Local business center honored

The Southeast Minnesota Small Business Development Center at Rochester Community and Technical College was named Minnesota's SBDC 2015 Excellence and Innovation Center of the Year.

The Small Business Development Center assisted 138 clients in Rochester, including 65 who started their own businesses.

"This award should span across 11 counties," said Julie Kiehne, director of the SE SBDC. "There is not one single city or consultant that did it alone — it was a collaboration."

In 2015, the center provided 2,814 consulting hours to more than 360 clients across 11 counties.

One success story is Roca Climbing and Fitness, a climbing, yoga and fitness center in northwest Rochester. The owners, Jeremy and Karen Schaar, have been guided by the SE SBDC.


"SBDC helped us throughout the entire process," said Jeremy Schaar.

From the creation of an idea to the actual grand opening of the gym, SBDC has been there to help Roca for about four years. About 40-50 consulting hours were provided for various aspects of opening a business, including business plans, bank placement, marketing, branding and resourcing.

"Julie Kiehne and the other staff helped us resource outside of the box," said Jeremy Schaar.

"We had so many interesting ways to market and brand our business," added Karen Schaar.

The SBDC also provided the Schaars with connections to other local businesses. This way they can get other ideas, receive mentors and get the business's name out in the public eye.

"It was a huge addition when we received all of the connections," said Karen Schaar.

Roca Climbing and Fitness recently opened in January 2016. Since then, the business has had about 500 people walking through their doors every week.

The SE SBDC is continuing to grow and is frequently looking for new business partners.


"What really sets us apart from other SBDC's is our entrepreneurial climate and ecosystem," said Kiehne. With Destination Medical Center, Rochester has rapidly increasing economic development and therefore more small businesses.

"Our geographical location is a key factor," said Kiehne. "It gives the SE SBDC opportunities for growth."

The Small Business Development Center assisted 21 new businesses and added more than $13 million to the economy in the southeastern part of Minnesota in 2015.

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