From a Coworking Space to a Startup Scene

Jayme Journey, Stories

When we opened our doors three and a half years ago, we set out to accomplish few things…

Original WORKUP goals:

  1. To build a community of cool, open minded people who were looking to do their daily, independent work alongside others with different perspectives and talents.
  2. To be an example for how collaboration can truly make things better – from the work we do, to the events we host, and the space we share.
  3. To support entrepreneurs and their big ideas.

About a year into this coworking journey, we launched a program called startup bootcamp, which was really focused on achieving goal three. But more importantly, bootcamp was the answer to a problem we quickly discovered after our coworking space opened and we actually got to work alongside some of the entrepreneurs we set out to help.

The problem sounds a little bit like this:

  • I have a business idea, but don’t know where to start or who to talk to.
  • I don’t know where to begin when it comes to marketing? I think I need a website…
  • I feel excited, overwhelmed and alone all at the same.

(Looking back on it now, I think this was what they refer to as a lightbulb moment – that moment of clarity when you realize how you can give back to the world and solve a real problem for the people you care about.)

In a nutshell, startup bootcamp is a hands-on, collaborative marketing workshop. But it’s so much more than that. It helps business owners understand how closely integrated business and marketing really are. It helps them understand that they aren’t in it alone; that as entrepreneurs, we’re all struggling with a lot of the same things. Lastly, it helps them begin to understand this thing called a brand. That it’s so much bigger than a website, a logo or Facebook ad. And at the core of a brand, is a real person with real passion to make a difference.

We dig into all of these things together. Remember what we said about collaboration? There’s a magic that happens when we get three or four companies in the same room – who are willing to let their guard down and just air out all of the highs and lows of their business. Without fail, startup bootcamp leads to some of the most creative and meaningful marketing. And, usually some really cool business collaborations and friendships.

By the end of 2018, we’ll have had 47 companies of all different ages and sizes go through startup bootcamp. Some came with just an idea, some came to reinvent their existing business, some with a new product to introduce, some just needed to re-energize their marketing – but all of them have an inspiring personal mission that fuels the important work they’re doing.

We recently hit the road and traveled all across West Central Minnesota to visit some of our alumni and find out what is new and what has happened since they attended bootcamp. Although we couldn’t make it to them all, this video includes a good sample of the incredible entrepreneurs that make up our area’s startup scene. We can’t wait to share more of their stories in the coming months!

Our Favorite Things of 2017

Jayme Stories

This year, the redstar/WORKUP team grew… and so did our list of favorite things! We’re excited to share with you some of the simple things that keep us inspired, bring us joy and make life more fun. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Bombas Socks: Luke

Bombas first caught my eye on a little known TV show called Shark Tank. Maybe you’ve heard of it. But, what really got my attention is for every pair purchased they donate a pair to someone in need. To date, over 5 million pairs have been donated!

Cuticle Cream: Lindsey

I spend most of my free time at Crossfit Attila lifting heavy weights. It’s a fun hobby, but it leaves my hands looking & feeling like sandpaper. A friend gave me a not-so-subtle hint by gifting me my first tub of special cuticle cream. I like it because it lasts all day, has a nice light scent, and really does the job. Although I’ve lost all chances of becoming a hand model, it helps my hands look & feel a little more normal.

Subconscious Worlds: team choice

Our newest team member, Mike Bregel is a man of many talents. Just this month, he released his second coloring book full of unique and beautiful designs he drew from scratch. In case you haven’t heard, coloring isn’t just for kids anymore. These books are great for clearing the mind, relieving stress and potentially triggering a bit of nostalgia – who says that’s a bad thing!

Talking Waters Gift Card: Jayme

Because no good story starts with you eating a salad.

Matt Liebl, a former WU member and good friend of mine is the Assistant Brewer at Talking Waters in Montevideo. We got to know the founder, Nick Patton and his vision for TWBC when Nick & Matt went through STARTUP Bootcamp this past summer. The two of them pour an incredible amount of passion into the work they do every day at the brewery. Not to mention they know how to have fun, and make some damn good beer. Now you have no excuse to stop in and sample some!

Haribo Gummy Bears: Betsy

Do I really need to explain why these are my favorite? Just try one. Don’t buy the off brands. They will disappoint.

Kickstarter Projects: Betsy

Nomad Notebooks: I supported this project because it was created by two designers who were looking for a more inspiring tool to carry around and capture ideas. Each pocket sized notebook is unique.

Vertellis: I supported this Kickstarter game because it was designed by a group of those hippie “digital nomads” out of the Netherlands. They wanted a way to get people off technology and connecting in person again. Try using it at your next get together!

Osmia Soap: Abby

I stumbled across Osmia after many failed attempts to find products that worked for my suddenly hypersensitive skin (one of the fun perks I had while pregnant with Owen). I was initially drawn in by their customer’s rave reviews, but it was their story and branding that won me over – Beautiful imagery, products free of harsh chemicals, a handwritten note in every order, clean and simple product packaging. The marketer in me was so giddy to find a product that was branded as wonderfully as it worked. I’ve been hooked ever since!

Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil: Mike

Two years ago my wife and I got thrown into the world of parenting, welcoming our beloved “oops baby” into the world with a crazy & draining 17 day tour of the St. Cloud Neonatal ICU. We made it out of there with a healthy (barely 5 lb) baby but struggled the next year to keep our lives afloat. I tried many things to keep me energized & performing at max each day, but none of them came close to the impact of Brain Octane! This stuff boosted my energy, helped me to think better and simply put me in good mood each day. I blend it together in my “bulletproof” coffee in the morning, otherwise you can just drizzle it over a meal, salad or even take straight!

Tribe of Mentors: Betsy

I have become a huge Tim Ferris fan after wearing out the pages of his book “Tools of Titans” with dog ears and highlighter. Both of his recent books, including his latest “Tribe of Mentors,” are jam packed with unique, inspiring and insightful advice and information. Plus they have a business theme, which I love.

BAI Tea: Abby & Luke

This ones for the non-coffee drinkers, or maybe the “I need more caffeine, but have drank too much coffee today” folks. BAI uses coffeefruit (the superfruit around a coffee bean) to add a boost of caffeine to their drinks. They come in many different flavors and can be found just about anywhere.

Flyleaf Gift Certificate: team choice

Christmas came early this year at WORKUP! This past Fall, our coffee bar transformed into the new satellite Flyleaf Bookshop. All of the books have been curated (just to fit our WU culture) by Heather Westberg King – Flyleaf Founder. You can find a huge selection of inspiring, creative and insightful reads at ridiculously good prices – all while sipping on some complimentary Goodness coffee. How can it get any better?

Merry Christmas!
– the WU team

Connecting to the bigger world… all because of coworking.

Jayme Stories


In my role at WORKUP, I’m always looking to other coworking spaces to inspire me with new ideas for community events, marketing tips, and even little things that will simply bring energy to our space. This means that I follow a ton of coworking blogs, sign up for a lot of other spaces e-newsletters, and even hit the road to visit other coworking communities.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from one of my favorite community building gurus, Alex Hillman, at Indy Hall in Philadelphia. Some of their Indy Hall team members were creative enough to put together a private group/professional club for community builders called Braintrust. Basically, the email was inviting me to participate. I read through the Braintrust webpage which explained what it was all about (okay, I’ll be honest, I read it top to bottom about 5 times) and finally decided, “I have to be a part of this!” It seemed like the perfect opportunity to get connected with even more coworking spaces, collaborate with other industry leaders and bring new perspective to everything I do without having to actually leave WORKUP. (Technology is a life saver sometimes.) So, I thoughtfully filled out the application – they were only accepting 10 people out of who knows how many – crossed my fingers and waited for a response.

A couple days later, I found out that I had been accepted! Flash forward a few weeks, and we’ve already had our first 90-minute introductory session. I can’t even begin to describe how cool it was to chat with these people and feel a sense of comradery right off the bat. It immediately reassured me that I had made the right decision.

In case you’re interested, here’s the list of coworking spaces I to get to learn from over the course of the next 3 months:

Needless to say, I’m incredibly excited to see where Braintrust takes me. But more importantly, I can’t wait to see where it will take WORKUP. Stay tuned.



What is coworking?

Jayme Stories


What is coworking?

I can’t count how many times I’ve had to answer this question – at work, out in the community, over the phone, through email. Up until very recently, I realized that most of the time, I was answering this question wrong. And to be totally honest, I never felt like I was doing it justice.

The truth is, there isn’t one answer. There are hundreds of answers. That’s the magic of coworking. But I promise I’m writing this blog for a purpose; to try and explain in a nutshell, what it is. Because you wouldn’t have clicked on this link if you didn’t want to know the answer, right?

Choose the situation below that best relates to you. Or better yet, read them all. Because you might see a little bit of yourself in each of them.

Have you ever worked from home? Yeah, I have too. Who doesn’t appreciate working in their pj’s from time to time? But after a while, it can get awfully unproductive. Before you know it, you find yourself walking to the fridge for no reason, having conversations with your pet, or yelling at your kids to “keep it down in there.” The biggest downside is that it actually limits your potential. Because the best ideas don’t happen in your basement, living room, or (insert your home office environment here). They happen when you’re able to share them with someone else, who can provide their unique input to make them even better. Coworking is your second office… the one that requires pants.

Have you ever held a meeting at a coffeeshop or restaurant? It might seem like fun the first few times, but after that, these environments end up being distracting, unreliable, or even unprofessional. Coworking spaces offer the same fun and energizing elements as other local hangouts, but in a business-professional setting. Bonus, we also brew the best local coffee. Coworking is a space full of people working just as hard as you.

Have you ever started a business? Congrats, you must be brave. They say true entrepreneurs will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40. And it’s true. Coworking spaces provide a home for ambitious startups that recognize the value of NOT working in isolation. Entrepreneurs who understand that it’s necessary (and to their advantage) to spend some of those “80 hours” talking to other humans, getting feedback and gaining perspective around their business. Coworking is a supportive community.

Have you ever felt “stuck” creatively? Wouldn’t it be great to have a spot to escape to that’s completely different from your everyday work environment? Now you do! Our space is filled with funky furnishings and infused with creativity down to the smallest of details. Not to mention, the people here are full of ideas. Coworking is a home for inspiration.

Do you love your work? Then I promise you’ll be in good company here. WORKUP is a community founded on the idea that everyone should be able to love the work that they do. And I’ll tell you what, that love, energy and passion is so contagious.

If you’re ready to give coworking a try, then your first day is on us. Just click here!


my STARTUP experience…

Jayme Events, Stories

Last week, I participated in STARTUP. A collaborative, week-long workshop unlike any other that was launched by WORKUP and the MinnWest Technology Campus this past spring. Up until last Monday, my role has been to help organize and facilitate the workshop, but like any other startup out there, we (WORKUP) needed clarity and fresh perspective just as bad as the next guy. Since it ended, my head has been spinning with ideas, in the best way possible. Rather than talk about all of the cool things we’re hoping to add to WORKUP in 2017 🙂 – I wanted to get my thoughts on paper about my overall experience going through STARTUP. Here are just a few key takeaways I felt compelled to share:

This is for everyone. The workshop might be called STARTUP, but it’s not just for startups. In fact, now that I’ve been a participant and experienced first-hand how it so positively impacted a 55-year-old corporation, I can genuinely recommend it to every company regardless of their age or size. It’s called STARTUP not because of who it’s for, but because of what it provides – a fresh start.

Ask & Listen. Too often we think we know exactly what our customers, clients, employees, or in our case, members want, but how many times do we actually come straight out and ask them? It’s not always easy to swallow your pride and ask for help or feedback. But if you do, I’d be willing to bet that you’ll develop a product, service, or experience that’s much more aligned with your end user’s expectations.

Aha moments actually happen. We run a coworking space, but we’re not selling space? It even sounds confusing when I type it. If there’s one thing I learned about WORKUP throughout this process, it’s that we’re providing community. People don’t need a place to work. Let’s be real, they have access to a desk, wifi and coffee without ever leaving their home or corporate office. What they need are conversations. They want a place to freely exchange ideas, find inspiration, and gain new perspective through conversations with people of all of trades. That’s why our members come to WORKUP and that’s what we need to start focusing on “selling.”

Be willing. The best thing you can do for your business or self is to be willing; this means having a willingness to change, willingness to be agile, willingness to take initiative. The comments, feedback and ideas I received from the three other companies in STARTUP are invaluable. At the end of the day, I have to be willing to not only hear their ideas, but also be the champion for them. Coming into this workshop with an open mind was what truly made it a game changer for me.

For many reasons, I couldn’t be happier that Betsy and I had the crazy idea to take our own workshop. I think I’m starting to realize that often times the best ideas are the “crazy” ones.



STARTUP STORY: Fladeboe Land of Willmar, Minneapolis & Detroit Lakes, MN

Betsy Bonnema Stories

FladeboeFor 38 years, Fladeboe Auctions and Land Company has sold just about anything you can think of. The family-owned company began as Fladeboe Auctions in 1978 when patriarch, Dale Fladeboe went to auction school. All three of his children have followed in his footsteps to become auctioneers and join the family business, which is an institution in Southwest Minnesota.

Fast forward three decades, and the auction business has changed immensely. “When my dad started, you could be a jack-of-all-trades and basically sell anything,” says Kristine Fladeboe Duininck, Dale Fladeboe’s daughter and business partner. “About ten or fifteen years ago, we made a conscious decision that instead of trying to be good at everything, we wanted to focus on farmland sales and nonprofit fundraising auctions. Our goal in the farmland division is to bring top dollar to the seller, but we also want the experience to be great for the seller.” In addition to selling thousands of acres of farmland, the company has raised millions of dollars over the years for various nonprofit organizations all over the world.

While not a new company, the STARTUP workshop series was the perfect fit for Fladeboe. “I’m a big believer that if you work hard, your company will go on. If you treat people right, it will be hard to fail in the long run, but at the same time, in the short-term, we need to go the extra mile to make things successful,” Fladeboe Duininck explains. “This started when we decided we needed a new web site. We want people to know that we study land and specialize in land.” Fladeboe Auctions approached REDstar about a new web site, and owner Betsy Bonnema encouraged them to go through the STARTUP series first, so the company could really hone in on what its message was, and what it should be.

Kristi Block is the Marketing/Sales and Relationship Director for Fladeboe Auctions Land Company. The ‘Relationship Director’ part of her title says a lot about what she does in a given day. “There is a lot of psychology involved in what we do,” Block says. “Selling farmland that’s been in the family for a hundred years is very emotional. If people aren’t ready to sell, we don’t think they should sell and we don’t push them into it.” After talking through this aspect of the business at the STARTUP Workshop, Block has added a new service to their marketing efforts; Second Generation Consulting. It’s something the company was already doing, but realized through STARTUP that it is a very important part of their business. “We use our professionalism and knowledge to help people through the process. Sadly, the majority of families don’t always get along and we understand and address the emotional aspect of these transactions. If we can help put things in place for second generation owners to avoid some of these pitfalls, we want to do that.”

Going through the STARTUP workshop was exactly what Fladeboe Auctions needed to move forward with their message for the future. “I absolutely loved the environment and collaboration that was present during the STARTUP seminar,” Block says. “Every morning, I was excited to come, share, and learn from Betsy and the others participating.”

Fladeboe Duininck agrees. “I would highly suggest this program to both new and established companies.” She says the program has helped them focus on what their goal is for every customer. “At the end of the day, we want to get you the best result possible and feel good while you’re going through the process.”

The Story of QUP & MEETUP

Jayme Journey

WORKUP began as a dream to bring people together. A place where people could go to think differently, get inspired and most importantly, connect with others. When we opened in May of 2015, we knew that we wanted to offer a full schedule of programming. Events that would not only serve as opportunities for continuous learning, but also encourage those moments of serendipity that spontaneously occur when a diverse group of people gets together.

Two months later (July of 2015), with the help of our Founding Members, Ridgewater College, Heritage Bank and the Kandiyohi County & City of Willmar EDC, we were able to launch two unique learning tracks that encourage entrepreneurial thinking and networking. Both are offered one time per month and have the same casual, roundtable format. QUP allows attendees the chance to ask questions and learn more about a particular topic. We brainstorm a new topic each month and bring in an area expert to answer the questions that are submitted by attendees when they register. MEETUP is an opportunity to highlight, network and learn from entrepreneurs in our community. Each month, we get to hear a new startup journey which always involves a unique perspective on the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur, as well as the lessons learned along the way. The past year of offering QUP and MEETUP has been such a great experience. We’ve learned A LOT, met many new faces, reconnected with others, and most of all, been inspired — and hopefully given others a chance to do the same!

It wouldn’t have been possible without all of the wonderful QUP and MEETUP speakers that have graciously volunteered their time to share their wisdom and passion with us. So, we want to say one huuuuge THANK YOU to all of them for making year one of WORKUP programming a success!


10 Things We Learned in our First Year of Coworking

Jayme Journey


  1.     The goal is about believers, not bank accounts:

I’ve learned that when you start a new coworking space, it can’t be about making money. At least, not for a while. It has to be about making believers of your team, your members and your community – whatever that takes. I’ve learned that it’s the believers who build the value into your idea. Without that, you have nothing. I think this applies to a lot of startups!

  1.     Everyone appreciates candy:

I’ve learned that a large jar filled with Dots, Tootsie Rolls, Kit Kats, Milk Duds and Rollos can brighten almost anyone’s day. There’s something about a room full of focused business people munching on Tootsie Pops that keeps everything in perspective.

  1.     Big ideas are built on a thousand small details:

I’ve learned that the success of a big idea like coworking is measured by how well you can execute the endless list of small details along the way: meet with the electrician, pick the bathroom paint color (red), plan an open house menu, build a desk prototype, post updates on Facebook, give a tour, give another tour, build a presentation, fill out the loan application, call the accountant back, find an event speaker… you get the idea. Details add up. Details matter – every single one of them.

  1.     You should find the funny:

Here’s what I’ve learned about people – they all have a sense of humor, no matter what their personality. They all have topics that will make them smile as they talk or laugh out loud. If you take time to figure out what those things are for each person in your gang, you’ve gained some invaluable insight. Pay attention to what makes them light up and build those topics or values into your community.

  1.     It takes more courage to decide than to do:

I’ve learned that deciding to pursue a dream is scary. That’s because in the deciding, you have to talk about your dream out loud, sound convincing and have (or fake) confidence.  You have to survive your skeptics and deflect the prickly but well-intentioned comments of your friends and family. Now that takes courage! But once the decision is made, courage takes a back seat to grit. You don’t need courage to work your ass off. You just need a good alarm clock, strong coffee and stubborn determination.

  1.     People are mostly good:

This is the universal truth behind coworking, and while I knew it before, it’s been humbling to learn it over and over again each day at WORKUP. Given the opportunity, people are almost always good, kind and generous. True story.

  1.      How to be patient and proactive (at the same time):

I’ve gotten enough deer in the headlights looks to know that coworking is a relatively new concept for greater MN. An extra challenge has been trying to explain coworking to someone when they’re not physically standing in the space. So, you could say it’s been critical for us to get people in our door by hosting all sorts of networking events, classes and workshops. Once people see and experience the coworking culture for themselves, then they can start to understand exactly how it all works. It’s like the age old saying, “All good things take time.”

  1.    Everyday’s an adventure:

This is actually a quote from one of our WORKUP members that I think perfectly describes coworking. Aside from planned events, scheduled meetings (and snowstorms), it’s hard to anticipate the daily activity of a coworking space. Some days are quiet, some are crazy busy, but the uncertainty of not knowing who you might run into while coworking or what conversations you’ll happen to have is what makes each day exciting.

  1.    Facebook < face-to-face networking:

Social media is a wonderful marketing tool and we use it every single day at WORKUP to share stories, news, photos and inspiration, but there’s no substitute for in person conversation. You know, people connecting with people – the old fashioned way! It’s absolutely essential to growing a business. So, get out from behind the computer screen and seek out opportunities that allow those connections to be made.

  1. Work doesn’t have to feel like work:

We all have deadlines that need to be met, certain job tasks we may not necessarily look forward to, or feel like things are out of control, but when you’re surrounded by intelligent, inspiring people in a relaxing work space, it helps make work feel less like…work. The word “work” too often holds negative connotations (ever feel like “work” and “stress” mean the same thing to some people?) Coworking, in Willmar and all around the world, has helped millions of people reverse these negative associations and better understand that with the right mindset, work can actually be, believe it or not, fun.