Castle Community Aims to Create Welcoming Location in Rochester for Art and Cultural Community


Born from a shared passion, the Castle Community aims to provide a space for art and cultural community within the city of Rochester. Located in the historic Armory Building on Broadway Avenue, the Castle Community is open to all and aims to offer patrons a new experience each time they visit.

Castle Community’s Naura Anderson explained that the building actually came first, and then the idea for what to do with that space followed. In 2017, the City of Rochester released a Request for Proposal (RFP) application for purchase or lease of the Armory Building, piquing the interest of Rochester natives and real estate professionals Scott Hoss and Ross Henderson. Hoss and Henderson began brainstorming ideas to utilize the space to fill gaps within Rochester. The men brought Anderson into the mix to involve the art community in their concept. 

“For us, community has always been important, along with unique gathering spaces that were not necessarily event driven. A place where you can just come and hang out and feel welcome, meet up with people, meet new people, discover something new,” Anderson explained.

Anderson, who has a long background in the arts, was especially driven to create a space for artists at all different levels of their practice. 

“My big passions are community and art, and finding that place where those connect is great. That means supporting artists as well as exploring your own creativity and learning something new,” she said. “I think if we can challenge that creative side of our brain more often, we'd all be in a better place.”

In May 2017, Castle Community LLC submitted a proposal to the City of Rochester to transform the Armory Building into an art and cultural community center. The team was selected to purchase the building in July 2017. Castle Community LLC obtained ownership of the Armory in December 2017 and began the demolition process within the 104-year-old space in early 2018.

“A lot of the work was removing that inner shell to discover what was behind it. We knew that there was history in this building and we wanted to preserve and showcase as much of that as we could,” Anderson explained.

The building interior, Anderson said, was basically gutted, with drywall removed to expose brick, drop ceilings torn down, and layers of flooring ripped up to expose the original hardwood. 

The Castle team selected Benike Construction for renovation work in the space, which began in July 2018. Benike had also restored the Conley-Maass-Downs building just a few years prior.  

“[Benike] was an awesome team to work with,” Anderson said. “Working with them is what got the project completed on time, on a deadline, and in a way that surpassed our expectations for quality.” 

The Castle Community opened its doors for the first time in November 2018.

The first-floor of the Castle Community houses brand new restaurant Cameo, run by Zach & Danika Ohly. The second floor contains businesses Collective Books & Records, Latent Space, Neon Green Studio, Queen City Coffee & Juice, and Yoga Tribe. This floor also includes an open area called the Castle Commons, a community space with free public WiFi, tables and chairs, soft seating, and games, where anyone is welcome to work, play, meet, and connect completely free of charge.

The 501(c)3 nonprofit Threshold Arts, of which Anderson serves as Director, also leases space on the second and third floors of the Castle. Threshold Arts programs and activates the community and event spaces and manages the artistic programs within the Castle. Threshold Arts contains private artist studios, an event hall, gallery, community studio, artist makerspace, green room and a community darkroom. 

To activate the artist studios, Threshold runs an Artist in Residence program which provides local artists with subsidized space to make, show, and sell their art for a period of three to six months. This program was designed, Anderson explained, to ensure turn over and to open up opportunities for even more artists. Threshold is currently wrapping up their very first Artist in Residency cohort. Anderson said the contributions made by this first group, both in their art and to the community, have been incredible.

The Community Studio on the third floor is a conference-style room which is available for community groups to use for meetings at no charge. The 4,500 square foot event venue, Les Fields Hall, can accommodate up to 450 people and is used for concerts, weddings, banquets, and other community celebrations.

“It is truly a great community of tenants and partners within the building,” Anderson said. “And seeing the community that is developing within that has been wonderful. Seeing people come together, discover what we’re doing here, and return regularly is everything we dreamed of and more. We are developing relationships in the community that would not have happened without this space.” 

As the Castle Community continues to gain traction in the city, Anderson said to expect more art and additional ways to connect with the community at the space. 

“Little things are always changing around here, and our goal is for there to be something new to see or do every time you return,” she said. “We want this to be a place where people continue to come back to because they know it’s never going to be the same twice.”

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


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

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

In entrepreneurial ecosystem building, no one community stands alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.     Just show up.

2.     Trust and support each other.

3.     Let your actions speak louder than your words.

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

5.     Include everyone who wants to participate.

6.     Encourage and uplift those who have failed.

7.     Let the entrepreneurs lead.

8.     Be patient.

Press Release: ROCKchester 'In Their Element' Series Releasing Later This Month

Photo courtesy of ROCKchester.

Photo courtesy of ROCKchester.

ROCHESTER, MN -- Throughout the month of March, ROCKchester will be highlighting the talents of local youth musicians with the 'In Their Element' video series. 

The series will capture four local groups playing small, intimate acoustic sets in places that define them as artists and Rochesterites. These places capture the essence of all corners and cultures in Rochester, from the soft undertones of Cafe Steam to the fluorescent glow of a Graham Arena hockey rink.

Videos will release every Friday through the month of March, beginning with indie-punk artist and Century High School junior Wyatt Moran.

Sam Butterfass, an alt-Americana musician and 2015 Mayo graduate, will follow Moran, with indie electronica outfit Fauna & Flora, and indie-folk artist Greentop finishing the series.

ROCKchester founder and curator Dylan Hilliker is excited about the direction of the series.

“Music often influences the connections we make, both with people and with places,” Hilliker said. “The ‘In Their Element’ series puts ROCKchester artists into settings they are most familiar or most associated with for personal, intimate performances.”

Cinematography and audio recording for the series was handled exclusively by local artists. Kevin Andrews, Emily Nelson, Jack Hilliker, and Will Forsman combined to produce all video content, while Mitchell Nelson recorded, mixed and mastered all audio.

The sessions will be released in their entirety on ROCKchester’s official website,

2018: Predictions and Asks for the Rochester Entrepreneurial Community

Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week Keynote Speaker Encourages Community to "Be Weird"


Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week keynote speaker Scott Meyer shared two disruptive ideas with the entrepreneurial community to kick off this weeklong celebration of innovation: embrace your inner weirdness and make your own permission.

Meyer played a pivotal role as a community builder and activist in Brookings, South Dakota. He helped to launch TEDxBrookings, 1 Million Cups Brookings, and Creativity Week; Meyer also served on the Brookings City Council. He was awarded The South Dakota Spirit of Entrepreneurship, Top 40 Under 40 by Prairie Business Journal, and Young Entrepreneur of the Year in South Dakota.

Meyer spent years building up the innovation community in Brookings, a town of ~24,000 people. Throughout this time, he garnered his fair share of both successes and failures. But one thing has remained constant.

“The weirdness of this world really makes me feel excited,” Meyer explained.

With the pervasiveness and accessibility of the digital world today, power has shifted from suppliers to those who are aggregating products, services, events, and knowledge into one place, Meyer said. This change has made it easier than ever before to locate niche products or connect to people with very specific interests.

Today’s world, Meyer said, allows us to be exactly ourselves. “But are we willing to take that risk?” he asked.

To be our true, vibrant selves- both as individuals and as communities- Meyer said you need to exist on the edge to attract attention in today’s crowded society. You need to be weird.

“You don’t want to be the next anything. You need to be the first something,” he affirmed. “This is the benefit of being weird. People can actually find you. If you’re in the middle of something, you’re impossible to find.”

When we as a government, community, or business have some sort of platform, no matter how small, Meyer said we need to push people out into that spotlight to share big, wild ideas and create momentum within our communities.

He helped to launched TEDxBrookings, a local version of TED Talks to spread big ideas, to get all kinds of “weird” people in that city into the same room, showcase the local culture, and produce palpable energy in the community.

By creating this stage of TEDxBrookings, Meyer could elevate others into positions of power, placing them as local thought leaders and empowering them to go out and do bigger things.

1 Million Cups Brookings was later launched to create this platform on a more frequent basis in the city.

Meyer’s second lesson: you don’t need to ask permission to create something in your community. You don’t need to be an expert at something. If you want to do something or create something, just do it. Don’t wait for anybody else to do it for you or to authorize it.

“We don’t have to take permission. We can just make permission,” he explained.

To build momentum in their own community, Brookings simply proclaimed themselves the “Creative Capital of the North”. They didn’t ask anybody if they were indeed the most imaginative or original culture of people. There was nobody to ask; they just said that was the truth. The community took $200 and built a “Before I Die” wall so people could express their life long dreams. They launched Creativity Week to celebrate creatives in the city.

“Find a parade and just start marching in front of it,” Meyer said, and people will just start falling in line.

In the case of Brookings, that’s exactly what happened. Soon, folks were journeying to the city to learn about building community from these self-proclaimed experts.

Regardless of how the momentum began, Meyer said it got people excited enough to start taking risks and things just started to happen organically.

“But I’m here to tell you that we can make permission for ourselves,” he concluded. “If we have permission, we need to build the stage and push people into it. And the people that will shine in that spotlight are the weirdos.”

#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.

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.

Rochester Rising Unveils Lineup for Women-Focused Entrepreneurial Event

Rochester Rising is pleased to bring Rochester’s very first Women’s Demo Night to the city. The event will take place Wednesday March 22nd from 6-8PM at the Rochester Area Foundation. We have handpicked four Rochester-based startups and businesses to speak at the event including: Shruthi Naik of Vyriad, Alaa Kolelait of GoAudio, Brittany Baker and Amanda Steele of MedCity Doulas, and Tessa Leung of Grand Rounds Brewing Company.


What is a demo night?

A demo night is the perfect way to explore and visualize a piece of the entrepreneurial community of Rochester. There are no awards; there are no prizes. The night is more a celebration of community and a way to see, firsthand, innovative products, services, and solutions that were developed right in Rochester.

During the event, these female entrepreneurs will tell their unique stories and walk through how their product, or service, works for the audience. There will then be a few minutes for some questions, but the gathered startup and business enthusiasts will have more time to interact with these innovators at their individual tables after the presentations.


6:00 PM: Doors open.

6:15 PM: Opening remarks.

6:30 PM: Demos.

7:30 PM: Networking.

8:00 PM: Doors close.

Who are the speakers?

Shruthi Naik is a trained Virologist who obtained her PhD at Mayo Graduate School. She is currently the Vice President of Comparative Oncology at Vyriad. Vyriad is a biomedical startup developing oncolytic viral therapies to treat cancer. Their products are currently in several Phase I and Phase II clinical trials.

Alaa Koleilat is currently a PhD candidate in the Mayo Graduate School in Clinical and Translational Sciences and cofounder of GoAudio. GoAudio is a mobile application that makes hearing testing more accessible. With this app, users can test and examine their hearing thresholds anywhere. All you need are noise cancelling headphones.  

Brittany Baker is trained in Postpartum doula and Birth doula and studied Design Technology at Bemidji State. Amanda Steele is a trained Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Birth Doula (DONA), and Child Passenger Safety Technician. She received a bachelor’s degree in Applied Science from the University of Minnesota Duluth. MedCity Doulas is Rochester's premier doula agency, providing childbirth education, birth and postpartum planning, and babywearing consultation.

Tessa Leung is a longtime entrepreneurial resident of Rochester. She is currently the Chief Operations Manager at Grand Rounds Brewing Company. She also runs Tessa’s Wine Boutique, Sontes Catering, and The Vault coworking space. Grand Rounds was Rochester’s very first brewpub, where friends can meet to solve the world's problems, one brew at a time. 

Who Should Attend?

Women’s Demo Night features female entrepreneurs, but it is a night for anyone interested in learning more about and become more involved in Rochester’s entrepreneurial community.


Where do I find tickets?

Click here to go to the Eventbrite page. Online ticket sales end Tuesday March 21st at 1AM. Tickets will then be available at the door. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the event.


What do I get out of the ticket cost?

There will be lots of appetizer-style food, excellent company, and even better conversation.


My business would love to become more involved in something like this

We’re glad to hear that. We have space for a few more sponsors to make this event even better. Sponsors are listed in the event promotional flier, have ad space on an online event ad on Rochester Rising, will be listed as sponsors at the event, can bring promotional materials to the event, receive a Friday social media shout out on Rochester Rising, and get ad space in one weekly Rochester Rising newsletter. Please fill out the contact form below, and we will get back with you shortly.

Name *

Active Lifestyle Store TerraLoco Places Community at the Center of the Business Model

Photo courtesty of TerraLoco.

Photo courtesty of TerraLoco.

Rochester running store TerraLoco has a mission to serve all members of Rochester, not just elite or competitive runners. The business differentiates itself by offering cutting edge active lifestyle products and items not found in your typical running store. TerraLoco was launched in 2012 by three John Marshall graduates and is currently run by long time Rochester resident Tiffany Piotrowicz. The business has the needs of Rochester in precision focus, both with their products and with their mission to serve the community.

The moment you walk into TerraLoco, you realize it’s not your typical running store. They don’t have big name brands like Nike or Adidas pouring off the shelves. Instead, they stock shoes from companies like Hoka, Newton, and Salomon. The have hiking boots, snow boots, and work shoes. They sell hiking skirts. An entire wall of the store is lined with reflective and safety gear and various hydration bottles and packs. There’s a treadmill right up in the front window. An entire standing rack of active dog gear- like extra-tough collars, portable water bowls, and handless leashes- greets you as you walk in.

The name TerraLoco is short for terrestrial locomotion. The word “running” was intentionally left out of the store name.

“I think automatically anyone that doesn’t consider themselves a runner, which is a lot of people, even people that are runners, automatically you hear that and you think, ‘Oh, that’s a store for elite athletes. That’s for people who run marathons and I’m just thinking of doing my first 5K. So that’s not for me.’ And that’s not the vibe we want to give off,” explained Piotrowicz.

Instead, TerraLoco is there to support anyone in the community, from competitive runners to people who just want to be more active.

The store was originally opened in August 2012 by Rochester natives Brock Quimby, Darrell Thompson, and Jeremy Hensel. Thompson founded Bolder Options Rochester and spent some time playing football with the Green Bay Packers. Quimby ran a highly successful running store in Colorado, but wanted to bring back that knowledge and open his own store in Rochester, where he grew up.

Quimby admits that the beginning stages of the business were rough. He knew that products catering to a healthy lifestyle, and not just a running lifestyle, could do well in Rochester. However, TerraLoco opened in the fall, with winter fast approaching.

“I knew that I would do everything I could to make it work. But I remember days where I had nothing left to do but wait for customers to walk in. …I watched those cars drive by and strategized for hours, days, weeks,” Quimby explained.

Luckily, he had Thompson to lean on and three kids at home that were depending on him. “We came up with a few ideas to drive traffic to the store, incentives for shopping local, and giving [customers] every reason we could think of to keep them coming back,” he said.

From the very beginning, TerraLoco made efforts to differentiate itself from any other running store. It was the very first store in Minnesota to offer video gait analysis and is still the only store in Rochester with this capability. In addition, the store carried active lifestyle products that nobody else was stocking. That was one of the major points that immediately drew in Piotrowicz. She was working at the Running Room when TerraLoco first opened, but stopped into the store one day out of sheer curiosity and to see about this new competition in town.

At the time Piotrowicz first visited, TerraLoco had been open for less than one month. The store had a good shoe selection stocked, but at that point the rest of the space was bare bones. Even though the business was still getting its feet wet, her experience there stayed with Piotrowicz long after leaving the store that day. She couldn’t help imagining how unique it would be to work at a local store and to just have more choices. That thought stuck with her so strongly, Piotrowicz came back to TerraLoco as a full-time sales person in January 2013. She worked her way to an assistant manager position and eventually to store manager.   

In May 2015, Quimby offered to sell her TerraLoco. Piotrowicz had always thought it would be fun to run her own store, perhaps something like a women’s specialty running store. But she always envisioned it further off in the future. However, she thought, “I just have to figure out a way to make this happen. I’m never going to get this opportunity again.”

She knew that starting a store from scratch would take a lot of time, effort, and money. “Here at least a lot of it was already set in motion for me,” she explained. TerraLoco already had a strong customer base, business plan, and vision in place that she believed in. So it was time.

Although Piotrowicz had extensive retail experience, she had no prior business training before taking over TerraLoco; she holds a master’s degree in English. After transitioning into the owner position, she quickly appreciated “all these little things that when you walk into a business, you’re not really thinking about.” Things like insurance, workers’ compensation, legal issues, time management, delegation, even computers and credit card processing systems.

One of the biggest challenges she’s learning to tackle is ordering. It’s been a process to understand what items the store needs, how much of an item they should carry, and what they can sell. It can be risky, but that’s part of what drew Piotrowicz to TerraLoco in the first place.

“If we get enough people asking for something, then I can carry it,” she explained. “I think that’s a challenge, but I also think that’s what makes our store unique.”

Besides carrying merchandise to suit Rochester’s specific needs, giving back to the community is a large part of TerraLoco’s business model. “I think without that, we’d just be another business,” Piotrowicz explained.

TerraLoco organizes a Pace Team that participates in local races like the Med City Marathon and Healthy Human Race. They partner with local race companies like Final Stretch and Triton Events and sponsor Rochester races like Unleash the SHE and the Rochesterfest Triathlon.   



TerraLoco also holds $5 5Ks every Monday night and donates the funds to local charities. In March, they’ll hold their third annual Ladies’ Night, which includes gift baskets, a dessert bar, wine, and a fashion show. But more importantly, this event serves as a fundraiser for Girls on the Run, an organization that inspires confidence and a healthy lifestyle in young girls through running.

Piotrowicz is especially excited about a new partnership with Heart Strides. This organization provides shoes and athletic clothing to moms of children suffering from critical or chronic illness or with special needs. TerraLoco is building a partnership between Heart Strides and the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester to support these mothers during an immense time of need and help provide them some stress relief through running.

“I think that could be a good opportunity for us and a way for us to give back to the community and do something with a couple of other organizations that I think are doing good in our community as well,” Piotrowicz explained.

Professional Drummer and Music Instructor brings LA Music Scene to Rochester with Pure Rock Studios- Executive Summary

In case you missed the podcast yesterday, here is the executive summary of our interview with Pure Rock Studios owner Ryan Utterback.

A native of the small farming community of New Hampton, Iowa, Utterback taught himself to play the drums at age fourteen in his family’s woodshed. He later attended Minnesota State in Mankato and formed a band with some friends. The group become a touring act, playing about 100 to 120 shows per year and recorded three albums.

After his college band broke up, Utterback applied to and attended Musicians Institute in central Los Angeles to cultivate his love and passion for music. After moving to LA, he quickly joined a band and played drums with the group for close to six years. The group played at premier LA venues like The Mint and The Viper Room and participated in the SXSW music festival.

Utterback opened the original Pure Rock Studios music lesson facility with two colleagues in a transformed warehouse in Whittier, California. After two years at Pure Rock, Utterback knew that it was time to return home to the Midwest. He moved into a home in northwest Rochester and began teaching music lessons out of his garage. When his students grew from one to seventy-five, he knew it was time to find a larger space. In January 2015, Utterback opened Pure Rock Studios of Rochester in its current location in northeast Rochester.

Pure Rock Studios is a lesson and performance center that custom fits lessons to meet student’s needs. Pure Rock provides private and group lessons, but also gives students the ability to participate in live performances, if they want to. Utterback believes that live performance builds up a student’s confidence and stage presence, a skill important in multiple aspects of life, and allows students to immediately apply the techniques they learn in class.

“Pure Rock is the live performance opportunities as well as private lessons. It’s Pure Rock Studios. We rock out. We rock out country music. We rock out praise music. We rock out hard rock music. All styles. But we really want that performance aspect,” Utterback explained.

Pure Rock Studios of Rochester currently has fourteen instructors who are all working musicians. Along with Utterback’s wife, the team has been extremely instrumental and supportive of Pure Rock’s growth. Currently, the studio is undergoing a 3,000-square foot expansion to add on a performance space and almost double the size of the facility.

Utterback encourages students to learn about business, especially when they’re young, although he admits business ownership requires a lot of hard work and hustle. He wants his students to know that you can make a career out of music. “You can be that recording artist that plays a video game. You can make a jingle for the next Pixar movie. You can be a touring artist and play. You can teach. And you can teach and still do all those things,” he said.

The music venue scene, especially small venues, is lacking in Rochester, although the city is full of musical talent. Utterback believes that there must be a healthy art scene in Rochester, which includes music, to get people to stay here and make it a real destination city. “People need to go out and support live music if they want it to continue. Music does something to you. It can take you away from whatever stress you’re dealing with. And that’s important in a town with a major medical center,” he stated.

Collider Event Brings Problems, Fears, and Hopes of Rochester's Small Business and Entrepreneurial Community to the Surface

At least fifty of Rochester’s innovators gathered in the Collider co-working and business incubator space last week to brainstorm ways to create a stronger entrepreneurial and small business community.

It was an active evening with everyone in the room participating in the discussion. Four questions were posed to the community on white boards addressing the state of Rochester’s entrepreneurial environment or how it can be improved. The gathered group was then asked to answer the questions by writing on post-it notes or directly on the white boards. The community then voted on the perceived best answers.

Here are the community’s top three responses to each of these questions.


Question 1: What are the biggest challenges or barriers (real or perceived) that are slowing down the growth of the community?

This particular board was extremely crowded with suggestions from the gathered Rochester residents. However, the number one concern was lack of tech savvy leadership. Rochester has medical and service expertise, but the community feels there is a huge gap in-between these two sectors. If there was tech leadership in Rochester, that talent was not retained in the city.

The second major barrier slowing down the community is fear of failure. Fear of failing at something is only natural. But there was some thought in the room that if you lost your job at a startup or new business, there are a lack of jobs at a similar skill level to move on to. There is also a perception that your reputation would be tarnished after a “failure” in a city the size of Rochester. It might not even be a fear of failure that is holding the community back. It might be fear of succeeding; a fear of actually having to change some part of our lives and achieve our dreams.

The third largest barrier holding back the community was fear of Mayo taking over. Although this anxiety was highly popular in the room, when it came to actually articulating why this fear existed, there was some disconnect. There was some feeling that Mayo inappropriately impacts how businesses are run in this city. But others in the room largely felt unaffected by Mayo and thought that they would not even be here if it weren’t for Mayo Clinic in the first place.

The community's top responses of real or perceived barriers that are holding back Rochester's entrepreneurial environment.

The community's top responses of real or perceived barriers that are holding back Rochester's entrepreneurial environment.


Question Two: What events or activities have been beneficial in the past and what do you want to see in the future to fuel the community?

The number one activity the community desired is sharing of contacts. This activity would help colleagues locate service providers in the community, like insurance, manufacturing, legal, banking, and more, which is a major barrier of entry to someone just starting a business.

The community also wants more mentor matching. Lack of mentorship or strong leadership was a predominant theme during the night. Perhaps something like a human resource center should be built to facilitate mentorship matching.

The community also would like to see another TEDx event. They felt this facilitated the sharing of big ideas and was one way to get Rochester’s community of innovators excited about their thoughts.

Top activities or events that the entrepreneurial and small business community would like to see implemented.

Top activities or events that the entrepreneurial and small business community would like to see implemented.


Question 3: What does Rochester’s entrepreneurial community look like at the end of DMC?

It was clear from the responses that we only see entrepreneurship moving forward. Most people thought that the community will be vibrant at the end of DMC, with increased entrepreneurial activity.

The second most popular idea was that entrepreneurship will be embedded in the community after the twenty-year span of the DMC project.

The community strongly believed that Rochester’s entrepreneurial community will be diverse twenty years into our future. We will have a wide range of businesses and ideas within the city and a real ecosystem will have developed. The community will finally be able to fully capture the talent of trailing spouses, as well, with broader job opportunities.

Top ideas of what Rochester's entrepreneurial community will look like at the end of the DMC initiative.

Top ideas of what Rochester's entrepreneurial community will look like at the end of the DMC initiative.


Question 4: How can we foster an inclusive environment for entrepreneurs in Rochester?

More high school involvement practically leapt from this board. Rochester has talent. It just often leaves when it turns twenty and never comes back. It was made clear that it is our responsibility, not that of the schools or the students, to reach out and engage with the youth. And perhaps even high school is a bit late to start these interactions.

The second most popular idea is that we need to identify the next entrepreneurs.

And finally, we need to provide mentorship to make the community more inclusive. The power of good mentorship cannot be understated. Many of us in the room that night would not have been there without strong and caring advisors.

Top ways we can create a more inclusive entrepreneurial and small business community.

Top ways we can create a more inclusive entrepreneurial and small business community.


If you missed the event, you can view the conversation via Facebook Live videos taken that night.

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.


  • 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.