wherearetheynow

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).

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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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: Carpet Booth Studios

Photo courtesy of Carpet Booth Studios.

Photo courtesy of Carpet Booth Studios.

Today we check back in with local business Carpet Booth Studios!

Last July, we chatted with Carpet Booth Studios, a full production and recording studio in Rochester, a few months after their official opening. The studio is owned and operated by local entrepreneur Zach Zurn.

Zurn named the studio “Carpet Booth” in homage to the business’s humble roots, a makeshift production studio he and friends constructed in his mom’s basement as teens.

Carpet Booth has made significant strides over the past year, said Zurn. The studio has been working with local and non-local artists spanning most musical genres. The business currently has two interns on staff and celebrated their one-year anniversary this spring.

Carpet Booth has also moved to a brand new space in southeast Rochester over the past few months. Zurn aims to complete renovation of the new studio space by the end of 2018, for which the business is currently seeking funding.

Currently, Carpet Booth is “working to establish ourselves as the premier recording studio in the Rochester, Winona, La Crosse, and Mason City area,” explained Zurn.

Where Are They Now: Stewartville Business Incubation Program

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One year ago, the Stewartville, Minnesota Economic Development Authority (EDA) was awarded a $9,000 Incentive Grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) to implement a brand-new business incubation program in that city.  The program allowed new businesses to lease eligible, vacant properties within the industrial and commercial districts of Stewartville, with decreasing rates of rental assistance offered to these businesses for eighteen months. This incentive was meant to lower barriers to starting a business in the city and to encourage the creation and launch of new, for-profit businesses.

This grant was primarily authored by Joya Stetson, a business development specialist with Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) who serves the Stewartville EDA.

Recipients of rental assistance through the program were also required to attend entrepreneurial education classes, which were primarily designed and taught by CEDA. These courses were also open to any other existing business owners in the community, free of charge.

One year later, the Stewartville EDA is still offering the business incubation program in the community. Over the past twelve months, the EDA has admitted one new business into the program, Thrivent Financial, allowing the business to create two new jobs in the city.

Local Thrivent Financial owners Nick Johnson and Nic Hale found the program extremely beneficial to grow their business.

“Our team has been humbled by the tremendous support we have received from the City of Stewartville. We have received education and funding, which helps at a business level, but also gives us encouragement and great motivation to serve this great town. …The community members and its elected leaders have given us a great head start on that dream, and for that, we are extremely grateful,” said Johnson.

About twenty-nine different local entrepreneurs also participated in the education classes offered.

Over the next year, the Stewartville EDA will continue to evaluate and assess the impact of the program for the local entrepreneurial community. The incubation program has continued financial support for the program from SMIF and technical assistance from CEDA to continue the educational classes and rental assistance. Now, the EDA is seeking ways to market this unique business development opportunity to the entrepreneurial community, particularly those seeking to grow their business in Stewartville.