Community Innovation

#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. 

Statewide Initiative "Ignite Minnesota" Launches Today to Keep Greater Minnesota Competitive

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Ignite Minnesota, a new, statewide initiative, launches today out of Red Wing. This regional partnership works to convene, elevate, and promote the work of innovative businesses, entrepreneurs, and technologies in Minnesota to keep the region connected and globally competitive in an ever-evolving digital space. Ignite Minnesota aims to support students, businesses, and entrepreneurs throughout Greater Minnesota.

The program officially takes off this evening from the Red Wing Ignite coworking space; Red Wing Ignite is a non-profit that provides a work space, gigabit internet access, business programming, connections, and more to help entrepreneurs turn their innovations into reality.

The steering committee for Ignite Minnesota includes 3M, Xcel Energy, Winona State University, Minnesota State College SE, the City of Red Wing, Collider Coworking, Rainsource Capital, Goodhue Country, and multiple entrepreneurs.

The goal is to create a connection point for people, ideas, and resources in Minnesota to foster innovation and develop technology in clean energy, healthcare, advanced manufacturing, education, and agtech.

“Our work will help rural America and Greater Minnesota stay competitive,” explained Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director of Red Wing Ignite.

The ground work for Ignite Minnesota began in 2013 when Red Wing Ignite became an original member of the brand-new non-profit, US Ignite. This program was launched to help communities and entrepreneurs develop new technology to influence the way people “work, learn, and live.”

After linking up with other US Ignite communities, Mollgaard said that Red Wing Ignite “really started focusing on entrepreneurs and startups and trying to give them the resources that they need to succeed.” In 2015, US Ignite, in partnership with the National Science Foundation, launched a Smart Gigabite Communities (SGC) Program to develop and deploy these newly developed technologies in the real world. Red Wing Ignite became the very first rural community to be designated as an SGC by the program and the only SGC focused on agtech.

Now, Red Wing Ignite is looking to expand its mission to fuel innovation in Greater Minnesota, connect entrepreneurs and institutions, and further support and elevate the innovation already occurring in this region with Ignite Minnesota.

While the program officially opens today, the work is far from over to implement Ignite Minnesota across the state. A number of tech ambassadors have been hired in outreach positions for the program. These ambassadors will link up with meetup groups, developers, students, stakeholders, and other entrepreneurs across the state to provide education about Ignite Minnesota and to discover needs and gaps in these communities.

“Throughout the whole year, we will also be planning events to gather these key stakeholders to continue to work together to help foster new innovations,” explained Mollgaard.

Red Wing Ignite serves as the community piece in this puzzle, forming a tech hub for Minnesota’s entrepreneurs and reaching out to other Ignite communities to share best practices.

Learn more about this new initiative by attending the Ignite Minnesota launch this evening in Red Wing.

Ignite Minnesota is also interested in connecting with entrepreneurs in need of resources, potential business mentors, and any individuals interested in hosting or co-hosting events with the program.

Press Release: Rochester Downtown Alliance announces recipients of Start-Up Grant for First-Time Events

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ROCHESTER, Minn. --- February 12, 2018 --- The Rochester Downtown Alliance’s (RDA) Downtown Cultural Initiative (DCI) Committee is pleased to announce the recipients of Start-Up Grant funding for events taking place in 2018. The Start-Up Grant is designed to help first–time events come to fruition, while additionally bringing excitement to Downtown and enriching the community of Rochester and its residents. 

1st Annual Rochester Math Festival - Wednesday, March 14 from 6:00-8:30pm – Downtown DoubleTree Hotel Organized by the Rochester Math Club, Math Fest will take place on National Pi Day and feature a keynote speech by 3-time TED talk speaker and world-famous mathematician, Dr. Arthur Benjamin, a math competition, and a variety of math-related family-friendly activities. Admission is free and open to the public. 

Paint Off – Saturday, May 12 from 5:00 – 10:30pm – Gallery 24 Paint Off, coordinated by Gallery 24 President and local artist Cassandra Buck is an art competition, which will showcase 6 artists painting a given theme, under pressure of limited time, and a live audience. Prizes will be awarded to winning artists by a panel of judges. Additionally, attendees will be encouraged to participate in a public art project outside Gallery 24. Admission is free and open to the public. 

US TOO – Monday, May 14 from 6:30 – 9:00pm – Rochester Civic Theatre US TOO is an event devoted to the issue of sexual misconduct, assault, and the voices of people who have experienced it. Topics will be expressed through visual art, videography, spoken word, storytelling, and music. US TOO is organized by Regina Mustafa, Dawn Sanborn, and Pam Whitfield. Organizers say the goal of this event is to promote healing, question assumptions, combat victim shaming, and further discussion between communities in our region. This will be a free event, but pre-registration is encouraged. 

Drums, Please! – Monday, August 20 from 4:00 – 9:00pm – Peace Plaza Drums, Please!, organized by the Greater Rochester and Olmsted County Arts Response Team (G.R.O.C.A.R.T.) celebrates the end of summer on the Peace Plaza with experience that goes beyond the traditional after-work event. Drums, Please! will feature local high school drumlines, a community picnic, an “angry hour”, and summertime games. Admission is free and open to the public. 

This grant period, a total of $8,500 will be distributed to these first-time events taking place in Downtown Rochester. More information about these events and the Start-Up Grant program can be found at www.DowntownRochesterMN.com 

One Year Anniversaries and Fat Sequestering Nutraceuticals: the Latest 1 Million Cups Rochester

 Jake Orme of LipiQuester at February's 1 Million Cups Rochester.

Jake Orme of LipiQuester at February's 1 Million Cups Rochester.

This week at 1 Million Cups Rochester, the community celebrated the one-year anniversary of the program in this community. Jake Orme, a physician at Mayo Clinic, also presented his anti-obesity product, LipiQuester.

1 Million Cups has served as a “supportive, neutral place” to share stories of startup development for the past twelve months in Rochester. The program is industry agnostic; over twenty-two groups have presented their business in Rochester so far on this platform. This upcoming year, the 1 Million Cups Rochester organizers are working to refine and improve the vetting and coaching process for companies applying to the 1 Million Cups Rochester program. The organizers also look to provide better follow up with past presenters for the Rochester community.

Over the past year, 1 Million Cups Rochester has had diverse impact leading to: access to enterprise customers, job offers, sales leads, improvement for future presentations, company awareness in the community, pivots, and mentorship opportunities.

The program focused on one presenter this month, Dr. Jake Orme of LipiQuester.

Orme is developing a product that captures and sequesters fat from digested food within the gut, preventing fats from interacting with bacteria and causing negative side effects. 

Over one-third of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first line of defense to treat obesity, Orme explained, is diet and exercise. However, this route is successfully sustained in only one out of ten people.

“Round two [of treatment] involves medications that aren’t that great,” he said.

This second line of defense includes drugs, like Orlistat, that prevent the body from breaking down fat. However, patients typically do not stay on these therapies for too long as they can lead to diarrhea, massive flatulence, and anal leakage.

Orme believes his product, LipiQuester, serves as a better solution than current drugs on the market to treat obesity. LipiQuester is a type of nutraceutical made of “thousands of tiny whiffle balls.” The outside matrix of these biodegradable, microscopic particles is similar to products like MiraLax, adding fiber to the diet. The inside of the matrix contains a hydrophobic resin that grabs and retains fats, eliminating them from the body.

LipiQuester has little taste and forms a suspension in water.

Orme’s team performed a small pilot study with the product in mice. LipiQuester prevented gains in body fat percentage in mice on high fat diets compared to animals that were not fed the product. The team is now looking to raise $10M to get LipiQuester onto the market, hopefully through the food additive pathway.

The next 1 Million Cups Rochester will take place on Wednesday, March 7th at 9 AM in the Bleu Duck Kitchen Event Space.

1 Million Cups is a free, national education program developed by the Kauffman Foundation. 1 Million Cups takes place every Wednesday at 9AM across 165 US communities to support and encourage entrepreneurs. The program is based on the idea that entrepreneurs connect and discover solutions over one million cups of coffee

Investment in Medical Alley Health Tech Hit Record Levels in 2017 According to Latest Report

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Last week, Medical Alley Association released their 2017 Investment Report, detailing total health tech investment in Medical Alley over the past year. Medical Alley Association is an organization that facilitates “an environment that enables health technology and care organizations to innovate, succeed, and influence the evolution of healthcare.”

2017 was an epic fundraising year in Medical Alley, with $735M raised by 85 health tech companies.

“The record fundraising from a global cadre of highly regarded venture capitalists, angels, and corporate investors continues to demonstrate that when the world looks for the future of healthcare, they find it in Medical Alley,” said Frank Jaskulke, VP of Member Services at Medical Alley Association.

Here are the top highlights from the report that you should know.

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Click here for the full Annual Investment Report.

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Female Entrepreneurs of Rochester: What Events are you Looking for in the Community?

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Event planning is difficult. Anyone who has ventured into events understands all the issues related to them including managing the general cost, gaging the actual interest, and putting in the effort to successfully run the event.

Everything we’ve done at Rochester Rising is entrepreneurial; each thing we try is one small experiment. Over the past two years, we’ve certainly run a fair share of tests and had several failures, and successes, in the event running department, from hosting demo nights, to throwing one-year birthday celebrations, to holding business breakfasts.

Throughout this process, we discovered a clear need for open (and cost-effective) events for entrepreneurs- particularly female innovators- for people to connect with other like-minded individuals in a low-key, minimal pressure setting. There’s a need for a space where entrepreneurs do not need to receive an invitation to attend and do not need to pay any dues to be included. Because as entrepreneurs, let’s face it. We’re on a pretty shoestring budget.

During Global Entrepreneurship Week this November ourselves, along with Rochester Home Infusion, held a Women’s Entrepreneurial Happy Hour to gather together female innovators and small business owners with no agenda other than to connect and learn more about the community. The response to this event was large, hitting on a true need in the city.

Last week we held another happy hour event at Bleu Duck Kitchen. Over thirty local female entrepreneurs attended, and more than 130 people expressed an interest in the event. The women who joined in spanned a range of industry from biotech, to real estate and travel, to food entrepreneurs. But one thing was the same. All of these women had started, or were starting, a business in the greater Rochester area and were seeking out others walking along that same path.

While I’m all for women taking charge and leveling the playing field in a male dominated business world, I believe that these types of women-focused events have clear value and purpose. The overall goal is to provide a safe and non-intimidating environment to share ideas and, ideally, help one another get to that next level in business through connections and community.

We hope this is the first of many of these types of gatherings to help build up and fuel this sector of our entrepreneurial community.

Foremost, these events must be driven by the needs of the community. If you attended the event, and even if you did not make it out, we’re interested in hearing what types of events you are seeking for female entrepreneurs in the Rochester area.

Please take a few moments to fill out the following survey and let us know what you think. Let’s build some community.

And if you are a business in Rochester that would be interested in the happy hour coming to your location, please send us an email.

The State of the Rochester Entrepreneurial Community- 2018

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As we transition into another year, it is a prime opportunity to examine the state of the Rochester entrepreneurial community, take stock of our achievements over the past year, examine our losses, and assess the future direction of this city’s innovation sector.

2017 brought several significant ongoing programs to Rochester. February saw the launch of 1 Million Cups Rochester, a monthly educational program for entrepreneurs that takes place in 163 communities across the United States. This event gave fourteen different Rochester startups the opportunity to share their story and gain input from the community on pressing business issues. November brought Rochester’s first full Startup Weekend, a 54-hour event where teams went from idea to a working prototype over a single weekend. Rochester also participated in Global Entrepreneurship Week for the fifth time this year, attracting over five hundred attendees across eighteen different events. The week was also officially proclaimed Entrepreneurship Week in Rochester by Mayor Brede. 

This year, two Rochester tech companies, Brandhoot and Xylo Technologies, were nominated for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Dream Big Small Business of the Year Awards, a significant honor for the community. In 2017 Binding Site, a global immunodiagnostic and instrumentation company, established a facility in northwest Rochester. This summer we also saw the addition of several new flights at Rochester International Airport, creating increased opportunity for business travel out of Rochester and improved connectivity to the global workforce.

In 2017 the entrepreneurial community experienced positive momentum in funding, with hopes to continue this trend in 2018. In August, Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. (RAEDI) announced the launch of the Southeast Minnesota Capital Fund to provide equity financing for startup development. While the new fund has not yet made any investments, Rochester companies raised over $17.5M in 2017 (according to Crunchbase), which includes a $5.4M Series A funding round by Ambient Clinical Analytics, as well as additional private equity and venture capital raises. RAEDI’s startup seed capital fund, the Economic Development Fund, to date has invested in fifteen local companies, of which eighty-two percent are women or minority owned. On the state-wide level, 2017 saw a record number of investments in Minnesota’s Medical Alley with $735M raised by eighty-five companies. 

Growth in Destination Medical Center’s Discovery Square sub-district also occurred over the past year. The district now has six current projects, including the Mortenson Building, the first new construction building in Discovery Square. Groundbreaking at this site occurred in November.

This year also brought a general increased interest in entrepreneurship within Rochester and increased coverage of this community by the city’s traditional news media. We also experienced increased organization of Rochester’s innovation sector with a larger number of local organizations beginning to partner with the city’s entrepreneurial community. One example of this increased connectivity was manifested in June, when Vic Gundotra and Dave Albert, senior leaders of the Silicon Valley healthtech company AliveCor, shared their stories of risk and uncertainty in an open forum with Rochester entrepreneurs.

Our entrepreneurial sector also experienced losses in 2017. Perhaps one of the most significant was the exit of architect Adam Ferrari, a leader in the creative community who designed inspiring spaces like Collider Coworking, Grand Rounds Brew Pub, Forager Brewing, Cube, and Café Steam where people could connect, learn, and build businesses. This year also saw the acquisition of Rochester startup Able, a tech startup that built software for farmers by farmers, which resulted in the dissolution of the startup and loss of four local tech jobs.

Although the community had setbacks this past year, 2018 offers opportunity. We look forward to potential increased international and national interest in Rochester, especially in the Discovery Square sub-district as it continues to grow. We also hope to see increased investment in Rochester-based companies and to experience continued recognition as an emerging biotech hub.

Special thanks to Jamie Sundsbak, Community Manager at Collider Coworking, and Xavier Frigola, Director of Entrepreneurship at RAEDI, for their input on the state of the Rochester entrepreneurial community.

Press Release: Feasibility Study Confirms St. Charles Hospitality Center Viable

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St. Charles, Minnesota- The City of St Charles has taken another key step toward the development of a new hotel to anchor a new Hospitality Center project in the Chattanooga Industrial Park in St Charles.  At the direction of the EDA, Cris Gastner, CEDA Sr. Vice President and St. Charles City Administrator Nick Koverman worked with Hospitality Consulting Group to complete an update of the community’s hotel feasibility study. This independently completed study will provide valuable information to the potential developers of the project.

Gastner and Koverman have been working very closely with Steve Hedberg and Jim Kelley from HK Hospitality Management, LLC on this project in 2017 when the City and HK signed a letter of understanding for the exciting development project. The preliminary information provided by the report has been viewed very favorably by the development team.

“The draft information in the report validates the developers’ financial performance,” Gastner stated. “The fact that an independent agency’s report has reinforced the group’s positive outlook on the site will help them secure the best financing partners for their project.”

HK Hospitality is working on a large-scale development project that would include a nationally branded hotel and conference center along with a restaurant and convenience store on a site in St. Charles’ Chattanooga Innovation Park on Interstate 90.

The feasibility study will be formally accepted by the St. Charles EDA and City Council later in January.

About St. Charles, MN Economic Development Authority (EDA)

The St. Charles EDA is a volunteer board of citizens that meets monthly. The EDA acts as an advisory board to the St. Charles City Council. The goals of the St. Charles EDA are to create job opportunities, grow the tax base, foster an entrepreneurial culture, and enhance the quality of life for residents.

About HK Hospitality Management, LLC

HK Hospitality Management, LLC. specializes in management, marketing, asset management and hotel ownership in the hospitality industry. HK’s management is designed to the uniqueness of each brand, understanding the best way to deliver service that exceeds guest’s expectations while practicing sound business principals to grow the business, along with marketing and communications that deliver results which are phenomenal… a true integration of advertising, public relations, and promotions with sales.

About Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA)

CEDA was created in 1986 as a private, 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation then called the Southeastern Minnesota Development Corporation. In 2010, the agency became Community & Economic Development Associates (CEDA) as a result of increased interest and inquiries received from communities outside of the agency’s original service area of Southeast Minnesota. The name change reflects CEDA’s commitment to providing services to fit the needs of any rural community. CEDA provides onsite and/or project based economic and community development services to rural communities and counties in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa currently. Our team brings with it over 150 years of collective development experience. For additional information about CEDA and the services we provide, check out our website at www.cedausa.com.

2018: Predictions and Asks for the Rochester Entrepreneurial Community

Local Entrepreneurs Honored at R.A.V.E. Event

 Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week lead organizer Jamie Sundsbak holding the proclamation from Mayor Brede.

Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week lead organizer Jamie Sundsbak holding the proclamation from Mayor Brede.

The fifth annual Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week officially ended last night with the R.A.V.E. (Recognizing Awarding Valuing Entrepreneurs) event. This evening was hosted by Journey to Growth, Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. (RAEDI), and 504 Corporation.

Xavier Frigola, Director of Entrepreneurship with RAEDI, served as master of ceremonies at the event.  Frigola also runs RAEDI’s Economic Development Fund, which has invested in fifteen local companies- 82% of which are women and/or minority owned- since its inception. Frigola also serves on the executive team for the newly launched Southeast Minnesota Capital Fund and is an organizer for Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week.

On Monday, Mayor Ardell Brede officially proclaimed it Entrepreneurship Week in Rochester to kick off this week-long celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation.

“What we do matters. It matters a lot,” said Frigola.

This year, Frigola, Collider Coworking Community Manager Jamie Sundsbak, and myself have been conducting an entrepreneurial census to accurately assess the innovation climate in Rochester.

“Back in 2012, we basically did not have technology-based startups,” Frigola explained.

Little money was being raised and few jobs were being created. Now, there are over fifty new companies in Rochester that have raised over $24M of capital in 2017 alone, creating seventy jobs.

“Our goal is to turn southeast Minnesota into an entrepreneurial center,” Frigola said, which will likely be a generational effort.

“This is what we’ve done in five years. Imagine what can happen over the next five or ten years, or even twenty,” he affirmed.

Three southeast Minnesota companies were recognized for their “will, determination, and drive” as the 2017 Outstanding R.A.V.E. Honorees: Licks Pill-Free Solutions, Sonex Health, and Envirolastech.

Licks Pill-Free Solutions, a pet product manufacturing company, is led by entrepreneur Amy Paris. The company creates all-natural pet supplements, such as goo-packets and gummies, for dogs and cats. Licks products have been stocked in PetSmart stores since 2014. Paris manufactures her products in Winona and is continuing to grow and expand the Licks product line.

Sonex Health provides a simple, non-invasive solution for carpal tunnel release surgery, minimizing nerve and blood vessel damage with their SX-One Microknife. The company built their first prototype in 2014 in a garage and had the first Sonex health procedure competed in February of this year. The business aims to spread into several key markets this year. Co-founders Aaron Keenan, Darryl Barnes, and Jay Smith accepted the award on behalf of Sonex Health.

Envirolastech manufactures brick, deck board, and pallet products using thermoplastic proprietary technology, turning trash into durable building materials. The company recently opened a new manufacturing plant in St. Charles to help propel their growth. Founder Paul Schmitt and Operations Manager Geno Wente accepted their award on behalf of Envirolastech.

For the second year in a row, a Lifetime Achievement Award was given to “honor and recognize those individuals that were entrepreneurs probably before we called them that,” explained Heather Holmes, Vice President of Marketing and Project Director at Journey to Growth.

This year the award was given to Mike Tuohy of Tuohy Furniture.

“[Mike] embodies the foresight, courage, and perseverance that’s required to build and sustain a successful manufacturing business in a dynamic industry,” said Joel Young, Chatfield City Clerk.  

In addition to running a business for decades, Tuohy is also a tireless volunteer, mentor, and leader in the Chatfield community.

In 1952, Tuohy began building furniture in his father’s basement; the father and son team purchased their first building in 1954 and began manufacturing church furniture. Tuohy bought the business from his father Joe in 1972, increased his workforce, and began building office furniture as a private label manufacturer. The family business has continued to expand over the years and was passed down to Tuohy’s sons Dan and Michael upon his retirement in 2001.

“I was lucky. As a senior in high school, I sat in graduation and they said, ‘Some of you have to stay home in Chatfield and create jobs here.’ And I thought, that’s a cold day in Chatfield,” Tuohy joked. “I decided well, here I am. Let’s do what we can do.”

He said as an entrepreneur you have an idea, but that idea always changes. Goal seeking is not a straight line, it twists and turns and often hits walls. He tells his sons, however, that entrepreneurship should be fun.

Succession plans are one of the most important aspects of any business, Tuohy explained. He has confidence in his sons and the job they are doing with his creation.

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“If you plan well and you hand your business off to the people that own it, then it stays alive and it stays creating jobs,” he said.

The final award of the night was the R.A.V.E. Warrior award, recognizing individuals who “advocate, promote, and support area entrepreneurs” and bring awareness to the value of building the local economy.

I was extremely honored, shocked, and humbled to be the fourth ever recipient of this award for my work with Rochester Rising. I follow in the footsteps of some intrepid entrepreneurs including Xavier Frigola, Jamie Sundsbak, and Rachelle Oribio, Product Manager of Pilot Programs at Techstars, an accomplishment that I don’t take lightly.

Thank you to my peers who considered me worthy of this award, and especially thanks to Rachelle for creating this touching video for me.