New Cowork Space Offers Hub for Winona Entrepreneurs

Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

Located just one block from the Mississippi River in Winona, Minn., The Garage Co-Work Space aims to promote and foster entrepreneurship. The coworking facility, Winona’s first, is the fruition of a two-year collaboration among dedicated community members to fuel entrepreneurship and provide a local hub for innovation. 

The Garage Co-Work Executive Director Samantha Strand, far left. Garage Co-Work Owner Eric Mullen, right. Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

The Garage Co-Work Executive Director Samantha Strand, far left. Garage Co-Work Owner Eric Mullen, right. Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

“The Winona Community is and always has been a very entrepreneurial place. One thing it has been lacking is a center for entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial events. This is a key void The Garage can fill,” said Owner Eric Mullen. “The Garage Co-Work Space plans to be a place to host and coordinate these types of things to further connect the community.”

The name of the coworking facility pays homage to the humble beginnings of businesses started in basements or garages, to entrepreneurs who just needed some type of space in which to create. The coworking facility offers a central location for Winona’s entrepreneurs to link up, problem solve together, and allow their businesses to thrive. 

“If you just give people space to think and to dream and to do and to reach out and connect to people, sometimes that’s all they really need,” explained Samantha Strand, Executive Director of The Garage Co-Work Space.

After a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 14th, the coworking facility is officially open to the public. Now, Strand says she’s excited to share the space and help others understand the benefits of coworking in Winona.

The Garage Co-Work has an open space coworking format, with no private offices. The facility also houses two conference rooms, a lounge area, kitchenette, and two private phone booth areas. Desk space can be rented daily, weekly, monthly, or permanently.

The Garage Co-Work is the pinnacle of a two-year brainstorming partnership between many local supporting entities in Winona who wished to create a focal hub for entrepreneurs within the city. Winona State University School of Business, the City of Winona, the Port Authority of Winona, and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, Strand said, were all instrumental in the ideation and launch of the coworking facility.

In addition to the physical space, The Garage Co-Work will also provide business development programming and networking events to help facilitate local business growth and education. Upcoming events include 1 Million Cups Winona on December 12th and The Garage Co-Work’s first Fireside Chat with the Founder of WinCraft on December 17th.

Strand, a Twin Cities native, was drawn back to the area after completing her bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship at Baylor University. Although she has ideas for starting a business of her own someday, now she’s driven to help others succeed.  

“At the core of what I really love is entrepreneurship and helping other people believe that they can be entrepreneurs…and they can go out and do big things and they can make a difference,” she explained.

Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

Strand said there’s a definitive energy around entrepreneurship and strong grassroots entrepreneurial movements already occurring in Winona. She thinks, however, that even more innovation activity could be occurring, which the Garage Co-Work Space could help to facilitate.

Even if you don’t consider yourself entrepreneurial, Strand suggests just placing yourself on the mailing list of your local coworking space. You never know when you might benefit or be able to help someone in that extended network.

#Emerge Episode 23 with Bucky Beeman and Peter Andrews

Today on #Emerge we visit local entrepreneurs Bucky and Peter at Offices at China Hall. Offices at China Hall is Rochester's newest coworking space, located on 1st Avenue SW in the heart of downtown Rochester. This space includes a conference room, open workspace with a kitchenette, and six private offices. This 2nd floor location was last used as a china shop and later turned into Rochester Restaurant Supply. Offices at China Hall is activating a space that has not been in use since the 1950s.

The Rochester Startup Part Sixteen: Rochester's Coworking Spaces (Video)

In this final installment in "The Rochester Startup" series, we take a tour of the four coworking facilities in Rochester: The Vault, Rochester Area Foundation, Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, and Collider Coworking.  In this video, we hear from the managers and owners of Rochester's four coworking spaces, learn what trends they're seeing in Rochester's entrepreneurial community, and what continues to hold innovation back.

Thanks to Ambient House Productions for making this vision come to life in such a creative manner. It has been a fantastic partnership.

This series is sponsored by:

The Rochester Startup Part Fifteen: Cube Coworking

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.

In a series talking about coworking spaces in Rochester, it would be remiss to not mention the original coworking facility in Rochester, Cube.

Cube validated the concept of coworking in Rochester and was groundbreaking for the coworking and incubator facilities that exist here today. Five years ago, the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Rochester was fragmented, explained Erik Giberti, local SmugMug photographer, web developer, and Cube co-founder. He and other freelancers in town were searching for a spot where they could work outside of their homes and achieve better work/life balance.

Giberti explained how entrepreneur and current Narrative owner David Hewitt found this one car garage behind The Running Room. The pair set up the very first coworking facility in Rochester in the space in May 2012. For the first time, Cube brought a collection of the Rochester entrepreneurial community under one roof and “led to a variety of networking opportunities, which is valuable anywhere, but especially in Rochester because it’s such a close-knit community,” said Nate Nordstrom, Founder of BrandHoot.

Cube operated out of the garage space for seven months- with no bathroom- before moving into its final location on South Broadway. When the doors of Cube finally closed in August 2016, it truly left behind a legacy and fueled the growth and development of several Rochester startups. Cube provided a springboard for the city’s entrepreneurs before anything else like it ever existed here.

“[Cube] was incredibly valuable to have both a place for our team to exist and a community to be a part of from the beginning,” said Chris Lukenbill, Founder of Able.  

The Rochester Startup Series is sponsored by:

The Rochester Startup Part Eleven: Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator

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.

This week we move on with the final piece of “The Rochester Startup” series and talk about the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator.


Name: Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator.

Location: 221 1st Avenue SW, Suite #202

Parking Available: No, but connected to 3rd Street Parking Ramp through the skyway.

Contact: Xavier Frigola

Social Accounts: Facebook, @MayoClinicBusinessAccelerator; Twitter, @mbusaccel

This 3,000-square foot space in the Minnesota BioBusiness Center opened in March 2013. The facility consists of nine closed offices- six small and three large- sixteen open desk spaces, one conference room, and two lounge areas. The Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator offers tenants internet service, heat, cleaning, snacks and beverages, and monthly educational and networking opportunities. The cost to work out of the accelerator start at $100/month. The space is nearly full; one small office is currently available for rent.  

The Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator is primarily filled with life science entrepreneurs and startups spun out of Mayo Clinic. Twenty-three startups have called the space home at some point during their growth process. The accelerator offers connections to Mayo Clinic, student interns, and access the funding sources.

Xavier Frigola, Director of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, says he’s seeing a “general interest in entrepreneurship, which was not there a few years ago.” He’s noticing “people young and more seasoned wanting to start companies and service providers willing to provide support and interest in angel investing.”

While the community has made significant recent strides, Frigola notes that a “risk averse profile” continues to hold back Rochester’s entrepreneurs.

This series is sponsored by:

The Rochester Startup Part Eight: Collider Coworking

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.

Today we continue with the “Rochester Startup” series, focusing on the newest coworking space in Rochester, which is ironically housed in one of the oldest buildings in downtown.


Name: Collider Coworking

Location: 14 4th Street SW, Suite #203

Parking Available: No

Contact: Jamie Sundsbak

Social Accounts: Facebook @collidercore; Twitter @collider_mn

Current Tenants: (representatives of over 26 companies) Augeo+Greer,, Biomerics, Chartis, SmugMug, Healthcare Safety, More than an Addict, Paramark Real Estate Services, Mayo Clinic Department of Surgery Innovation Accelerator, Scalar, TrekAnalytics, Recombinetics, Raizlabs, Rochester Rising, Interstate Hotels and Resorts, Tinua, PayGo, Ambient House Productions, TPG, Prevent Products, Rochester MN Moms Blog, and Weichert Realators

Collider Coworking opened its doors in August 2016 on the second floor of the 116-year-old Conley-Maass-Downs building. Community Manager Jamie Sundsbak describes Collider as “a historic place in downtown Rochester which is alive with energy.” The Conley-Maass-Downs building is the first official space in Rochester’s Discovery Square district. The 3,200-square foot Collider Coworking facility is divided into open office space, three quiet rooms, and two conference rooms. Collider houses a combination of startups, small businesses, freelancers, and remote workers spanning all types of industry. Costs to work in the coworking facility range from $100 to $325 per month, which includes internet, snacks, drinks, conference room space, educational opportunities, and professional connections.

Sundsbak says there is a real “resurgence of entrepreneurship” taking place in Rochester right now. “With more and more startups beginning in a relatively small area, I think we are going to see some amazing companies emerging very soon,” he explained.

There is tremendous entrepreneurial growth occurring in Rochester right now. But Sundsbak says the entrepreneurs in the city sometimes hold themselves back. “We rely on others to dictate what we can and cannot do. To be successful, we must realize that we don’t need permission from others to be entrepreneurs,” he explained.

The Rochester Startup Series is Sponsored by:

The Rochester Startup Part Five: Rochester Area Foundation

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.


On our next stop on the tour of Rochester coworking facilities, we visit Rochester Area Foundation.


Name: Rochester Area Foundation

Location: 12 Elton Hills Drive NW

Parking Available: Yes

Contact Person: Jane Angelone

Social Accounts: Facebook @RochesterArea, Twitter @RochesterArea, Instagram @rochesterarea

Current Tenants: Community Dental Care, Jeremiah Program, Official Love, Minnesota State Quality Council, Fare Share Ride Service, Brighter Tomorrows, and Minnesota Council of Nonprofits

Rochester Area Foundation was established in 1944 by Harry Harwick to assist the in-need population in Rochester through philanthropy and community partnerships. Rochester Area Foundation is built on the pillars of integrity, inclusion, innovation, collaboration, and stewardship.

To continue with this mission, a ~1500 square foot incubator space specifically for nonprofits was opened in the Rochester Area Foundation building in 2016. Emerging nonprofits, which have not yet obtained their 501(c)3, can receive free desk space in the incubator for six months. After this time, they can extend their lease for $145/month. Space in the nonprofit incubator includes a 124-square foot cubicle with a desk, chair, and file cabinet. Tenants have 24/7 secure access to the space, including Wi-Fi and use of a large and small conference space. Rochester Area Foundation also holds regular educational and technical assistance workshops.

Five spots are currently available in the nonprofit incubator. Although the incubator seats twelve emerging companies, Communications Manager Carrie Moscho estimates that Rochester Area Foundation is in communication with over forty local, emerging nonprofits.    

Rochester Area Foundation is unique because it’s “solely for nonprofits,” Moscho explained. “We want to see people graduate out of the space and become self-sustaining. We want to see a high level of turnover because that means the nonprofits have been successful.”

Moscho says that lack of funding has limited the growth of nonprofits in the Rochester area, with most funds from large donors, such as Bremer Trust and the Bush Foundation, primarily funneling towards the Twin Cities. She says there’s a robust nonprofit ecosystem in Rochester because of Mayo Clinic but that also creates a scarcity of resources.

“As Rochester becomes more recognized, more funding for nonprofits will become available. …We need to create more layers of support,” Moscho explained.   

The Rochester Startup Series is sponsored by:

The Rochester Startup Part Three: The Vault Tenants Fuse Digital and Med City Beat

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.

Coworking spaces add significant value to an entrepreneurial ecosystem. But it's really the people within them that make up the soul and grit of a community. We've had the distinct pleasure to speak with several current tenants of the Rochester coworking space The Vault over the nine month existence of Rochester Rising. Here are some of the their stories.


The Med City Beat

When Sean Baker moved to Rochester from Green Bay, he was frustrated with the quality of the media establishments in the city. As a transplant to Rochester, he saw the opportunity to produce a higher quality of journalism in the area.

Sean started an online news website, called the Med City Beat, in November 2014 to bring a new voice to the publishing and news scene in Rochester.

“I started out with just a couple hundred followers who were mostly just my family and friends. And I had a part-time job and I just started banging out content,” Sean related.

As those in the online publishing world know, growth happens slowly. Sean started out small and gradually built up his name, brand, and connections in Rochester. He invested the time and the breaks finally started to happen. He landed some high-profile interviews; his first in-person video interview was with City Councilman Randy Staver. Shortly afterwards, he interviewed Sheriff Kevin Torgerson.

“In that winter of 2015, my audience grew considerably. So I had a couple thousand followers. And I actually saw the opportunity to make this a real asset for the community.”

Sean had worked in the broadcasting and journalism industry for several years. He attended University of Wisconsin-Green Bay for Journalism and also worked at WBAY-TV during that time. He studied players in the field, from the big fish to the smaller, regional participants. They all had a similar problem: bringing in revenue was difficult. While social media allowed the Med City Beat to gain a large audience quickly, it also disrupted the traditional advertisement revenue model, Sean said.

The Med City Beat had a strong following in the community, but it, “…was not where I wanted it to be. But I knew there was potential. And I was hoping that other people saw that potential in me as well,” Sean explained. He decided to just ask the Med City Beat audience to support the news site if they thought it was something of lasting importance to the community.

Sean turned to crowdfunding, a method to raise small amounts of money from a large number of people, to help support the Med City Beat. “I was at the point where it either works and this is a good idea, or I decide to head in a different direction and get a real job,” he said.

Sean’s crowdfunding campaign was highly effective; he received the ten thousand dollars he set out for and the Med City Beat is alive and thriving today.

“It wasn’t just the funding that helped this succeed to this day. But it was the actual support that really drove me to realize that this has value. This is important to the community.”

Click the link below for the full, original story.


Fuse Digital Creative Services

Fuse Digital Creative Services was launched by emerging entrepreneur Jeff Bell over one year ago and is anchored by design and branding services.  Fuse also provides a wide range of business assistance from brainstorming facilitation, to brand analysis, to visual note taking. Jeff can help, as he puts it, “interpret visually.”

Jeff says that Fuse “is really me getting back to the things that I love to do.”

“There's just so much that can be done with it and it touches everything; it touches products, it touches systems, it touches of course aesthetics and usability.” Design, Jeff believes, is applicable to everything.

“Every problem is a design problem. Every business problem is a design problem,” he said.  “What I try to bring with people that I work with is, yes they get aesthetics. They'll get that. And they will get top shelf aesthetics. But I believe that I bring [. . .] this kind of thinking about how to [. . .] look at something a little differently,” he explained.

Formerly in charge of creative services at Mayo Clinic, Jeff has years of experience that can benefit large and small clients in sometimes unexpected ways. “Sometimes people are trying to solve a problem and they don't have that problem, they have a different problem,” he said. Jeff feels that he can come into a situation and illustrate, perhaps literally and figuratively, things from his perspective.

By starting Fuse as a new business in Rochester, Jeff has first-hand experience with and understands the challenges of growing a business. This knowledge provides him with a great deal of respect for anyone starting a business.  “If someone's trying to start something, to me that is so noble and so admirable, and so brave.  . . . I admire my clients,” he said.

“I would tell anybody who has even thought about starting something on their own, and I would tell them encouragingly in a very positive way, before I even met them, ‘You have no idea of what you are capable of yet. You don't even know. You don't have a clue. In the best way!’ In other words, there is so much more in you than you have any idea.”

Click the link below for the full, original story.

The "Rochester Startup" Series is sponsored by:

The Rochester Startup Part One: Rochester Coworking Facilities

In part four of the guide to the Rochester entrepreneurial community, we explore the city’s coworking spaces. Coworking facilities can be great value adds to an entrepreneurial community. They serve as membership-based places where entrepreneurs, freelancers, remote workers, independent professionals, and small businesses can access cheap office space, expand upon their professional network, and receive motivational support.

Coworking spaces can greatly reduce barriers to entry for entrepreneurs. They typically offer inexpensive desk space and may even have private offices. In some instances, these facilities contain conference rooms and even bring in professional speakers or other educational programs. They also take away internet, heating and cooling, and electric expenses from emerging businesses and provide a mailing address that’s not your home.  

Coworking facilities bring professionals from all different industries and spectrums together, under their own coworking “brand,” and can create distinctly unique communities. Association with a particular coworking space can be a powerful way for an emerging business to increase their validity and name recognition.

While coworking may not be for everyone, these space have proven value. Studies have reported higher levels of thriving in people operating in coworking facilities. These professionals have an overall higher performance level than their regular office counterparts, normally have less burnout, are more satisfied, and take fewer days off.

So why have coworking spaces been so successful?

Camaraderie may be one reason. People working in coworking facilities are from many different companies with greatly varied professional backgrounds. There might not even be two people in a coworking space associated with the same business. This diversity decreases competition and lets people just be…people. In turn, coworking spaces foster a culture of collaboration and giving. They can also make entrepreneurship feel less lonely. Instead of working out of a home office, coworking facilities offer emerging entrepreneurs affordable space outside the home where they can interact and gain support from others.

Coworking spaces also build your professional network. Your next collaborator, who has a completely different skill set than yourself, might be right on the other side of the room.

These facilities also allow for more job control. Most spaces offer 24/7 access, allowing members to work whenever they want. This offers a balance between structure and independence. Members have the freedom work at home when they want or work in the space during quieter hours. Coworking facilities also allow for flexibility as a business grows. Small businesses may only need a single desk when they are first starting out. But quickly afterwards they might require several desks or perhaps a private office. Coworking spaces can typically meet these demands, eliminating the need for relocation.

Motivational support is perhaps one of the largest value adds from a coworking facility. From personal experience, people in these spaces might be working multiple different jobs to support their “main hustle.” They work long hours, odd hours, and sometimes show up in sweatpants and sandals. Nothing is odd or out of the ordinary. Everybody just works really hard.  

As the entrepreneurial and startup community in Rochester continues to grow, collaborative environments like coworking facilities become even more important. We have four distinctly unique coworking spaces here to support this emerging sector of the economy: The Vault, Rochester Area Foundation, Collider Coworking, and the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator.

Join us over the next month for a new, multi-part series, called “The Rochester Startup,” as we explore these coworking facilities and speak with the high-density clusters of startups and small businesses operating within them.   

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.

This series is sponsored by: