Diversifying Rochester’s Workforce: Ethnicity, Women and Veteran-Owned Businesses

When it comes to operating a small business, Minnesota is a great place to be. According to the 2015 Kauffman Foundation Main Street Entrepreneurship Index, Minnesota ranks first for the rate of small business ownership and second for businesses owned by women.

Combine the current rankings with the Destination Medical Center vision to generate high-value jobs, additional tax revenue and new businesses in Rochester, and starting a small business here seems like a no-brainer. However, starting a new venture can seem daunting even to a seasoned business professional. And when you factor in challenges related to gender, language and culture, it can seem overwhelming. 

Making Her Way

Born in the Philippines, Joselyn Raymundo and her family immigrated to the United States when she was 16 years old. “We saw the great opportunity this country offers to young people,” Joselyn says, “and my parents wanted that for us.” But the English language isn’t an easy one to master. “I could speak some English when we arrived, but my fluency wasn’t great,” Joselyn recalls. “I learned a lot about the language and American culture by reading ‘Nancy Drew.’”

 Making sense of our nation’s post-secondary education system—and figuring out how to pay for it—wasn’t an easy feat either. “I didn’t understand the financial aid system in the U.S. or realize you could apply for money to attend college, so I joined the military,” Joselyn says. During the eight years she spent serving in the U.S. Naval Reserve, she was exposed to healthcare for the first time working as a hospital corpsman. The G.I. bill allowed Joselyn to pursue her passion for helping others, and after years of schooling, she received her Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of California-San Francisco.

Joselyn worked successfully in home infusion and pharmacy businesses in the Twin Cities metropolitan area for 15 years, but her passion to provide the highest quality patient care led her to consider starting her own home infusion business. “I began exploring options as to where that business should be located,” she recalls. “When I identified Rochester as an untapped market for local home infusion services, I knew I had to start the business here.”

Two years ago, Joselyn, her husband, Sean, and their three children relocated to a small farm in Rochester that, according to Joselyn, was in the Mayo family for nearly a century. “It’s a peaceful little slice of history,” she says, “and only 10 minutes from my office downtown.”

Starting a Business

Joselyn is an immigrant, a woman and a veteran. She is also the owner, president and founder of Rochester Home Infusion (RHI). RHI serves a unique niche in the pharmacy market by providing intravenous (IV) therapy to patients who have ongoing medical needs but who are well enough to receive treatment at home. “People tend to recover more quickly when they are at home with support of family and friends,” Joselyn says. “And it allows them to return to their normal lives much more quickly.” 

Joselyn’s experience is unique. In fact, records at the Minnesota Procurement Technical Assistance Center indicate that Joselyn is one of only three minority women in the entire state who have gone through
the Veteran-Owned Small Business Verification process. 

“Starting a successful business is challenging on many levels,” Joselyn says, “but my advice is to focus on something that you are passionate about and where you know you can positively impact peoples’ lives.” 

Many entrepreneurs, regardless of whether they fit into an underrepresented category, underestimate how hard it is to launch a business. “The physical, mental, and emotional investment can’t be quantified,” Joselyn explains, “but it is much easier to do a great job if you love what you do.” For Joselyn, that purpose comes from impacting patients’ lives. “We help our patients take back their lives,” she explains, “and that gives me the resolve to overcome difficulties I encounter in my business.”

Joselyn acknowledges that there are added challenges in business as an immigrant. She is proud of her Filipino roots and points out the rich history Filipino-Americans have in Rochester.  “Many nurses were recruited to come to Rochester in the early 60s to help Mayo Clinic grow,” she says. But Joselyn herself identifies as an American now. “Having started my medical training as a corpsman in the Navy, I understand both the privilege and obligation of being a citizen.” 

“My English still isn’t perfect,” she says, “but we are very proud to contribute to the diversity of the business ecosystem in Rochester.” Her business is 100 percent self-financed, and while she isn’t looking for any special preferences just because she fits into a few unique categories for a business owner, she is looking for a equal opportunity to compete and contribute in this market. “All I want is a level playing field that allows us to serve our patients and give back to the community.” 

Diversity and Economic Growth

Joselyn was recently a presenter and sponsor of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce Supplier Diversity Summit. The event highlighted the economic power that is generated by the diversity within our local business community. “It was an opportunity not only to increase awareness about the services we provide our patients,” she says, “but the ways in which we can help grow and diversify the business environment in this city we now call home.”

Journey to Growth (J2G), an initiative of Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. (RAEDI), is also aimed at expanding and diversifying the regional economy and ultimately making southeastern Minnesota a more connected, cohesive and inclusive region. 

J2G is striving to solve some of our workforce problems by helping employers recognize the quality workers that already exist in the region. “It’s not always about trying to attract talent,” says Heather Holmes, RAEDI’s vice president of marketing. “Business leaders recognize that we need to get more of the minority communities involved in the workforce, but it’s not always obvious how to do that.” 

Journey to Growth is kicking off a traveling photo exhibition this fall to help encourage dialogue about workforce diversity in our region. “The ‘We Are More’ exhibition is a unique opportunity for us to showcase and celebrate the diversity in our region,” Heather says. “The goal is to help each of us embrace the many races, cultures and lifestyles that make our region so dynamic.”

Photos for the “We Are More” photography exhibit were submitted by the public and judged on their depiction of economic diversity and inclusivity in the region.  The exhibit will kick off in September and wrap up in November. It will be on display in five cities across the region, including Rochester, Austin, Chatfield, Lake City and Winona. For more information, visit j2gmn.com/we-are-more/.

Sarah is a freelance writer.