Guest Column: Continuing ed opportunities close to home

Published 8:45 pm Friday, July 23, 2021

Guest Column by Tim Penny

Continuing education in a business or profession is critical for future growth, but trainings can be difficult to participate in when events are held far away or are too costly. At Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, we take pride in hosting a variety of high quality, low-cost training opportunities close to home for entrepreneurs and early childhood professionals here in our 20-county region. At SMIF, we are currently gearing up for fall training events, which will be beneficial to many in our region.

Tim Penny

For the seventh year in a row, SMIF is looking forward to hosting the Entrepreneurial Bridge event, a celebration of entrepreneurial innovation in the region. This year’s three keynote speakers are experienced business leaders who will be sharing inspirational stories and practical advice for businesses. Victor Hwang, CEO and founder of Right to Start, will discuss how to create prosperity in our communities by dismantling barriers for everyday Americans. Beth Fynbo, president and founder of Oronoco-based Busy Baby, will be sharing how she turned an idea into a seven-figure business, making it all the way to Shark Tank. Todd Churchill, CFO of BizOpps and CliftonLarsonAllen, is a fierce advocate for rural entrepreneurialism and will be sharing finance and marketing tips that led him to create one of America’s first grass-fed beef brands among other ventures.

Carrying the theme of “Voices of Innovation” throughout the event, we will also have a chance to hear from a diverse group of unique southern Minnesota entrepreneurs, who we are calling “Firestarters.” One of these firestarters is Craig Kaisec, whose Faribault-based hot sauce company, Cry Baby Craig’s, was recently featured on CNN Business. Another firestarter, Mariah Lynne, is the president and CEO of Good Steward Consulting based in Albert Lea, which assists renewable energy development companies with their public outreach vision, goals and implementation. Equal parts training, networking and inspiration, we look forward to hosting the Entrepreneurial Bridge event in Albert Lea on Sept. 28. Registration details and agenda can be found at smifoundation.org/bridge.

SMIF’s fall events will continue with an early childhood training series in October and November. Stacy Boysen will share techniques that can help caregivers avoid challenging situations with children. Theresa Peplinski will be discussing how to engage children in a variety of sensory experiences, which are activities that help children learn and develop a greater understanding of the world by using their five senses. We are looking forward to working with Stacy and Theresa, in addition to other dynamic speakers, for this exciting fall series.

We know that in order to deliver quality trainings to early childhood professionals, it is critical to accommodate their schedules. Therefore, in addition to holding these sessions in the evenings, half of these will be in-person (in Owatonna, Byron, Faribault and Chatfield) and the other half will be virtual sessions. Individuals can choose to opt in to as many sessions that they are interested in. One major benefit is that all of these trainings are “Develop-approved,” so folks will receive credit for participating, further aiding them in reaching their professional goals. Keep an eye on our website at smifoundation.org/ectrainings for registration details later this summer.

In the 35 years that SMIF has been serving southern Minnesota, our continuing education opportunities have trained thousands of people in the region. In the past year alone, more than 1,300 entrepreneurs and more than 600 early childhood professionals were trained through SMIF’s programming. We know that these trainings have contributed to our region’s growth.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions. You can reach me at timp@smifoundation.org or 507-455-3215.

Tim Penny is the president and CEO of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. He represented Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1982 to 1994.