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Shakopee Building a High-Impact Entrepreneur Community

Shakopee is part of the reason why Eden Prairie is such a good place to call home with easy access to Canterbury Park, Valleyfair and a beautiful riverside downtown to provide entertainment. There are more than 24,000 jobs that Eden Prairie’s own are welcome to commute to. And, someday soon, there will be many more high-impact entrepreneurs to help our community glow even brighter.

The city of Shakopee launched a strategic program to grow these companies in 2021. Michael Kerski, director of planning and development reached out to John Moore in Greenville, South Carolina to help. Kerski and Moore had worked together in Greenville on building the NEXT program. The program there grew from eight founders to more than 100 companies over ten years. Moore currently runs Momenteum Strategies, which helps communities compete in the innovation economy.

Many times, members had previously solved similar problems and could answer tough questions, or they had connections to other professionals who could help. The program helped them realize they weren’t alone on their islands. They became part of a league of peers.

“The network worked. Over the following decade, it grew to well over 100 members strong. With their support we built three different entrepreneurship centers totaling over 100,000 square feet and filled with fellow high-impact entrepreneurs. We started an annual venture capital conference in a city which offered no venture capital at the time. And we provided member entrepreneurs with day-to-day support as they grew their businesses, created jobs, and made Greenville’s economy increasingly robust,” said Moore.

In Shakopee, Moore was able to capitalize on programs already being run by the Scott County’s CDA First Stop Shop - the Fast-Track Challenge has already identified several startup companies including Steelhead Outdoors which won last year. Founded by friends Corey Meyer and Charlie Pehrson, the pair looked at the gun safe market and found that most are so heavy they are often left behind when people move. The two developed a new system that allows safes to be shipped in pieces that can be assembled at home and taken apart, all while providing superior security and fire protection. Steelhead safes are highly customizable and have found new market niches including providing doors for safe rooms and specialized safes for crypto currency drives. Steelhead was named as a semifinalist for the MN Cup run by the Carlson School.

There are not only startups in the group. Several more established companies are participating and include several serial entrepreneurs, including the founder of Rollerblade and a custom boat manufacturer. Unlike other entrepreneur groups in the region that focus on apps or med-tech, there is not a singular focus beyond companies being innovative and having the potential for high growth. The more established companies still face issues like securing intellectual property, marketing, sales and how to retain employees.

A more seasoned group of entrepreneurs runs Wolf Tooth Components, founded by Mike Pfeiffer, Brendan Moore and Dan Dittmer. All three were mechanical engineers working at a high-tech company in Shakopee but all loved cycling. Between them they have over 50 years’ experience riding bikes. Wolf Tooth started in Pfeiffer’s house while Moore and Dittmer kept their day jobs. Wolf Tooth quickly moved from a passion to a business and is now renowned for developing products that resolve common issues on bikes. Many of their parts are made in house and sold around the world. The three later created Otso Cycles, a custom bike manufacturer. The company, once three, now has more than 75 employees.

Moore said “I found a lot of energy, and eagerness to sit down with like-minded people. The newly formed Shakopee entrepreneur’s network does not yet have an official name, but its members are already allied, already collaborating, and already putting the south metro area well on its way to becoming a thriving hub of innovation and entrepreneurship.”

“Shakopee’s economy is primed for sustained growth,” said Kerski. “We currently have a strong industrial, entertainment and housing base. We have several headquarters including Entrust, Emerson’s Rosemount, KEB America and Cherne. The city council just approved a $5 million budget to renovate SandVenture Aquatic Park, and we just received another $3.5 million from the federal government to begin stabilization of the city’s Minnesota Riverbank.”

“We recently applied for a grant to build our first innovation center, which will be dubbed ‘The Hub.’ The three-story downtown facility will have offices, manufacturing space, 3D printing technology, a full commercial kitchen, and classrooms where Minnesota State University, Mankato will provide courses for entrepreneurs along with specialized training for local employers.

“The Hub will also serve as the nexus for the high-impact entrepreneur group we are assembling. Even without official headquarters, their monthly meetings are now in full swing and forging real, productive partnerships. At this pace I expect it won’t be long until Shakopee reclaims our status as a booming center of economic exchange, just like we were after our establishment in the mid-19th century.

If you would like to come closer to Shakopee’s entrepreneurial spirit in person, but you haven’t got a groundbreaking business plan, then you can have the next best thing – beer – during the Downtown Shakopee Tap 2022 Brewfest on September 10th where innovation meets beer. Please visit TAP2022.org to learn more! To learn more about the city’s economic development visit makeitinshakopee.com.

  • Wolf Tooth Components
  • John Moore, Momenteum Strategies
  • Steelhead Outdoors
  • Canterbury Park
  • Wolf Tooth Components