Small Business Conference


November 1st & 2nd

Grand Ely Lodge Resort

& Conference Center

Stay tuned for further details!


2016 Pricing & Agenda        Session Topics & Speakers

Incredible Ely, is pleased to announce its first Small Business Conference, April 27-28, 2016 at the Grand Ely Lodge.

The conference is designed for both established businesses and new start-ups – and even for those just thinking about starting a business. The purpose of the conference is to provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs to build the skills they need to make their businesses succeed, and to network with banks, business advisors, and other entrepreneurs. Participants are expected to include owners and employees of all types of businesses in Ely, its neighboring townships, and the rest of Northeastern Minnesota.

The conference is a collaborative effort between Incredible Ely, the Entrepreneur Fund, and the University of Minnesota-Duluth Center for Economic Development, with additional support from the Minnesota Department for Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Incredible Ely is seeking other support and sponsorships; for contact information please see below.

Participants will be able to choose among sessions covering a wide variety of topics, including:

  • Planning and starting a business
  • Using QuickBooks and other financial software
  • Financing options including crowdfunding
  • Marketing using social media
  • Do-it-yourself website development and search engine optimization
  • Getting started in export markets
  • Issues and programs for women-owned businesses

In addition to these training sessions, the conference agenda will include panel discussions with successful entrepreneurs from inside and outside Ely who will share the lessons of their experience.

The conference will begin on Wednesday evening with a reception and dinner followed by a keynote speaker. Thursday’s events will be organized as parallel sessions (two to three sessions per 75-minute period) to allow participants to choose the topics that most interest them. Both breakfast and lunch will be provided on Thursday.

Organizations that support small businesses in Northeastern Minnesota will provide information via tables and posters in common areas, and there will be opportunities for informal conversations with local banks and business advisors.

Using external sources of funds, the cost of the conference will be kept as low as possible to encourage wide participation. For out-of-town participants, rooms will be available at the Grand Ely Lodge at a reduced rate.


  • $60.00 for Wednesday night only
  • $60.00 for Thursday only
  • $110.00 for the entire conference (including 4 meals)!


  • Introduction to QuickBooks and Other Financial Software
    • We will look at desktop and cloud-based QuickBooks as well as two other accounting software platforms to track your business financials.  A description of the software, costs, and how to set them up will be discussed.
  • Planning and Starting a Business
    • Learn how to clarify your business goals, identify what makes your business unique, develop a strategic start-up plan, expand your networks and skills, and access the resources you need to build a successful business.
  • Strategic Business Growth
    • Has your business grown…out of control? Are you being reactive rather than proactive? Have you heard the expression, work “on” your business rather than “in” your business? Learn how to thinking strategically about your business and develop a plan to grow manageably and intentionally.
  • Getting Started in Export Markets
    • This session will provide an overview of tools and resources to help you succeed in export markets, whether you’re new to exporting or want to expand your global presence.  It also covers SBA export finance programs, which help banks make loans on terms and conditions that would otherwise be unavailable.
  • Lunchtime Entrepreneur Panel
    • Share lunch with entrepreneurs who will enlighten you on ALL of their experiences of starting and running their businesses.
    • Moderator: Elaine Hansen (Director of UMD Center for Economic Development)
    • Panelists:Kate Ryan Reiling( Entrepreneur in Residence, Macalester College),Jason Amundsen( Locally Laid Egg Company),John Ott(Alley A Realty),Eric Faust( Duluth Coffee Company)
  • Using Social Media
    • Social Media 101 and beyond.  From figuring out the right platform for your business to creating killer content. Local experts in this field of marketing will give you tips and strategies based on real life experiences. Be prepared to learn which social media platform is right for you, how to create content, and how to schedule, monitor and analyze.
    • Panelists:Jerritt Johnston, (True North) Jaimie Niska, W.A. Fisher
  • Roundtable on Issues and Programs for Women-Owned Businesses
    • Women business owners bring a valuable perspective to entrepreneurship but also face a number of unique challenges. In this panel discussion, we will hear about these women’s different business experiences, how they responded to them, and what resources they use to help them along the way.
    • Moderator:Jennifer Pontinen (Business Advisor, Hibbing Office Entrepreneur Fund)
    • Panelists:Kate Ryan Reiling( Entrepreneur in Residence, Macalester College),Melissa Kjosling( U of M Center for Entrepreneurship),Tamara Lowney( APEX)
  • DIY Website Development and Search Engine Placement
    • We will look at some great online software programs you can use to publish your own website including,, and We will also discuss the important search engine optimization techniques to make sure your new site is indexed well by Google.
  • Crowdfunding
    • We will discuss how to successfully combine storytelling with social media and a crowdfunding campaign.  Panelists will share their experiences with crowdfunding in a variety of ventures.
    • Panelists:Andrea Strom( Crapola),Carol Carlson( Comet Theater),Don Ness( Hillside Ventures)


  • Key Note: Don Ness strategic communications consultant and former mayor of Duluth
  • Curt Walczak, Professional Business Consultant at UMD Center for Economic Development
  • Beth Peterson Adult Education at Virginia Office Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency, Inc.
  • Jennifer Pontinen Business Advisor, Hibbing Office, Entrepreneur Fund
  • Ed Dieter Deputy Director,Minnesota Trade Office, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
  • Carlos Sosa Regional Trade Finance, Manager Office of International Trade, U.S. Small Business Administration
  • Molly Solberg President, MAS Marketing
  • Curt Walczak Professional Business Consultant, UMD Center for Economic Development
  • Tom Livingston Producer, StoryFront; and Executive Director, Destination Duluth


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