Community Innovation

Redefining Entrepreneurship: A Look At The Current Model

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

What is an entrepreneur? Why does entrepreneurship matter? 

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

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

Consider these thoughts. 

An entrepreneur is someone who: 

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

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

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

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

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

Why is entrepreneurship important?

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

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

Women Entrepreneurial Panel Says the Money Is Out There To Fund Local Women-Led Businesses

Photo courtesy of Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc.

Last week over fifty intrepid women braved a winter storm to attend a Women Entrepreneurs Forum on funding sources. The event, led by Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. and Saint Mary’s Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, provided a connection point for business women in the local ecosystem and brought to the surface funding pain points experienced by these innovators. 

The forum included a panel discussion featuring Jennifer Gowin, a Commercial Local Officer with Premier Banks Rochester, Cathy Connett, CEO and Managing Partner of the Sofia Fund, an angel investment fund for high growth potential women-led businesses, and Laura Hart, Loan Officer with the 504 Corporation

Although at the national level, women-led businesses receive less investments and less capital via bank loans than male-led companies, Gowin and Hart aren’t necessarily seeing this phenomenon at the local level. Though Gowin sees the same size of business loans being awarded to men and women, she’s observed more men than woman applying for loans to fund their company. Hart explained that the funding is out there. But it’s unclear to her if women are not aware of these opportunities or choose to not pursue them. In the venture capital and angel funding world, where there are more male than female investors, the picture is a little more lop-sided.

“Typically, unfortunately, like invests in like,” Connett explained.

Although there are less women investors in general, female business owners, Connett said, also typically wait too long to seek equity investment than their male counterparts.

“Women often want to have everything lined up before they [seek funding]. Whether it’s a bank loan, or whether it’s equity, or anything else,” she explained. 

Women, Connett said, are just as likely to be risk takers as men.

“But I think we don’t want to expose ourselves to risk sometimes,” she explained. 

When looking at loans and investments to any business, the panel said, several factors contribute to the final decision. As a bank, Gowan explained, her employer is fairly conservative when granting loans. Banks typically assess business collateral. If light, the bank will also look at personal assets and personal credit. They will also closely assess the business owner and her level of understanding of her business and the associated industry plus her ability as a founder to overcome any associated risks. 

The team’s capacity to overcome adversity, Connett explained, is a significant factor in angel and venture capital investment.

Excitement, passion, the ability to tell a compelling story, and a clear need for the business in the community are all vital pieces to secure funding, the panel explained.

Resources to fund female, and male, owned businesses are out there. As women, we just have to put ourselves out there and go after it. 

“Events like this are important as they allow entrepreneurs to come together and learn, develop community, and share resources. This event specifically created a venue for women entrepreneurs to increase their knowledge on the opportunities and barriers they face in funding their businesses,” said Christine Beech, Executive Director of the Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. “The speakers and roundtable discussions were designed to help these entrepreneurs develop new strategies to identify opportunities to fund and grow their businesses.”

Future events and workshops like this funding forum are in the planning stages to address additional unmet needs for local business women.

"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.

State of the Rochester Entrepreneurial Community- January 2019

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2018 was a significant year of growth and change for the Rochester entrepreneurial community. Here are some of the highlights.

 

Events and Competitions 

This year saw record interest in existing competitions, development of brand-new pitch events, and continued elevation of ongoing initiatives in the community. 2018 saw continued growth of 1 Million Cups Rochester, a monthly educational event for entrepreneurs, providing a platform for seven different Rochester startups to tell their story and leverage the help of the community. This year the community hosted its second Techstars Startup Weekend, a 54-hour event to go from idea to minimal viable product. The sixth Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week also took place this November, with over six hundred people attending twenty-two different events.

Walleye Tank, a Minnesota based life science business pitch competition, hit record numbers this year with a standing room-only event at Mayo Clinic’s Mann Hall with twenty-two different companies pitching their life saving technologies.

This year also saw the development of a brand-new pitch competition in Rochester, the Assistive Tech Challenge. This event was organized by Destination Medical Center’s Discovery Square team to prototype and seek solutions for persons with disabilities. Twenty-eight different teams applied to compete in this inaugural event.

 

Investment

2018 was also a strong year of regional investment, forecasting opportunities for growth. $725M was raised by eight-six companies in Minnesota’s Medical Alley, including $319M in digital health, $259M in medical device, and $144M in biotech sectors. The Southeast Minnesota Capital Fund closed in June with $2M raised from fifty-six different investors. To date, the fund has invested over $500,000 in seven different healthcare companies including Rochester based Sonex Health, Vyriad, Geneticure, Marblehead Medical, and Ambient Clinical Analytics.  

Vyriad, a Rochester biotech company developing cancer therapeutics, also secured $9M of convertible debt note funding this year, facilitating the buildout of a 25,000 square foot Good Manufacturing Process facility for the company on the IBM campus in northwest Rochester. This financing included participation from Mayo Clinic, Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc., and the Southeast Minnesota Capital Fund. Vyriad also secured a $370,000 commitment from the state of Minnesota and the City of Rochester for equipment funding.

 

Opportunities 

This past year saw much opportunity for space in downtown Rochester for entrepreneurs and established businesses. This included the opening of two new co-working spaces, the Offices at China Hall and Collider 424. Construction on Destination Medical Center’s One Discovery Square Building also saw significant progress over the past year, with space commitments from Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota Rochester, and Epic. 

Teams from Rochester showed a strong performance in the 2018 Minnesota Cup, the largest statewide business pitch competition. Five Olmsted County teams advanced to the semifinal round including Mill Creek Life Sciences, Thaddeus Medical Systems, B.A.S.I.C. BALSA, Busy Baby LLC, and LipiQuester, LLC. Two of these teams, Mill Creek and Thaddeus Medical Systems, advanced to the semi-final round in the Life Sciences/Health IT Division. 

Team B.A.S.I.C. BALSA, composed of five Rochester Public Schools girls, entered Minnesota Cup through Technovation, a global competition to teach girls coding to solve real-world problems. The team was the top-ranking high school group at the state’s Technovation competition, called Appaplooza, and also won $10,000 at Minnesota Cup. 

This year, Rochester artificial intelligence startup Spark DJ was admitted to the Techstars Music Accelerator program in Los Angeles. The Hatchery, a wet lab space for life science entrepreneurs, also opened early this year within Mayo Clinic. In 2018 the Ignite Minnesota regional partnership was also launched to convene, elevate, and promote the work of innovative businesses and entrepreneurs in Minnesota to keep the region globally competitive.  

Rochester also had an entrepreneurial presence at several national events in 2018 including the NFL’s 1st & Future startup competition in Minneapolis early in the year. A contingent from Rochester also attended the Kauffman ESHIP Summit in Kansas City this summer to create regional and national partnerships to build and strengthen our entrepreneurial ecosystems.

 

Notable visits 

Several distinguished guests also visited the Rochester entrepreneurial community this year. This included serial entrepreneur, author, and speaker Gary Vaynerchuk who headlined the Stationary Astronauts inaugural Meeting of the Minds event in July. The community was also visited by Kira Blackwell, Program Executive for NASA iTech, an initiative that searches for solutions to NASA’s most pressing issues. In December, Rochester was also visited by Jun Axup, Scientific Director and Partner at the San Francisco life science accelerator IndieBio


Losses

The community saw several businesses shut their doors in the downtown area including The Doggery, Soul Purpose Boutique, and Firefly Barre Fitness. This year also ended with the closing of EDGE Fitness in the southwest portion of the city.

 

Threats

Rising downtown rental costs threaten to push small and emerging businesses and entrepreneurs out of downtown Rochester. However, this creates an opportunity for clustering of businesses in other portions of Rochester, such as the IBM campus.

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.

R.A.V.E. Honors Local Entrepreneurs at Fifth Annual Celebration

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Last week the fifth annual Recognizing Awarding Valuing Entrepreneurs (R.A.V.E.) event took place in the Rochester community to celebrate and share stories of regional innovation. R.A.V.E. is hosted by Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. (RAEDI), Journey to Growth, and 504 Corporation as part of Rochester’s Global Entrepreneurship Week.

The 2018 R.A.V.E. event drew in over two-hundred attendees including entrepreneurs, supportive services, established businesses, and community leadership.

“Look around the room. Look at the crowd we have,” explained Ryan Nolander, President of RAEDI. “It’s a wonderful evening, a wonderful event where we get to showcase our entrepreneurs and the future they have in front of them and the great things they provide for the community.” 

This year, R.A.V.E. honored local companies: Sprouts Childcare and Early Education Center, Trailtopia Adventure Food, and Vyriad.

Sprouts Childcare and Early Education Center was founded by husband and wife team Krystal and Patrick Campbell in 2018 to fill a growing childcare need in Stewartville, Minnesota and the surrounding communities. The facility is licensed for up to ninety-nine children from six weeks to twelve-years-old. Trailtopia was founded in 2013 by local entrepreneur Vince Robichaud. This Byron-based, family-run company creates and sells freeze-dried and dehydrated foods in specially engineered bags, in which the food can both be cooked and eaten. Vyriad is a Rochester clinical stage biopharmaceutical company founded in 2015 by Mayo Clinic investigators Dr. Stephen Russell and Dr. Kah-Whye Peng. Vyriad is developing multiple oncolytic viral platforms to deliver cancer therapeutics with proprietary reporter gene technology.  

From 2014 to 2017, R.A.V.E. has honored sixteen regional businesses, ranging from biotech to pet product companies, including: Mill Creek Life Sciences, BrandHoot, Imanis Life Sciences, DoApp Inc., Transfuse Solutions, LiquidCool Solutions, Ambient Clinical Analytics, GoRout, Rochester Home Infusion, Area 10 Labs, Resoundant, Enlightened Equipment, Licks, Sonex Health, Envirolastech, and River Bluff Technologies.

A 2014 R.A.V.E. honoree, Mill Creek Life Sciences, a Rochester company producing clinical grade cell culture media, has grown sales by twenty-five percent annually over the last three years. The company also placed second this year in the Minnesota Cup Life Sciences/Health IT Division. Mill Creek is additionally expanding from a research reagent into a cancer therapy company.  

Since being honored in 2014, Rochester website and mobile app development company BrandHoot moved into a new, larger office space. This business has also more than quadrupled their revenue since 2014 to add on additional team members.

 A 2015 R.A.V.E. honoree, hardware and software football technology company GoRout has more than doubled their sales over the past three years. The company has customers in every major college football conference and recently made their first international sale. In 2017, GoRout deployed their own private national network exclusive to their technology. Since this time, over 300,000 plays have been sent over this network. The company has recently moved to a larger location in Rochester to accommodate their growth.

Sonex Health, a 2017 R.A.V.E. honoree and creator of the SX-One MicroKnife to enable minimally invasive carpal tunnel release surgery, has more than doubled in growth and revenue from 2017-2018. The company recently graduated from the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator and has moved into a larger space in Rochester to assist their 100% increase in staff over the last year. Sonex additionally built a specialized training facility in their new location for physicians to learn how to use their technology.

Steve and Umbelina Cremer, CEO of Harmony Enterprises and Executive Director of Harmony Kids Learning Center respectively, were also honored as R.A.V.E. Lifetime Achievement Honorees. And finally, the Southeast Minnesota Capital Fund was granted the R.A.V.E. Warrior Award for their advocacy work for Rochester entrepreneurs.

What's Happening in the Rochester Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Startup Weekend, The Assistive Tech Challenge, and Global Entrepreneurship Week

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The past two weeks have witnessed a significant amount of activity in Rochester’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Beginning with Startup Weekend and ending yesterday with twenty-two different events taking place across the community, the last fifteen days have offered a wide taste of the culture and diversity of Rochester’s current innovation community.

 

Techstars Startup Weekend (Oct 26-28th) 

Startup Weekend is a fifty-four-hour event, powered by the global Techstars accelerator program. Approximately forty individuals joined in Startup Weekend this year as participants, coaches, judges, and organizers. At this event, many began the weekend on Friday evening as strangers and quickly formed strategic teams around the top ideas. Teams spent the remaining hours building out a business canvas, performing customer validation in the community, and preparing business pitches. Six teams pitched to a panel of judges on Sunday night, which included Julie Henry, Enterprise IP Contract Manager at Mayo Clinic; Xavier Frigola, Director of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator; Stephen Ekker, Director of the Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship; Sarah Miller, Owner of White Space; and Matt Smyth, President and Chief Strategist at Headland Law.

The Smarter City team, composed of Garrett Lieffring, Josef Chlachula, and Jeremiah Harbach, won third place in the competition. Smarter City helps Rochester residents and visitors wayfind and locate food, activities, lodging, and key information around the city of Rochester using Smart City QR tags. These tags could serve as catalysts to direct individuals to local resources and experiences and to facilitate self-guided city tours.   

Sajal Kherde, Anthony Kyle, and Phil Stubbs took second place at Startup Weekend with their 20 x 20 concept. 20 x 20 is an online platform for local artists to sell their oil paintings and wall hangings. The platform also provides analytics and includes a story about the art and the artist behind the creation. By Sunday evening, the team already had artists signed up to use their platform.

Team E3, composed of Grace Pesch, Jay Franson, and James Perreault, won Startup Weekend with their “What Were You Thinking?” card game. This game, based on the nine Enneagram personality categories, could function as a unique way to teach empathy, improve personal relationships, and provide team building opportunities. The team marketed their game on Facebook and had preorders by Sunday evening. 

If you missed out on the event, you can catch up with the pitches by checking out the Facebook live video on our social media. You can also visit our video of the weekend to better understand the impact an event like Startup Week has on the Rochester community.

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 The Assistive Tech Challenge (November 3rd) 

The Assistive Tech Challenge pitch event took place on Saturday November 3rd as part of the Assistive Tech Expo at the Rochester Technical and Community College Heintz Center. This business pitch competition sought solutions to eliminate employment barriers, reduce dependency on caregivers, enable richer social interactions, and elevate access to community infrastructure for people living with disabilities. The competition was facilitated by the Destination Medical Center Discovery Square Team, The Arc Minnesota Southeast Region, and the disABILITY Mayo Clinic Employee Resource Group.

Twenty-eight teams applied to compete in this inaugural competition, DMC’s very first tech pitch event, including a team from Naples, Florida. Teams competed in two divisions, an Open Competition for ideas from the community and a Professional Division, for businesses with less than $250,000 in annual revenue. First and second place in each division received $5,000 and $2,500 respectively from The Arc Minnesota.  

In the Open Division, Samantha Grover came in second place with her concept AbleKitchen. AbleKitchen is an all-in-one recipe, meal planning, and shopping application to make cooking more accessible for people with, and without, disabilities. Rochester team of Cody Schmidt and Nick Elliott won first place in the Open Division with their “Adapt-A-Cart” prototype, a device that allows for seamless attachment and detachment of a wheelchair to a grocery cart to make shopping simpler and more efficient.

In the Professional Division, Minneapolis business Mobility 4 All won second place with their “kinder, gentler ride service for senior and people with disabilities.” Vitals Aware Services, also from Minneapolis, took first place in the Professional Division. This business created technology that enables real time communication between first responders and persons with mental illness during times of crises.

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Global Entrepreneurship Week (November 5th-9th)

Rochester’s Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is a grassroots, weeklong effort to celebrate entrepreneurship across the city. Twenty-two events took place over the course of the week, organized by multiple components of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, including: Rochester Rising, Collider Coworking, Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc., 1 Million Cups Rochester, Community and Economic Development Associates, The Commission, Destination Medical Center, Grand Rounds Brewing Company, Gray Duck Theater, The Half Barrel, the Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship, Mayo Clinic Ventures, Mortenson, NAMI Southeast MN, Rochester Entrepreneurial Network, the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, Café Steam, Taco Jed, Techweek, Winona State University, Women in Science and Engineering Research, BrandHoot, and Narrative Experiential Designs.

These events brought in over 600 participants, offering a wide taste of this city’s entrepreneurial culture. Events such as these are essential for an entrepreneur-led community. You can see all that happened by searching for the hashtags #gewroch on social media. Check back in over the next week for more in-depth stories about some of the events that took place during the 2018 Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week.

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Here's What you Missed at Startup Weekend Rochester 2018

Techstars Startup Weekend Rochester is a 54 hour event to take a concept from the idea stage to the beginning states of a startup over the course of a single weekend. Startup Weekend is a great chance to explore entrepreneurship in a collaborative, encouraging environment while learning lean startup skills.

Locally Designed Prototypes on Display in DMC's Heart of the City Subdistrict for Next Month

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Three Rochester innovators will see their creations come to life this month as part of this city’s downtown infrastructure. After a two-year journey, these public health prototypes, created during a city-wide prototyping festival, are on display in Destination Medical Center’s Heart of the City subdistrict for further development as the structures seek their final home.

All three concepts- “the Artery,” “Info Alley,” and “Multilingual Pedestrian Signage”- were born in June 2016 at the Rochester “Idea Jam,” an event to engage the community to tap its creative side and transform the built environment to better support public health. This initiative- supported by DMC, the Rochester Art Center, and Downtown Rochester Alliance- brought together fifty-five community members to develop concepts engaging nature, food, connectiveness, inclusivity, accessibility, diversity, or art to improve health. Twenty different ideas for prototypes, or small models to test a concept, emerged from this session.

Over the next few months, ideas for prototypes were submitted as proposals, with sixteen concepts chosen to be built and displayed during a three-day PlaceMakers Prototyping Festival in September 2016. During that time, about five thousand people interacted with the prototypes.

Now, three of these original concepts have been scaled to an even larger level and are on display for the next month for further refining and testing in the Peace Plaza. These prototypes include: “The Artery,” “Info Alley,” and “Multilingual Pedestrian Signage.” 

Development of “The Artery” is led by local artist Eric Anderson. This art piece displays “the profound moments of hope and healing happening within our healthcare institutions every day.” This installation changes color based on real-time data from Mayo Clinic to signal health events such as a birth, organ transplant, or chemotherapy treatment completion. 

The “Info Alley” prototype team is led by local business owner Sean Baker. This installation is “an interactive multimedia display that enhances an otherwise underutilized space by projecting live video, event listings, social media activity, and other relevant community information.”

Development of the final community prototype, “Multilingual Pedestrian Signage,” is led by Edgar Mtanous. This prototype is designed “to advocate for a collaborative, healthy, and vibrant community by forming stronger cultural and infrastructure links between Rochester, its citizens, and visitors.”

All three prototypes were unveiled on October 17th as part of DMC’s 2018 Annual Meeting. The installations will be on display in the Peace Plaza for thirty days.

#Emerge Episode 22 with Janessa Nickell

Today on #Emerge we sit down with Portland native and current Rochester resident Janessa Nickell. Janessa is a business strategist turned entrepreneur who also formerly trained for Olympic weight lifting. Janessa recently launched her entrepreneurial vision with her brand-new business Sacred Circle, which she runs in her home in southwest Rochester. Sacred Circle is a space for people to learn, connect with like-minded individuals, and grow while understanding more about themselves through introspection and reflection.

“On paper it seemed like I had my stuff together. I was pretty successful by a lot of measurements. I was also incredibly burned out and tired.” -Janessa Nickell, Founder of Sacred Circle

Building An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem- Where Do We Go From Here?

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An entrepreneurial ecosystem, as defined by the Kauffman Foundation, is defined as “people and the culture of trust and collaboration that allows them to interact successfully.” A productive entrepreneurial ecosystem permits the accelerated flow of “talent, information, and resources” to entrepreneurs at all stages of growth. An entrepreneurial ecosystem also harnesses the ability to bolster the local and national economy. Powerful entrepreneurial ecosystems create jobs and attract and retain people.

Important to the process of building an entrepreneurial ecosystem is uncovering resources and initiatives already taking place to support entrepreneurs and connecting these entities to bolster and spur innovation 

In entrepreneurial ecosystem building, no one community stands alone.

No single city, organization or entity has enough resources and expertise to provide all the support that an entrepreneur requires. Instead, we need to all work together, as a region, to fully enable our startups and small businesses to achieve the highest level of success. 

What could this process of entrepreneurial ecosystem building look like in southeastern Minnesota? The first step is to examine what supporting resources we have in our region, understand what initiatives are working, and connect the dots across this portion of the state. 

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of attending a southeastern Minnesota entrepreneurial ecosystem building summit, organized by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and the University of Minnesota Extension. The purpose: to connect conversations about entrepreneurship taking place across the region and to raise awareness of innovation efforts occurring in our various communities.

This gathering included representation from across southeastern Minnesota including the Austin Startup Factory, a fifty-two-week educational partnership program between Austin Community Growth Ventures and Iowa State University; the Albert Lea Tiger Cage, a brand new, three-phase entrepreneurial startup competition; and Garage Cowork, a coworking space opening in October to keep talent in Winona, Minnesota and to cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship in that community. 

To start connecting these various pieces across the region and building infrastructure that works for our entrepreneurs, we should examine lessons learned from other communities. We have a great example locally with Forge North.

Forge North is a “movement of entrepreneurs, investors, collaborators, and allies from all industries working together to grow Minnesota’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.” This organization is an initiative of Greater MSP, an economic development authority focused on the sixteen counties of the Twin Cities metro area, which has had recent increased statewide and national focus. 

Forge North serves as a neutral convening organization to bridge multiple different parts of the entrepreneurial ecosystem together in a larger “network of networks” to spur and support entrepreneurial initiatives and to sustain that entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

What has worked best, Forge North Manager Meg Steuer explained, are community-based grassroots efforts where the entrepreneurs feel that their voices are being heard.

“It’s really about people. It’s about the people we support and how do we involve them in this work to truly create a system that benefits its entrepreneurs,” she said.

Based on all of these thoughts, here are eight suggestions of how we can begin to build a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in southeastern Minnesota.


1.     Just show up.

2.     Trust and support each other.

3.     Let your actions speak louder than your words.

4.     Take risks and help others who want to do the same.

5.     Include everyone who wants to participate.

6.     Encourage and uplift those who have failed.

7.     Let the entrepreneurs lead.

8.     Be patient.

Roadmap to the Rochester Entrepreneurial Community (2018)

Sometimes the most difficult thing about entrepreneurship is just figuring out how to get started. This guide serves as a list of local resources, events, and information to get you plugged into the Rochester entrepreneurial community and learn ways to fund your business within the city.

This roadmap is updated annually to provide the most up-to-date information on our entrepreneurial community.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building Lessons Learned from Kauffman ESHIP Summit

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This past week, I had a great time in Kansas City at the Kauffman Foundation’s ESHIP Summit. The purpose of the summit was to bring together entrepreneurial ecosystem builders to solve the most pressing issues facing today’s entrepreneurs. The summit was intended to take place in three phases: discover, design, and deliver. During “Year One” of the summit, in 2017, over 450 entrepreneurial ecosystem builders convened to discover the most challenging issues facing entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ecosystem builders. During “Year 2,” over 600 entrepreneurial ecosystem builders gathered in Kansas City last week to design real, tangible steps to work toward solving these challenging issues.

But first, why should we care about entrepreneurs? Why do entrepreneurs matter?

Entrepreneurs are the doers, makers, and dreamers who turn ideas into reality and create things of value to address societal and community challenges. Entrepreneurs start businesses and grow businesses. Entrepreneurs drive progress; they are diverse in gender, race, religion, age, and background.

The entrepreneur of today looks nothing like the entrepreneur of yesterday.

Entrepreneurship can be a solution to some of the most pressing issues facing today’s society. Entrepreneurs are nimble and move quickly, creating wealth, jobs and value in their communities. Entrepreneurship can pave the way out of poverty for an individual and that person’s family.

But there are significant barriers to entrepreneurship, especially for women, minorities, LGBTQ individuals, older Americans, people with disabilities, and veterans. Although entrepreneurship has increased interest in the US, entrepreneurial activity in this nation is in a 30-year decline. Voices and talent are being left from the innovation table and there is no level playing field. Ninety-five percent of venture capital money goes to white and Asian men. Women are half as likely as men to own businesses, with only 2.7% of venture capital going to companies with female CEOs in the US. Only 0.2% of these funds go to companies with black female founders, even though these individuals comprise the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs. Minorities own half as many businesses as non-minorities. These businesses are more likely to start small and stay small.

When everyone cannot participate in an entrepreneurial ecosystem, that ecosystem fails to meet its full potential.

The ESHIP Summit suggests that we may need a new economic development model, one that’s more human-centric and aligned around individuals in the community who are developing economic value organically: the entrepreneurs.

One way to accomplish this change is through the fostering and nurturing of entrepreneurial ecosystems. These communities are inclusive and allow for “talent, information, and resources to flow quickly to entrepreneurs as they need it.”

An entrepreneurial ecosystem, or entrepreneurial community, is “a group of people that trust each other and believe they belong together,” according to Fabian Pfortmueller, a Swiss community builder.

An entrepreneurial ecosystem consists of many interconnected pieces which allow entrepreneurs to find the resources they need quickly at each stage of their company’s growth. These pieces include: entrepreneurs, talent, people and institutions, champions and conveners, onramps, intersections, stories, and culture.

People are always at the center of a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem.

These ecosystems are built and nurtured by entrepreneurial ecosystem builders, which, admittedly, are novel and innovative positions themselves.

Ecosystem builders foster human-to-human connections and “connect, empower, and collaborate with others to build the system.” These people often work behind the scenes to foster trust and collaboration, functioning as a kind of invisible infrastructure.

Anyone can be an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder. The only requirements are patience, understanding, and true dedication.

Seven best practice design principles exist to build healthy entrepreneurial ecosystems:

1.     Put the entrepreneur front and center. Entrepreneurs should lead entrepreneurial ecosystems. They know what is needed and what will work. Find people leading in the community and support what they are already doing.

2.     Foster conversations. Connect people with the resources they need.

3.     Enlist collaborators. Welcome everyone.

4.     Live the values. This is a network, not a hierarchy, although there are leaders. Dream, listen, rethink failure, and give before you get.

5.     Tell a community’s authentic story. Don’t try and be anyone else. Tell your true narrative and showcase your leaders.

6.     Connect people.

7.     Just start, and then be patient. Ecosystem building takes time and patience.

The ESHIP Summit served as a Firestarter for entrepreneurial ecosystem builders to learn from each other and co-create ways to best position our individual communities, and the ecosystem as a whole, to create a new economic development model focused on entrepreneurship and building real solutions.

Our entrepreneurial ecosystem is Rochester is young and we have a unique opportunity right now to build it into something that can work for everyone. Each of us has an important role to play in that process. I challenge all of you to be innovative and be collaborative. Create. Talk. Share. Trust and believe. Speak the truth and speak that truth loudly. Don’t shame or hide failure but learn and grow from it. If you want to create a group, event, or start an initiative in the community, don’t wait for somebody to tell you that you can do it. If you want to build something in this community, then just start. #StartSomething

******Reference: ESHIP Playbook Version 2.0*********************  

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.

Free gBETA Medtech Accelerator Program Launches in Minneapolis to Support HealthTech Startups

gBETA Medtech cohort participant Andy Pfahnl of Kobara Medical displaying his technology at the 2018 Walleye Tank Spring Opener. Kobara Medical is an early stage medtech company developing solutions for heart failure and cardiac arrthmia.

gBETA Medtech cohort participant Andy Pfahnl of Kobara Medical displaying his technology at the 2018 Walleye Tank Spring Opener. Kobara Medical is an early stage medtech company developing solutions for heart failure and cardiac arrthmia.

Gener8tor, a national accelerator that invests in high growth potential startups, recently launched its very first industry specific program, gBETA MedTech, right here in Minnesota. The inaugural gBETA Medtech cohort jump started the program in Minneapolis on March 22nd. This pilot class will culminate with a LiveBETA Medtech pitch session in Minneapolis on May 21st.

Unlike core the gener8tor accelerator programs, where gener8tor invests in startups in exchange for equity, gBETA programs are completely free. Gener8tor invests no funds in the companies and receives no equity in return. With the freshly minted gBETA Medtech in Minneapolis, startups still receive the “same experience of introductions to mentors and introductions to investors throughout the program,” explained Director of gBETA Medtech Adam Choe. “We spend a lot of time making sure their messaging is clear and their critical pathway is well understood.”

This industry specific gBETA accepts medical device, healthcare related software, biotech, and diagnostic companies into their program. Pharmaceuticals are outside of the scope of this particular accelerator.

gBETA Medtech is made possible through a partnership with Boston Scientific, the University of Minnesota Office for Technology Commercialization, Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center, and Mayo Clinic.

Choe says gBETA Medtech occurs from a “perfect intersection” of these three partners with the current Minnesota startup ecosystem. Choe understands the struggles of getting a startup off the ground and wants to help other companies achieve success.

“That first valley of death where you may not know the right people and funding is tight, we can help facilitate a lot of strategic introductions. If we do it right, we can do in seven weeks what would normally take seven months,” he explained.

Participating startups do not need to be headquartered in Minneapolis or even in Minnesota; the program just requires one founder to be in Minneapolis for the duration of the seven-week program.

Adam Choe (at right) Director of gBETA Medtech during a panel discussion at the 2018 Walleye Tank Spring Opener.

Adam Choe (at right) Director of gBETA Medtech during a panel discussion at the 2018 Walleye Tank Spring Opener.

“We don’t want to come in and take over for a company,” Choe said. “We want to be there to supplement what they know is a weakness of theirs. Or maybe they don’t know it’s a weakness, but we can help them uncover some things that, when you’re in the thick of it, you kind of lose track of.”

gBETA Medtech’s first six-startup cohort spans a range of stages. Some of the current companies are funded just by the founders at this point; some by SBIR grants. Other startups in the program are led by students. For this reason, Choe says gBETA Medtech is more like a “Swiss Army knife for startups” instead of a one-size-fits-all bootcamp style program.

While this first gBETA Medtech class will continue to be a learning process, gener8tor looks forward to supporting two additional gBETA Medtech cohorts this year, attracting companies from Rochester and even outside of Minnesota. Choe hopes that involvement in gBETA Medtech will help startups attract follow-on funding and even get accepted into additional accelerator programs that can invest funding.

While gBETA Medtech is brand new in Minnesota, the core gener8tor equity accelerator program in Minneapolis has already graduated one class, investing $90,000 in five different companies. This cohort included Kaleidoscope, a company that designs and administers scholarships and locates and manages scholarship applicants and recently closed a $1.3M round of seeding funding. For equity gener8tor programs- located in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Madison- have invested in sixty-five companies.

By the end of 2018, Choe says twelve companies will have graduated from the industry agnostic gBETA that’s also run in Minneapolis. In addition, two more gBETA Medtech cohorts and another for-equity gener8tor accelerator class are anticipated to graduate from programs this year in Minneapolis, for a total of thirty-three startups.

“That’s thirty-three more startups that we’re hoping to help make introductions, facilitate mentors, facilitate investors, and just be their support and network that they need as they try to navigate the startup world,” Choe said.

Currently, gBETA Medtech is seeking more startups and mentors to help propel the program forward.

“It takes a village, it really does for a startup. We are just trying to build up the strongest network. There’s no reason why the strongest healthcare network, medtech network, can’t be in Minnesota,” said Choe.

Top Raises, Acquisitions, and Stories for Q1 in Minnesota

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2018 in Minnesota’s startup scene started off with a bang. Here are the top funding raises, acquisitions, and moves from around the region in the first quarter of 2018.

 

Top Raises

  • 26 companies in Medical Alley raised a Q1 record high $112M in capital.

  • Medical Alley experienced the largest funding in the digital health sector, with $69M raised by 6 companies.

  • Biotechnology companies also had a strong Q1 with 6 companies raising $29M. The largest raise in this sector was led by Biothera, a company developing a unique cancer immunotherapy called Imprime PGG.

  • The medical device sector experienced a $14M capital raise by 12 companies.

  • Bind Benefits, a company providing on-demand health insurance, saw the overall largest Q1 raise in Medical Alley of $60M. This funding was led by Lemli Ventures.

  • Startup Upsie closed a $1.7M round of funding. Upsie is an app that helps consumers purchase warranties for devices- like Apple Watches, laptops, and headphones- at lower prices than retailers.

  • Startup Kaleidoscope closed on a $1.3M seed round in Q1. This company designs and administers scholarships and locates and manages scholarship applicants.

  • Learn to Live- a mental health startup providing online therapy for social anxiety, depression, and more- raised $4.3M in capital in Q1.

  • phData, a data management company, secured $2.5M funding, led by Arthur Ventures.

Top acquisitions

  • Two companies in Medical Alley were acquired in Q1 for $1.2B.

  • This included ABILITY Network, an IT company that simplifies administrative and clinical aspects of healthcare.

  • Urology startup NxThera was acquired by Boston Scientific this quarter.

 

Top stories

  • The Southeast Minnesota Capital Fund made its first three investments, including funding for the Rochester-based Sonex Health and Minneapolis-based Oculogica. Sonex Health has developed the SX-One microknife to achieve minimally invasive carpal tunnel release surgery. Oculogica is creating the EyeBox device to collect and analyze eye movements to diagnose traumatic brain injuries and concussions.  

  • Rochester tech startup Spark DJ is admitted into the Techstars Music Accelerator program in Los Angeles. Spark DJ is utilizing machine learning and artificial intelligence in their mobile application to allow your phone to be a DJ.

 

References/Additional Reading

Medical Alley Association's Q1 Investment Report

Minnesota’s Top Startup Stories and Deals of Q1

Episode 79: 1 Million Cups Rochester with Stationary Astronauts and Solken Technologies

Rochester Startup Spark DJ Accepted into Techstars Music Accelerator Program

Dayton Declares Today "Medical Alley Day in Minnesota"

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Governor Dayton has proclaimed today “Medical Alley Day in Minnesota.” This designation is in recognition of the “unique contributions to health care delivery and management, medical technology innovation, and entrepreneurship” that take place within our state. Medical Alley houses the world’s densest cluster of medtech innovation and was recognized as one of only six “Places of Invention” in the Smithsonian’s American History Museum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strong Women Creating Value, Part Three: Neela Mollgaard

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

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

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Who are you? 

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

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

What value are you creating in the community? 

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

This is done in three ways: 

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

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

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

 

What are your responsibilities in your day to day job?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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