Endless adventures await throughout Southeast Minnesota. You just need to be able to find them.
That’s where Shrpa comes in. Rochester residents Chris Lukenbill and Andy Vig created the online resource to share ideas for local activities.
“There were so many things to do that we were finding out about in Rochester through other people’s adventures and expeditions,” said Lukenbill. “They were discovering new things that we had never known about.”
“You can usually do the research by looking up Yelp, Google, talking to people, trying to aggregate all this yourself, but that’s so much work,” Vig said. “I’ve got two young kids, Chris has two slightly older kids, and there’s just no time in the day for that.”
The Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency (DMC EDA) and the Minnesota State University, Mankato (MNSU) Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) are recent recipients of a $10,000 economic development grant through the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF). These funds will be used to develop and implement a design thinking workshop in the Mankato area to spur innovation and entrepreneurial thinking.
The CIE is housed within the MNSU College of Business. The organization aims to cultivate the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers in south-central Minnesota by providing entrepreneurial education, supporting student startups, and facilitating impactful student project work in the community.
The overall goal of the workshop is to increase the number of innovative projects submitted to the Big Ideas Challenge, a venture competition for current and recent Minnesota State University, Mankato students and to the DMC Assistive Tech Challenge, a competition to develop new products and services for persons with disabilities. The inaugural Assistive Tech Challenge debuted in November 2018 as a partnership between Destination Medical Center Discovery Square, The ARC Minnesota SE Region, and the disABILITY Mayo Clinic Employee Resource Group. Three MNSU teams submitted applications to the Challenge; two of the submissions were accepted into the competition.
“The founding of the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship by the University College of Business was spurred by a variety of things, including a Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation report about the potential of this area and need for coordination and the types of things the Center now provides,” explains CIE Director, Dr. Yvonne Cariveau.
Cariveau says students come to the CIE interested in entrepreneurship but sometimes cannot identify the next immediate step in development of their concepts. She hopes this design workshop will give her students tools to generate ideas and to act.
DMC EDA aims to expand the Assistive Tech Challenge to additional universities across the region. “This collaboration with the CIE serves as a critical pilot project to bring a quality design thinking workshop to the Mankato area and also functions as a test for future expansions of the workshop to other communities,” said Chris Schad, Director of Business Development for DMC Discovery Square. “The ultimate goal of the collaboration is to provide a framework through which students can develop additional business ideas and eventual products.”
Cariveau and Schad both hope the workshops ultimately ignite interest in assistive tech and health care innovation, building strong connections between Rochester and Mankato’s entrepreneurs.
INCubatoredu is a year-long course available to all RPS high school students in grades 11 and 12 (Century, John Marshall, Mayo, and RALC). Students have the opportunity to create and fully develop their own product or service. Real entrepreneurs and business experts serve as volunteer coaches and mentors guiding student teams through the processes of developing hypotheses about a business concept, testing those hypotheses, adapting, and continually learning and improving. This cycle of experimentation is combined with foundational business content such as marketing and finance. The course concludes with students pitching their ideas to investors to generate seed money to grow their operations.
“Entrepreneurship teaches to the heart of 21st Century skills: adaptability, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving,” says Superintendent Michael Muñoz. “We know this program will ignite passion among our students and community. It is critical for us to partner with our talented and supportive community because their contributions will immediately impact the lives of our students.”
The School District is working to establish volunteer mentors, a licensed teacher, and a downtown Rochester space for the INCubatoredu program in the coming months, recognizing that a downtown space is an ideal location for community experts and mentors, as well as offering a real-world business setting for students.
Growing and amplifying the entrepreneurial ecosystem is a priority for Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency (DMC EDA). Chris Schad, DMC EDA’s director of business development for Discovery Square and a collaborator in Rochester’s startup community, is energized by this new program.
“The students of Rochester Public Schools have a history of going out into the world to positively impact communities near and far. This program will not only help students develop skills that most entrepreneurs have to learn on the fly, it will help develop new businesses and jobs and keep talent in our region,” notes Schad.
Startup Weekend Rochester, October 26 – 28, 2018, offers an excellent opportunity for would-be entrepreneurs to learn how to take an idea, evaluate it, talk to potential customers, prototype, and pitch – all in 54 hours.
“If you are thinking about starting a new business or want to learn tips and tricks to apply to your job or schooling, there is no better place to learn,” says Jamie Sundsbak, Startup Weekend Rochester organizer.
Funding has long been considered the fuel that propels a startup from the idea phase to becoming an income-generating enterprise. But for participants in the MN Cup startup competition, the mentorship and business advice can be just as valuable.
As the largest statewide startup competition in the country, MN Cup supports emerging entrepreneurs from across the state through events, educational programming, and it’s widely-recognized annual competition, now in its 14th year. The Cup is a program of the Holmes Center at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. Last year, more than 1,300 teams and individuals applied to the competition in hopes of tapping into the tools, resources, and support the organization provides to help launch and accelerate these new ventures.
Well-told stories are one of the most powerful communication tools we can use in business. They help others better understand us, our work, and our purpose. They allow us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. And, for entrepreneurs, they give us a platform to share our successes and failures – and learn from one another.
Amanda Leightner is the founder of Rochester Rising, a website dedicated to telling the stories of the rise of entrepreneurship in Rochester. DMC spent some time with Amanda recently to learn more about her passion for sharing the stories of innovators and what advice she would give to someone considering a future in America’s City for Health.
As we transition into another year, it is a prime opportunity to examine the state of the Rochester entrepreneurial community, take stock of our achievements over the past year, examine our losses, and assess the future direction of this city’s innovation sector.
2017 brought several significant ongoing programs to Rochester. February saw the launch of 1 Million Cups Rochester, a monthly educational program for entrepreneurs that takes place in 163 communities across the United States. This event gave fourteen different Rochester startups the opportunity to share their story and gain input from the community on pressing business issues.
A diverse business landscape is critical to Rochester becoming a true Destination Medical Center. It will take more than excellence in patient care for the DMC vision to succeed. Susan Windham-Bannister knows this well.
Windham-Bannister is a life sciences industry expert and president and CEO of Biomedical Growth Strategies. She has spent years working in areas like New York, Boston, and Maryland to help communities create environments that are enticing to startups and established businesses alike.
Windham-Bannister joined more than 35 stakeholders from across the state to share her experiences and provide insight on how our own community should go about setting priorities to ensure DMC’s success.
1: the introduction of something new; 2: a new idea, method, or device:novelty
Innovation is at the heart of Rochester’s entrepreneurial spirit and the vision of DMC. And while Rochester is undoubtedly a city focused on health and wellness, having a diverse workforce is critical to a strong and prosperous community.
Our state’s leaders have also recognized the importance of fostering innovation. Earlier this week, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) launched #InnovateMN, a digital campaign to highlight original businesses throughout the state and help connect them with state funding.
Lt. Gov. Smith and DEED’s Commissioner, Shawntera Hardy, said the campaign will celebrate emerging technologies and discoveries in Minnesota by sharing stories of businesses and startups on the leading edge. With Minnesota ranking annually among the top five states in new patents, those stories are plentiful. “Innovation is embedded in our identity,” says Smith.
With entrepreneurship brewing in Rochester these days, there is a growing need for more opportunities for these like-minded individuals to connect and network, share successes and struggles, and simply bond. Perhaps over a cup of joe.
1 Million Cups is a national program that incubated out of the Kauffman Foundation where entrepreneurs can come together over coffee to hear pitches from other startups and learn from one another. The free program exists in more than 100 cities nationwide and, today, Rochester became one of those cities.