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Column: Bridging the region's entrepreneurs to resources

Our entrepreneur team is busy gearing up for Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation's "Entrepreneurial Bridge" conference on Feb. 12 at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato. Partners from across our region are joining together as sponsors, exhibitors, speakers, panelists, and attendees to provide a day of learning, sharing, inspiration, and networking.

The conference is for any entrepreneur -- seasoned or novice -- as well as those working to assist entrepreneurs. The goal is provide attendees with practical resources for building financial support, education, and partnerships. Mayo Clinic's Dr. Thom Rooke is providing the keynote address, and Dan and Angie Bastian of Angie's Artisan Treats will be the luncheon address.

The rest of the day is customized into tracks for attendees to choose their own course and learn from various speakers and panelists. The three tracks are centered on the three resources we believe entrepreneurs need the most: financial support, education and business expertise, and regional connections and partnerships.

For example, Mike Nolan, the director of the Small Business Development Center, Minnesota State University, Mankato, will provide an introductory course in profit mastery. Attendees will take the first steps toward mastering cash flow and building financial projects, while learning real-world techniques to improving their understanding of the critical elements of their current or future companies.

In another session, Dan Estes, director of Mayo Clinic Ventures, Rochester; John Davis, executive director of Lanesboro Art Center; and Megan Tsui, executive director of Northfield Enterprise Center; will share how they worked to leverage the resources and partnerships to boost the entrepreneurial ecosystem in their respective communities.

We're calling this event "The Entrepreneurial Bridge" because that's how we see our Foundation's work. We know we're one of many resources for entrepreneurs; as such, we see ourselves as a bridge.

We have a strong position as a regional catalyst and connector. Our purpose for this is event is to bring together entrepreneurs and service providers from across our region and link them to each other. As a result, we hope entrepreneurs will find new resources to help them start or grow a business. And we would like for entrepreneurs to connect with each other and discover new partnership opportunities.

We know this will be a successful day of learning and sharing for everyone involved. To learn more about this event or to register, visit, or contact Pam Bishop at 507-455-3215 with questions.

As always, I welcome your questions and comments. You can reach me at 507-455-3215 or