A vision and a bakery

Three years ago Patrick Rickerl, Caleb Coffee, and I had a wild idea of opening a gym. Not one of those soccer mom, Forever 39 yoga pant workout places, heck, not even a Crossfit, but a place where we could workout with like-minded fitness enthusiasts. We didn't have $500 between the 3 of us but the hunt for the ideal place and thinking of all of the details was fun. We found some amazing building as we scoured Sioux Falls for "the spot." One place we fell in love with immediately was this old bakery at 910 North Main Ave. We crawled all over the building. It was almost like ancient ruins. When we stepped in you could feel the history. Old brick. Old I-beams. Old wood. Old windows. I love old buildings. Anyhow, we never got closer to our gym that owning a bunch of kettlebells and a few tractor tires. Fast forward to 2013.

In August of last year my buddy Brian Rand called me to see if I could advise on a project he was working on. We met up. I gave my best advice and at the end of the meeting Brian said, "Why don't we just go to market ourselves with this instead of giving all of our best ideas to this company?" So we did.

Fast forward to 2014.

We just signed a letter of intent and are moments from signing the lease on that same bakery. Here are a couple of pics.

Our little "Why don't we go to market ourselves" idea has blossomed; but we have taken a very unusual path to get here and until now I haven't really said a word about it outside my office. Let me explain.

Other than faith and family, I am passionate about 2 things: entrepreneurship and education. To be honest, I really see these two things as one in the same. Entrepreneurs love to learn and turn that learning into dollars. Every successful entrepreneur I know has an insatiable appetite for learning. And, they usually love to share what they know. This is a good thing. Entrepreneurs are some of the best and most passionate educators around, but they tend to operate outside of the classroom model we are so accustomed to. They know learning is about iteration and failure and market forces and triage. They are not afraid of the bumps and bruises that come with a true learning environment. In athletics we are proud of our scars and injuries as "proof" of our journey. In education and business, however, we mask these with small talk and successful sounding Facebook statuses. I am not interested in that.

Let me cut to the chase. We are opening a 8250 square foot learning lab in Sioux Falls. Heck learning lab probably isn't even the right term, let's stick with bakery. A place where business and education are one in the same. An apprenticeship program for millennials.

I see two opportunities in the marketplace that are a marriage waiting to happen. 1. There is a talent shortage nationwide. Find me an HR director that disagrees and I'll take you out for dinner. 2. There is a talent shortage with college graduates. They are 2 sides of the same coin that few are offering solutions to. We are proposing a solution: the bakery. A place where you learn skills (talent) by doing actual work for actual companies so that you can go and do actual work for actual companies. I mean how is anybody supposed to get experience without experience?

Brian and I have a knack for getting projects. Projects that are complicated and messy and take skills. We also have a knack for teaching. So we are putting those two things together and offering it to everyone. Actually, secretly we already started. Since 1/1/14 we have had over 100 local entrepreneurs stop by our office to learn, for free and have had nearly 2 dozen students commit short or long term towards our projects. It is going well.

Here is a note I wrote myself last week regarding the bakery. It isn't perfect. What is?

What if? What if businesses and education alike finally admitted that in America the Industrial Revolution with it’s assembly lines and mass production are a thing of the past? That we no longer mass produce cars or kids. What if we admitted that mass customization was in full force? What if we admitted that the desire to learn is stronger than ever but that collaboration was the method and not curriculums? What if we recaptured the pioneering spirit and bushwhacked our way into a new age of businesses and education? Learning used to help you make a living. Let’s bring that back.

We see. We see a place where eager minds are entangled in the journey of learning. Where they realized they forgot to eat lunch because they are on the brink of their next breakthrough. Where collaboration is the oxygen and ideas the fuel that makes the engine fire. We see those with mastery looking over the shoulder of those seeking proficiency.

We believe. Everyone has a common belief, maybe in an inexpressible state, but shared, nonetheless. We believe that learning is lifelong and that the goal is not just proficiency, and not just competency, but mastery. We believe that if you know it you should teach it to others. We believe that business is desperate for talent and talent is desperate for an opportunity. We believe that making money and helping others make money is a skill that must be learned and honed. We believe that that is a generation of fierce minds that know more schooling isn’t the path to their future, but rather seek apprenticeship and mentorship. We believe in failing and failing fast.

There is one more piece to this puzzle: local entrepreneurs.

I have a friend Rob Nelson who has a similar passion for local entrepreneurs and artist and anyone, really, trying to find their way and make it in business. He has a similar vision. In fact, Sioux Falls has many folks who believe what we believe. I just saw a post this morning from John Meyer of Lemonly as he tours with Think29. There must be something in the water in Sioux Falls because many groups are recognizing that entrepreneurship is live and well here in the prairie. So Brian and I want to help. We are going to lease and renovate this building at great expense to us and the wonderful Hazard family to support this growing community of entrepreneurs. Our little company will office in the top floor leaving nearly 7000 square feet of collaborative space open to the local community. We hope to be able to rent out the space for events and offset some of the rent, but the rest of the time it is for people who believe what we believe. We want folks to come together. We want startups to succeed. We want skills to be learned. We want you involved.

If you have ideas of how we can best serve the community with this amazing space send me a tweet @clintonbrown.

Here are a few questions we have already been asked.

Won't it cost a fortune to fix up that old building? Yes, a freaking fortune.

When will it open? By 2015 if all goes well.

Who can use it? Entrepreneurs and people who need event space.

How much will you charge for event space? No idea, we are focusing on getting toilets first.

Isn't there already 1Million Cup, Think29, OTA, and other groups doing this? Yes, isn't Sioux Falls awesome.

What do the local colleges think? So far they want to partner. In fact, so do a couple of local high school and even Syracuse University.

How are you going to afford this? By working our asses off.

How can we help? We could always use more prayer and caffeine. You could stop by our current office at 405 S 3rd Ave Suite 300 any Wednesday afternoon to meet other entrepreneurs and share your ideas. Here is the Meetup details.