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Danielle Raymo

Rochester Brainery

Interview No. 45

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Revitalization is going on in many cities around the country, but the history here combined with the revitalization efforts make it really exciting to live here.

What part of Rochester are you from?

I grew up in Greece and live in the South Wedge now.

What is your favorite part of living in Rochester?

The people! I love how friendly and helpful everyone is. Everyone wants to help each other make connections. Plus, this area has amazing history, and it’s very affordable to live here.

Do you have any favorite/secret Rochester spots?

The old RAPA location on East Main is very nostalgic for me since I spent a lot of time there in High School and I’m excited to share more of those nostalgic spots on the @i.heart.roc Instagram! As for other favorite spots—it’s a long list: Orange Glory—I love to go there for lunch, Cure, Good Luck, Joe Bean Coffee. As you can probably tell I love food.

Describe your dream Rochester day.

It would be a Saturday, of course! So, breakfast at the Frog Pond, then shopping at the Public Market. We’d take a nice walk to Highland Park and have a picnic lunch there, then see a movie at The Little in the evening. At home that night, I’d throw open my windows, drink wine, and listen to the music floating in from the Beale across the street.

Do you have a favorite neighborhood?

I’d have to say Neighborhood of the Arts. NOTA has been really good to me.

Favorite bar?

Good Luck or Cure.

My mom put “Congratulations Danielle and Stephanie on the Grand Opening of the Rochester Brainery” up on the marquee at The Cinema. That was pretty special and uniquely, memorably Rochester.

What's your personal coping method for cold/gray weather?

In the winter I see a lot of movies—I’m at The Little way more than someone should be! They do have the best popcorn in Rochester, after all.

What is your favorite Rochester memory?

My mom put “Congratulations Danielle and Stephanie on the Grand Opening of the Rochester Brainery” up on the marquee at The Cinema. That was pretty special and uniquely, memorably Rochester.

What makes Rochester unique?

I think a huge part of it is that there are so many people trying to do so many good things. Revitalization is going on in many cities around the country, but the history here combined with the revitalization efforts make it really exciting to live here. So many big things started here!

What do you think could be improved?

I’m a big fan of businesses being close together instead of spread out. I’d like to see more businesses moving downtown on the street level. I think all of that would drive more walking and biking, which would be great!

If Rochester were a season, what would it be?

To me, Rochester screams fall! It’s the most beautiful in the fall. There’s perfect weather. I suppose I should say spring, with all of the revitalization happening, but I’m going to stick with fall.

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What made you decide to start a business in Rochester versus somewhere else?

I wanted to be a part of what was going on in Rochester. I saw the Brainery concept in New York City and wanted to bring it here. I saw so many others starting their own thing in Rochester and I knew I could too!

What is the best part of owning a business in Rochester?

Meeting all these people! Half my friends I’ve met through the Brainery. There are so many experts on so many topics, and so many people who want to collaborate! I’ve found so many people who want to make fun ideas into reality, and it’s a blast making them happen together.

What are some of the challenges you face?

One aspect that’s always been hard to explain with the Brainery is the fact that we offer single-session classes. It’s just one class and it’s just for fun. That’s something we’re still working on. We’re also working hard to get the word out about private classes—any group of friends, family, or coworkers can set up a private class! We also have custom-tailored business packages for staff retreats and that kind of thing. We’re working to promote those a little more. We always want to keep it fresh and ensure that it doesn’t get stale!

What is your vision for the Brainery? What about Upstate Social?

For the Brainery, we will always continue with single-session classes in a community space. I’d like to get us more involved with larger events that are a little more outside the box. Additionally, I’d like us to start offering larger workshops that dive into certain areas in greater depth and detail.

For Upstate Social, we’re really focusing on growing it. We want to find more national speakers and make it more visible. Our goals though, are to still keep it accessible, affordable, and local. It’s a good networking opportunity!

What kind of work goes on in the background to keep the Brainery running? How about making Upstate Social happen?

For the Brainery, it’s consistently booking classes and events, keeping the website up to date, and keeping up with community connections. I spend a lot of time convincing people to teach classes! A lot of the time the experts who have never taught before end up being some of our best and most popular teachers! We offer about 30-35 classes per month. A third of them are usually new and two thirds have been offered before. We do have a minimum of four attendees per class, otherwise the class will be canceled.

I work with a fantastic team for Upstate Social and would love to give them all a shout-out! There are seven people on the team including myself: Sydney Bell, Leah Stacy, Breanna Banford, Dan Gribbin, Steve Carter, and Justin Dusett. Last year we organized the whole conference in just a few months! The seven of us meet once a month to plan together.

Do you have any advice for people who want to start a new organization or business in the Rochester community?

Talking to as many people as you can is super helpful—get suggestions and feedback. I’d also recommend writing a solid business plan. Really think it through! When starting a business, try not to rely on one source of revenue alone—you need to get creative. Think outside the box! What else can I do? For example, the Brainery doesn’t depend solely on classes; we also rent out our space for events. Last but not least, marketing strategy is super important. Having a strong and authentic social media presence can make a huge difference!

Danielle Raymo is an active part of the creative Rochester community, and co-founder of Rochester Brainery, a community classroom and event space that offers fun, affordable classes. She also organizes Upstate Social Sessions. Read more of Danielle's perspective on our Instagram.