Rochester Rising

Become a Supporting Member of Rochester Rising!

During the past ~2 years that Rochester Rising has existed, we’ve told the stories of over 143 different entrepreneurs, startups, and innovation initiatives in Rochester and the surrounding communities. Many of these stories were in biotech and healthtech. However, we’ve shared the journey of many other entrepreneurs, including those operating in retail, food and beverage, fitness, tech, and social entrepreneurship.

We feel that it’s important to tell the stories of people taking risks, taking chances with no safety net, innovating, creating, and not following the expected route. These stories are valuable tools to inspire others, showcase the creativity that is already occurring here, and build up the entrepreneurial community piece by piece.

Supporting Memberships help to keep this platform running and help us to run events around the community. Additionally, our Supporting Members receive a range of perks, including access to online, supporting member only content and deeply discounted advertisement packages.

We run our Supporting Membership through an online platform called Patreon, where our Supporting Members, or “Patrons,” can give anything from $1 to $25 each month. Unlike many other membership drives, our Supporting Members get new rewards each year, which they receive as long as they stay a Supporting Member. Head to our Patreon page to learn more and to become a Supporting Member today: https://www.patreon.com/RochesterRising.

Rochester Rising Launches Second Annual Fall Supporting Member Drive

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It’s time again for the Rochester Rising Fall Supporting Member drive! If you enjoy reading our articles, listening in the podcasts, and watching our video content about the emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem in Rochester, Minnesota and our surrounding communities, considering become a Supporting Member of Rochester Rising to help keep this platform going.

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And most importantly, I want to say a big thank you to the many Supporting Members who have been here since the start. Your support was instrumental to make this news platform operational.

Rochester Rising was launched in July 2016 to tell stories of Rochester-based innovation that would otherwise remain untold. Today, we still remain the only entrepreneurially-focused news site in the community.


During the past ~2 years that Rochester Rising has existed, we’ve told the stories of over 143 different entrepreneurs, startups, and innovation initiatives in Rochester and the surrounding communities. Many of these stories were in biotech and healthtech. However, we’ve shared the journey of many other entrepreneurs, including those operating in retail, food and beverage, fitness, tech, and social entrepreneurship. 

We feel that it’s important to tell the stories of people taking risks, taking chances with no safety net, innovating, creating, and not following the expected route. These stories are valuable tools to inspire others, showcase the creativity that is already occurring here, and build up the entrepreneurial community piece by piece.

With more activity in our community than we ever seen before, now is the exact time for something like Rochester Rising to exist to document and begin to record the rise of entrepreneurship in Rochester. We do have a small and young entrepreneurial community, but it’s growing daily. We feel that it’s essential to tell this story. As an entrepreneurial myself, Rochester Rising is has the most advantageous vantage point to amplify this content.

Rochester Rising has had steady impact in the community. The articles, podcasts, and videos that we generate allow people to see the faces and hear the voices of our local creators. 

Starting in this year, we’ve also begun launching some women-focused entrepreneurial events to connect and engage the entrepreneurial community, with our partners at The Commission. We have also begun to produce educational materials to help people understand and connect to the community. This includes our “Roadmap to the Rochester Entrepreneurial Community”, which is updated yearly as well as self-published print and online magazines to share these stories in a different way. This past year we've also launched an ongoing #Emerge series to showcase the faces and voices of Rochester's entrepreneurial community, a “Strong Women Creating Value” series to showcase local female leaders, and a “Minnesota Innovation Hub” series to demonstrate the multiple entrepreneurial hubs across Minnesota.

This whole process has involved an immense amount of learning, failing, and growing. 

Why do we need to have Supporting Members and why should you consider becoming one?

Well foremost, Supporting Memberships help to keep this platform running and help us to run events around the community. Additionally, our Supporting Members receive a range of perks, including access to online, supporting member only content and deeply discounted advertisement packages.


We run our Supporting Membership through an online platform called Patreon, where our Supporting Members, or “Patrons,” can give anything from $1 to $25 each month. Unlike many other membership drives, our Supporting Members get new rewards each year, which they receive as long as they stay a Supporting Member.

If you’re not ready or interested in a monthly contribution, one time donations are also highly appreciated. 

If you think Rochester Rising is something that should continue to exist in this community, please consider becoming a sustaining member. You can find out more information on our Patreon page

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.

It's Our Two-Year Anniversary!

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Today, I am pleased to say, is the two-year anniversary of Rochester Rising. This online news platform was officially launched on July 12, 2016 to fill an unmet need in the community: to amplify stories of Rochester entrepreneurs that would otherwise remain untold. Since our launch date, Rochester Rising has told the stories of over 143 unique startups, innovative small businesses, and entrepreneurial initiatives in the community.

Last year, we threw a party to celebrate our one-year birthday. This year is a bit of a different occasion as I attend the ESHIP Conference in Kansas City over the next two days to collaborate and learn from other entrepreneurial ecosystem builders from around the country. The name “entrepreneurial ecosystem builder” is certainly a nebulous, relatively new term. For a generally introverted person, it’s something that I never envisioned myself doing. But today, as the conference opened, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be- with Rochester Rising and other efforts in the community- even though this realization has taken ­a very long and non-linear path. ­­ I’ve learned many lessons even in the half day that I’ve been at ESHIP so far that I’m excited to bring back to the community.

Building and developing Rochester Rising has been a passion of mine and something that I think is of great value. This would not have been possible without an immense amount of help and support from several close friends, family members, mentors, and collaborators, for which I am truly grateful.

And of course, Rochester Rising would not be possible without all of you, the community. The people who read the stories, listen to the podcasts, watch the videos, and provide me with support and encouragement.

Thank you.

Here’s to another year of amplifying stories of Rochester entrepreneurs.

Rochester Rising Publishes Insta-zine to Showcase Stories from Winter 2018

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Welcome to our first Insta-zine edition of Rochester Rising (click the link the head over to our Instagram site to check it out)! I have to give complete credit to this idea to Becky Montpetit of Rochester MN Moms Blog for bringing this creative concept to my attention. It’s so important as an entrepreneur and a content creator to keep innovating and trying new things. We did put out a print version of Rochester Rising last fall, but the cost of doing that was so high that we could only print 100 copies to distribute in the community, in addition to an online edition. While you’ll have to do a bit more work to access our stories from this insta-zine, it’s still yet another method to amplify the stories of our entrepreneurs.

Our first Insta-zine contains most of our stories and podcasts published from January through March of 2018.

I wanted to thank all of you so much for continuing to support our mission. As you all (hopefully) saw in my letter to the community, I’m stepping back just a bit from content creation on Rochester Rising, but this news site and podcast is by no means going away.  Please continue to submit your press releases and opinion pieces to us at RochesterRising@gmail.com so this can continue to be a voice for all of our entrepreneurs.

You can find any of the stories mentioned on our Insta-zine on our website and on iTunes (search for “Rochester Rising”). The best way to follow us is to sign up for our weekly newsletter. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, and of course Instagram.

Thank you for your continued support. Please help us share this content so we can continue to amplify the stories of our entrepreneurs.

-Amanda Leightner

My Open Letter To Our Entrepreneurial Community

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I want to start by saying that I am proud to be a member of this city’s entrepreneurial community. Over the past four years of working with our entrepreneurs I’ve been inspired, motivated, and at times even sustained by the passion, drive, and creativity of this community.

Building Rochester Rising has been an unimaginable experience for me. It’s opened me up to a number of people in Rochester who are pushing boundaries and making their own way, for which I am truly grateful. But as any entrepreneur knows, being “all-in” in an entrepreneurial endeavor is extremely trying. While I know that Rochester Rising has made real impact in the community, it has been an immense financial struggle. There’s no experience quite like launching into a panic at the grocery store while calculating out the cost of your food for the week, wondering how you’re going to pay for a handful of bills, or living out an extremely stressful existence just figuring out how to survive financially.

For me, I know that this struggle has been worth it to create this platform, connect with the community, and learn and grow myself. But building Rochester Rising has also spurred many different opportunities, including a new role for myself in the community to help develop programming and resources to help our entrepreneurs succeed.

To pursue this path, I have to step back a bit from Rochester Rising to fully immerse in this new endeavor. Rochester Rising is not going away. I would continue to push forward with this platform, despite the hurdles, if I did not think this new position was an invaluable opportunity for myself to learn and grow as an individual and to create more things of lasting value in the community. You will continue to see me typing away and running around with my recording equipment in the evenings and weekends to continue to develop new stories about our entrepreneurs.

I am so proud to be a part of this community and am dedicated to helping it succeed.

As part of my step back from creating as much content here, I’m asking the community for help.

This platform was always meant to be a voice for all sectors of entrepreneurship in our community. It can only be strengthened by adding more voices. Please, if you are already writing and creating content related to business development, related to innovation, related to our entrepreneurs, consider sending it here for potential publication to help strengthen and diversify this platform.

We have always accepted press releases and opinion pieces related to this entrepreneurial community. Now, I’m just asking you for more to help Rochester Rising keep chugging forward to make this a lasting place to amplify the stories of our entrepreneurs.

For more information about how you can contribute, please take a look at our guidelines for submissions.

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.

Rochester Rising Launches Fall Membership Drive To Continue To Amplify The Stories of Rochester Entrepreneurs

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This week we’re running our Fall Membership Drive to help keep Rochester Rising a part of this community. Rochester Rising is an online news site that amplifies stories of entrepreneurs in Rochester, Minnesota. There are, of course, other online media platforms in town. What differentiates Rochester Rising is that we are entrepreneur-centric, focusing in on the person and how they built, and are building, their business in Rochester and the surrounding area. We produce several articles and one podcast each week and have started to dabble in some video content to tell these stories and showcase the culture and diversity of the entrepreneurial community in Rochester.

Rochester Rising was launched last July to fill a real gap in the community. We had innovation springing up all over Rochester, but no one was really talking about it.

There are multiple reasons why this is the perfect time to tell these stories. Foremost, they show that we do have risk takers in this city. Rochester is perceived as a conservative, risk-averse culture centered around one industry, with any innovation occurring in biotech or healthcare. Those of us engaged in the entrepreneurial community here know that’s not the full picture.

During the seventeen months that Rochester Rising has existed, we’ve told the stories of 110 different entrepreneurs, startups, and innovation initiatives in Rochester and the surrounding communities. Many of these stories were in biotech and healthtech. However, we’ve shared the journey of many other entrepreneurs, including those operating in retail, food and beverage, fitness, tech, and social entrepreneurship.

We feel that it’s important to tell the stories of people taking risks, taking chances with no safety net, innovating, creating, and not following the expected route. These stories are valuable tools to inspire others, showcase the creativity that is already occurring here, and build up the entrepreneurial community piece by piece.

Right now, we also have a unique opportunity in Rochester with Destination Medical Center, a $5.6B economic development initiative to make the city a global destination for health and wellness. Whatever occurs with these developments, they will cause unprecedented change to this city over the next couple decades. Right now, it’s a unique time to launch a business in this city and begin to gain the attention of talent looking to this area.

Now is the exact time for something like Rochester Rising to exist to document and begin to record the rise of entrepreneurship in Rochester. We do have a small and young entrepreneurial community, but it’s growing daily. We feel that it’s essential to tell this story.

Rochester Rising has had steady impact in the community. The articles, podcasts, and videos that we generate allow people to see the faces and hear the voices of our local creators.

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Over the past year, we’ve held events to connect and engage the entrepreneurial community, including our first birthday party in July and several women-focused business events. We have also begun to produce educational materials to help people understand and connect to the community. This includes our “Roadmap to the Rochester Entrepreneurial Community”, which will be updated every year. In October, we self-published our first ever print magazine to share these stories in a different way.

This whole process has involved an immense amount of learning, failing, and growing.

Last November we launched a sustaining membership drive to do exactly that, help to make Rochester Rising a lasting part of the community to continue to tell these stories. Our sustaining memberships are run through the crowdfunding platform Patreon. This method is a little bit different than crowdfunding through Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Patreon campaigns are on-going, where patrons give a monthly contribution to fuel a creative project.

Through Patreon, our sustaining members can give anything from $1 to $25 each month and receive a mix of online-only and tangible rewards, like tote bags and mugs. If you’re not ready or interested in a monthly contribution, one time donations are also highly appreciated.

Why should you care? Why do we need to run a crowdfunding campaign?

Foremost, you get some cool rewards for contributing to this campaign. There is no other way to score a Rochester Rising mug. We also offer some heavily discounted advertising to sustaining members. If you read the stories regularly, watch the videos, and listen in to the podcasts, hopefully you see the value in having something like this continue in the city.

As many of you probably know, Rochester Rising is one person, myself. This is my main job. I do all the writing, recording, producing, social media management, business development, sales, and event management. Many of you readers are solo entrepreneurs and know this struggle first hand. Sustaining memberships have been essential to allow me more time to create content, events, and community. They also reduce our dependency on advertising and sponsorship on this website and podcast.

If you think Rochester Rising is something that should continue to exist in this community, please consider becoming a sustaining member. You can find out more information on our Patreon page

Rochester Rising Releases First Magazine to Amplify Stories of Entrepreneurship

Welcome to the first magazine edition of Rochester Rising. Rochester Rising was created last July to amplify the stories of entrepreneurship and innovation occurring in the Rochester, Minn. area through original, in-depth content. We aim to tell the stories that weren't being told and show that Rochester has a young, but emerging and diverse entrepreneurial community.

Each week we put out several articles, one podcast, and the occasional video to tell these stories.

Link up with us on iTunes, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, in our weekly newsletter, and on our webpage (www.rochesterrising.org) to never miss a story. If you are a business looking to support a mission like ours or to connect with startups and entrepreneurs, we are always looking for community partners to help support this platform through advertisement and sponsorship.

As with most things we do, this first magazine is a test, a hypothesis, to try and share these stories of entrepreneurship and risk taking with as many people as possible. Please pass along this publication to help us amplify the innovation taking place right now within our city. If you would prefer a PDF, please contact us to receive one.  We also have placed several print copies out into the Rochester community. If you would like some at your place of business, please also send us an email

This publication includes the majority of the stories that were published on Rochester Rising during Summer 2017. We hope this is an effective method to begin to catalog and document entrepreneurial activity and the stories of innovation within this city.

#Emerge Episode 9 with Amanda Leightner and Jamie Sundsbak

This week in the #Emerge video series, we sit down with local entrepreneur Jamie Sundsbak and talk about career change, the value of good timing, dealing with fear and uncertainty, and entrepreneurial perserverance.

“I think timing is a huge thing. If I had tried to do something even two or three years earlier, it would have failed drastically and immediately.” –Jamie Sundsbak

Join us for our 1 Year Birthday Party and Community Celebration

Rochester Rising is turning 1 year old! This online news platform was created last July to amplify the stories of Rochester entrepreneurs and give a voice to our emerging entrepreneurial community.

Join us for a celebration of this milestone!

This evening is not just for Rochester Rising. It's a time to celebrate the entire entrepreneurial community of Rochester and its growth over the past year. 

All tickets include a buffet style meal from Grand Rounds and 1 beer, wine, cocktail, or soft drink.

As part of this event, we have also invited one entrepreneur from the community to tell more of their story, as chosen by the Rochester entrepreneurial community. Look for an announcement of this speaker early next week.

We will also have a $2 raffle with items from Rochester Rising and GoRout up for grabs. All proceeds from the raffle will go toward keeping Rochester Rising alive and running.

This event was made possible by: Twisted Barrel Wood Fired Pizza, Sonex Health, and Brandhoot.

and by: AM Fitness, Community and Economic Development Associates, TerraLoco, Penz Dental Care, FireFly, Carpet Booth Studios, BubbleBall Rochester, GoRout, and COVR Medical

This incredible businesses helped to subsidize the food costs for members of our community, to lower the barriers for everyone to attend. Be sure to buy your ticket at the low $10 price before funds from our amazing community partners run out!

Event Schedule: 

4:30-5:30: Happy hour 

5:30-6:00: Food and Programming

6:00-6:30: Happy Half Hour

Ticket sales end July 12th at 1:30PM.

Rochester Rising to Mark One Year Anniversary with Community Celebration

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Rochester Rising was launched in July 18, 2016 to amplify the stories of Rochester entrepreneurs and give a voice to the city’s emerging entrepreneurial community. Over the past year, we’ve told the stories of over 104 different entrepreneurs, operating across ten different industries. Hopefully, we’ve helped to make a difference in Rochester’s entrepreneurial community during this time.

To celebrate this milestone, we’re throwing a one year birthday party on Wednesday July 19th from 4:30-6:30 PM at Grand Rounds Brew Pub. So mark your calendars. More information and ticket sales will roll out in a few weeks.

Rochester Rising would not exist without the support of the growing entrepreneurial community here. This birthday event is not just to mark a milestone for Rochester Rising, but is a time to celebrate the progress of the entire entrepreneurial and innovation community of Rochester over the past year.

As part of this festivity, we would like to invite one entrepreneur who has told their story on Rochester Rising over the past year to give a brief talk at this event to tell a bit more of their story or share a big idea they have about entrepreneurship.

We want you, the entrepreneurial community, to tell us who you want to hear more from.

Click here to access a form with some of the local entrepreneurs that we’ve featured on Rochester Rising this year. Choose up to three innovators that you’d like to hear more from at this celebration.

Voting will end on Monday June 26th.

Rochester Rising Launches Spring Membership Drive to Help Amplify Stories of Rochester Entrepreneurs

This week we’re running our spring sustaining membership drive to help make Rochester Rising a stable part of the city’s entrepreneurial community. If you see the value in what we are doing here, consider becoming a sustaining member today and help us amplify the stories of Rochester’s entrepreneurs.

 

About Rochester Rising

Rochester Rising is an online news site that tells the stories of Rochester based entrepreneurs through in-depth, insightful content. The platform was developed last July to share the stories in Rochester that were not being told. Rochester is a world-renowned home for medical and scientific innovation. But the city also has a serious branding issue. We’re perceived as a risk-averse culture, dependent on one major employer or industry, and without young people. But those of us who live here know that’s not the real story.

Even just a few years ago, Rochester’s entrepreneurial community was small and fragmented. Now, the innovation community is building and gaining momentum. People in Rochester are beginning to #StartSomething and contribute to the business community in novel ways for this city.

Creative life science and biomedical entrepreneurs have developed here from the city’s strong medical roots. But Rochester’s innovation community, right now, has so much more to offer. We have emerging tech and food and beverage entrepreneurs. There’s a developing art scene. We have innovative independent journalism platforms emerging. People are doing inspired things in retail and sports. Students are creating and innovating.

We have people taking risks, stepping well outside of their comfort zones with no safety nets.

However, these stories were not being told.

Rochester Rising has emerged as a platform to consistently tell the stories of the city’s entrepreneurs through article and podcast content. We work to amplify the stories that were hidden and show that Rochester has a small but diverse, vibrant, and emerging entrepreneurial community. We feel that with the recent economic development initiatives in town, it’s essential to share the full story of Rochester to make this a true destination city.

Rochester Rising is rooted in entrepreneurship. I work alongside Rochester’s innovators every single day. We feel that we have the best vantage point to tell these stories and chronicle the rise of entrepreneurship in this city.

It’s an amazing time to be an entrepreneur in Rochester. We have the opportunity right now to witness a piece of history. But, we have to be champions of our homegrown innovators.

 

Sustaining Memberships

Rochester Rising uses sustaining memberships to make this platform exactly that. Sustainable. Our sustaining memberships are run through a crowdfunding website called Patreon. Patreon is like platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo that use crowdfunding, or methods to raise small amounts of money from multiple different people, to bring an idea to life.

Patreon is used mostly by creatives. People making art, writing, creating books, developing plays, and recording podcasts. However, Patreon crowdfunding campaigns don’t end in thirty or sixty days. They keep going until the creator, Rochester Rising in this case, stops them.

Rochester Rising uses Patreon to deliver online, exclusive content in a subscription-like model to sustaining members.

Sustaining members can pledge anywhere from $1 to $100 per month. In return, members receive access to online content, through Patreon, that nobody else sees. The content varies from week to week. But it always includes a weekly teaser for an upcoming story. Sometimes it’s early access to a major story. And other times it’s a raw blog post or photo that enhances a Rochester Rising story or gives a behind the scenes peek that week.

Sustaining members can also receive Rochester Rising coffee mugs, T-shirts, and deeply discounted advertisement for startups and emerging businesses. In addition to receiving these incentives, sustaining members also know they helped to champion Rochester’s entrepreneurs.

 

Why do we need sustaining members?

Sustaining memberships bring in one more revenue stream to help move Rochester Rising closer to becoming a permanent part of Rochester’s entrepreneurial community. Currently, Rochester Rising is one person, me. Although I have hopes to eventually grow and add more people to the team, right now it’s just one person trying to make this survive and cause some change.

Even looking back to the almost ten months that this platform has existed, it’s unbelievable how far it’s come. But there’s still more ground to cover. Sustaining memberships help to keep Rochester Rising alive. They also help to reduce dependency on advertising, creating more time for content development to support our emerging entrepreneurs.

Rochester Rising and RAEDI to Present at Next 1 Million Cups Rochester

Join the entrepreneurial and small business community at the next 1 Million Cups Rochester on Wednesday April 5th from 9-10AM. This month, one Rochester based business will speak. We’ll also hear about an economic development fund that’s been fueling business growth in the city.

About Rochester Rising

Rochester Rising is an online news site that tells the stories of Rochester entrepreneurs through original, insightful articles and podcasts. Rochester Rising was launched to fill a hole in local media coverage and provide a voice to the city’s emerging entrepreneurial community.

Launched in: 2016

Founder: Amanda Leightner

 

About Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. (RAEDI)

RAEDI assists new and existing companies in Rochester obtain funding for business growth. Xavier Frigola, Director of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, will speak about the Rochester Economic Development Fund, which RAEDI utilizes to make investments up to $250,000 to assist in business development, diversify the local economy, create jobs, and generate property tax revenue.

About 1 Million Cups

1 Million Cups is a free, national education program developed by the Kauffman Foundation. 1 Million Cups takes place every Wednesday at 9AM across 114 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.

Find more information and register for the event here.

Rochester Rising Presents Rochester's First Women's Demo Night

Introducing Rochester’s very first Women’s Demo Night. Rochester Rising will host the premier event March 22nd from 6-8PM at the Rochester Area Foundation. We are currently seeking innovative, women-led businesses to showcase their products.

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What is a demo night?

Demo night is an opportunity to showcase emerging entrepreneurs and novel products which were developed right here in Minnesota, especially in our women-led companies and startups. Each business with use six minutes to tell their story, explain the unique solution their product provides, and demonstrate how their product works. Presenting companies will also field a few questions from the audience. At the end of the program, these women-led businesses can interact and network even more with the audience at their own tables around the venue.

 

Who should apply to present?

Any woman-led business that has an innovative product, is solving a real problem, and has a product that would make an engaging live demonstration should apply. The product does not have to be “live” or on the market. It just must work by March 22nd. The product can be web-based. Businesses in all types of industry are encouraged to apply.

Applications will close on March 1st.

 

Who should attend?

Everyone! This is not just an event for women. It’s an event for all entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, business owners, students, and interested members of the community. Tickets are on sale now.

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How do I apply to present?

We are looking for four women-led businesses to showcase their products. Click here to fill out a brief survey explaining why your business is a good fit.

 

Are you interested in sponsoring the event?

We are also looking for sponsors to help make this event even better. Please contact Amanda for more information.

The Backstory of Rochester Rising: What Everyone Should Know

I have been told several times that I need to share my story and the story of Rochester Rising, which are one and the same. Here is my journey, told to the best of my ability. I ask others to tell their personal stories every day. So I guess this is only fair.

I never thought that I would be an entrepreneur. That thought still terrifies me a little bit every day.

Five years ago, I was toiling away behind a lab bench deep within the Mayo Clinic. The only vague image I might have connected to the term “entrepreneur” would have been something like a Mark Zuckerberg. Two years ago, I might have entertained the idea that I could be an entrepreneur one day, but probably would not have fully believed in that possibility.

I think it’s funny how as an adult you somehow find your way back to things you were passionate about as a child. My very first professional ambition, that I can remember, was to be a trainer of Shamu. I’m not sure how that one didn’t pan out, but it was a no-go. Most adults I knew growing up probably would have thought I would become either a librarian or a writer. I loved to read. I loved to read more than I loved to do just about anything else. Except maybe write. I remember writing, editing, and producing a magazine with some friends that we sold to our grandparents during elementary school.  

Eventually, I decided to try a “more practical” career and pursued a degree in biological sciences at a university in Pittsburgh close to where I grew up. A few years later, I found myself at the Mayo Clinic for my first graduate school rotation, working towards a PhD in molecular biology. But not the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. The Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. I don’t think I confidently even knew where Minnesota was on a map at that point. Somewhere in the middle?

An advisor told me that I should at least experience the Rochester campus for a short period of time. So I took a short plane ride from Jacksonville to Pittsburgh and caravanned west with my parents. I drove my car. My parents drove a slightly frightening, unmarked, white van full of second hand furniture.

I was only going to stay in Minnesota for seven months. It’s been nine years. By some twist of fate that I still don’t quite understand, I never made it back to Florida. I stayed in Rochester for the next six years to finish my graduate degree.

The majority of the time I was working on my studies, I knew that science just wasn’t for me. I was not driven to get up every day, go into the lab, and answer questions through experiments. Why didn’t I just quit? I guess I really didn’t know how. I felt that I had gone so far, I just had to finish. A great role model once told me that no matter what happened, no one could ever take away your education.

I even went on to do a postdoctoral fellowship in Minneapolis because I didn’t know what to do with my life. While everyone else was moving forward around me, I felt that I was standing still or even getting left behind. Like so many people that I’ve told the stories of here, I felt that my life needed to change and the only person able to make that change was myself.

I remember one snowy, cold Saturday not too long ago, when I drove to Rochester to talk with Jamie Sundsbak, a Rochester entrepreneur who had started BioAM, a networking and supportive group for life science entrepreneurs in Rochester. Jamie and I had worked together for several years at the Mayo Clinic, in the same lab, while I did my graduate work. I drove to Rochester to tell him about this great experience I had just finished up with Life Science Alley, now Medical Alley Association, an organization that supports and advocates for health technology companies in Minnesota. I had loved working with Life Science Alley and I wanted to understand more about life science businesses in Minnesota.

One month later, Jamie called to ask me if I would help him build out a news site for BioAM with a small team of people. The website would, in a sense, bring BioAM to life in the digital space and give a voice to life science entrepreneurship that was taking place in Rochester as well as Minneapolis, where I was living at the time. Later, we spun this website out into a separate entity from BioAM and called it Life Science Nexus.

I loved working on Life Science Nexus. It felt like I was finally able to regain access to that creative side of me and use my words and abilities to tell the stories of others. Others who were doing amazing, risky things. For close to a year I took the bus into Minneapolis for work from my home in the Twin Cities suburbs. During that hour long bus ride I’d read, write, type, and interview people on the phone. I’d fire up the laptop again in the evenings when I got home.

Late nights, long weekends, and juggling multiple jobs is not a unique story for an entrepreneur. For me, it came time to make a decision of what to do with my life. Continuing to do research was not an option; I had no passion for it. So it was either time to take a huge leap of faith and move into Life Science Nexus full time or I needed to take my writing and project management skills behind some other business shield.

I’m pretty sure you all know what happened or no one would be reading this right now.

I left my job in science and moved back to Rochester this past spring for a role that offered no pay and no security. But it offered freedom and a chance to do something that I felt could actually make a difference.

It was a slow and scary process to get reintroduced to this new side of Rochester, one that existed beyond the science bench. During those first few months, I realized that Rochester had tremendously changed in the three years that I had been gone. There was actually an entrepreneurial community. People were taking risks. They were starting things. And things were happening not just in bioscience, but in all different kinds of industries. Rochester had food entrepreneurs. We had beverage entrepreneurs. We had high tech entrepreneurs. We had social entrepreneurs. We had a growing small business community. These people were doing amazing, risky things, but no one was really talking about it. I wanted to change that.

A few months ago, Life Science Nexus was rebranded as Rochester Rising to amplify the stories of Rochester entrepreneurs and showcase the unique flavor of our innovation and small business community.

I truly believe in the power of words to cause change. Rochester Rising is a place not only to tell the stories of innovation that are happening right now in our community. I hope that it also is a place that inspires change. I hope that it motivates others to just start something, no matter how small. I want Rochester Rising to be a place that encourages support for our entrepreneurs, these people who are really putting themselves out there.

Rochester Rising is a one stop operation. It’s just me. There’s no production team. There’s no editorial staff. It’s just me. I do all of the writing, editing, interviewing, podcasting, audio editing, photography, sales, marketing, and business development. Besides having an encouraging environment of like-minded entrepreneurs to work alongside in Collider, I have no current financial backing from any promotional or developmental organizations in town.

It’s just me trying to make this thing survive long enough to make a difference and hopefully long enough to become an engrained pillar in our community. We have great people fighting to make a difference in this community. It’s time we are all heard. 

Rochester Rising is here for the community. If you would like to support this website and help it to continue to exist, there are two options. You can become a monthly supporter through Patreon or make a lump sum contribution through the Rochester Rising website. 

First Collider Community Event to be Held this Wednesday

The very first, FREE Collider Community event takes place this Wednesday evening from 6-8PM in Collider Core.

Here is the official announcement:

We are excited to host our first official Collider Community event on Wednesday night.  A few years ago, BioAM had a fantastic event that helped to solidify the community by inviting entrepreneurs and community members to join us for a brainstorming session on how we could grow the community.  Now that the community is three years along, we would like to do another event centered around how we should continue to grow our entrepreneurial community.  We would love to see anyone interested in entrepreneurship, placemaking, and small business attend and help continue the conversation for the next three years.

Agenda:

  • Welcome to Collider Core - Jamie Sundsbak
  • Rochester Rising - Amanda Leightner 
  • Activity - How do we continue to build the entrepreneurial/small business community of Rochester?
  • Discussion
  • Networking

 

Please consider taking some time this Wednesday evening to interact with like-minded individuals in the community to help us strengthen Rochester's entrepreneurial and small business environment in a grassroots manner.

We will be doing some Facebook living streaming of the event on the Rochester Rising Facebook page for those who cannot attend that night.

Click here for more information and registration details.

 

Help Wanted. Announcing Rochester Rising Logo Design Contest

As you can tell, our logo needs some help.  We had such creative, unique logos submitted from the community when we ran a design contest for Life Science Nexus, we decided to do the same thing for Rochester Rising.  Our main drive at Rochester Rising is to support this city’s entrepreneurial and small business community, so it’s important to us to have a local designer craft the logo.

 

Here’s what you need to know.

 

About us:

Our goal is to share the stories of Rochester’s entrepreneurs and innovative small business community.  These people are doing risky, creative things and their efforts and contributions to our business community often fly well under the radar.  These innovators need a voice.  Our mission is to display the uniqueness of Rochester’s innovators and share the real essence of the entrepreneurial community.  Our goal is to really dive in and understand the person, their journey, and the problems they are facing.  The name “Rochester Rising” symbolizes the rise of Rochester’s entrepreneurial and innovation community from its infancy- and we are still very young- to the next level.  We believe that our entrepreneurs play a pivotal role in the evolution our city.

 

What we need:

We’re looking for an eye-catching, unique logo that showcases our purpose and values.  The logo must incorporate our gold color scheme in some manner.

 

Contest length:

The contest runs from now until Monday August 15th.  All designs must be emailed to amanda@collider.mn by 9AM.

 

What you can win:

The designer of the winning logo will receive either $100 or 1 month of free membership to Collider, the new business incubator in town.  This membership includes 8 hours of access to the space per week, which includes drop-in desk space.  The choice of prize is up to the winner.

The designs will be judged by a panel of local entrepreneurs and the winner announced by August 19th.

Let’s get creative!

How Entrepreneurship is like a Foreclosed Home

I recently made several large changes in my life.  I quit my job, I moved, I launched my own business, and I bought a home.  So needless to say, the day to day is pretty hectic.  When I do have a moment to just stop and take stock of things, I sometimes wonder ‘What am I doing this to myself?  Why can't I just be normal?’  But as an entrepreneur, sometimes you just have to take things step by step. 

All of these changes were stressful by nature, but the home purchase was elevated to a whole different level.  There was not much on the housing market at the time when I needed to make a purchase- see above change in job situation- so a lovely foreclosure came into my life. 

Not to say that the foreclosed home was a hopeless piece of rubble.  Yes, it was neglected.  It needed, and still needs, a lot of TLC.  I am not handy, but I have hopes the house will flourish despite my well intentioned efforts, and we will both become something shiny on the other side of this grand adventure.

During this process, I’ve learned that dealing with a foreclosed home is a lot like entrepreneurship.

 

1. There will always be surprises.

Some are good and some are bad.  Despite creating an entire Excel sheet detailing all of the predicted expenses, there were still a lot of special surprises that sprung up.  One issue came when trying to convert a separate tub and shower into a combined tub and shower.  Who wants to clean two spaces, right?  The old shower was ripped out, only to discover it was custom built.  There really are no 40 x 32-inch shower bases available from Home Depot or Menards.  Whoops.  So now, the old custom built shower has to be replaced with a new custom built shower.  Some surprises were good though.  I originally thought the decks were rotten and the chimney flue cracked, neither of which was the case.

In entrepreneurship and when launching a business, there are so many little expenses or parts that you overlook.  Things like paying for your own bus pass, navigating through independent health insurance, and the volumes of coffee you will drink, which incidentally also are not free.  But again, there are also good surprises.  I’ve been amazed at the openness and willingness to help in the entrepreneurial community here.  Most people will never turn down a meeting over coffee to help or listen to a fellow entrepreneur.

 

2. The first time you hit a barrier, it’s a big deal.  Then you learn to give zero f@!ks.

Not really, but maybe this will make it clearer.

For reasons too complicated and boring to dive into here, my house was a special type of foreclosure.  It could not be inspected and the utilities were not turned on.  The house has radiant heat, so the major concern was the boiler system.  When the water finally got churning through the boiler pipes, water started trickling across the ceiling and down the wall from a focal point.  One of the pipes had cracked.    When I heard that, I was irritated bordering on enraged.  I thought that the entire ceiling and floor would have to be ripped out (it did) as well as all the piping and boiler system replaced (it did not).  It will end up being more time and personal labor than financial cost, which most entrepreneurs will take as a win.  That was not the only leak in the boiler pipes.  I believe there were three more.  But at that point, the damage was done.  Now it’s time to find a solution.

The biggest thing to me that we’ve struggled with in building Life Science Nexus and the now pivoted Rochester Rising is devising a sustainable financial model.  In the early stages, I was devastated when one method hit a wall or when one resource fell through.  Now, I’ve learned to diversify and have several different, hopefully, viable options to keep the whole thing churning forward.

 

3. It’s important to find a solution, not complain about the problem.

Sometimes this simply means asking for help.

The above mentioned pipes were the largest and most pressing difficulty in the house that I could not wrap my head around and did not have the capabilities to fix.  When the third or fourth (I really can’t remember.  I think I blocked this out as a horrifying moment in life.) pipe burst in a very inaccessible recess inside a wall, it was time to call in the reinforcements.  I placed a phone call to the big D.A.D. and he and my mother drove through six states to help.

When I first took over most of the operations of Life Science Nexus, I was working a full time job.  It was fairly difficult to maintain the flow of content on the site, fulfill the duties of my job, and still do things like sleep.  I needed someone to help with the content, but I couldn’t pay them.  A partnership with my former coworker and friend Aaron Broege and his science writing students at Carleton College were like a breath of fresh air.  They produced some great stories, got that professional experience in science writing, and helped me to not rip my hair out all at the same time.

 

4.  Take things one step at a time.

When I first walked into my new house, I wanted to repair and update everything at once.  That’s of course impossible.  First of all, it’s overwhelming.  Second, it takes time and money.  I’ve learned the key is to tackle one room at a time, make priorities, and don’t think too much magic is going to happen during the workweek.

The same thing happened with Life Science Nexus.  We wanted to have some many aspects to the product.  We wanted to be everything to everyone in the entrepreneurial and life science community, whether they were an entrepreneur or were a researcher or postdoctoral fellow trying to make that leap.  It was too much and had little direction.  So we slimmed down and focused the scope of Life Science Nexus as the business developed.  We slimmed down even more, for now, with Rochester Rising.  I learned it’s much better to grow in a lean manner, add things piece by piece, and test what works.

 

5. Things always cost more and take more time than you think.

Who knew paint costs so much?  You don’t unless you have to repaint an entire house.  Even after constructing a whole itemized spreadsheet of potential costs, it still will probably cost more than those calculations in the end.  I originally thought I would go in, start fixing and rebuilding, with help of course, and the whole house would be finished and updated by the fall.  Right.  Maybe fall 2017.

The same thing with business development.  You can spend a crazy amount of time getting the website just right and crafting and reshaping the value proposition.  It takes time to acquire customers, or consumers in our case.  Beyoncé was not built overnight.

You also learn what small things you can do without when business financials are tight.  Yes, it’s great to have Buffer put out all my social media for me.  But really, I can do that myself.

 

6. It’s essential to have help and a good support system.

This is probably the most important.  My parents were really instrumental in helping with the move and swooping in to the rescue with the house.  I’m lucky to have a family that knows how to do this kind of stuff and can take the time to do it.  My parents constantly remodeled their home all through my childhood.  What some people see as disarray or unfinished architecture, I see as familiar.

Without interacting with other like-minded people in the same boat, entrepreneurship can be pretty miserable.  I’ve had a great sounding board with my Cofounder Jamie Sundsbak, who introduced me to so many great people in the Rochester community.  Without seeing and interacting with these people, people like AJ Montpetit, like Xavier Frigola and others at the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, like Nick Moucha and Adam Salmi, without the encouragement of people like Austin Bogestad from 1 Million Cups, and the CoCreateX community, the experience would just lose a lot of flavor.    

Nothing would have been accomplished without standing on these shoulders.