REV gathering attempts to boost local entrepreneurship

Spring Valley hosted a gathering of the Bluff Country Rural Entrepreneurship Venture last Thursday afternoon at the Spring Valley Ambulance station. Attendees were able to network with one another and find regional resources available to them.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Spring Valley REVed up its business and entrepreneur-networking framework through lunching and chatting at the Spring Valley Ambulance station last Thursday, May 2.

Representatives of the city, local businesses and the Bluff Country Rural Entrepreneurship Venture (REV)-Spring Valley gathered there to share ideas about how to boost commerce and lend a hand to existing and prospective business owners. REV is a program of the University of Minnesota Extension Service that offers the tools – such as education – to help entrepreneurs become the business owners they’ve dreamt of being.

On hand were Spring Valley City Administrator Deb Zimmer and Spring Valley’s Chateau de Chic salon and Chic by Chateau clothing store owner Jenn Slifka, recognized as one of the downtown’s up-and-coming young entrepreneurs who hopes to foster the same spirit of business adventure in others as she’s bravely taken on as her own force.

Zimmer shared the gathering was the first REV networking event that Spring Valley has hosted.

Slifka used the moment as an opportunity to encourage reinvestment in Spring Valley’s downtown buildings, as she has graduated from operating her salon out of what used to be her mother’s garage to owning her own buildings and recently renovating the former Sparrow’s Closet consignment shop building to become Chic by Chateau, a destination women’s clothing boutique. She’s proven that with enough motivation, one can indeed be proprietor of one’s own business, but, she noted, that comes with no small amount of work.

Mary Oudekerk of the 504 Corporation, a lender to small businesses based in Mankato and Rochester was also available. Ryan Brixius, a Faribault-based area specialist of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development – who shared that his role is to help entrepreneurs and business owners find the organizations that can assist them in growing their dreams attended as well. Additionally a commercial real estate seller Bucky Beeman participated, who noted that among the projects he has helped people begin are a 60-seat micro-cinema in Rochester that will be called the “Gray Duck Movie Theatre” and a doggy daycare.

Attendees of the open house included two local produce farmers, one partner in the dog-washing business, a few members of the local theatre company, a tech troubleshooter and more. They shared questions for one another about what the future of Spring Valley might hold if they collaborate through REV.

REV’s tenets include identifying the city’s challenges and opportunities moving forward, finding how to increase community involvement and excitement for future growth, promoting the area’s assets and attracting visitors, creating a community of involvement among business owners, promoting access to resources for business owners and learning more about Spring Valley’s existing assets.

Spring Valley and Lanesboro are partnering in the Bluff Country REV project. They were chosen for the program through a competitive application process of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. The collaboration has aided in identifying each community’s assets as community members are finding that while Spring Valley’s citizens might harbor some envy of Lanesboro’s tourist business, Lanesboro’s residents would certainly like to be able to simply buy some common household goods right there at home.

More REV networking opportunities may be ahead, and interested persons are advised to keep an eye out and ears open for invitations to be posted as the business community works together as an alliance with the goal of community betterment in mind.