Episode 107: 1 Million Cups Rochester with Beth Fynbo and Busy Baby LLC

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This week on the podcast we listen in to the audio from the most recent 1 Million Cups Rochester featuring local mom, veteran, and founder Beth Fynbo of Busy Baby LLC. Inspired by her father’s welding business, Fynbo always wanted to start a business, but just needed to find her passion. After graduating from high school, she spent ten years in the US Army “living an exciting life with a lot of twists and turns.”

“But the biggest twist of all came last year when at age forty I had my son and I found my passion. I wanted to start my own business because I wanted to have control of my own life so that I could be more present in his,” explained Fynbo. 

As a solo entrepreneur, Fynbo is in the pre-revenue, pre-manufacturing stage of Busy Baby LLC with the startup’s flagship product, the Busy Baby Mat. This product is a 100% FDA approved silicone placemat that suctions to the bottom of surfaces and contains a proprietary tether system to attach baby’s toys, utensils, and other items so they remain connected to the mat and not on the floor. The Busy Baby Mat has been market tested by local babies. After getting this initial product to market, Fynbo plans to develop upgraded mats, such as products with LED lighting. The business could also expand the original product to secondary markets, including adults with Parkinson’s disease and children with sensory sensitivities. Now, Fynbo is seeking funds to finish her current production run. She’s also learning how to list the Busy Baby Mat on Amazon and is locating a manufacturer for initial packaging of the Busy Baby Mat.

Episode 106: Offices at China Hall

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This week on the podcast we travel to Offices at China Hall for a chat with the owners of that business, Bucky Beeman and Peter Andrews. The Offices at China Hall is Rochester’s newest coworking space, located in the heart of downtown Rochester right across the street from the Minnesota BioBusiness Center. This coworking space is situated on the second floor of a building, which originally was a china store as well as office space at another point in its lifetime. The location has likely been unutilized since the 1950s. The Offices at China Hall is a coworking space that includes a conference room, kitchenette, and six private offices. Bucky and Peter are open to using the space for events and for general support of Rochester’s entrepreneurial community. They see the space as a natural next step for businesses that need to graduate from the open coworking concept.

“We really want to create that sense of community for those that want more than just an office without having a neighbor that they can go and talk to.” -Bucky Beeman, Co-owner of Offices at China Hall

Episode 105: Jamie Sundsbak and Collider Coworking

 Photo courtesy of Collider Coworking.

Photo courtesy of Collider Coworking.

Today on the show we sit down with Jamie Sundsbak, Community Manager of Collider Coworking. Collider Coworking is an open coworking space in downtown Rochester, launched on August 15, 2016. Collider was originally envisioned as a space for entrepreneurs to work and connect. But since its opening, the coworking space has become home to many freelancers and remote workers, shifting Collider’s mission to helping these people connect with the Rochester community at large to keep this talent in the city. On the podcast today, we talk a bit about the challenge of launching a coworking space in a city like Rochester, where the concept was new. Since its launch, Collider has primarily grown by word of mouth and by just getting people through the doors to see the space. Collider was born out of Jamie’s mission to create a more robust entrepreneurial community for Rochester. The coworking space has a warehouse feel and includes its own hand-drawn Sasquatch. The business aims to promote creativity, social interactions, and work just getting done in Rochester’s entrepreneurial and innovation sectors. As the year ends, Collider is working on two new initiatives. The first is a nonprofit arm of the business to open up the business to additional funding sources and to support the organization’s work to create an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem. Collider will launch an additional location soon, called Collider 424. This space is located in a disused building on the Mayo Clinic campus and will primarily be private offices.

Episode 104: Ryan Nolander and RAEDI

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This week on the podcast with sit down and chat with Ryan Nolander, President of Rochester Area Economic Development Inc, or RAEDI. RAEDI is a private/public partnership for economic development that serves Rochester and the surrounding four county area including Olmsted, Dodge, Fillmore, and Wabasha Counties. Ryan began his career with RAEDI this June after spending close to thirteen years with the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency. On the podcast today, we talk about:

·      How RAEDI assists local businesses and performs economic development in the region.

·      RAEDI’s focus on entrepreneurial development with the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, the Economic Development Fund (EDF) and the Southeast Minnesota Capital Fund.

·      Progress with the EDF over the past years, including the lending of $1.8M (all approved by Rochester City Council) for fifteen different projects. These loans have allowed the recipient businesses to go on to raise $72M in funds and to create one hundred jobs.

·      Progress with the Southeast Minnesota Capital fund, which closed at $2M in June with fifty-six total investors and has invested $500,000 thus far across five different projects.

·      Ryan’s time performing economic development in Albert Lea and how that differs from activity currently taking place in Rochester.

·      What attracted Ryan to the Rochester area.

·      Ryan’s view on entrepreneurial activity taking place in this city.

Episode 103: Janessa Nickell and Sacred Circle

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Today on the podcast we sit down with local entrepreneur Janessa Nickell and learn about her brand-new business Sacred Circle. Sacred Circle is a space for people to learn, connect, grow, and understand more about themselves through introspection and reflection. Today on the podcast we talk about:

 

·       The energy that Janessa sees in Rochester’s entrepreneurial community right now.

·       The need for authenticity and being able to form deeper connections with ourselves and with others.

·       The initial classes and programming offered by Sacred Circle.

·       What the transition from a long-term career to full-time entrepreneurship with Sacred Circle has been like.

·       Janessa’s personal mission with Sacred Circle, which was born to reduce major burnout in her own life and has resulted in a significant shift in her mind set over the past year.

 

“I’m encouraged to look around and see how people are willing to take risks and are willing to try something different and build something unique.” -Janessa Nickell, founder of Sacred Circle

Episode 102: Thaddeus Medical Systems and Extreme Sandbox

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This week on the podcast we listen in to some audio from the latest 1 Million Cups Rochester. 1 Million Cups is an educational program for entrepreneurs that takes place in 180 different communities across the United States. At the most recent 1 Million Cups Rochester, we heard from Rochester based biotech business Thaddeus Medical Systems and Minnesota based company Extreme Sandbox.

·      Thaddeus Medical Systems is making a smart packaging solution for temperature sensitive products.

o   $35B is wasted in the cold supply chain each year through temperature excursions and lost packages.

o   Currently, only passive tech exists, like gel packs and Styrofoam, to protect temperature sensitive products during shipment.

o   Thaddeus Medical Systems is addressing this problem through their active, reusable, battery powered solution that includes real-time tracking of packages, temperature history profiles, and package content descriptions to increase transparency in the cold supply chain process.

·      Extreme Sandbox is a heavy adventure equipment company that allows adults to play on construction equipment for fun.

o   Extreme Sandbox was launched in 2012 and pitched on the show Shark Tank in 2016.

o   The business has three locations, two in the Twin Cities area and one in northern Texas.

o   Extreme Sandbox utilizes three primary revenue streams: individuals, corporate team building events, and student experiential learning excursions.

Join us at the next 1 Million Cups Rochester on Wednesday November 7th (during Global Entrepreneurship Week) at 9AM in the Bleu Duck Kitchen event space as we hear from local business Busy Baby LLC.

Episode 101: Abbey Sass with Civil Sass Hops

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This week on the podcast we check in with Abbey Sass of Civil Sass Hops. Civil Sass Hops is a hops yard on a third-generation family farm in Chatfield, MN, owned by Abbey and her husband Jake Sass. Civil Sass Hops is a woman and veteran owned business. On the show today, we sit down with Abbey and talk about:

 

·      Her introduction to southeast Minnesota as a Kansas native and the rural tourism she sees taking place now outside of Rochester.

·      How the dichotomy of the name Civil Sass Hops reflects the culture of the business.

·      The history of hops growth in Minnesota.

·      The value of fresh hops in local beers.

·      How hops factor into the beer brewing process.

·      Abbey’s career as an interior designer, designing hotels nationwide.

·      Her husband Jake’s entrepreneurial passion from a young age and how they collaborate as a husband/wife team to run Civil Sass Hops.

·      The importance of open and honest communication in running a business.

·      The next steps for Civil Sass Hops, including an expansion of acreage and increased collaboration efforts, both with new breweries and with markets that might be just a bit unexpected for hops.

Episode 100: Going Back To Where We Started, An Entrepreneurial Roundtable Discussion

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Join us this week on the podcast for our 100th show! To celebrate this event, we went back to where we started from in our very first podcast with an entrepreneurial roundtable discussion with local innovators in the community. This week on the podcast we sit down with Chris Lukenbill, Hunter Downs, and Jamie Sundsbak to talk about entrepreneurship in Rochester.

 

On the podcast today, we discuss:

·      The definition of an entrepreneurial ecosystem and why they are important.

o   We talk about an entrepreneurial ecosystem as the networks that surround entrepreneurs and help to address the needs of those innovators.

o   Also important to an entrepreneurial ecosystem is the will and spirit to be an entrepreneur.

o   And lastly, a community that is supportive of risk taking and trying new things is also essential to an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

·      Major milestones that have occurred in the Rochester entrepreneurial community over the past two years.

o   These milestones include the continued growth of the community and the emergence of events like 1 Million Cups Rochester and Startup Weekend, which can serve as conduits to the entrepreneurial community as a whole.

o   A very recent milestone is the announcement of the Collider Foundation, a nonprofit focused on building the Rochester entrepreneurial ecosystem.

o   Important events also include the continued growth of companies Sonex Health and GoRout, organizations that are capable of having a large presence in Rochester.

o   The emergence of initiatives like Red Wing Ignite and Minnesota Ignite are also imperative with their efforts to build up communities and augment resources.

o   Over the last few years, we’ve also seen an increased number of applications from Olmsted County to the Minnesota Cup business pitch competition.

o   There is also heightened awareness of businesses starting up in this city, including elevated business growth outside of the medtech space.

·      Gaps existing in Rochester’s current entrepreneurial community.

o   We talked about the difficulty of going outside of early stage growth communities to obtain talent for young companies.

o   Location is also important and marketing the importance of that location is essential to building an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

·      Observations in other entrepreneurial ecosystems of methods to spur entrepreneurial activity or business development.

o   This includes instances of 100% tax rebates for investments in high tech companies and up to 100% matches on SBIR grants.

o   We also need to make a dedicated investment in talent to spur entrepreneurial activity locally.

·      Activity taking place in the community right now that hints to where our entrepreneurial ecosystem is headed.

o   This includes increased construction activity, which might not be matched with the amount of people and workforce being recruited to the city.

o   We’ve seen an increased sprit of entrepreneurship demonstrated from Mayo Clinic.

o   Rochester experienced an increased number of freelancers with versatile skill sets.

o   We have not seen the emergence of quite as many companies as we might have expected over the past two years.

o   There is also a general lack of incentives in the community to be entrepreneurial and a lack of culture for young people.

·      Events taking place over the next few months in the Rochester entrepreneurial community including:

o   Startup Weekend

o   The Assistive Tech Challenge

o   Global Entrepreneurship Week

o   Walleye Tank

o   The Ag Tech Challenge

Episode 99: Sean Williams and Comicker LLC

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Today on the podcast we sit down with founder of Comicker LLC, Sean Williams. Comicker is a diversity focused, digital first, creator friendly comics publisher that Sean operates out of Austin, Minnesota. Sean is a New York Times best-selling comics writer and Montana native who cut his teeth in the LA film scene. Today on the podcast we talk about:

 

·      The growth and creation of Comicker.

·      The business model behind the publishing company.

·      Trends Sean is seeing today in the comics industry, including expansion of paper comics into library systems.

·      Lessons Sean learned from his first business endeavor Foot in the Door Entertainment, a film and television production company.

·      The pivot Comicker is currently in away from digital and towards print.

·      The difficulties of “operating in isolation” as an entrepreneur.

·      The prep work Sean is currently doing for an exciting new iteration of Comicker.

 

“I saw how hard it was to basically break in as a creator…. There was no bridge between school and the real world. I wanted to create that opportunity for other creators, in particular.” -Sean Williams, Founder of Comicker LLC

Episode 98: 1 Million Cups Rochester with Fit Box Mobile and SuraMedical

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This week on the podcast we listen in to some storytelling at the latest 1 Million Cups Rochester, featuring Minnesota companies Fit Box Mobile and SuraMedical. 1 Million Cups Rochester is an educational event for entrepreneurs that takes place in over 178 different entrepreneurial communities across the United States. The next 1 Million Cups Rochester will be held on Wednesday, October 3rd at 9AM in the Bleu Duck Kitchen Event space.

 

This week on the podcast we hear from:

·      Shane Levernez, owner of Fit Box LLC, a mobile on demand gym. Fit Box delivers a unique fitness experience in an eight-foot shipping container. The business was originally envisioned as a B2B business but has recently morphed into a pop-up fitness event in partnership with local businesses.

·      CEO of SuraMedical, Marja Engel. SuraMedical is developing a medical device to take the guess work out of caring for chronic leg wounds. Their product contains a remote monitoring system, moisture and pressure sensors, and an activity tracker to challenge the current standard of care.

Episode 97: What Makes a Good Startup City?

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Today on the podcast we ask, “What makes a good startup city and how does Rochester rank?” Today on the podcast we talk about:

·      A recent “Best of the Midwest Report” released by the Chicago venture capital firm M25.

o   This report ranks the 54 best tech hubs in the midwest based on measurements in three broad categories including: startup activity, access to resources, and business climate.

o   Chicago ranked first in all three broad categories in this report. Minneapolis ranked second overall. Rochester ranked 53rd out of the top 54 midwestern cities, coming in very last in business climate.

·      We also examine additional ways to examine the strength of a startup community, including a 2015 report from Kauffman Foundation called “Measuring an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.”

o   This report suggests examining three broad categories when assessing strength of an entrepreneurial community including: density, fluidity, connectivity, and diversity.

 

Which set of measurements do you prefer? How do you think Rochester fares in these categories?

Episode 96: Chris Schad and Discovery Square

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Today on the podcast we sit down with Chris Schad, Director of Business Development for Discovery Square. Discovery Square is one of the six Destination Medical Center (DMC) subdistricts and is specifically focused on biomedicine, research, and technology innovation. DMC is the largest public-private economic development initiative in the state of Minnesota to catalyze growth in the Rochester area over the next twenty years.

Today on the podcast we talk about:

·      DMC and the DMC subdistricts.

·      The three current DMC priorities.

·      The dream vision for the Discovery Square DMC subdistrict.

·      How DMC can help entrepreneurs by spreading stories of entrepreneurship on a large scale, identifying gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and bringing programs like the Assistive Tech Challenge to the region to spur prototype development and ideation.

·      The significance of the topping off ceremony at the first new building in the Discovery Square subdistrict, called One Discovery Square.

·      The value proposition for attracting businesses to Rochester.

·      Additional activities in Discovery Square and Rochester as a whole.

·      Challenges that DMC and the city of Rochester face in implementing this large economic initiative in this city.

“The most exciting [challenge] is the challenge of big expectations. The state is watching us. The state has invested a lot of money in what we’re doing here, and we have to rise to the challenge of those expectations.” -Chris Schad, Director of Business Development, Discovery Square

Call for Opinion Pieces and Press Releases: A Guide for Submissions to Rochester Rising

Episode 95: Mackenzie McCormack and Orangetheory Fitness Rochester

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This week on the podcast we sit down with Orangetheory Fitness Rochester Owner and Studio Manager Mackenzie McCormack. Orangetheory Fitness is a one-hour total body workout focused on endurance, strength, and power using heartrate-based interval training. The fitness studio is set to open this fall in the Apache Mall. Orangetheory Fitness just opened its 1,000th studio this July.

Today on the podcast we talk about:

·      What you can expect from a session at Orangetheory Fitness.

·      The need Mackenzie saw in Rochester for the fitness studio.

·      What the process of opening an Orangetheory Fitness franchise was like.

·      Mackenzie’s lifelong desire to open her own business.

·      The process of finding real estate for the business in Rochester.

·      The buildout and renovations that were needed in the Apache Mall space.

·      The lessons Mackenzie’s learned over the past year working to open the business.

Episode 94: Andy Smith and Gray Duck Theater

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This week on the podcast we sit down with Andy Smith of Gray Duck Theater. Gray Duck Theater is a micro-cinema set to open in Rochester this October, offering a “mid-level experience of theater and cinema.” Today on the show we talk with this former teacher turned entrepreneur about:

·      His process getting to know Rochester as a new resident of the city.

·      His vision and goals for Gray Duck Theater to create a local cinema that fosters community and conversation around film.

·      Why Andy chose to open Gray Duck in Rochester.

·      What he wants the film-going experience to be like at the theater.

·      The current construction state of the theater.

·      His focus on community support for this new to Rochester business, especially for Gray Duck’s Indiegogo campaign, which just launched this Monday.

This week on the podcast we also check in with SCORE Southeast Minnesota mentor Barm Alsbrook with a quick sound bite about the importance of keeping good financial records.

Episode 93: 1 Million Cups Rochester with OmniTier and Vitals Aware Services

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This week on the podcast we check in with the latest 1 Million Cups Rochester. 1 Million Cups is an educational program for entrepreneurs that takes place in 183 different communities across the United States.  At the latest 1 Million Cups Rochester two different Minnesota-based startups presented: OmniTier and Vitals Aware Services.

·      OmniTier is a software development startup that works to address issues involving big data.

·      Vitals Aware Services is a SaaS product that provides for safe interactions between first responders and vulnerable individuals.

The next 1 Million Cups Rochester will take place Wednesday September 5th at 9AM in the Bleu Duck Kitchen event space.

Episode 92: Discussing Mental Health and Entrepreneurs with Rosei and Chris, Part 2

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This week on the podcast, we wrap up the final part of our discussion talking about mental health and entrepreneurs with Rosei Skipper and Chris Lukenbill. Check back in with Episode 90 to hear the first part of this podcast.

Today on the show we talk about:

·      The stress and anxiety that results from tying your self-worth to your business.

·      Having contingency plans.

·      Why this is the prime time in Rochester to be an entrepreneur.

·      The importance of tying your identity to something outside of your business or career.

·      Methods that we can use as a community to start removing the stigma around mental health in our entrepreneurial ecosystem.

·      The negativity of a culture that glorifies working excessive hours.

·      Moments that have kept us going as entrepreneurs.

·      The idea that when you say “yes” to one opportunity, you by default say “no” to other opportunities.

·      The danger of living at the excessive extremes.

·      Thoughts on the use of technology to facilitate meditation and stress relief.

This week we also check in with SCORE Southeast Minnesota to answer the question, “Does SCORE provide loans or financial capital to small businesses?”

Episode 91: Lynn Bounds and Edge Fitness

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This week on the podcast we got to record off-site with one of my favorite business owners in the community, Lynn Bounds Founder of Edge Fitness. Edge Fitness was launched 3.5 years ago in Southwest Rochester as a unique gym experience and continues to evolve in its offerings. Today on the show we talk about:

·      Edge Fitness’ Zumba on the Plaza events taking place this summer.

·      The importance of work/life balance.

·      Lessons Lynn has learned in business and about herself in growing Edge Fitness over the past few years.

·      Lynn’s personal motivation for Edge Fitness to further personal wellness at an affordable level.

·      Being kind to yourself and taking time for self-care.

·      Business resources in the community.

·      The importance of reaching out and asking for help when you need it.

“If you really have a drive for something or a passion for something, you can make it happen. …You need the passion, anything can be learned.” -Lynn Bounds, Founder of Edge Fitness

Episode 90: Discussing Mental Health and Entrepreneurs with Rosei and Chris, Part 1

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Today on the podcast we air the first in a two-part conversation about mental health and entrepreneurs with local innovators Rosei Skipper and Chris Lukenbill. On the show today, we talk about:

·      Our own experiences with depression, anxiety, and stress as entrepreneurs.

·      The importance of talking about our experiences with mental illness.

·      Feelings of isolation during entrepreneurship that may help to exacerbate mental health issues.

·      Methods of stress relief.

·      Expectations and managing the ups and downs associated with entrepreneurship.

·      Reasons why entrepreneurs may be more prone to develop mental illness than the general population.

·      What happens when your self-identity becomes deeply rooted to your business.

·      “Skill stacking” and how past experiences help you develop unique abilities, which are not necessarily linked to your business.

·      The fallacy of “finding your passion.”

 

“Some of the times being self-aware and understanding that part of entrepreneurship, the biggest part of entrepreneurship, is that it’s a constant roller coaster. The ups and downs are just a part of the game. That’s how it always goes. It’s usually a lot of downs and it’s a lot of downs that don’t have immediate successes following. You have to be okay with that. You have to be able to find somebody to talk to.” -Chris Lukenbill

Also on the podcast, we link up with SCORE Southeast Minnesota mentor Brian Alwin to answer the question, “Do I really need a business plan?”.

Episode 89: Mental Illness in Entrepreneurs & SCORE SE MN

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Today we provide a teaser to our next new podcast where we sit down and talk about mental illness and entrepreneurs. Recent data suggests that mental illness rates are higher in entrepreneurs than in the general population; entrepreneurs may also inherently possess traits that make them more likely to develop mental illness than the general population. With the recent deaths of entrepreneurs Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, it’s time we open up this conversation. Be sure to check back in with our next podcast where we sit down with local entrepreneurs to talk about mental illness in our innovation community and how we can all work toward an overall healthier well-being.

In the final part of the podcast, we also check in with SCORE Southeast Minnesota Mentor Stephen Troutman to learn more about SCORE and what it has to offer to the local entrepreneurial community.

Resources mentioned on today’s podcast:

Let’s Open the Conversation About Mental Illness and Entrepreneurs: Part 1, Part 2

NAMI Southeast Minnesota

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

7 Cups of Tea: https://www.7cups.com/

“Shedding The Light on Mental Illness and Entrepreneurship” Foundr

Calm: https://www.calm.com/

Episode 88: New MILE Program to Provide Financial Options for Minnesota Entrepreneurs

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This week on the podcast we talk about a new program offering financial assistance for entrepreneurs in MN, called Minnesota Innovation Loans for Entrepreneurs (MILE). This program provides interest free loans between $20K-50K, targeting early stage businesses developing high tech products or services to encourage the growth and sustainability of early stage startups in Minnesota and to increase job creation in the state. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is accepting applications for the MILE program now through 4:30 PM July 16th.

Today on the podcast we talk about:

·      MN DEED’s MILE loan program, targeting early stage startups in aerospace, ag and food processing, biotech, energy efficiency and conservation, information technology, materials science, medical device, pharmaceuticals, process control, and telecommunications.

o   Apply and find out more about the scoring criteria for the MILE loan program by clicking here.

·      SBIR (Small business innovation research)/STTR (Small business technology transfer) grants, which qualify as a 1:1 financial match required for a MILE loan.

o   SBIR/STTRs are NIH programs to facilitate the commercialization of research. These grants are one of the largest sources of early stage financing for early stage life science companies.

o   Find out more about SBIR/STTR programs by clicking here.

·      MN-SBIR, a program that provides free, confidential assistance to early stage startups, specifically to prepare the startups to submit SBIR/STTR applications.

o   Pat Dillon from MN-SBIR will be in Rochester next on June 22nd.  Schedule time to meet with Pat by emailing her at: Pdillon@mhta.org

·      For more detailed information on our criteria for press releases and opinion piece submissions, click here.