small business

Klobuchar Staff to Hold Public Entrepreneur and Small Business Resource Roundtable Discussions

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MINNEAPOLIS – On Thursday, June 20, representatives from U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office will hold meetings with small business owners and entrepreneurs, economic development specialists from federal, state, and local government, and local organizations dedicated to helping entrepreneurs start and scale businesses. Meeting participants will have the opportunity to hear from successful local businesses, learn about government resources available to local entrepreneurs, and discuss the challenges faced when starting and expanding a business. The conversation will focus on the local entrepreneur ecosystem and improvements that can be made in delivering government resources to better support Minnesota’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.

 Business owners large and small, as well as anyone considering starting their own business are encouraged to join these public discussions to learn about government resources available to them and share their thoughts on how to better align government resources with the needs of entrepreneurs.


Thursday, June 20

7:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.

The Garage Co-working Space

123 Lafayette St.

Winona, MN 55987

 

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

LAUNCH Co-working Space 
109 1st Ave SE 
Suite 4 
Austin, MN 55912

 

3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Riverland College, Room 140

965 Alexander Dr. SW

Owatonna, MN 55060

 

In March, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tim Scott (R-SC) launched the bipartisan Senate Entrepreneurship Caucus to address the most pressing issues facing entrepreneurs. Startup rates have recently fallen to near 30-year lows, threatening the fundamentals that lead to sustained economic growth and the caucus will work to diagnose the causes of this “startup slump” and formulate a comprehensive strategy to counteract it. The caucus will also serve as a clearinghouse for proposals from interested groups who wish to share their ideas with policymakers who are committed to supporting our nation’s entrepreneurs.

The caucus is supported by the Center for American Entrepreneurship (CAE), Economic Innovation Group (EIG), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Majority, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Main Street Alliance, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, Small Business Investor Alliance, the American Investment Council, and the National Venture Capital Association.

Yoga Tribe Finds New Home at Castle Community

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Three years after launching her entrepreneurial vision, innovator Heather Ritenour-Sampson has found a new home for her business, Yoga Tribe. After growing her community for wellness in the former location of Cube Coworking on South Broadway, Ritenour-Sampson continues to expand her tribe alongside other like-minded creatives at the Castle Community.

Yoga Tribe, Ritenour-Sampson explained, is a yoga studio that provides a community for adults centered around health and wellness. The studio offers a variety of classes including restorative, yin, and vinyasa yoga and is open to people at all levels of yoga experience. 

“Fundamentally I want people to know that you are welcome here,” she said. “You are going to find all kinds of people [at] all ages and different physical ability levels.”

The first time Ritenour-Sampson tried yoga herself, which was incidentally from a rented VHS tape from her student union, she hated it. It wasn’t until after the birth of her first son that she got back into yoga again, this time having a much more positive experience through classes at the local YMCA. 

“It was hard. It was challenging. It confused me and frustrated me in a really good way because I needed that in my life at that time. And every single time I got done, I felt so much better,” she explained. “I feel that it started to get me more in touch with myself in ways that I hadn’t really considered before.” 

Propelled by a canceled yoga session at the YMCA, Ritenour-Sampson decided to get trained so she could teach classes herself. She enrolled in a weekend long training program to become a certified yoga instructor, eventually moving on from the “Y” to teach yoga classes with the Rochester Athletic Club (RAC).

Ritenour-Sampson said her time at RAC was incredible for mentorship and her own personal growth as a teacher. During this period, she also enrolled in an online coaching program to think about her career path. 

“What I realized from doing that process and kind of giving myself permission to dream bigger is that I was really treating my work like a hobby,” she explained. “I just had this feeling of really wanting to see what it felt like to do it on my own.” 

Ritenour-Sampson came from a very entrepreneurial family. She herself is artistic and innovative. Prior to opening Yoga Tribe, she was teaching yoga as a freelance instructor. She also does floral design and contract writing. In the end, opening up her own yoga studio, where she didn’t need to ask permission to do anything, didn’t seem like such a big leap. She felt the need to create something in the Rochester community focused on yoga that could bring people together to “laugh and cry and sweat and flow together.” Now, she has over five hundred hours of yoga teaching certification and is approved to teach others to become yoga instructors.

Three years after opening the business, Ritenour Sampson has learned multiple lessons.

“I feel like is has been baptism by fire for sure,” she laughed. “When I went into [Yoga Tribe] then and what it is now, the mission and values are similar, but the execution is different. I feel really grounded and I feel confident with what I am doing now compared to not really knowing and shooting arrows into the dark.”

A coach at her fundamental core, Ritenour-Sampson joked that “transformation is really my jam.” Connecting with people over a long period of time and witnessing their breakthrough moment remains her favorite part of yoga instructor life.

After growing Yoga Tribe for a few years on South Broadway, on April 1st Ritenour-Sampson moved her business just a few blocks north into the second floor of the Castle Community. She said the space and collective artistic community just feels right to her from a scaling standpoint. 

“For me being in a space with artists here, I feel like it’s going to help integrate who I am as a person because I am a writer, I play music and sing. I like to draw and paint and sometimes make things,” she said. “So I just feel this is more authentic to who I am. I really see yoga as a movement art and I see art as healing. So I just feel this is the right place to be.”

#Emerge Episode 26 with Leah, Eileen, and Tyler

Just in time for the one-year anniversary of their ownership of the business, we sit down with Canvas and Chardonnay owners Leah Joy Bee, Eileen Bruns, and Tyler Aug. Canvas and Chardonnay is a cooperative art space located in downtown Rochester that offers a variety of classes including painting, weaving, plant classes, and yoga. Today on the show we talk more about the business and what initiatives are taking place in Rochester right now that these innovators are particularly excited about.

New Rochester Microcinema Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse Hosts Grand Opening Celebration this Friday

Photo courtesy of Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse.

Photo courtesy of Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse.

Rochester’s only microcinema, Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse, is set to open its doors this Friday. Theater owner Andy Smith hopes the business will help to build and support a vibrant film community in Rochester while retaining a distinctly Minnesotan vibe.

A Los Angeles native, Smith has a strong love for film, the film production industry, and spaces that build community around film. A former teacher, he had never launched his own business before but had always enjoyed starting something new and creating. Driven by this passion, Smith and his wife Anna developed the concept for a new microcinema business with their sights set on the upper Midwest. After looking at multiple locations and communities, Smith responded to a property listing by local commercial real estate agent Bucky Beeman and quickly narrowed his search to Rochester. 

Smith said Beeman was instrumental in not only finding the eventual end location for Gray Duck, he also introduced the couple to many local small business owners to begin their relationship building process.

Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse, located at 619 6th Avenue Northwest, will be smaller than your typical cinema, seating about sixty-six people.

“But we like that and it will build community, build intimacy, while not sacrificing any of the excellence that you’re used to in a move theater,” Smith explained. 

Gray Duck aims to showcase a “well rounded film diet” Smith said, including independent films, documentaries, large budget films, and the classics.

“We’re going to show excellent movies here. But we also just love movies,” he explained.

In addition to films, Gray Duck will offer a full-service coffee shop at the location in partnership with Fiddlehead Coffee. Movies will show Friday through Sunday. The coffee shop will be open all week, including outside of movie showtimes.

Regular movie tickets at Gray Duck will run for $8. Theater patrons can also purchase a “Flying V” subscription membership for $20 per month to attend an unlimited number of regular movie showings at no additional cost. The Gray Duck venue will also be available to rent for private showings or events outside of the regular movie showtimes.

While Smith developed his love for film in LA, he wants Gray Duck to be authentic to this region.

“We’re very purposefully being local and Minnesota centric,” he explained.

All of the concessions offered at the business will be locally sourced, from coffee to popcorn. Smith additionally hopes to build out a nonprofit arm of Gray Duck to help empower local film makers and to support a vibrant local film culture.

“We’re just excited to be here and we really want to build a really strong community,” he explained. 

Gray Duck will host its grand opening party this Friday night showing the 1925 Charlie Chaplin silent film The Gold Rush. Tickets are on sale for $75 a piece for this formal red-carpet event, which includes live musical accompaniment.

Gray Duck’s complete movie showing schedule for May is currently available on their website.

Thanks to The Commission for hosting a “Sneak Peak” last Thursday of this new-to-Rochester business!

Local Entrepreneur Hopes to Unite People Through Tacos with Taco JED

Photo courtesy of  AB-Photography.us.

Photo courtesy of AB-Photography.us.

Local entrepreneur Steve Dunn is filling a gap in the Rochester food scene with his business Taco JED. Dunn aims for his restaurant to be welcoming to everyone in the community and to bring people together through a love of tacos.

Dunn, a native of Grand Forks, North Dakota, began his career in insurance and commercial real estate before setting his sights on food.

“I got into the whole taco business is because of the recession,” Dunn explained. 

The economic downturn hit the commercial real estate market hard, causing financial strain for Dunn’s employer. At that point, Dunn decided to leave real estate behind, launching a taco restaurant in 2010, called Rusty Taco, in Dallas, Texas alongside Rusty Fenton. After Rusty passed away, the restaurant was acquired by Buffalo Wild Wings in 2014 and is now owned by Inspire Brands. Rusty Taco franchises have opened in thirty-one different locations in eight states. Dunn moved from Dallas to Minneapolis to help grow the brand working with Buffalo Wild Wings. He spent several years growing the Franchise business as CEO of Rusty Taco, before deciding it was time to move on yet again and open up a restaurant of his very own.

Dunn knew he wanted to launch his newest business somewhere in Minnesota to stay close to family. His siblings currently live around the Twin Cities and parents live in Bemidji.  His son attends Concordia Saint Paul and his daughters study in Nebraska. After researching several markets, Dunn chose Rochester.

“Rochester is the fastest growing city in Minnesota,” he explained. “I checked out the competition and felt that I had a little niche that I could fit into.”

Dunn found a location for his business along South Broadway and opened his newest endeavor, Taco JED, on October 4th of last year.

“We want [the restaurant] to be open and inviting to everyone. Our motto is ‘Tacos Unite People,’” he said. 

Dunn hopes to keep Taco JED as local as possible with Rochester beers on tap, local art on the walls, and live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

While building Taco JED, Dunn has been very intentional, down to the details. The restaurant itself is represented by a cartoon of a tousled-haired, sun glassed, cap wearing, bearded character called JED, who stands for whatever Dunn wants at any given moment. However, the name JED pays homage to Dunn’s father, grandfather, and great grandfather, all named Joseph Edward Dunn. In addition to the JED mascot, many other seemingly random items in the restaurant have significant purpose. A rooster image in dining area of the restaurant is from Dunn’s mother. Photography from Dunn’s brother adorns the walls, including an image for one of Dunn’s daughters. Albums lining the walls were chosen by people who worked on the restaurant. Gifted fan art of JED hangs on a wall near the kitchen, created by local artist Brian Jungers. Motorcycle helmets donated by customers, representing one of JED’s favorite hobbies, line the restaurant. A large display Dunn built himself hangs along a side wall displaying patches from all sixty national parks, encouraging people to “Go see the world and eat tacos.”

While the layout of the restaurant is similar to what Dunn was accustomed to with Rusty Taco, he called on Dallas designer Brent McMahon to help bring his new vision to life. Beyond a common blueprint, Dunn was able to apply many lessons learned from Rusty Taco to the current business, but said staffing was originally a challenge. Dunn says he’s happy with the progress Taco JED has made over the last few months and feels the food itself has been well received in the community. 

Taco JED will soon be open on Sundays, along with more live music. JED’s Shed, the bar portion of the restaurant, is currently building a patio for outdoor seating, which will be serving margaritas soon.

#Emerge 25 with Laura Elwood

Today on our latest #Emerge video we sit down with Rochester native and fierce female entrepreneur Laura Elwood, owner of Chamberlain Concierge & Lifestyle Management. This business just reached its three-year anniversary, providing limo service coupled with a concierge menu to bridge the gap between a client’s need for visiting Rochester to the local hospitality industry.

“If you tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to find a way to make it done. And I’m going to find a way to make it done better than what you expected. I think it’s really easy to be competitive with other people. It’s harder to be competitive with yourself.” -Laura Elwood 

Check out the full interview with Laura in podcast Episode 125

Potbelly Opens Second Location in Rochester Today

Congrats to local Potbelly owners for opening up their second location in Rochester! Six years after opening the original Potbelly on 1st Avenue, franchisee owners have opened the doors to a second restaurant at 3801 Market Place Drive NW. The new location will be managed by Laura Hessling, with the original downtown Potbelly under the management of Jessica Conrad. Oversight at both restaurants will continue to be run by Kirk Gordon. Both Rochester Potbelly locations are owned by Kirk and Kim Gordon, Bill and Erin Nystrom, and John and Sandy Rogness.

Strong Women Creating Value 2019: Stacy Lequire, Co-Owner of Vitality Chiropractic

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Local entrepreneur, mom, and volunteer Dr. Stacy Lequire is helping her patients achieve control over their total health one step at a time. After returning to southeastern Minnesota from the Boston area in 2008, Stacy and her husband Ed co-founded their second business, Vitality Chiropractic, in Rochester and have been caring for patients, locally, ever since. 

“I’ve always been a questioner and a seeker of answers,” said Lequire.  

After obtaining her chemistry degree from University of Wisconsin- La Crosse, she knew her career was headed in a different direction, enrolling in Northwestern Health Sciences University to obtain her Doctor of Chiropractic. Since that time, she’s seen the difference chiropractic care can make and how one change can cause an “upward spiral” towards better health.

“For me, health is about habits. So, I try and look at those little things we do. I don’t think there’s one big thing that changes everything. It’s a lot of little habits,” she explained.

Lequire’s observed a definite need in the community for the services Vitality Chiropractic offers, where she and Ed develop long term relationships with their patients and help them make lifestyle changes. 

“We try to come in in the early innings to say, ‘Hey, this is about you making choices. This is about you being empowered to do things for your own health,’” she explained.

Launching a business like Vitality Chiropractic in a highly medical community is always a challenge, Lequire said. As a wife, mom, entrepreneur, and volunteer, time is another challenge to building her business and forging more connections in the community. 

While the Lequires are growing their own business, they’re also incubating other small health and wellness companies at their northwest Rochester location. Vitality Chiropractic houses several partners in their building- including Kim Kraft Therapeutic Massage and Fitness 4 Ever- to help keep costs low for these entrepreneurs and to help them flourish.

“We feel like we are creating something unique in the community with the partners that we have here. I love being able to get into people’s lives in that way when it comes to health,” Lequire explained.

Strong Women Creating Value 2019: Amanda Steele and Brittany Baker, Owners of MedCity Doulas

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Rochester entrepreneurs Amanda Steele and Brittany Baker are breaking down barriers and working together to serve families and other “bad ass” women in the community. In 2016, the pair founded MedCity Doulas to offer support to women from pregnancy through postpartum.

These strong women are here to prove that being a doula- a trained professional that offers physical, emotional, and informational support to mothers- is a sustainable career option for themselves and for others seeking to help women with these highly specialized services. The pair specifically works to build “bridges between patients and medical staff for a more positive experience on the patient’s end,” Baker explained.

These entrepreneurs were driven to create MedCity Doulas in response to a general lack of support, especially postpartum, for mothers in the community. 

Baker’s personal postpartum experience was extremely positive- she was hired late in her pregnancy by her employers and was encouraged to bring her newborn to work- although she quickly learned this was not the norm. Steele saw many families having negative and traumatizing experiences as new parents. She became passionate about supporting parents during that time frame and molding new parenthood into a positive experience. 

While fueled by passion to bring MedCity Doulas to life, these innovators faced significant challenges to get the business running. The first obstacle was basic education about the role of doulas and convincing people it was a professional service that deserved a cash exchange.

“We are women selling traditional women’s work as a professional service. So, wrapping people’s heads around that idea, that we are here to mother mothers and that has a dollar value, has been a hard concept for some people,” Baker explained.

Steele said the pair was not taken seriously when they first started out. Although both women are highly educated- Steele is finishing up her master’s degree and Baker has a degree in design plus management experience- the doula field is not always taken seriously. They faced particular roadblocks when seeking financial assistance for the business.

“We didn’t give up. We went to four different banks before somebody believed in what we were doing,” Steele explained.

With the three-year anniversary of MedCity Doulas fast approaching, these women are looking forward to continued growth of the business in the community to support families.  

“It’s exciting that we have a women-owned business in 2019 in Rochester, Minnesota in an industry that is related to healthcare,” Baker said. “We are really lucky to be operating here specifically.”

While MedCity Doulas has certainly blossomed over the past years, these entrepreneurs have also witnessed much change in the female entrepreneurial community in Rochester, especially with increased events and resources for women in business.

“I’m really hopeful for all the things I’ve seen so far in the community and all the things that are being built,” Steele explained. “But it’s also hard because now that we have more things we’re pulled in more directions.”

She said in particular we still need more balance to integrate moms into these events and activities, especially those individuals without childcare options.

Strong Women Creating Value Season 1 Episode 3: Amanda Steele and Brittany Baker

In the third part of our "Strong Women Creating Value" series we chat with Rochester entrepreneurs Amanda Steele and Brittany Baker, owners of MedCity Doulas. MedCity Doulas is a Rochester-based doula agency providing emotional, physical, and educational support through pregnancy, brith, and postpartum.

"We're women offering women-based care and sometimes that's not looked upon as a profession." -Amanda Steele

Redefining Entrepreneurship: A Look At The Current Model

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“It’s your right to be uncommon if you can. You seek opportunity to compete. You desire to take the calculated risk, to dream, to build, yes, even to fail, and to succeed.” -Ewing Marion Kauffman

What is an entrepreneur? Why does entrepreneurship matter? 

According to Investopedia an entrepreneur is “an individual who, rather than working as an employee, founds and runs a small business, assuming all the risks and rewards of the venture.” A simple web search indicates that an entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.” Finally, the Kauffman Foundation defines entrepreneurs as “people who turn ideas into reality, charging directly into the headwinds to create something of value where there was no value before.” 

These definitions have several common threads, with room for additional thoughts to be added to the concept.

Consider these thoughts. 

An entrepreneur is someone who: 

1.     Takes some sort of calculated risk. Entrepreneurs are not pursuing an idea that is a “sure thing”; failure of some sort is on the table. The risks involved can include a novel product or service or an aggressive business model. Entrepreneurs face financial risks and have their own money as some of the first invested to launch their businesses. Entrepreneurs may also face job insecurity. Exploring entrepreneurship often involves leaving long and stable careers behind to pursue the uncertain.

2.     Has expertise that gives them a competitive advantage in their target market. This knowledge, experience, and insight allows only this particular entrepreneur to bring forth this business in a specific market.

3.     Has created a product or service that a business can be built around. An entrepreneur develops a product or service that’s driven by market demand and customer need. Even if no sales have been made, an entrepreneur has identified a customer base that will pay for their product or service.

4.     Is driven by passion to bring forth a solution that no one else is currently providing.

We often think of entrepreneurs as individuals operating in the tech space, creating high growth potential businesses that can reach multiple markets with expansive revenue streams. However, anyone with a solid business idea bringing something of value to the market is an entrepreneur. This includes people building highly scalable startups. But it also includes small business owners, including people with zero or few employees. This definition also includes franchise owners. These individuals are creating a business in a specific geographic market in which the business did not exist. This still involves risk, market research, and financial investment.

Why is entrepreneurship important?

Entrepreneurs are economic drivers. They create new businesses, jobs, and opportunity for themselves and for others. Entrepreneurs are driven by a need to solve real problems facing our society. They often encourage a different way of thinking and doing. The entrepreneurial mindset and problem solving based on a defined need and customer feedback is of value in small and large organizations alike.

 Entrepreneurship matters. It’s time to start rethinking our definition of an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneur Launches MedCity Studio to Serve as Resource for Local Photography Community

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Entrepreneur and Baltimore native Brendan Bush looks to change up the photography scene in Rochester with his business MedCity Studio. Located right next to Silver Lake, Bush aims to use the business to build and connect the local photography community and to serve as a resource for those just getting started in the business.

Bush himself comes from strong photography roots. His father was the Director of Photography at The Baltimore Sun and Bush always grew up with a dark room in their family home. Later he attended the University of Western Kentucky University for photojournalism; Bush worked in the newspaper business for several years before moving to Minnesota in 2014 with his wife and children. 

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After relocating to Rochester, this creative decided it was time to try something different. Digital photography had opened up the market to a variety of people including new professionals, amateur photographers, and people who just wanted to take better photos in their everyday lives.  

Bush launched MedCity Studios in May 2018 as, at the surface level, a rental studio for those seeking an affordable indoor location to shoot photos and meet with clients. However, the value add of the business runs much deeper. Bush himself serves as a resource for people as they are using the space, offering assistance for things like lighting set up to adjustment of poorly taken photos. 

“This is an opportunity for [new photographers] to have a place to learn from and experiment and practice,” Bush explained.

He hopes the business also creates a connection point for the local photography ecosystem to host events and serve as “an exchange center for photography information in the community.” 

Bush began running photography classes from the studio to help support and provide education for local photographers. He ended up landing on a huge value add for the community. 

“I never thought that photography classes were going to be that big of a deal. But, yeah, they’re really selling like crazy,” he laughed.

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MedCity Studio’s first DSLR basics class wrapped up at the end of January. Bush aims to run the class again in February as well as host photo walks in the springtime. He hopes to create a real experience with MedCity Studio through the classes, support for the photography community, and with the rental space itself. 

“The market is changing, and they say millennials are more about experience than they are about product. And I think that lends itself well to here,” he explained. 

Bush said his studio space has been gaining a steady following of repeat customers, including those that don’t fall into the traditional photography space. He’s had people use the studio for product photo shoots as well as to record video commercials.

“Photography is an art that has a strong technical side that attracts some people just for the technical aspect,” he said. “Some people just like the creative aspects and then there are all those shades in-between. But I think, in this town, photography could work because it has technical aspects that would attract technically minded people.”

New Brewery Aims to Open Doors in Rochester in 2019

From left to right: Brian Miller and Steve Patterson of Prime Stein Brewery. Photo courtesy of Prime Stein Brewery.

From left to right: Brian Miller and Steve Patterson of Prime Stein Brewery. Photo courtesy of Prime Stein Brewery.

Entrepreneurs Brian Miller and Steve Patterson are seeking to make their mark on the Rochester craft beer scene. The pair aim to open their business, Prime Stein Brewery, in this city by the end of 2019 adding their fresh, approachable style of beers to the Rochester palate. 

“I’ve been thinking of a way to be my own boss and own my own business for a long time,” explained Miller.

He began searching for something he was passionate about that could also create value for others, eventually landing on brewing.

Since then, Miller’s developed fifteen different craft beer recipes, including a “solid amber beer.” Patterson came onto Prime Stein about eighteen months ago to assist in marketing efforts for the business. The pair aim to create beers for everyone through Prime Stein, not just products for the craft beer enthusiast. Instead, they say their beers are not the darkest or the hoppiest and contain less intrusive flavors.

“It’s just really welcoming, local craft beer,” explained Miller.

Although relatively new to the brewing scene, these innovators are putting in the work, brewing up to five to six times a month out of Patterson’s basement.

“We’re basically trying to shove ten years of knowledge into two,” Patterson laughed. 

Right now, Prime Stein is more of a brand than a brewery. Currently, Miller and Patterson cannot sell beer, but they can donate it. Last year they were involved in several events in the community where locals could sample their brews including the Soaked in the Sun Followed by a Night of Fun event this summer at the History Center of Olmsted County and Stationary Astronaut’s Meeting of the Minds this fall.

Currently the men brew using a one-barrel system, which can create thirty-one gallons of beer.

Miller and Patterson look forward to contributing to the rapidly growing craft beer culture in Rochester, where they say so much work has already been done. 

“But the whole process is so long because you can’t sell until you have a license and you can’t get a license until you have commercially zoned property,” explained Patterson. “So basically, you run in circles until you get a break through. And we actually hit one now so we can make some progress on that now.”

Miller and Patterson are currently working on a letter of intent to lease property in Rochester for the brewery.

“We aim to be serving our very first beer by December 31st of 2019,” Miller said. 

Although neither entrepreneur has ever opened a brewery before, they’ve entered into the process prepared and head-on. Miller wrote a forty-page business plan, which the pair took to business consultant Rick Indrelie at the local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for assistance. SBDC, explained Patterson, was a wonderful resource for business growth and provided valuable reality checks.   

Patterson has had several side hustles to date and understood how to obtain things like federal and state tax identification numbers. But the process of seeking commercial space, filing the right paperwork, and seeking bank loans was all quite new.

Both men eventually hope to work full time in the brewery. But for now, they’re dedicated to doing whatever it takes to get this first location open in Rochester.

“The ten-year plan is to have several breweries opened under the Prime Stein name. We are hoping we can make that work,” said Patterson.

You can learn more about Prime Stein Brewery and keep up to date on their progress by following them on Facebook (@PrimeSteinBrewery), Instagram (@primesteinbrewing), and Twitter (@PrimeSteinBrew).

Where Are They Now?: Penz Dental Care

Photo courtesy of Penz Dental Care.

Photo courtesy of Penz Dental Care.

Fifteen months ago, we first shared the story of Penz Dental Care, a brand-new dental practice run by Rochester native Dr. Matt Penz, DDS and wife Kate. The business opened in September 2016 along 2nd Street Southwest. A year and a half later, the office has added extended hours to their schedule and increased their staff to continue their efforts as an open, community-focused practice.

When we first spoke in May 2017, the dental practice consisted of Matt and Kate Penz, an assistant, and a part time staff member at the front desk. The office was open two and a half days a week. Now, Penz Dental Care is full time, open Monday through Thursday with some extended evening hours. The staff has also doubled, operating now with two part time dental hygienists, a full-time assistant, and a full-time person at the front desk. Penz Dental Care has also added a third operatory, increasing their ability to provide care to patients. 

“It’s been exciting to see all the efforts come to reality,” said Dr. Penz.

The office, Dr. Penz explained, functions as one big team, completing tasks regardless of job title. Dr. Penz himself often sweeps the floor and takes out the trash. 

“That has been the really fun part to see, how our staff has come together and just share the common values,” he said. “It took a bit of navigating to get there, but I feel like we have a cohesive staff and everybody’s on the same page and believes in our mission and our vision. Hopefully that radiates to patients who tell other patients who are looking for a dentist.” 

Dr. Penz has learned to hire smarter and more efficiently over the last year, understanding how essential the right staff is for an emerging business. Change and improvements, he explained, can be implemented quickly within a small team. He looks to hire people who are able to buy into the office mission and have pride in what the practice represents. 

Dr. Penz has also learned lessons in marketing and patient growth since the launch of the dental practice. He originally aimed to grow the practice slowly and intentionally, re-investing much of the first profits back into the business. Word of mouth has been the most effective way to grow their patient base since the business opened. However, Penz Dental Care has been very intentional with their social media marketing, using it as a tool to offer glimpses into their personal lives to build relationships with their patients and with the community.

“We wanted to make connections with our patients and wanted to make them feel like this is home,” Dr. Penz said. “Now a days, especially as a startup, if you’re not utilizing [social media], you’re going to be left behind. You can have a great offering and a great story, a great staff, but if nobody knows about you, it doesn’t do you any good.”

The Penz family itself has also grown over the past year. When the business first launched in 2016, Matt and Kate had one child, a daughter named Sophie. Lucy was born shortly after the practice opened. This year, the Penz family welcomed their third daughter, named Ella.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the business’s dedication to the community. As a Rochester native, Dr. Penz loves being in this city and wants to give back to his community. A former Mayo High School quarterback, he’s formed partnerships with several high school teams as well as the Med City Freeze and Med City Mafia roller derby team to provide protective mouthguards. The office has also worked with Rochester MN Moms Blog to co-host events like Donuts with Santa this past December.

Now, Penz Dental Care aims to continue to grow their patient base intentionally, hoping to add more staff as needed. Dr. Penz also looks to bring more technology to the office to help the practice increase their efficiency to provide patient care. 

You can learn more about Penz Dental Care by visiting their website or by catching up on Facebook (@penzdental), Instagram (@penzdentalcare), or Twitter (@PenzDentalCare).

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.

Where are they Now: UNRAVELED Escape Room

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Last October we shared the story of husband and wife team Jackie and Ryan Steiner, owners of UNRAVELED Escape Room. The Steiners have always been business owners, but made a dramatic shift in their careers two years ago to open their current endeavor, a sixty-minute locked room challenge, on December 1, 2016.

On nearly the two-year anniversary of its launch, UNRAVELED Escape Room remains a leading puzzle room challenge in Rochester; the Steiners are currently seeking innovative ways to scale the business and are expecting a two-hundred percent uptick in business growth compared to their first full year.

“We are already proving to be Rochester’s top choice for a go-to fun group experience, so being able to share these exciting experiences with other people is our ultimate goal,” explained Ryan Steiner.  

Since we spoke about one year ago, Jackie and Ryan developed a brand-new business category for UNRAVELED, called Wits & Grits. This novel, team-based 5K challenge includes an outdoor obstacle course with escape room style stations “where you challenge your brain and brawn together.” The Steiners have also rolled out Mobile and Mini Escapes- 6’x6’ puzzles or 2’x2’ lock boxes, respectively- that can be rented out for parties or other events.

This past year, Jackie and Ryan have also immersed themselves in several business courses to reframe their mindsets and to allow the pair to steamroll UNRAVELED Escape Room forward. In 2019, they plan to completely revamp all three current UNRAVELED puzzle challenges, including adding on a brand new “Upside Down Room” concept.

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Become a Supporting Member of Rochester Rising! Click to learn more.

#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.

New Childcare Center Hosts Open House Today!

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Stewartville, MN (Wednesday, October 24, 2018) – Sprouts Childcare & Early Education Center, LLC, a newly constructed childcare center in Stewartville with capacity for 99 children, will be opening its doors next week. The Center is holding an open house to showcase their progress to the public for the first time on Thursday. The open house details are included here: 

When:  Thursday, October 25, 2018

Time:    4 p.m. - 7 p.m.

Where: 200 Schumann Drive NW, Stewartville, MN

Sprouts Childcare & Early Education Center is hosting this open house to help families understand the significant features and services offered by their facility and talented team of caring professionals.  The open house will include tours of the premises and light refreshments. 

“Now that construction is completed, we are ready to start inspiring life-long learning in all of our children,” said owner Krystal Campbell. “We’re excited to welcome the public in to experience how we plan to celebrate and the uniqueness of all of the children we will serve!”

This open house is free to attend and is open to the public.

About Sprouts Childcare & Early Education Center, LLC

Sprouts Childcare & Early Education Center, LLC is family owned and operated by Krystal and Patrick Campbell.

The center focuses on the provision of a safe, nurturing, and developmentally appropriate environment for children from six weeks to age twelve. An emphasis is placed on the value and uniqueness of each child that is served.

As caregivers and educators, the team at Sprouts Childcare & Early Education Center strives to promote each child’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. Their programs plant seeds of knowledge in every child to inspire life-long learning.

For more information about Sprouts Childcare & Early Education Center, please visit www.sprouts-childcare.com

Where Are They Now? Escape Challenge Rochester

Photo courtesy of Escape Challenge Rochester.

Photo courtesy of Escape Challenge Rochester.

After first telling their story one year ago, today we check back in with family-owned business Escape Challenge Rochester. Escape Challenge is this city’s first locked room experience, where teams search for clues and solve puzzles to “escape” from the room in sixty minutes or less. The first Escape Challenge location was opened in downtown Rochester by mother and son team Nathan and Cindy Schroeder in 2015, with a second location in northwest Rochester opening one year later.

 Since we last spoke in fall 2017, two additional challenges have been added to the northwest location, while all the challenges were discontinued at the downtown Escape Challenge. 

“This was always part of the plan when we took on the lease at the north location,” explained Nathan Schroeder. “Escape rooms don’t have any replay value. After a person has done a challenge, they would never come back and do the same one again.” 

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The original Escape Challenge downtown location, Schroeder explained, was smaller and more difficult to remodel, shifting the focus of the business to their current northwest Rochester location.

Escape Challenge has experienced a large increase in the amount of team building activities taking place at their current building. Now, they’ve added a meeting room to accommodate this need. The business can also facilitate large groups of up to forty-five people simultaneously performing challenges with the increased number of themed escape rooms at their northwest location.

Currently, Escape Challenge is in the final phase of construction in their current building.

“That doesn’t seem like much to some businesses, but we are a small business run by a mother and son. We built our business entirely on a bootstrap model since we started three years ago,” Schroeder explained. 

Once construction is finally complete, Escape Challenge will enter into a new phase of the business, where they can focus on enhancing the customer experience and capturing new market segments.

The business is focused on a sales and marketing push over the next year to attract more customers during the week days and to get more people through their doors who have yet to experience an escape room.

Escape Challenge has made it this far, Schroeder explained, by word-of-mouth and through providing “an amazing experience for every customer each time.” To capture more of the market and fill up time slots, Schroeder said the business will need to be more proactive with their sales efforts.

Where Are They Now?: HGR Real Estate Cooperative and Management

Photo courtesy of HGR Real Estate Cooperative and Management.

Photo courtesy of HGR Real Estate Cooperative and Management.

One year ago we shared the story of HGR Real Estate Cooperative and Management, a cooperative-style real estate investment group started by local entrepreneurs Kim Gordon, Beth Nordaune, and Erin Nystrom. HGR, or HomeGirl Rochester, was launched in May 2017 to bring together groups and individuals who were interested in investing in real estate (primarily in rental home properties), but just did not have the time or finances to do so independently.

Since we last spoke with HGR a year ago, this trio of women has continued to make valuable connections with potential investors in the community to push their vision forward. 

“We’ve also met with people that want us to bring together groups and buy investments so that they can rent the houses from our group,” Gordon explained. “It is amazing to me how difficult it really is for many people to find affordable housing that is also in good condition.”

Over the past year, HGR formed their first group of five female investors utilizing this cooperative-style business model to purchase a home for a young client who had a credit score just one point too low to buy the home herself. With the help of HGR, this client will rent the home from the first investment group for two years, with the intent to purchase the home at the end of that time frame. This process will allow the client to improve her credit score and amass a larger down payment. 

 “It was so great to not only have success with HGR, to bring a group together that has wanted to invest, but it had a ‘feel-good’ story with it too,” Gordon said. 

Over the next five years, HGR aims to invest in five more rental properties with this first group of women. The business hopes to additionally create two more investor groups to purchase a rental property this fall using the same cooperative model.  

“It is still a huge goal to reach out to as many people as possible to tell them about our concept and continue to build interest,” explained Gordon.

The business has investors seeking involvement in even bigger real estate projects; now HGR is tasked with finding just the right partners to make these visions come to life.