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Success Stories

Waseca Business Challenge

The Waseca New Business Challenge is an online/in person start-up competition constructed to motivate economic growth in Waseca. Participants were able to apply for the Waseca New Business Challenge on fasttrac.org and wasecanewbusinesschallenge.com. The Waseca New Business Challenge was an event organized by the Waseca Area Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Development Center in Mankato, Lead for Minnesota, Waseca Economic Development Authority, businesses, organizations, and help from members of the Waseca community. The community of Waseca chose a group of judges who offered one winning business over $30,000 if they are able to open in Waseca by March 2022.

The Waseca New Business Challenge was offered in three phases. Phase one of the event was submitting an application and business concept by July 2. The applicants during phase one were encouraged to use creativity in their business concept description. The participants were given questions on the application as followed. What’s your business idea? What need is your business addressing? Phase two was the business plan development training, which was held in-person over a 10-week period from August 26 – October 28, delivered by the Small Business Development Center. Phase two of the training was held in different venues around Waseca. The training was two hours long each week, with one hour of 1:1 mentorship. The final phase, phase three, was participants giving their business pitches in front of the judges. The judges consisted of a mix of local business owners, residents, bankers, and city officials.

The winner of the Waseca New Business challenge was presented $20,000 from the Waseca Economic Authority (EDA). The grant can be used on the following types of “hard” assets: office equipment, merchandising equipment, shelving, POS system, façade improvements, etc. The participants that did not win will be offered a low-interest loan also provided by The Waseca Economic Development Authority.

Jonathan Berg- Good Game Gaming Center 

Jonathan Berg is a stay-at-home dad with eleven children. Jon graduated from Bellevue University in two years, with a bs in Supply-chain and logistics management. Jon attended the Waseca Business Challenge in hopes to create a family run business for generations to come.

“The relationships and networking were really helpful.”

“Getting feedback from the classmates and the consultants was also great.”

Dean Morgan & Chris Devetter- Morgan’s Meat Market

For 36 years, Dean Morgan has been in the Meat industry. Dean went to Pipestone AVTI in 1985 to study meat cutting. Graduating in 1986, Dean started working for Lau’s Meat Market and eventually left and went to work as an assistant meat manager for Cashwise Foods. In 2003, Dean purchased a shop in New Richland, but in 2021 he would later sell his business and move back to Lau’s and purchase the store July 1st. He is very excited to start his new journey being a viable business in Waseca.

Chris Devetter has a passion for cutting meat. Chris worked at Hy-Vee in Rochester MN after studying business and marketing at college. After working in Rochester, Chris took a position as a Hy-Vee store manager in his home town Owatonna Mn for many years. This past year Chris decided to work with Dean Morgan because he saw the potential of the meat industry and is excited to watch Morgan’s Meat Market Grow into a great success.

“Connections, if we had any questions, we knew who to call, continue the relationships, hopefully they keep doing this every year.”

Tina Mittelsteadt- Wasecers Online Auction

Tina and her husband Todd have been married for 17 years and are lifelong residents of Waseca. Tina has worked in the healthcare her whole life. Together, they have a 24-year-old parrot named Sam and a very spoiled cat, Charlotte.

“What I enjoy most is meeting the new people and going to the online classes, ask what I learned I learned so much I came into this with no idea what I was getting myself into, I learned a lot, the funnest part was the people that I met.”

“What I enjoyed the most was being able to network with new upcoming businesses, the people who are starting these businesses are awesome people and also the mentoring from Gary and Mike, had an outline of the business plan and this helped implement it and finish it to make it to what it is now, I want to thank Gary and Mike thank for the incredible opportunity to crest our business.”

Nikkie Gilmore Cory Stencel- Waseca Ink

Nikkie is an artist, mom, Waseca native and horror movie buff with a knack for getting lost in the woods. She has been a graphic designer for almost 10 years, and is currently working on her tattoo design portfolio.

Since 2005, Cory Stencil has been working in the printing industry. He went to school at South Central college while working for Navitor located in North Mankato. After completing the program at SCC, Cory was employed from 2007-2014 by Joe Glynn at Quality Print in Waseca. After 7 years, Cory left and was hired by Clear Lake Press where he would manage the signs and apparel departments. After working for CLP the company was purchased by JC Press where Cory was hired to do pre-press and large format installs. One year later Cory left and returned back to Quality Print to manage the business in 2018. When Cory’s not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, the outdoors, and playing the bass guitar for Angry Waters and other groups.

“Learning so much about the people in town the community seeing what people are passionate about. Getting a renewed sense that Waseca is still cool. Knowing the ins and outs of marketing vs. sales all of that has been so helpful.”

Cory – “Finding others like yourself that want to achieve their dream of what they want to do. The business side I always wanted to know. If you don’t know something there are resources everywhere!”

Waseca New Business Challenge: A Winner Was Chosen!

Lead For Minnesota and Waseca Chamber of Commerce launched an entrepreneurial start-up competition in May of 2021, designed to spur more economic growth in Waseca. The Waseca New Business Challenge included a 10-week training program, facilitated by the Small Business Development Center-hosted at Minnesota State University Mankato, and it ended with the final pitch competition on Saturday, November 6th. Six business plans were presented to a panel of seven judges of varying professional experiences. After each six-minute pitch was given, a nine-minute Q&A followed. After the judges deliberated for an hour after all the pitches were completed – Jonathan Berg was announced the winner of the WNBC competition with his business plan for Good Game Gaming Center (GGGC).

Jon’s prize package is worth over $30,000. He will receive up to $20,000 from the Waseca Economic Development Authority to be used for equipment for GGGC, Waseca Area Foundation gave $5,000 for lease payments, Mediacom Business sponsored $1,500 in internet services, both KOWZ Radio and Waseca County News are giving $1,500 in advertising, along with many other businesses that are going to help GGGC along the way.

Good Game Gaming Center, will be a place where people can gather socially and play PC or Console games with their friends. Think arcade, but with gaming computers. Just like an arcade, gamers can earn prizes playing your favorite PC or Console games. Gamers of all experience levels can participate in VR, tournaments, gamer training, camps, parties, and so much more! Game More, Game Better at Good Game Gaming Center.

As a community we look forward to supporting and encouraging the other five businesses in their journey to make their business plans come to fruition. Lead For Minnesota will be organizing monthly programming for this cohort to continue to meet and hopefully adding more entrepreneurs to the group over time

Overall, the success of the Waseca New Business Challenge shows us that Waseca is an entrepreneurial ecosystem where small businesses can thrive

Finally, we would like to congratulate Molly Byron (WNBC Program Manager), who will be receiving this year’s Emerging Professional in Economic Development Award by the Economic Development Association of Minnesota.

New Ulm’s Own

Cutting the ribbon at the opening of New Ulm’s Own, a nonprofit fair-trade store featuring coffee, chocolate, handcrafted items from around the world and artwork created by local artisans.

Congratulations to all!

Complete Relocation

Jolene Field O’Hare and Sandy Donnay love helping people. Their business, Complete Relocation, helps seniors manage moves — including downsizing, packing/unpacking and new home set-up. They understand that the process of moving a home full of memories can be overwhelming, and their services minimize stress by managing all the details of a move. They offer a free one-hour in-home visit and estimate to get started.

Based out of New Ulm, Complete Relocation also serves surrounding communities. They are members of NASMM, National Association of Senior Move Managers.

The SBDC worked with Jolene and Sandy to plan for expansion, including marketing, business planning and financial analysis for future growth potential.

GO! Therapy

Speech pathologists Jenny Kortuem Freier and Brenna Hoisington, and occupational therapist Samantha Olsen, officially started their business GO! Therapy on March 15, 2017.

GO! Therapy is a new outpatient clinic in Saint Peter. The clinic provides speech and occupational therapy services in a natural environment, focusing on functional skills. It serves adults and children with a variety of disabilities, diseases and conditions.

The GO! Therapy philosophy is to empower people with disabilities by paying attention to the physical, sensory, cognitive, emotional and social skills of each individual and building upon those skills.

“We were blown away by the support offered by the SBDC in launching GO! Thereapy. Marketing is hands down one of the most important pieces to the puzzle in helping small businesses succees. Our SBDC consultant provided her digital marketing knowledge and expertise, which helped make GO! Therapy easily accessible and visible online. We are very grateful for the help and support," says Brenna.

Heat Blowdry Bar and Wax Studio

Friendly, fashionable and forward-thinking. Mary Kaus, Nicole Panko and Sally Weness want to be all these things for their customers. The three opened Heat Blowdry Bar and Wax Studio in June, 2016 to give their customers a positive experience while being treated to hair styling with spark.

Heat is a hybrid salon that specializes in blowouts and waxing, but also offers traditional salon services such as cuts, colors, men’s cuts, bridal and perms. Blowdry bars are widely popular in most major cities, but the concept is new to Mankato. The interior of the salon is elegant and modern, complete with Cambria countertops and herringbone floors — a unique, comfortable place to be pampered.

Business consultant Wendy Anderson guided the owners through types of loans, gap funding, developing a business plan and cash flow projections for their lender, Wells Federal Bank.

“Without her support," says the group, “we would have been like lost puppies. She was a guiding force in creating Heat."