business development

Press Release: Adapta, Formerly Wing House, Corp., Announces Launch of New Name and Website


Rochester, MN - Adapta is excited to announce the launch of their new name, new look, new website, and the addition of resources for individuals living with symptoms of brain injury & mental health conditions. The new name clears up confusion about their services, but most importantly, it sets the tone for how the organization runs with the additional locations. Adapta aims to help all individuals live a life without limits. The official launch date for the website is September 14, 2018.

Adapta believes people begin to heal the moment they feel heard. Adapta’s individualized services allow people to live in a supportive environment while having unlimited access to the community and resources. Adapta strongly believes individuals do best when they have choice in their living environment. Because of this, Adapta expanded their service options. With both 245D licensed services and a Customized Living option, Adapta can provide services in a variety of locations and ways. Adapta has been successful in preventing individuals from requiring a more restrictive environment at a much more cost-effective rate.

Executive Director, Kasi Haglund, LSW states “We were on the verge of closing due to Minnesota’s reimbursement policy changes, which could have resulted in some residents being placed in a more restrictive and costly environment. After working closely with the Department of Human Services, Wing House was given a second chance due to the success of our program. At that point, we decided to move forward with a fresh look and the decision to share our story with the community.”

Along with the roll-out of the new brand and website, Adapta has created a short brand video showing the impact of their services through the eyes of a resident. As one resident stated, “My brain injury took my life away. Adapta gave it back to me.” It can be viewed here:

Adapta is important to the people of Rochester because our program is a safe and supportive environment for our residents at a fraction of the cost to taxpayers. For example, a day at a more restrictive, alternative local facility can cost upwards of ten times more, most of which is significantly supported by taxpayer dollars. Adapta is not only a better solution for our residents, it is a more fiscally sustainable model for taxpayers.

Questions with SCORE: Why do I need to keep accurate business financial records?

Today we link up with SCORE Southeast Minnesota to learn more about SCORE and how they can assist in the growth of your business. In the video today, SCORE volunteer Barm Alsbrook answers the question, “Why do you need to keep accurate business financial records?”

Good financial records not only help you understand how your business is doing, they are essential to know how much money is flowing in and out of the business and to recognize if you need to change your prices. Accurate financial records are also necessary to accurately prepare your business taxes to receive the tax return that you deserve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Market Assessment: Why it's a 'Must' for Any Business

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“Some people are just visionaries and they’re able to come up with new ideas like the next or maybe Bright Health or whatever that can totally disrupt the market,” said Mary MacCarthy, a Twin Cities based Marketing and Project Management Consultant. “But for the majority of us, we’re not quite that much of a visionary. Maybe the product that we’re coming up with is just an incremental improvement over what’s currently out there.”

For those of us not creating the next Uber, it’s in our best interest to thoroughly understand if our product or service could support a sustainable business. This involves executing some market analysis to understand product potential.

MacCarthy, an entrepreneur herself, has performed strategic marketing and consulting services for several major players including Medtronic, Cardiovascular Systems, and 3M Health Care.

“I’ve made so many mistakes in the past. So, I really want to just hand along that information so that people don’t go through the pain that I went through in launching their startup,” she explained.

When MacCarthy was building her company, she says she spent too much time behind a desk working on a business plan and not enough time with “boots on the ground” trying to sell to customers right away and figuring out what they actually wanted to purchase. She instead suggests performing a lean market assessment to obtain answers to strategic questions. This helps for informed decision making to move the business forward.

“Generally, you want to spend a proportional amount of time doing your market assessment as you have to amount of risk you’ve got going in,” MacCarthy explained.

If you are going all in with a large portion of your savings on the line, spend a bit more time on your market assessment. But if you’re not taking as much risk, you don’t have as much to lose.

Identifying a target market is one key component to the lean market assessment.

“You have to know exactly who you’re going after,” MacCarthy explained.

This includes understanding the geography of that target market, the demographics of the decision makers, and comprehending who will influence the ultimate success of the product.

Identifying drivers of satisfaction and dissatisfaction in the market is another essential piece of lean market assessment. This includes understanding what satisfies key decision makers in the market and what factors go beyond satisfying them. This process involves comprehending how each of your competitive offerings compare along each of these ‘satisfiers’ and ‘dissatisfiers’, which is also key for marketing and sales of the product.

Market sizing and primary and secondary market research are additional pieces of the lean market assessment puzzle.

“You don’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on market research to answer every question,” MacCarthy explained.

Entrepreneurs need to identify their competitors and understand what they are doing in the market. But a lot of this information can be obtained right from a laptop. This data is essential when speaking with investors but is frequently left out of fundraising pitches.

[See what MacCarthy has to say about perfecting a fundraising pitch.]

“You need to at least show the investors that you know who your competitors are and what their weak points are, and then how to apply your offerings to meet those needs and alleviate those 'dissatisfiers',” said MacCarthy.

Join Mary MacCarthy to learn more about market assessment next Tuesday at her Market Assessment 101 Expert Series at Collider Coworking.

Advice from a Triathlete: How to Set and Achieve Ambitious Goals


As the year comes to a close, many readers may take time to assess their business progression over the last twelve months and formulate plans for the future. This likely involves analyzing outcomes and setting expectations for forward progress. Goal setting is a vital part of this planning process. For growth and innovation to happen in business, these goals should be lofty but obtainable with hustle and dedication.

But how do you visualize and set ambitious goals and then systematically work toward their realization?

To address these questions, we recently spoke with sports psychologist and pro-triathlete Ruth Brennan Morrey.

Ruth is a TerraLoco sponsored athlete and a native of Rochester. Always involved with sports, she played soccer for four years at University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a semi-professional soccer player during her collegiate summers. After college, Ruth became interested in long distance running through her marathon-ing brother. At her second ever attempt at the distance, she ran a 2:48 marathon, qualifying for the Olympic Trials in 2000. After three years of competitive distance running, she dropped out of the sport completely.

“I didn’t do a single 5K run in ten years,” Ruth laughed. During this time, she instead focused on raising her three children and obtaining a PhD in Counseling Psychology.

In 2011, a friend talked Ruth into training for a triathlon, a three-part competition composed of a biking, swimming, and running portion. There was only one problem.

“I was thirty-five and had no clue how to swim! I could float, and thankfully, I would not drown,
but I didn’t have any experience with free style swimming, or any other strokes for that
matter,” Ruth explained.

She quickly figured out the swimming portion, jumped into the local triathlon scene, and did quite well, becoming a professional triathlete in 2013.

Over her lifetime of sports competition, Ruth has learned what it takes to set lofty goals and work towards them with purpose and intention.

While some readers may not see a direct correlation between sports and business, this writer believes they are innumerable. Activities like long distance running (such as completing a 50K, or 31-mile distance) seem impossible when you’re standing still. But with vision, focus, dedication, and relentless forward progress, it is possible for just about anyone. Trust me. I’ve done it. The same is true with building a business. From afar, it’s quite a daunting, beast-like, even herculean task. But in the same manner as attacking sports, business development can also be navigated through a similar focal process.

Here are seven key ingredients Ruth uses to reach toward ambitious goals in her sport that are directly applicable to business.


1.     Keep your purpose front and center.

“I always keep my purpose as my number one focus. And I always remind myself what my purpose is,” Ruth explained.

She advises not worrying about the minute, day-to-day details, but homing in on what’s intrinsically motivating and lends deeper meaning and value to your actions and goals.

“We’re all put on this earth for a reason. And I think it’s our job to figure out what that purpose is and live it out each day to our greatest potential,” she said. “It’s easy to focus on winning. It’s easy to focus on awards, status, or prize money.”

In Ruth’s long distance running career, she had no purpose, which perhaps flavored her experience with the sport. But when she became a professional triathlete, she made sure her focus was clear.

“Now my purpose is competing for more than myself. It’s just being thankful and having extreme gratitude for the gifts that I’ve been given and to use them appropriately,” she explained.


2.     Set lofty but achievable goals.

When Ruth first saw an IRONMAN triathlon in 1999, she thought the competitors were insane. A 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run was just not a possible feat in her mind.

“If I was to ask myself, can I do that distance tomorrow? Even as a pro triathlete, the answer would be no, I’m not trained for that right now. Goal seeking is a process, and it is the small daily building blocks with a smart, methodical progression that make it possible," she explained.

However, seeing others achieve this goal helped her understand that this accomplishment was possible for herself as well. But reaching that goal would require discipline and a step-by-step progression.

It would also require a bit of strategy.

“Invite the right people aboard your ship to help steer it.  It’s really important to have a solid team who supports your development and who truly values your unique goals to help propel you forward,” she explained.


3.     Focus on the process over the results.

“Every task matters,” Ruth said.

There are many times when she doesn’t want to get out of bed or considers cutting a workout short, rationalizing that it doesn’t have much impact in the big picture. She believes it’s important to set your tasks for the day and not budge from crossing those off, unless it would truly impact your physical or mental health. One excuse just leads to the next excuse; she advises instead exercising discipline right from the start.

“Don’t give yourself time to think or consider, just engage yourself in the task, and keep your eye on the big picture," she advised.


4.     Relish the process.

While working toward your goals, Ruth says to remain aware of how that journey is changing you as a person, even if you fall a bit short of your aim. Be sure to enjoy the moments and appreciate your accomplishments along this path.

This past summer, Ruth was set to compete in a full distance race in Germany, but suffered a hamstring injury during her training. She still traveled to the race, but decided, with her coach, not to compete and put her health at risk. She explained that while this may be difficult for some people to understand, reaching that point was still a life-altering journey that impacted her as a person. Her goals just shifted. The experience still served as a building block for her next goal.

“Outcomes change your resume, but process changes your character. Every part of the process is worth it, success and failure,” Ruth summed up.


5.     Failure is essential.

“Failure is part of success. It is a necessary and essential ingredient of success,” she explained. “You have to use it as a springboard to launch yourself forward instead of allowing it to deflate your mission, sink your spirits, and ultimately give up on your plan and your purpose.”

Nothing in life is worth achieving without experiencing failures.

When you do fail, Ruth says to take time to recognize, accept, and process the associated disappointment, but have a set time and date when you will move on. As her goals grew bigger, she says that her failures became increasingly more disappointing. However, this process has built up her resiliency, helping her to rebound from each setback faster.

She said it’s also essential to keep the larger picture in focus.

“Life or sport is never about one goal.  It’s about striving towards that goal, building upon your character development, and being very intentional about living out and being proud of your own life story. You get to write your own story,” Ruth explained. “Your sport, your job, your goal achievement should not define you as a person. Your value and worth go well beyond your achievements, athletic identity, or work identity.”

She also reminds people that their actions affect more than just themselves. Your journey impacts others and can have larger purpose.

“When giving back or teaching others, I think it’s important to keep your success stories small, but make your failures known to all. Failure is relatable, your success through failure stories are going to be the messages that build up others up when they need it the most,” she explained.


6.     Find a healthy and sustainable schedule.

For Ruth, it’s all about balance.

“The definite key for me as a mom of three kids is prioritizing and being efficient,” she explained.

This involves dragging herself out of bed several hours before her children to get in her first workout of the day. She also maximizes her work efficiency during school hours to not sacrifice time with her family. Whatever schedule you land on for your business and priorities should be sustainable with your lifestyle, which can take a fair bit of creativity, she explained.

“Some people think that more is better. The more that I work, the more successful I’m going to get, the more money,” she said.

Instead, Ruth advocates for time efficiency to maximize your effort. It’s also important to have balance between all aspects of your life- to still take time to read a book outside of your work or go to the movies- to reduce burnout and remain productive in your business.


7.     Recovery is essential.

“Recovery and healthy distractions are important to stay fresh and balanced,” Ruth explained.

She would not race a marathon and then turn around and compete in another one two days later. In the same manner, working back-to-back-to-back fourteen hour days is not constructive for yourself or your business. You need to take some time to relax, rejuvenate, and recover to stay the process toward your goal.

Great Planes Aviation Gaining Traction with Rochester Flight School


Rochester resident Nick Fancher is taking the city into the skies. This lifelong aviation enthusiast and self-proclaimed “weekend warrior pilot” has recently launched his newest business, Great Planes Aviation, providing charter aircraft service and flight school instruction here in Rochester.

Fancher’s interest in flying was spurred quite accidentally. At ten years old, he hopped into the backseat of a small Cessna during a cousin’s flight lesson while the cousin learned how to perform steep turns in the plane. Instead of being terrified- the likely reaction of most people in this situation- Fancher said the experience caused him to fall in love with aviation.


Throughout his career, Fancher sold many “goofy” products, navigating through different sales and marketing positions. “I just love building solutions for clients,” he explained.

He worked through the ranks selling paint brushes and roller covers, even selling $40M a year of the products to Walmart. He operated in various positions at companies like Valspar Paints, Rubbermaid, and Moen, logging a lot of time on the road but soaking up business development knowledge as he chugged along. He even served as Vice President of Marketing for a tech firm and then ran his own consulting business, which he eventually sold off.

Throughout this portion of his life, Fancher still dabbled in aviation- he obtained his private pilot license in 1991- but often was pulled away by his career.

One day, he inadvertently stumbled across a jet company in the Twin Cities. Ever persistent, Fancher communicated with the business’s owner for over a year and a half, eventually running the sales team for the company. After staying with the jet business for close to four years, Fancher struck out on his own with his first company Private Jet Solutions, providing private jet chartering, ownership, acquisition, and management services.

For Fancher, the Private Jet Solutions business evolved organically. He started out brokering private jet trips for customers and made his first jet purchase after a request from a client. The jet management solution flowed naturally after that.

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“It certainly wasn’t, hey I’ve got this really well thought out plan and I just executed it flawlessly,” Fancher said. “I think it’s just being aware and keeping your eyes open and staying away from deals that are tempting and are probably bad. And then picking the spots that are really the right places to try and grow your business, where you can make money and be with the right client base.”

This mindset flavors business development at Great Planes Aviation as well. Fancher originally thought he would just try out the concept of a flight school in Rochester, not anticipating much of a market. He purchased a small aircraft to train students in, laughing with his wife that in the worst-case scenario, they would have a plane to fly.

“Now she’s laughing saying, ‘You couldn’t even fly it if you wanted because it’s so busy!’”

Interest in Fancher’s flight school has taken off. Currently, the school has twenty-four active pupils; three more aircraft have been added by Great Planes Aviation or by the students themselves to support training efforts.

“It’s going crazy. It’s doing way more than I ever thought it would do,” laughed Fancher.

Great Planes Aviation also provides a charter service, where Fancher functions as a broker and agent of the customer, contracts the appropriately-sized aircraft for the client from a trusted vendor, provides catering services or flight staff, and can even arrange for car service at the final destination.

Always looking for opportunity in the market, Fancher is developing an aircraft maintenance service as well through Great Planes Aviation to support general aviation and commercial airlines. Currently, no maintenance capabilities exist in Rochester. Even if something simple turns up during a routine walk-around, it can take three to four hours for a technician to arrive to service the aircraft.

Fancher also hopes to create an avionic shop through the business, providing service for aircraft radios and navigation equipment.

“We’re here. We’re going to keep our eyes wide open and we’re going to try to figure out where the next right fits are,” Fancher explained.

He sees an immense need evolving for general aviation service in Rochester, such as provided by Great Planes Aviation, as the DMC initiative takes hold. Often, people view private jet travel as wasteful, Fancher said. It’s certainly pricier than travel on commercial flights.

But what it does save on is time.


“Commercial airlines serve about five hundred airports in the United States. [In general aviation], we have access to just over five thousand. In general, when we’re taking somebody to a meeting, we’re usually within twelve to fifteen minutes of where they’re going,” Fancher explained.

This service is especially useful when doing business in non-hub markets. These private aircraft are like flying offices, equip with Wi-Fi, television, and even fax capabilities. A business can fly an entire team to a meeting, have face-to-face interactions with the customer, fly to three other meetings and do the same thing, and still be back in Rochester in time for dinner.

As more businesses pop up in Rochester to support the community’s needs and an increasing workforce is drawn to the city, Fancher says that general aviation will be necessary for people to expand their reach and do business while living here.

“And we’re positioning ourselves to try and support that,” he affirmed.

Now, Fancher and his team of four at Great Planes Aviation are exploring the depth and direction of their market in Rochester and placing their clients first, all while getting to perform a job that, to them, is more like a hobby.

“Nobody is having more fun than we are doing this,” Fancher said. “This is a blast. It’s so much fun to be around aviation.”

#Emerge Episode 6 with Ethan Herber

This week on #Emerge we speak with local entrepreneur Ethan Herber. Ethan manages the digital assets of fifteen different hotels around the US as an eCommerce Marketing Manager. Today on the show we talk about social media for business, the biggest mistakes he sees business owners make in their social media marketing, and social media tools that every entrepreneur should be using.

Social media tools mentioned in the video:

#Emerge Episode 5 with Matt Romanauski and Zach WareJoncas

This week on #Emerge, we speak with local entrepreneurs Matt Romanauski and Zach WareJoncas about Byolincs, a community within Mayo Clinic dedicated to training and educating entrepreneurially minded scientists and medical professionals.

Exporting from Minnesota: The Who, What, Where, and Why?


Last week, Mayo Clinic and the Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency (DMC EDA) hosted an International Business Development Event in Bleu Duck Kitchen, connecting guests from the U.S. Commercial Service, Minnesota Trade Office (MTO), and Greater MSP to members of the Rochester entrepreneurial community. The goal: to communicate export resources offered by these local, state, and federal entities for international business and to share the “change and evolution” occurring in the Rochester entrepreneurial community at a larger level.

Sarah Walbert- Regional Trade Manager for life science industries and expert in Japanese and South Korean markets- represented MTO. MTO is a division of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), with a focus on international business. MTO assists Minnesota companies in exporting goods and services and helps to promote those exports. MTO employs five Regional Trade Managers to cover the entire globe and provide expert insight in their markets, including: Canada, Mexico, Latin America, the Caribbean, Japan, Korea, the European Union, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia.

MTO offers eight core resources to help Minnesota businesses export internationally including education, training, state export statistics, turnkey trade show participation, export counseling, trade mission management, chief of protocol, foreign direct investment attraction, and STEP grant funding.

The STEP grant is a federally funded program, covering trade show expenses up to $7,500. This grant helped fifty-four Minnesota companies attend trade shows in FY2016, amounting to $2.1M in overseas sales.

Export Development Manager Jennifer Erickson represented Greater MSP at the event. Greater MSP is a regional economic development partnership covering Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and the sixteen-county metro area. Although their focus is mainly in the Twin Cities, Greater MSP closely collaborates with regional partners, like Mayo Clinic.

Greater MSP’s primary mission is to attract workers to Minneapolis/Saint Paul to facilitate business growth and draw investment to that region. Talent attraction is a major push, currently, with their “Make It. MSP.” marketing initiative, showcasing the diversity of the region from a local point of view.

In 2011, Greater MSP launched their Exports Initiative to unify export resources and define and target efforts to internationally grow the MSP area.

Senior International Trade Specialist David Edmiston represented the final guest at the event, the U.S. Commercial Service, a federal agency helps U.S. businesses export their goods and services. They have locations in one hundred ten cities and seventy-five markets around the globe including: The United Arab Emirates, Canada, Germany, Japan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

However, the real value is in their field-based resources. The U.S. Commercial Service serves as a direct point of contact for Minnesota companies to facilitate export needs.

They additionally provide trade counseling, market intelligence reports, export counseling, and due diligence to U.S. businesses. The U.S. Commercial Service also produces country specific commercial reports, documenting market conditions, regulations, and the business climate from all their global offices. They also offer in-depth, technology specific guides as references for U.S. exporters.

The U.S. Commercial Service’s expertise lies in their business matchmaking skills. They can provide an initial market check for a U.S. business to determine what a good market looks like; they also offer international partner search reports on prequalified business contacts. Additionally, the U.S. Commercial Service runs a “Gold Key Service,” where a U.S. business is escorted around a potential export destination by an international colleague to meet with prospective business collaborators in that location. These services are all offered at reasonable user fees.

The main takeaway from the event: there is no reason to limit business opportunities to the United States. Today, ninety-five percent of consumers and eighty percent of purchasing power is located outside of the United States (according to Greater MSP). These organizations- the Minnesota Trade Office, Greater MSP, and the U.S. Commercial Services- are here to assist, prepare, and educate Minnesota businesses to play a role in the international economy.

Sponsored: BrandHoot Celebrates Five Year Mark as Finalist for U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Awards

BrandHoot Founder Nate Nordstrom

BrandHoot Founder Nate Nordstrom

BrandHoot Founder Nate Nordstrom has built his company from the ground up. This Rochester-based, design-focused business was created in Nordstrom’s attic office five years ago. Now, the ten-person team is a finalist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Design Big Small Business of the Year Awards. BrandHoot continues to discover new ways to thrive in Rochester and beyond. Now, Nordstrom looks to other entrepreneurs to just “start something” in this city.

BrandHoot develops websites and apps through a “special blend of strategy, design, and engineering” to empower and advance business owners and healthcare leaders. In addition to website design, the team offers strategy and UX prototyping, design sprint, mobile app design, custom programming, inbound marketing, and accessibility testing services. BrandHoot has worked with clients like Mayo Clinic, Destination Medical Center, and the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce. They also provide a website design service, called PixelPress, specifically for nonprofits and small businesses.

Additional BrandHoot products include the mobile apps Rochester Now, a one-stop shop to all events and resources in Rochester, and FanCoach, a Facebook marketing tool for restaurants.

A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Nordstrom launched BrandHoot out of his own home attic office in January 2012, after leaving his full-time job and learning that he and his wife were expecting their first child. At the time, he had few connections in Rochester and no funding. He bootstrapped and grew the business over the next five years by providing unique value to his ever-growing customer base.

In 2015, the BrandHoot team of four moved out of Nordstrom’s basement into The Vault, a historic workplace above Grand Rounds Brew Pub, to accommodate business progression. In 2016, the group moved into their brand new, current office space in the Conley-Maass-Downs building, the first complex in the Destination Medical Center’s Discovery Square District.

BrandHoot brainstorming session.

BrandHoot brainstorming session.

The BrandHoot team, now grown to ten members, celebrated their 2000th day of business this June.

To commemorate these days of growth in the Rochester community, BrandHoot is holding an open house in their new downtown office space on Friday, August 18th. The event will include hors d’oeuvres, local drinks, Legos, and fun on the BrandHoot indoor rock climbing wall.

Nordstrom said that hard work, vision, attention to quality and customer service, and a good team are essential components of BrandHoot’s success over the years.

“My wife, family, God, and the Rochester community always deserve my appreciation as well. Starting and growing a business is a very tough journey. But it’s all worth it, especially with great people by your side,” he explained.

BrandHoot’s success does not stop with the 2000+ day count. The business is among only seventeen finalists for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Dream Big Small Business of the Year Awards; BrandHoot is a finalist for the Community Excellence Award for their leadership and community engagement.

New BrandHoot office space in the Conley-Maass-Downs building.

New BrandHoot office space in the Conley-Maass-Downs building.

The award winner will receive a $25,000 cash prize and recognition at the 2017 Small Business Summit, held September 10th through the 13th, in Washington, D.C.

“It’s exciting to be able to celebrate five years of growth and success in Rochester. And being up for a national small business of the year award is an unexpected honor. We’ve worked so hard from day one, it’s nice to be able to spend a few moments to sit back, reflect, and celebrate,” Nordstrom noted.

To celebrate this accomplishment and involve the community, BrandHoot is holding a drawing to give away one free event ticket to the U.S. Chamber Dream Big Event, valued at $500. Click here to enter the drawing. A winner will be announced by Tuesday, August 15th.

BrandHoot has cut its teeth in Rochester. Now, Nordstrom wants to see more entrepreneurs in this city just start something. He’s happy to connect with entrepreneurs to bounce ideas or share lessons learned.

Nordstrom advises others to take risks, and above all else, to not give up when things get difficult.

“It’s going to be hard mentally, physically, and emotionally. Make sure you surround yourself with good people from all angles, to help keep you grounded and give you advice, even when you may not ask for it,” he advised.

#Emerge Episode 3 with Melissa McNallan

This week on our Facebook #Emerge series, we speak with local entrepreneur Melissa McNallan about what went on in the entrepreneurial community this week. We also talk about an upcoming improv workshop occurring in Rochester next week and how improv can help to develop vital business and communication skills.

Funding Sources for Rochester Startups and Small Businesses: Part 1- Business Subsidies

Capital drives any business. Lack of an angel investment fund in southeastern Minnesota or strong venture capital presence here can hinder cash flow. Here are some business subsidies that can serve as funding options for startups and small businesses in Rochester. Check back in later in the week for Part 2, detailing tax incentives, venture competitions, and other funding sources that all Minnesota businesses should have on their radar.


Press Release: Stewartville, MN Economic Development Authority Receives $9,000 SMIF Grant for New Business Incubation Program


Stewartville, MN (Tuesday, May 30, 2017) -- The Stewartville, MN Economic Development (EDA) was recently notified that they have been awarded a $9,000 Incentive Grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF). Joya Stetson, who serves the Stewartville EDA, successfully authored the grant for the implementation of a new business incubation program that will be launched this summer. 

The new and exciting program will encourage the creation and support of new for-profit businesses that contribute to a sustainable and diverse business climate within the City’s business/commercial districts. The program will provide business owners with Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) coordinated education and tools to promote long-term success while filling currently vacant commercial properties in Stewartville. Although the EDA will not have a central incubation space, the provision of rental assistance over 18 months is expected to aid startup success rates. 

New businesses leasing eligible, vacant properties may receive rental assistance at a decreasing rate for 18 months in accordance with the following scale: Months 1-6: 50% subsidy or $830/month max; Months 7-12: 33% subsidy or $560/month max; Months 13-18: 17% subsidy or $275/month max. 

A series of entrepreneurial educational classes will be mandated for participants and will be open for existing businesses to attend as desired free of charge. The following 90-minute courses will be mandatory for participants in the program: Business Planning and Financial Projections (Prerequisite), Market Research, Pricing and Inventory, Marketing Strategies, Customer Service and Business Etiquette, Online Marketing, Websites and Social Media, Basic Bookkeeping, and Legal Considerations for Small Businesses. All courses will be coordinated by CEDA Senior Vice President and Small Business Development Center Counselor Cris Gastner. 

Businesses accepted into the program will also be required to participate in quarterly meetings with open financials and to deliver a public presentation after one year outlining challenges, achievements, and plans for future sustainability. 

The generous grant from SMIF will allow the City to fully commence the program and leverage resources to maximize benefits to the businesses and the community as a whole. 

“[The City] is pleased to offer this tool as a part of our economic development efforts,” said Mayor Jimmie-John King. “We understand how difficult the first year of business can be, and are hopeful that the assistance being offered here will be advantageous for new businesses locating to our community.”


About the Stewartville Economic Development Authority (EDA) 

Established in 1857, the City of Stewartville is a municipal government that serves an estimated population of approximately 6,252. The City's Economic Development Authority (EDA) works to promote community vitality and provide services to both residents and businesses to maintain and enhance their quality of life. The EDA is committed to the support of new business in addition to the provision of service and support to existing businesses within the community. The EDA assists these organizations and individuals with education, monetary assistance through programs/services, and creative and beneficial collaborations with partner entities. For more information about the EDA, please visit: 


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 provide 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. The team brings with it over 150 years of collective development experience. For additional information about CEDA and the services they provide, check out their website at 


About Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) 

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), a donor-supported foundation, invests for economic growth in the 20 counties of south central and southeastern Minnesota. The Foundation has provided more than $100 million in grants, loans, and programming within the region during the past 30 years. SMIF's key interests include early childhood, community and economic development. To learn more about our work and mission, visit 

Beyond the Brand: How to Form Deep Connections to Consumers

“Without branding, there’s no connection between what you want people to think about your organization and what they actually do,” explained Sarah Miller, Owner of White Space, a Rochester-based company specializing in brand strategy, brand identity, and brand experience. We’re branding our company, our community, and ourselves constantly, regardless of our awareness. To make a real connection to potential consumers, and be successful with branding efforts, Miller says we need to tell a deeper story and create an experience to attract and retain consumers with similar vision.

Miller, a native of Plainview, Minn., has a twelve-year career in graphic design, branding, and marketing. When her son was six months old, she left the safety net of an established graphic design firm in Rochester and struck out on her own, with no real plans or financial stability.

“I ultimately just had to make a change in my life. Sometimes we wake up and we think that life’s just too short,” she said.

Miller loves design, but is passionate about branding. She’s helped local businesses like Jimmy’s Salad Dressings and Dips, Limb Lab, and Rochester Downtown Alliance think “brand first” to tell their stories.

Today, the term “brand” can encompass multiple things like a business name, logo, marketing, and company culture. A brand is all these things. But foremost, it’s your reputation as a business. Miller explains brand is how yourself, your company, and your community makes people feel. It’s the experience people have after an interaction with these entities. This includes immediate, visual perceptions a consumer has with a website, brochure, or perhaps even the look of a community or town. These components make up the “identity” portion of a brand.  

But to gain a deeper, lasting connection, Miller says consumers have to buy in to the emotional component of the brand.

Many people, even experts in the field, often fail to appreciate the difference between branding and marketing, Miller explained. Both, she said, are essential for a business and are closely intertwined.

“Branding is your ‘why’. Marketing is ‘how,’” she said. Branding is a long-term process that builds loyalty. Marketing is a short-term tactic that generates response.

Miller segments marketing into two steps: the identity phase and the visual phase. Branding plays a key role in each stage.

The first portion of marketing, the identity phase, is a time of self-discovery where a business builds its foundation, sets goals, and determines a core audience it would like to reach. Brand story and brand identity are a critical part of this process. These are the “why” components.

“Why do you exist as a company? As a person, what is your purpose on earth?” Miller explained. “What’s the story that makes you stand out versus someone else?”

After the identity phase, where the story behind the business is built, comes the “fun, refreshing” phase where the company visually comes to life.

“But before we get dressed, we have to figure out what we’re dressing,” Miller explained.

Now in the visual stage of marketing, the business determines how they want to be seen by others. This includes things like the website, business cards, pamphlets, the layout and décor of the office building, even the way we dress. These immediate impressions, the visual identity, are the tip of the iceberg, Miller explained, the tiny fraction of the business above water that everybody can see.

However, the largest part of that iceberg, the submerged, subliminal portion, makes up the foundation and base, the real structure and identity. For a business, this unseen portion is the core, purpose, and values of a company. It’s the personality and vision of the business that helps to form strong, lasting connections with consumers and attracts like-minded people to work for the company.

It’s the brand.

Sharing this deeper vision of a business- the branding- is essential to position the story behind the company to the target audience and find this elusive connectivity. Miller says to reach this deeper relationship with potential consumers- to brand- requires purpose, personality, positioning, and promise.

“People don’t buy what you do. They don’t buy based upon your services, your amenities,” she explained. “It’s not about the product. It’s about the experience.”

Successful brands, like Apple and Harley-Davidson, have built a culture and community that people want to join. These brands have explicitly communicated their “why” to consumers and connected their deeper vision.

“How are you making conscious decision on your own brand?” Miller asked. People are already googling you, looking at your website, and searching your social media feeds.

“Don’t let other people tell your story. They’re going to do it in a thousand different ways. Maybe right. Maybe wrong. You tell your story,” she advised.

This talk on branding by Sarah Miller was part of the Marketing in the Morning series developed by Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA), a non-profit organization that serves businesses and communities in southeastern Minnesota. CEDA runs Marketing in the Morning sessions quarterly to help businesses grow and stay on top of the latest marketing techniques. This talk on branding can also be viewed on the CEDA Facebook page.  

Homegrown Penz Dental Care Places Relationships and Trust at Center of Business Plan

Youthful, patient-focused dentist Dr. Matt Penz has come home to Rochester to make his mark on the community. Penz and his wife, Kate, are sticking to their identity and core values and working to build their new practice, Penz Dental Care, patient by patient.

Every aspect of Penz Dental Care hinges around relationships and building trust in the community. It starts with the office itself. “I wanted people to feel like they were coming into a comfortable, homey, friendly environment,” Penz explained.

When walking into the Penz Dental Care office along 2nd Street SW, visitors are greeted with a cheery, bright blue and white waiting room with refurbished wood paneling and the Penz modern, tooth-like logo emblazoned on the wall. Plump couches, coffee, and HGTV help to mitigate any dental anxiety patients may be experiencing. Kate Penz herself mans the front desk and is the first point of contact. There are even massaging dental chairs to set the practice apart and help put patients’ minds at ease.

Penz says that dentistry is a very personal craft. He and his wife strive to make real human connections with their patients. “I didn’t want patients to feel like a number,” he explained.

Penz prides himself on the quality of his work and “how things turn out and how they look and how they function.”

“Sometimes it takes a little extra time to get it right. But you’re going to walk out of our office knowing that I did the right thing for you. Even if it puts me behind on the next patient!” he chuckled.

As a business owner, Penz obviously wants the practice to grow, but not at the expense of patient care. “I never want to compromise the quality or taking our time with building relationships and trust with patients,” he said.

Penz has purposefully grown his business slowly, gaining high quality patients and hiring staff that fit the vision he is trying to create. Penz Dental Care hasn’t sent out a plethora of mailers or first time specials. Instead, they are sticking to their core values of providing high quality patient care and creating personal, human connections with their patients. If you do this, Penz believes, “the rest of it will take care of itself.”

“If you focus on the bottom line all the time, you’re going to miss out on a lot of things,” he explained.

It’s essential to Penz to remain authentic and to attract patients in Rochester who are looking for their dental home. “We’re trying to tell a story. And we use social media as a window into our office,” he explained.

This authenticity also includes integration of his childhood sports passion into the practice. Penz played quarterback on the Mayo High School football team and continued in this position at nearby St. Olaf College. He hopes to funnel this passion to give back to the community of Rochester, a collection of people who he felt really helped to shape who he is today. Penz proudly showed me his in-house mouthgard machine. He personally fits custom mouthgards for local teams like Med City Freeze and MedCity Mafia and is undergoing further training to become a certified team dentist.

Penz says he always wanted to start his own practice. “I just had no idea how I was going to get there,” he explained. He did know, however, that Rochester was the only place he could ever imagine launching his own business.

Penz was working in an established dental practice in Chaska when he realized it was time to go all in on his dream.

“It’s hard to say, yep, we’re going to walk away from a steady income and jump in and take on this project,” explained Kate Penz, who admits she is more risk-averse. “2016 will go down in the books as being a little bit of an insane year.”

Penz and Kate began seriously talking about their plan in January of 2016. They viewed the office space in March and took over that location in July. After that, they traveled back and forth between Chaska and Rochester every Tuesday, the only day Penz was off work, to set up their new space. Luckily, the office had been in use by another dentist previously, allowing them to do in nine months what usually takes eighteen- and with less capital. Penz, Kate, and their two-year-old daughter moved to Rochester in August. In September, the doors to Penz Dental Care opened.

Throughout this whole time, Kate was pregnant with their second daughter, who was born in December.

Penz says he got the “entrepreneurial bug” from his father, who worked construction for many years in Rochester. Penz knew he wanted to build his own dental practice from scratch, rather than take over an existing practice.

“I knew myself well enough that I wanted more control over the environment, the atmosphere, the culture of my business,” he explained. He looked forward to putting together all the pieces of his new practice, including hiring the perfect staff for the culture he wished to create.

Kate explained that the first round of hiring was difficult. They had no office space yet. Instead, they had to meet with prospective employees in coffee shops. “People had to take a chance on us. They didn’t know if we were going to make it or not,” she explained.

As a new dental practice, their first month of opening was rough.

“You don’t know if patients are going to come in the door. If anybody’s going to call,” Kate explained. 

But Penz and his team knew it was going to take time to build the practice. They’ve made huge strides over the past seven months. Now, they’re starting to see patients come back for their second visit and continue to build relationships and trust with those people. Just this week, Penz Dental Care brought on a new dental hygienist.

“There’s always going to be hurdles, I’m finding, in the infant stages. It’s not always smooth, and the challenges fall on your shoulders at the end of the day as a small business owner. You’re the one turning on the lights in the morning and locking up at night. Even though I'm working harder now than I ever have, it's all worth it,” Penz summed up.

Press Release: Local Honey Producer Serves as Minnesota's First Beekeeping-Based Specific Benefit Corporation

The Bee Shed, a locally owned honey producer and distributor of beekeeping supplies and equipment, is the first beekeeping operation in Minnesota to define their corporate structure as a Specific Benefit Corporation (SBC). This structure, made possible via new legislation in 2015, enables a business to legally and publicly declare that their business decisions will contemplate public good as well as profit, making a commitment to deliberately and transparently advance a specific public good.

Prior to this change, The Bee Shed was incorporated as an LLC.

The Bee Shed has committed to the following specific benefits:

  1. The promotion and development of pollinator habitat for sustainable food production;
  2. The education of the public at large about the importance of bees and pollinator habitat; and
  3. The mentorship of new or novice beekeepers, including youth and underserved populations.


“From a practical perspective, operating as an SBC serves notice to the public that we’re willing to put some of our time and our financial resources to something other than the bottom line,” said Chris Schad, Founder and Co-owner of The Bee Shed.

Co-owner John Shonyo noted, “This really is just codifying what we have done in our business operations from the very beginning. We have been teaching classes and giving presentations about bees and pollinator habitat throughout the region, and every year we are mentoring new beekeepers.”

The Bee Shed honey products are available in more than twenty retail stores in the Rochester area and online through their website. They also provide equipment, supplies and bees to beekeepers throughout Southeast Minnesota.

Inspiration and Advice from Rochester Entrepreneurs- Favorite Quotes

Here are some of the most memorable quotes, at least for myself, from the first ten months of Rochester Rising. Even since last summer, the entrepreneurial community here has changed and new initiatives were born. Our entrepreneurs are telling that story.   

The Rochester Startup Part Ten: Perseverance is Key as PayGo Thrives in Collider Coworking Space

PayGo founder Chris Peterson. Photo courtesy of PayGo.

PayGo founder Chris Peterson. Photo courtesy of PayGo.

About the author: Ryan Cardarella is a freelance writer who recently moved to Rochester after spending 12 years in Milwaukee.

This series is in partnership with Ambient House Productions, a Rochester based full service video production company specializing in high quality corporate, commercial, & promotional videos.

After nearly 15 years in the software business, PayGo founder Chris Peterson has proven able to consistently adapt in a market that continues to evolve.

Formed in Buffalo, Minn., PayGo is a point-of-sale (POS) software business that has served independent brick and mortar retailers since 2002. In addition to handling POS payments and many additional services, PayGo offers businesses the ability to track and control their inventory, provides robust data on customer interactions and purchases, and integrates stores with their website via the PayGoCart feature.

Through their diverse service offerings, PayGo built up a strong customer base and grew to employ 20 team members by 2008. However, just as the company introduced a product that addressed the emerging need for cloud-based software solutions, a crippling recession that hit small businesses particularly hard during that period knocked PayGo on its heels.

“Things happen in business and you just need to find a way to persevere,” Peterson said.

He responded by downsizing, as many of his clients were forced to close, and eventually relocated the PayGo office to Rochester, a move that has reinvigorated the organization.

After operating remotely for a time, PayGo joined downtown Rochester’s Collider Coworking space in November 2016, a move that appealed to Peterson as his company was once again ready to grow. Peterson has spent much of the last year updating PayGo’s cloud-based software and exploring additional IT services as the company continues to add staff and expand the breadth of their offerings.

“The flexibility of the space was appealing. It has everything we need,” Peterson said. “We feel like a startup again.”

Collider is an entrepreneurial hub that allows occupants to work, learn, and collaborate in a dynamic office setting. The open workspace includes desk and conference room areas, quiet rooms, and perhaps most importantly, a collaborative environment comprised of innovative, like-minded people that are helping to fuel entrepreneurial growth in Rochester.

“Operating out of Buffalo began to feel a bit isolating and there’s more programming in more relevant areas here,” Peterson said. “It’s been great to be around so many other like-minded people who are experiencing some of the same challenges.”

PayGo currently services a wide variety of clients, primarily independent retailers and owners of boutiques, arts and crafts stores, and consignment shops, which includes companies such as Happy Sleeper, Nina, Everyday Wines, and many more.

Looking ahead, Peterson is focused on developing a mobile app, increasing their customer base and providing additional value to that base, and continuing to improve the customer experience for the small businesses they serve.

“The industry continues to shift and we are exploring new ways for our software to appeal to and improve the customer experience,” he said.

The Rochester Startup Series is sponsored by:

Lincoln's NMotion Startup Accelerator Shares Roadmap for Founders

Yesterday, Keevin O’Rourke, Program Manager at the NMotion Startup Accelerator in Lincoln, Nebraska, spent some time in Rochester and shared lessons learned in the Lincoln startup community. NMotion is a collaboration between the University of Nebraska Lincoln, Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development, and private investors. The accelerator invests small amounts of seed capital in portfolio companies in exchange for equity. NMotion uses a Roadmap tool to help founders determine their position on the business development pipeline and understand major issues to focus on at each stage.

Lincoln, a town of approximately 273,000 people, houses a strong and growing high tech community and over 171 active startups. The city is one of many Midwestern towns quantifying this region as more than just fly over territory. NMotion is one key piece to the entrepreneurial community in Lincoln.

NMotion developed a tool, called the Roadmap, which helps entrepreneurs identify the business development phase of their startup and determine if they have a viable concept. The Roadmap contains five stages:  

  1. Inspire. At this stage, potential entrepreneurs should ask themselves if they want to be a founder and start to understand what running a business will entail.
  2. Validate. Here, entrepreneurs should ask if they should pursue this idea. This is perhaps the most vital point in the Roadmap and helps entrepreneurs determine if they are trying to solve a true problem.
  3. Test. Entrepreneurs should determine if customers will pay them to solve this problem.
  4. Accelerate. At this stage, entrepreneurs determine a repeatable business model for their solution. Now the “side hustle” becomes the “main hustle” and at least one founder is expected to leave their main job and move into the startup full time. Usually at this stage, the startup has paying customers.
  5. Grow. Entrepreneurs determine if they can make a product/market fit and try to raise seed funding.


NMotion specializes in the accelerate portion of the Roadmap. They run a 90-day program that “accelerates” startups through two years of progress in a short amount of time. Each year, five to eight startups from Lincoln and the surrounding area enter this program. In exchange for 6% equity in their company, accepted startups receive a $20,000 investment from NMotion, office space in FUSE Coworking in the Haymarket District of Lincoln, mentorship, support, and connections to venture capital networks both inside and outside Lincoln.

The NMotion specializes in fintech, agriculture, food tech, and sports/entertainment startups. NMotion has been in operation for five years. Eighty percent of NMotion alumni are still active. Two alumni have raised Series A funding. Forty percent have raised additional seed funding. One company has been acquired.

Applications for this year’s accelerator cohort close March 14th. The 90-day accelerator program will run from May 8th through August 10th in Lincoln.

How to Grow a Web-Based Business with Rochester MN Moms Blog's Becky Montpetit

I recently got to pick the brain of Becky Montpetit, Founder of Rochester MN Moms Blog, and learn techniques she has used to successfully grow and raise awareness of her business. Rochester MN Moms Blog began just over one year ago as a parenting website that’s dedicated to Rochester, Minnesota and our community of mothers.  


1.     What has been the most successful way you have found to quickly raise brand awareness?

One of the best ways I have found to grow brand awareness was to utilize the networks that I already had.  I spoke to organizations I was already involved in, or organizations my friends were involved in.  I engaged professional networks to convey our mission and goals.  Besides that, I simply continuously provided trustworthy, timely and relevant information on a very consistent basis.  


2.     What techniques has Rochester MN Moms Blog used to gain customers (or readers in your case)?      

One of the best ways we have found to gain readers in our community is to figure out what information they are looking for and provide creative and enticing ways to provide that information.  A helpful way to do this is to create reader polls to ask what they need or what information they had access to.  In some cases, the information may already exist but it's just not so easy to access. We work on bridging that gap.


3.     What techniques have you found to be successful to grow a Facebook audience?

Consistency is key.  At any given point, your readers only see 1/4 to 1/3 of what you post.  So if you post once a day on Facebook...the chances are quite good they will not even see the fantastic content you are producing simply due to Facebook algorithms. The more we post relevant, timely, and trustworthy information, the more readers will engage with our content therefore expanding our reach and effectively growing our audience.


4. What web-based service do you use to manage your business?

Great question!  My team relies on Trello for effective communication and implementation of goals. I also use HoneyBook for building proposals and sending and receiving agreement and invoices.  I also use Slack on the City Moms Blog Network National team (I am the social media coordinator for the City Moms Blog Network).