Pfizer Global Product Development. “We look forward to working with Vyriad to explore this novel combination for patients with solid tumors.”

Avelumab has received accelerated approval** by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of patients with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) and previously treated patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma (mUC), and is under further clinical evaluation across a range of tumor types under a global strategic alliance between Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Pfizer.

*Avelumab is under clinical investigation for treatment of various solid tumors and has not been demonstrated to be safe and effective for this indication. There is no guarantee that avelumab will be approved for specific solid tumors by any health authority worldwide.

About Voyager-V1
Voyager-V1 (VSV-IFNβ-NIS) is derived from Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV), a bullet-shaped, negativesense RNA virus with low human seroprevalence, specifically engineered to replicate selectively in and kill human cancer cells. Voyager-V1 encodes human IFNβ to boost antitumoral immune responses and increase tumor specificity, plus the thyroidal sodium iodide symporter NIS to allow imaging of virus spread. Three first-in-human Phase 1 clinical studies of Voyager-V1 are exploring intravenous and intratumoral routes of administration.

About Avelumab
Avelumab is a human anti-programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) antibody. Avelumab has been shown in preclinical models to engage both the adaptive and innate immune functions. By blocking the interaction of PDL1 with PD-1 receptors, avelumab has been shown to release the suppression of the T cell-mediated antitumor immune response in preclinical models.1-3 Avelumab has also been shown to induce NK cell-mediated direct tumor cell lysis via antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) in vitro.3-5 In November 2014, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Pfizer announced a strategic alliance to co-develop and cocommercialize avelumab.

Avelumab is currently being evaluated in the JAVELIN clinical development program, which involves at least 30 clinical programs, including seven Phase III trials and nearly 8,300 patients across more than 15 different tumor types. For a comprehensive list of all avelumab trials, please visit clinicaltrials.gov.

Indications in the U.S.**
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted accelerated approval for avelumab (BAVENCIO®) for the treatment of (i) adults and pediatric patients 12 years and older with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma (mMCC) and (ii) patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma (mUC) who have disease progression during or following platinum-containing chemotherapy, or have disease progression within 12 months of neoadjuvant or adjuvant treatment with platinum-containing chemotherapy. These indications are approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and duration of response. Continued approval for these indications may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in confirmatory trials.

Important Safety Information from the U.S. FDA-Approved Label
The warnings and precautions for avelumab (BAVENCIO®) include immune-mediated adverse reactions (such as pneumonitis, hepatitis, colitis, endocrinopathies, nephritis and renal dysfunction and other adverse reactions), infusion-related reactions and embryo-fetal toxicity.

Common adverse reactions (reported in at least 20% of patients) in patients treated with BAVENCIO for mMCC and patients with locally advanced or metastatic UC include fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, diarrhea, nausea, infusion-related reaction, peripheral edema, decreased appetite/hypophagia, urinary tract infection and rash.

For full prescribing information and medication guide for BAVENCIO, please see www.BAVENCIO.com.

Alliance between Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Pfizer Inc., New York, U.S.
Immuno-oncology is a top priority for Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Pfizer Inc. The global strategic alliance between Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Pfizer Inc., New York, U.S., enables the companies to benefit from each other’s strengths and capabilities and further explore the therapeutic potential of avelumab, an anti-PD-L1 antibody initially discovered and developed by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. The immunooncology alliance will jointly develop and commercialize avelumab and advance Pfizer’s PD-1 antibody. The alliance is focused on developing high-priority international clinical programs to investigate avelumab as a monotherapy, as well as in combination regimens, and is striving to find new ways to treat cancer.

About Vyriad
Vyriad is a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing novel oncolytic virus therapies for the treatment of cancers that have significant unmet need. Vyriad’s oncolytic immunovirotherapy product candidates are based on the company’s engineered Oncolytic Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) and Oncolytic Measles Virus platforms that enable selective destruction of cancer cells without harming normal tissues.

Vyriad’s product development pipeline encompasses multiple clinical- and preclinical-stage programs that target a broad range of cancer indications, as well as programs that pair the company’s oncolytic viruses with other cancer immunotherapy modalities, traditional cancer therapy, and newer targeted therapies. Vyriad’s lead program, Voyager-V1, is in Phase 1 clinical research in solid tumors and hematological indications (please see
clinicaltrials.gov). In addition, Vyriad is developing novel diagnostic/theranostic tests for more accurate prediction of immunovirotherapy response.

References
1. Dolan DE, Gupta S. PD-1 pathway inhibitors: changing the landscape of cancer immunotherapy. Cancer Control 2014;21(3):231-7.
2. Dahan R, Sega E, Engelhardt J et al. FcγRs modulate the anti-tumor activity of antibodies targeting the PD-1/PD-L1 axis. Cancer Cell 2015;28(3):285-95.
3. Boyerinas B, Jochems C, Fantini M et al. Antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity activity of a novel anti-PD-L1 antibody avelumab (MSB0010718C) on human tumor cells. Cancer Immunol Res 2015;3(10):1148-57.
4. Kohrt HE, Houot R, Marabelle A et al. Combination strategies to enhance antitumor ADCC. Immunotherapy
2012;4(5):511-27.
5. Hamilton G, Rath B. Avelumab: combining immune checkpoint inhibition and antibody-dependent cytotoxicity. Expert Opin Biol Ther 2017;17(4):515-23.

Contact:
Titus Plattel
Chief Operating Officer
tplattel@vyriad.com

Questions with SCORE: Why Do I Need a Business Plan?

Today we link up again with SCORE Southeast Minnesota to learn more about business plans and why they are recommended for your company. In this video, SCORE volunteer Brian Alwin answers the question, “Why do I need a business plan?”.

Business plans are encouraged for any business and serve as a place where you can lay out your ideas in a single document. Information in a business plan can include your products, services, price point, potential clients, and financials. Business plans do not need to be extremely in-depth or complicated; they can even be a single paged document, called a lean canvas.

SCORE can help anyone create a business plan with their mentoring services and workshops. SCORE additionally has online webinars about business plan writing on their website that can be perused at your convenience.

SCORE is the largest organization in the world that helps people start and run businesses through their free consulting services. Find your mentor by clicking the button at the top of the page or by going to directly to the “Find Your Mentor” website: https://www.score.org/find-mentor.

Questions with SCORE: Meet Your New Mentor

Today we continue our “Questions with SCORE” series, talking more about the benefits of using the completely free SCORE business development program, with a focus on mentor matching and business plan writing.

Today on the video with speak with local SCORE Mentor Stephen Troutman, a former U.S. Naval Reserve Commanding Officer who holds an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Venture Management from the University of Southern California.

SCORE is a completely free small business service that was formed in 1964 and is supported by the Small Business Administration. SCORE has over 11,000 mentors nation-wide across 300 different chapters. The local chapter, SCORE Southeast Minnesota, has twenty-five different mentors spanning multiple different industries. The acronym SCORE previously stood for “Service Corp of Retired Executives.” However, this name is now defunct as SCORE has incorporated many mentors still in business, as well as retired professionals, to increase the value of their service. 

SCORE Southeast Minnesota has particular interest in connecting with the local innovation and entrepreneurial community.

Throughout this series, SCORE Southeast Minnesota will be taking your questions about business development or how SCORE can be of value to your business endeavors. If you have questions for SCORE, please leave them in the comments below.

“If you’re an entrepreneur thinking about starting a business, you can talk to us. If you’re someone who’s been in business for a while and wants somebody to come and talk to you how to improve your business, you can talk to us.” -Stephen Troutman, Mentor with SCORE Southeast Minnesota

Where Are They Now: Stewartville Business Incubation Program

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One year ago, the Stewartville, Minnesota Economic Development Authority (EDA) was awarded a $9,000 Incentive Grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) to implement a brand-new business incubation program in that city.  The program allowed new businesses to lease eligible, vacant properties within the industrial and commercial districts of Stewartville, with decreasing rates of rental assistance offered to these businesses for eighteen months. This incentive was meant to lower barriers to starting a business in the city and to encourage the creation and launch of new, for-profit businesses.

This grant was primarily authored by Joya Stetson, a business development specialist with Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) who serves the Stewartville EDA.

Recipients of rental assistance through the program were also required to attend entrepreneurial education classes, which were primarily designed and taught by CEDA. These courses were also open to any other existing business owners in the community, free of charge.

One year later, the Stewartville EDA is still offering the business incubation program in the community. Over the past twelve months, the EDA has admitted one new business into the program, Thrivent Financial, allowing the business to create two new jobs in the city.

Local Thrivent Financial owners Nick Johnson and Nic Hale found the program extremely beneficial to grow their business.

“Our team has been humbled by the tremendous support we have received from the City of Stewartville. We have received education and funding, which helps at a business level, but also gives us encouragement and great motivation to serve this great town. …The community members and its elected leaders have given us a great head start on that dream, and for that, we are extremely grateful,” said Johnson.

About twenty-nine different local entrepreneurs also participated in the education classes offered.

Over the next year, the Stewartville EDA will continue to evaluate and assess the impact of the program for the local entrepreneurial community. The incubation program has continued financial support for the program from SMIF and technical assistance from CEDA to continue the educational classes and rental assistance. Now, the EDA is seeking ways to market this unique business development opportunity to the entrepreneurial community, particularly those seeking to grow their business in Stewartville.

Five Olmsted County Teams Advance to Semifinal Round of Minnesota Cup

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Last Thursday, startup semifinalists were announced in the 2018 Minnesota Cup, the largest statewide startup competition in the nation. These ninety companies will compete in nine different divisions: Education & Training, Energy/Clean Tech/Water, Food/Ag/Bev, General, High Tech, Life Science/Health IT, Impact Ventures, Student, and Youth Divisions.

Over $500,000 in seed funding will be awarded this season to companies participating in the Minnesota Cup business plan competition. In addition to financial capital, startups also receive mentorship opportunities, media exposure, and business plan feedback.

Applications for this year’s Minnesota Cup opened on March 26th. Over the next several months, finalists will be chosen in each of these nine divisions, earning a chance to win the overall $50,000 grand prize at the final awards ceremony at the McNamara Alumni Center on October 8th.

This year, Minnesota Cup received 1,661 applications from around the state, a twenty-two percent increase from last season.

Five teams from Olmsted country have advanced to the semifinal round of the competition including:

·      Oronoco-based Busy Baby LLC in the General Division. This company’s product, the Busy Baby Mat, can be utilized on any flat surface to keep babies busy and baby toys safe and clean. The mat is also portable.

·      Rochester-based LipiQuester LLC in the Life Science/Health IT Division. LipiQuester is a patent-pending nutraceutical that sequesters fat from the diet to prevent fat absorption, minus the negative side-effects experienced from typical anti-obesity treatments.

·      Rochester-based Mill Creek Life Sciences in the Life Science/Health IT Division. Mill Creek Life Sciences has developed the first human platelet cell lysate on the market, called PLTMax. The company’s additional product, PLTGold, is a media supplement for stem cell growth.

·      Rochester-based Thaddeus Medical Systems in the Life Science/Health IT Division. This startup has developed iGler, a smart hardware and software packaging solution to protect and keep medical and biological samples cold while shipping.

·      Rochester-based B.A.S.I.C. BALSA in the Youth Division. This team of young women is developing an app to connect immigrants to resources in their new communities to enhance quality of life. This product was developed as part of the Technovation Challenge, a global initiative that enables girls to solve real-world problems through technology.

Congratulations to all the advancing companies and best of luck in the remainder of the competition!

Local Resident Seeking to Grow Car Museum in Rochester

Photo courtesty of the Musuem of AUtomotive History.

Rochester entrepreneur Eric Pool has always loved cars. From this first Matchbox toy to his earliest real vehicle, this deep interest has evolved and expanded over a lifetime.

“When I was finally old enough and had enough money to purchase a few [cars] I got to thinking, what’s going to happen to these long term?” Pool explained.

Pool had experience working with the Florence B. Dearing Museum, a Victorian-style home in central Michigan. He thought that perhaps an automobile museum might be the exact solution he was seeking.

Beyond a few mini-museums, particularly around the Minneapolis area, there were no dedicated car museums in Minnesota. Pool reached out to local car enthusiasts and clubs, receiving resounding positive interest in such an establishment.  He believed that Rochester was the perfect place to launch this vision.

“With DMC looking for more options [for patients] to do while they are here, the museum fits well with that,” Pool explained.

Now, Pool’s Museum of Automotive History is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 non-profit with a seven-person Board of Directors, of which Pool is President. The museum currently has amassed a collection of cars, which mainly belong to Board members, including Poole’s own 1981 DeLorean and 1963 Ford Galaxy. The Board also has a growing number of car memorabilia, books, and car-related toys, but not enough yet to require a dedicated physical space. The museum is gaining a reputation as the “go to” place for cars around Rochester, showcasing the vehicles and other car items around the community upon request.

Pool’s ultimate vision is to set up the museum as a type of car showcase for the community, where car enthusiasts could display their vehicles during poor weather months, similar to the lay out at a car show. Through this type of “loan program,” the museum could obtain cars at a relatively low cost and rotate the cars on display to keep the museum content from stagnating.

Pool’s vision for the automobile museum expands well beyond a basic car showcase.

“We don’t want it to be simply a car museum for the typical demographic to look at a car and leave,” he explained. “We want this to be a community component. We want to be able to bring in children of all ages to learn about cars.”

Now, Pool has his eye out for just the right space for the museum. He wants the gallery to remain “as diverse as possible” in the types of cars showcased, perhaps even broadening as a general transportation museum including cars, planes, and trains. Pool hopes to utilize a historic building in Rochester for the museum, but suggested the costs might be too high for this concept to come to fruition.

“We love the idea of sharing space with other museums. We would greatly entertain that with any other museum that has interest,” Pool said.

This “shared roof” concept would save costs for his museum, as well as provide a variety of options at one location, shopping mall style, where families could visit together and meet their diverse interests.

The Museum of Automotive History’s seven-member Board of Directors has been instrumental in the organization’s growth. Members include Pool’s father and wife as well as Tony Swann, a member who lives outside of Minnesota with experience in the car museum space.

“It’s been a fun road to travel with all these individuals who have been able to come in at certain points to help us get it off the ground,” Pool explained. “That’s part of what I’ve enjoyed the most, is working with the other individuals.”

As with many museums, funding has been a roadblock to growth of a car museum in Rochester. However, Pool said, the Board is not always looking for financial capital. Assistance is also welcome as donations of cars or car-related items.

“But another one that is often times forgotten are the right volunteers, the right Board members, the right interested parties who can make this happen,” Pool explained.

The museum is always searching for people who can donate their time, knowledge, and connections toward growth of this resource in the community.

While the Museum of Automotive History continues to move forward, Pool’s immediate goal is to become the voice in the Rochester community for all things car related. These efforts include maintenance of an in-depth calendar of car events on the museum’s website as well as the group’s car showcase program in the community.

“Minnesota is one of those states where we really need to have a presence here for more museums, not just cars, but museums in general, and Rochester is no exception to that,” Pool said.

Questions with SCORE: Meet SCORE Southeast Minnesota

SCORE Southeast Minnesota is a completely free, local business resource that offers one-on-one mentoring, webinars and online training, and more for any industry. Today on the video we talk with Kimberly Alwin, Volunteer with SCORE SE Minnesota to learn more about SCORE and what it can do for your business. Alwin describes SCORE as "your biggest fan and your biggest supporter."

This is the first video with SCORE Southeast Minnesota in a four part series to help the community learn more about SCORE and see if it is a good fit for your business.

As part of these videos, we will be taking your questions about SCORE in particular or about some aspect of business development. Select questions will be answered by SCORE Southeast Minnesota in upcoming videos. So here's your chance to ask SCORE a question!

Leave all your questions and comments below for a chance to have your question answered in our next video. Learn more about SCORE Southeast Minnesota by heading over to their website at: https://seminnesota.score.org/