journalism

My Open Letter To Our Entrepreneurial Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About Rochester Rising

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

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

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

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

However, these stories were not being told.

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

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

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

 

Sustaining Memberships

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why do we need sustaining members?

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

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

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).

 

Rochester Rising Launches Crowdfunding Campaign to make News Site a Sustainable Part of the Community

Rochester Rising is launching a crowdfunding campaign, starting today, to make this news site a sustainable part of the community. You can become a supporter by clicking here to be re-directed to the Rochester Rising Patreon site. It’s crowdfunding, so of course there are prizes for contributing to the campaign! There are seven different incentive levels, including advertisement for businesses and startups.

  • At a $25/month, a startup or emerging small business gets one week of advertisement per month on the Rochester Rising homepage.
  • At $100/month a, more established, local business or nonprofit gets one week of advertisement per month on the Rochester Rising homepage.

 

What is Rochester Rising?

Hopefully this is not your first visit here, but if it is I hope it’s not your last. Rochester Rising is an online-only news site that delivers in-depth, insightful, original articles and podcasts about the entrepreneurial and emerging small business sectors in Rochester, Minnesota.

I told my story as a new entrepreneur here just a few weeks ago. But Rochester Rising was really started to fill a gap in news coverage in our community. We have a very young, but emerging entrepreneurial community here in Rochester. We have a great bioscience and medical community here, and some of these entrepreneurs are operating in that industry. But we also have so much more. We have tech entrepreneurs, food and beverage entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, student entrepreneurs, and innovative non-profits. We have a growing small business community. People here are really starting to take risks and put themselves out there, but no one is talking about it.

Rochester Rising gives our innovators and entrepreneurs a voice. It’s a place to tell the stories of our risk-takers, both the good parts and the bad. And hopefully it’s a place that will inspire change through words and motive others to start something, no matter how small.

 

Why Should you Care?

Rochester Rising is not out to craft click bait headlines. Not every story will be of interest to everyone. But there’s something here for anyone interested in community development, entrepreneurship, innovation, and business development in Rochester and even beyond this city. There’s something here for everyone who wants to be inspired. These are the stories that we feel need to be told.

There’s no large production team behind Rochester Rising. It’s just me. One person. I do all the writing, editing, podcasting, web development, sales, marketing, business development, etc. I am currently not financed by any promotional or business development entities in town. It’s just me trying to make this work long enough to make a difference.

 

What’s Crowdfunding and What’s in it For Me?

Crowdfunding is a way to raise small amounts of money from a large number of people. People who financially back a product or business through crowdfunding typically get some type of reward. Most people are probably more familiar with crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, where supporters make a one-time financial contribution and the fundraising campaign ends in 30-60 days.

I’m using a different crowdfunding platform called Patreon. These campaigns last until the creator (me in this case) ends them. And instead of the one-time financial support, supporting patrons give a monthly financial contribution. So it’s more similar to an MPR-like model where supporters, or patrons in this case, give however much they want each month to the business.

Besides just knowing that you’re helping to make Rochester Rising a sustainable part of the community here, there are seven other incentive levels for patrons contributing monthly to the campaign. Here’s what Rochester Rising patrons will receive:

  • For $1/month: A special “I support Rochester Rising” sticker + access to patron-only teasers about upcoming interviews. These teasers can be accessed on the Patreon website or mobile app.
  • For $5/month: All of the above incentives + access to patron-only weekly, exclusive Rochester Rising content. This content is will be available through the Patreon website or app.
  • For $10/month: All of the above incentives + one Rochester Rising coffee mug.
  • For $15/month: All of the above incentives + one Rochester Rising T-shirt + the ability to submit questions for upcoming interviews (through the Patreon website or app).
  • For $25/month: All of the above incentives + tickets to an exclusive live taping of a Rochester Rising roundtable podcast + 1 week/month of free advertising for a startup or emerging small business on the Rochester Rising homepage.
  • $50/month: All of the above incentives + one surprise sent to you in the mail each month from me! + 1 free month of Collider Community membership ($20 value).
  • $100/month: All of the above incentives + listing as a Founding Patron on Rochester Rising (if you want) + 1 free week/month of free advertising for a local business or non-profit on the Rochester Rising homepage.

 

Check out the Patreon page for more information on how the money will be spent and to become a patron.

Any amount really helps Rochester Rising continue to exist. If you have read some of the articles or listen to the podcasts and have learned even one thing, please consider become a patron. If you really see the value of having something like this in the community, or if you even know me personally and believe in me, consider helping to make this a voice for entrepreneurship.

 

How Crowdfunding Fueled the Med City Beat- with Sean Baker

Local entrepreneur Sean Baker used crowdfunding to validate his business concept, gain encouragement, and launch the Med City Beat to the next stage.

When Sean 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.

“I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to go out and just start pitching advertisements like maybe I could have ten years ago. But I knew there was a hunger in the community for something different, for something alternative, for another voice, another platform.”

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 to help support the Med City Beat. Crowdfunding involves raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, usually online.

“Whether you have an album, or an independent news website, or a food truck, something that’s not going to go about getting the traditional sources of funding but has strong community support, I think [crowdfunding] democratizes a business,” Sean explained.

Crowdfunding offers an alternative form of funding, where people all over the globe can chip in whatever amount they can afford toward creative ideas. It opens up revenue models not available even ten years ago.

After several weeks of research, Sean chose the online crowdfunding platform Kickstarter for the Med City Beat fundraising campaign. He selected Kickstarter because it uses an all or nothing funding mechanism; if the total fundraising goal is not reached, all the money is returned to the backers.

“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 launched a three-week Kickstarter campaign to raise ten thousand dollars. The money would go toward the continuation of the Med City Beat, plus some specific projects. One project was a special report on the Destination Medical Center initiative where Sean worked with a team of students from the University of Minnesota Rochester to produce a five-part written series and video documentary. The funds would also support more in-depth interviews with community leaders and advocates.

A compelling video telling your story is one staple of a Kickstarter campaign. Sean full heartedly agrees that his video was not the best, but that didn’t seem to matter. The important part, Sean said, was that, “I put my face out there so that people knew that it was actually an individual behind the Med City Beat.”

People recognized that he was someone just trying to do something new.

“Being as specific as possible about your goals is more important than having a good video,” Sean advised.

He was very clear and transparent in the intention of the raised funds. He provided a clear outline of the planned projects and followed through with the promises. He also kept backers very informed throughout the Kickstarter campaign using his Med City Beat Facebook following. He marketed the campaign through Facebook and thanked people via the site to incentivize others to contribute. He updated supporters about the progress and totals of the fundraising efforts. Even post campaign, he informed his followers of upcoming interviews that were possible because of the Kickstarter. He was even able to collect some questions from backers for an interview with Congressman Tim Walz.

Good incentives are also a key piece to a Kickstarter campaign. Sean had a donation range spanning from five to over one thousand dollars. The incentives started with a ten-dollar donation, where backers received a Med City Beat sticker. At thirty dollars, backers were given a mug. And at seventy-five dollars, supporters received tickets to a joint Med City Beat and Forager Brewery launch party at Forager. Above this range, contributors received free advertisement on the Med City Beat for a period of time or were listed on the website as a founding contributor.

Although the rewards were well thought out, “I don’t think anyone did it for the incentives, though. I think people really thought it was a good idea. They were waiting for something like this to come along for a long time,” Sean said.

When the pledges started coming in, Sean was astounded by the level of support shown from the community.

“I got ninety-six backers. The vast majority of them I did not know prior. I mean yeah, you might get your mom to pitch in. But if your Kickstarter comes down to your mom and a couple of friends backing you up, that’s probably not a successful idea.”

Sean’s Kickstarter 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.”

 

For more information about crowdfunding and the lessons learned from members of the Rochester community, check out the other pieces of this series.

Part 1: Rochester Rising Episode 7: How to Run a Kickstarter Campaign with Adam Ferrari

Part 2: How to Raise Capital: Consider Crowdfunding

Welcome to Rochester Rising!

Welcome to Rochester Rising!

Our main goal: to amplify the stories of Rochester’s entrepreneurs, innovators, and risk taking small business owners.

 

Why should I care?

We have the privilege of living in a city with a leading medical institution.  Life science and healthtech startups have been budding out of that system for a few years, but often these stories are not brought to the surface.  Beyond the science and health space, Rochester has many other people taking risks.  Our brewery and brewpub scene is emerging.  Our food space is developing.  We have sportstech startups.  We have disruptive hardware and software product development firms.  A new business incubator will open soon.   We have a business accelerator and coworking space. 

More and more people are starting to take risks every day.  Our startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem is growing.  We need to hear those stories of success.  We need those hear the stories of those risk takers to not only inspire others to step forward, but to also let people know what resources exist for business development.  We also need to hear the stories of failure, not to ridicule, but to learn so we can collectively grow our community.

We need to give Rochester’s innovators a voice.

 

What kind of content with Rochester Rising produce?

Rochester Rising tells the stories and displays the unique flavor of Rochester’s entrepreneurs.  We’ll be out there talking to that person who just launched a new business to understand who they are, what problem they’re trying to solve, and what major hurdles they’re facing.  We want to share the success stories of people who have grown their business in Rochester.  What did it take and how did they get there?  And for that person who’s been running a business for years if not decades in Rochester, how have they pivoted and molded their business over time to keep it successful?

We want to share the major successes of our entrepreneurs as well.  We want to share stories of startups making large hires, launching clinical trials, and starting and raising large rounds of funding.

This is a place to tell the stories not just of entrepreneurs, but also of those creative, risk taking small business owners who might not consider themselves to be entrepreneurs.  We all play a vital role in whatever Rochester is to become. 

Right now, we share stories through online articles and podcasts.  We also include short audio pieces inside the articles to really allow the reader to sample the flavor of Rochester. 

 

I noticed you used to be Life Science Nexus.  Is that going away?

Yes.  We will continue to share life science and healthtech stories on Rochester Rising, but no new content will be posted on Life Science Nexus.  After engaging with some great people in the Rochester community, we realized our entrepreneurs and innovators need a voice.  We want to use Rochester Rising to share the stories of all entrepreneurs in Rochester, not just those in the healthtech and science space.  

 

How will you make money?

That’s a great question, one that we turn over every day.  We consider Rochester Rising to be a little bit like a startup itself, so we are still figuring out the business model.

There are two major mechanisms we see for financing Rochester Rising.

1: Business support through ads and sponsorships.  We have a variety of ad options, from in-article advertisement to ads on the main website with very competitive rates.  We also will advertise in short audio clips in the articles themselves and in our podcast.  If you are a business interested in partnering with us to support the Rochester entrepreneurial ecosystem, please contact us to discuss the package perfect for your business.

2: Individual support.  Rochester Rising is a community-based organization.  If you like the content that you see and listen to here and believe in what we are doing, please consider supporting us.  It can be today, tomorrow, whenever.  It can be as little as $5 a month or a lump sum.  If you see the benefit that Rochester Rising can have for the community, please help us make it sustainable.  We currently are setting up the fundraising system and gathering some awesome incentives, so stay tuned.

 

How can I help?

The biggest way you can help is just by spreading the word that Rochester Rising exists and sharing our stories and podcasts on social media.  And again, please consider supporting Rochester Rising on the individual or business level.

We’re here for the Rochester entrepreneurial community.  We hope to become the first place people think of to find information or the latest news about our startup community.  Please help us stay informed of what’s going on in the community.  Who’s doing great things?  Who has a new initiative?  Who’s doing a lot of hiring?  Who just closed a major round of funding?  Let us know so we can make the larger community aware. 

We are always looking for writers.  We want to continue the science writing content that we published on Life Science Nexus.  So if you’re a student or professional looking to get science writing experience, please contact us.

We’re also looking for subject matter experts to produce guest posts.  Are you an expert at social media?  Are you a genius at customer acquisition?  Consider writing a guest post or we can help you craft one.

And as always, let us know what you like and what you don’t like.  What kind of stories do you want to hear?  Let us know on our social accounts or through email.

 

How can I keep up with the latest Rochester Rising content?

#1: subscribe to the podcast.

#2: link up with our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.

#3: check us out on Flipboard and Medium.