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LaunchPad offers chance for entrepreneurs to learn from each other

Dave Wall, who is starting an immersion travel business called EthnoTrax, presents his business idea, and asked for advice and customer referrals on Wednesday, Feb. 7, at the weekly LaunchPad Meetup in Bemidji. About 35 people attended this week’s meetup. (Photo By Kaitlyn LaCroix)

BEMIDJI -- Before Tricia Robinson opened her Bemidji business, Minute 59 Mystery and Escape Rooms, in July 2017, she was looking for advice.

She heard of the LaunchPad through a small business consultant in Bemidji, who encouraged her to attend a weekly meeting held there to get some business insight.

Two months before she opened, Robinson presented her idea to local business owners at a Wednesday morning LaunchPad meetup for that feedback.

“I got input on marketing skills to put towards my start-up business,” she said She found the advice helpful, and has been coming back ever since.

LaunchPad hosts weekly meetups open to everyone with the purpose of supporting the entrepreneur and business community. The meetings are held in the Mayflower Building in downtown Bemidji. The goal of the meetups is to share knowledge by coming together every week to give and receive ideas. They have four different program formats for the meetups, ranging from presenters to panels.

LaunchPad was started in March 2015 by Tiffany Fettig and Dave Hengel of Greater Bemidji, with the help of eight other entrepreneurs in the Bemidji area. They moved into their current space in Bemidji’s Mayflower Building a few months later. Their goal was to have 20 people in a room sharing ideas.

The weekly meetups are modeled after 1 Million Cups, a platform for entrepreneurs to develop a supportive community, where they network over cups of coffee and explore solutions.

“The ideas coming out of this group are unbelievable,” said Jim Bensen, former Bemidji State University president, who attended this week’s meetup. “This is the best hour in Bemidji.”

The casual, flexible and fun workspaces in the historical Mayflower Building adds to the networking possibilities. “It’s a fantastic place to meet people, and I learn something every time,” Robinson said.

This week, Dave Wall presented about his new business idea, and asked for customer referrals and advice in a casual atmosphere of 35 people. Within the comfortable meeting room, attendees offered their feedback and posed strategic questions in an open forum for him to think about.

According to Andy Haskell, market president for Bank Forward in Bemidji, “the entrepreneurs are pretty good at helping each other out, and there’s a sense of community among them. From an economic development standpoint, there’s no better way to develop our community than to collaborate among entrepreneurs.”

BSU students Matthew Splittstoser, Sylvia Marolt, Madyson Johnson, Kendra Hacker, Kaitlyn LaCroix, Kayla Duoos, Shelby Haney contributed to this article.