WINONA — An auditorium full of Saint Mary's University students, Winona community leaders and folks just interested in the latest Destination Medical Center news heard a panel implore potential entrepreneurs to take their shot at starting a business Tuesday night at the Figliulo Recital Hall at SMU.
"We put a lot of time and effort in creating our entrepreneurial ecosystem," said Jamie Sundsbak, the community manager of Collider Coworking, an entrepreneurial and small business hub located in Rochester. The efforts of DMC and those entities looking to attract startup businesses are really trying to put the region on the map for in areas of real estate, services and other industries to support the health care core of DMC.
"I love this regional connection," he said. "We're trying to create opportunity, not just for downtown Rochester and Mayo Clinic, but for the region."
Xavier Frigola, director of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, Mayo Clinic's biotechnology incubator in Rochester, said the obvious bullseye of investment and opportunity might be Rochester, but the whole region of Southeast Minnesota is in the target. And there are entities out there starting to take advantage of the opportunities DMC provides.
"For instance, Red Wing has a space called Red Wing Ignite," he said, referring to the business incubator in that city. "It's more in the IT space. But we meet together. We have pitch competitions."
Tuesday's discussion, hosted by the Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at SMU, was focused on letting students know what DMC is and how it will drive entrepreneurship across the region.
While many think of DMC as a health care initiative, Jim Rogers, chairman of Mayo Clinic's newly formed Department of Business Development, said there is plenty of opportunity for growth across the spectrum of businesses including hospitality, service, manufacturing and other sectors of the economy. Diversifying the economy has always been a goal of DMC.
One reason, he said, is the spouses of those who come to work at Mayo Clinic need opportunities that fit their skills since many are not health care professionals. "Separately, we want to make sure we have a very vibrant community," Rogers said.
"Gaps in the community hurt the region and hurt growth," said Bruce Kline, a licensing manager within Mayo Clinic Ventures.
During the question-and-answer portion of the event, several individuals asked how they can take advantage of incubators and funding streams that are available.
"You talk to me," joked Sundsbak, who added the key was networking. "You've got to get out there. You've got to talk to people. It's amazing, the power of networking."
If need be, Frigola said, entrepreneurs with an idea need to simply knock on people's door and ask for help.
"Just go into a business where they do what you're trying to do and ask," he said. "You need to get thrown out of a building at least once a year."