Off the ground: Red Wing Brewery, Lake Pepin Innovations move past planning stageThe Red Wing Innovation Incubator will begin its second phase June 1 when it opens its downtown office suite, which will house a co-location space and a smart classroom.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series looking at the Red Wing Innovation Incubator. Last week’s article talked about the incubator’s new downtown office suite; this week’s article will check in with the two businesses the incubator is supporting.
The Red Wing Innovation Incubator will begin its second phase June 1 when it opens its downtown office suite, which will house a co-location space and a smart classroom.
But the incubator’s first phase — the one in which it helped two local businesses get on their feet — is ongoing. Red Wing Brewery and Lake Pepin Innovation are now taking the final steps to getting their respective products in the hands of consumers.
Both businesses say the incubator — and its advisory board — has been instrumental in their growth.
“The incubator has been key,” Red Wing Brewery co-owner Scott Kolby said.
“They welcomed us into town,” co-owner William Norman added.
Kolby and Norman are working to renovate their brew pub space on Old West Main and are planning to start pouring pints in late summer or early fall.
The pair began developing their business plan about five years ago. Eventually, they were directed to Red Wing Downtown Main Street President and incubator advisory board member John Becker, and they officially became part of the incubator at the end of last year.
“John was very excited with what we were trying to do,” Kolby said.
Kolby and Norman hope to revitalize some of Red Wing’s rich brewing history with their pub. They have spent the last nine months researching recipes for beer historically brewed here and will have some of those brews on tap.
For Kyle Mehrkens, owner of Lake Pepin Innovation, business is moving along as well. He said his electric wakeboard winch is in the final stages of development, and he has a goal to sell five of the machines this summer.
“It’s off the ground,” Mehrkens said of his business.
The electric winch allows wakeboarding without a boat or second person. Other gas-powered winches are noisy, Mehrkens said, and require a friend to operate.
Mehrkens will display the winch at a wakeboarding event in McGregor, Minn., in June, which he said should provide a lot of exposure for the new product.
Both Lake Pepin Innovation and Red Wing Brewery received low-interest loans from the incubator. And while Kolby, Norman and Mehrkens all say the money helped, the business network and resources the incubator provide have helped more.
“(Being an entrepreneur) sometimes can be a very lonely place,” Mehrkens said. Having the incubator — and its network of business professionals — at arm’s reach has been instrumental for Mehrkens.
“They’re always there if I want to pop an email to them,” he said. “They want you to succeed. If they don’t know the answer, they’ll help you find it.”
Mehrkens added that those business professionals have helped him foresee roadblocks and work through snags in his business plan.
They’re all statements that the Red Wing Brewery owners echo.
“It’s been phenomenal,” Kolby said. “That support group has been wonderful.”
“The incubator definitely helped us get the word out,” Norman agreed. “They helped us start the whole process.”