Local Musician Launches GONE Clothing to Bring Classic, Quality Clothing to Rochester

Photo courtesy of GONE Clothing.

Photo courtesy of GONE Clothing.

After making waves in the national music scene, Rochester native Chris DeWerd has his eye on design. This local entrepreneur officially launched his clothing brand business GONE a few months ago to bring modern, high-quality clothing to the city.

DeWerd’s journey to the big stage began back in 1999. While attending the ninth grade at Mayo High School his band, Mr. Completely, won a contest to open for a Minneapolis punk rock group, called Flipp. Four years later, Mr. Completely signed a record deal with major label Capitol Records.

“We got real lucky, basically. We played the high school homecomings and stuff in town before that and the pool halls back then,” DeWerd laughed.

After the record deal, the group rebranded as The F-Ups and toured the country for two years, playing with names like Papa Roach and making appearances on the Vans Warped Tour. The band was best known for their song “Lazy Generation,” which appeared on two video games: NHL 2005 and Burnout 3: Takedown.

After moving to Las Vegas in 2006, The F-Ups broke up. After the disbandment, DeWerd stayed in the Vegas area to pursue a degree in music business. Eight years ago, he returned home to Rochester with his girlfriend and her daughter, seeking a better education system for the young girl.

Although DeWerd spent much of his young adulthood in music, he’s always had an interest in clothing and design.

“When I was younger…I would patch the word ‘GONE’ on all my clothing,” he explained.

DeWerd enjoyed cutting letter designs out from one shirt and sewing them onto another to create something new and fresh. During his early youth, he even had experience printing shirts for his father’s band.

“I thought that was so cool that you would just take a plan black T-shirt and some logo and once you put it together, it was like magic,” he said. “You had this whole new thing that was cool all of a sudden with very little effort.”

Prior to launching the clothing brand, DeWerd created his own shirt designs, posting the images on his Instagram account and YouTube channel. After operating in this manner for some time, he bought a sewing machine, taught himself how to sew, and officially launched GONE as a business this past December.

Now, DeWerd designs everything for GONE on his computer, presses the images onto the shirts himself, and sews on the tags. As a solo entrepreneur, he’s learning by doing. Besides teaching himself the essential sewing skills needed for his business, DeWerd is also learning web design and running his own social media marketing.

While GONE has a website, DeWerd does most of his sales directly to consumers through Instagram and Facebook messaging.

To distinguish himself from other clothing brands, he’s also developed a deeper meaning for GONE, encouraging people to “be the best you” or be one of the “Great Ones” (GONE) while wearing his T-shirts, tanks, and jackets.

Now, DeWerd is raising awareness of the brand and getting more people to experience the look and feel of the product. He’s showcasing GONE clothing at several local events, including the Minnesota Disc Golf Tournament in Stewartville in May and the Salute to the 4th in July. Consumers can also find the shirts at the Melting Clock Smoke Shop right in Rochester.

DeWerd spent a lot of time and effort finding the highest quality materials for GONE. Besides elevating awareness of the clothing, he now is also creating more customized and unique products.  

To keep your eye on the newest GONE merch, check them out on Instagram @gone_inc.

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.

Fuse Digital Creative Services Takes Next Step with Grand Opening of New Office Space

Today one member of the Rochester entrepreneurial community, Fuse Digital Creative Services, made another large step forward with the grand opening of their new office- located in The Vault- and ribbon cutting ceremony with the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce.

Fuse Digital Creative Services was launched last January by local entrepreneur Jeff Bell after a long career in creative services at Mayo Clinic.


Bell helps large and small businesses “interpret visually” and successfully incorporate design, branding, and creative innovation into their business model. Fuse Digital Creative Services is tightly linked to the Rochester entrepreneurial community, performing recent work with entities such as Med City FC, Destination Medical Center, GoRout, and Soul Purpose Boutique.

Bell says he looks forward to the day when people refer to his business simply by the word “Fuse”.

New Entrepreneur: Fuse Digital Brings Creative Design to Rochester-Area Businesses

About the author: Patrick Webb is the founder of Preferred Altitude, LLC, a Spring Valley, MN small business that provides branded aviation apparel at

In a small office within a historic building in Rochester, the eyes of Jeff Bell, Owner and Founder of Fuse Digital Creative Services, are opening to the surprising size of the Rochester economy.  As a newer small business owner himself, he's now part of this environment. It's energizing him to put his creative design experience to work for small and large businesses alike.

“The culture of entrepreneurism and creative entrepreneurism in Rochester is just bubbling and moving!  I'm tapping into it as a newbie and [. . .] I had no idea this existed.  . . . It was like I was blind and then my eyes were opened in a wonderfully creative way.”

Fuse was launched by Jeff 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.

Jeff is also an admirer of Rochester. He has coupled that admiration with his decades of design experience into a form of expression that supporters of Rochester can now take advantage of.

“I love Rochester. My wife and I have been here for fifteen years. …And in the last fifteen years all I have seen is Rochester becoming better, and better, and better,” Jeff said. “It's just like this town is on this trajectory.”

After doing some work for Destination Medical Center, Jeff got thinking about Rochester itself needing some brand work. “Mayo is branded well […] but the city is not,” he said. “I already have ideas. I might as well just put it out there.”

Jeff designed a mark, or a brand, for Rochester, and now offers different forms of “Rochester Wear” apparel via his online store, Spirit of Rochester. Numerous products including hats, shirts, phone cases, and even women's leggings are all available to those looking to show their Rochester pride.

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.”

Fuse Digital Creative Services, Jeff believes, can help any company, large or small. “It's rewarding to do good work, but the response that I've seen from the smaller customers that I've had has been really rewarding to me personally,” he said.

Jeff also feels strongly about relationships and their importance. If he doesn't provide the exact services his client needs, he can tap into his network and get someone who does. That also extends to large projects, where he can assemble a team of the right people for the project.

“You will only be successful insomuch as you can build and maintain and encourage relationships with other people.  I don't care how talented you are.  And I believe that.”