Sunsdahl Supports Tower Community Through Entrepreneurship

May 18, 2023

Dianna Sunsdahl owns and manages the building at 515 Main Street in Tower, Minnesota.

Investing in Main Street

For entrepreneur Dianna Sunsdahl, the idea to purchase a building in downtown Tower, Minnesota, came from wanting to do something for the community. New businesses were coming to the northern town along the shore of Lake Vermilion, and she saw the potential for Main Street to take off again.

So, she bought the building at 515 Main Street in August 2021 and started renovating the space for potential small business tenants.

“There's not much in this building that we haven't touched to make it more energy efficient and just a nice place for renters to want to rent on Main Street here in Tower,” said Sunsdahl, noting new flooring, new windows, a new awning and new heating and cooling systems.

The brick building with large street facing windows has three long-term lease units and one short-term rental space, which Sunsdahl operates her business Tower’s Gathering Gallery LLC – a rental space for artisans, makers and the community. Her husband Terry rents out one of the long-term spaces for his business Pike River Products, which sells handmade canvas and leather bags.

“I consider my husband an artisan, so I'd like to carry over that theme of local artisans, retail, anything shopping that would help the community and things that local people need here in the community,” said Sunsdahl.

Connecting with Entrepreneur Fund and its Resource Network

While the majority of the building’s renovation costs were covered through grants funded by Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation (IRRR) and Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency (AEOA), Sunsdahl was still interested in what other resources were available to her as a small business owner. Neighboring businesses connected her to the Entrepreneur Fund.

Since partnering with EFund in 2021, Sunsdahl has grown her property management business, Diannaz Dreamz, through a variety of EFund lending and advising services:

  • In 2021, a working capital SBA Microloan was used to help cover additional building expenses acquired during renovations.
  • The Microloan gave her additional resources and access to the EFund Expert Network  where she connected with local marketing and strategic business planning professionals.
  • In 2022, she completed the Stride program with a cohort of fellow entrepreneurs of color from around the region. In the program, she fine-tuned her business plan, received tools to better understand her financials, and worked with an attorney to construct lease agreements for her potential tenants. 
  • Through the Stride program she was also awarded a grant to upgrade the technology used to operate her business.

“Initially, I was looking for the grant funding, but what I gained from it (the Stride program) was more of a concise business plan than I had, as well as seeing what I lacked, which was an attorney looking over my lease agreements, as well as some financial suggestions,” said Sunsdahl. “It was also just nice to hear that you're not the only one that doesn't know everything. Sometimes I feel like I'm left on an island, and I'm supposed to know all the stuff and I don't, so it was nice to hear that others in the group have some struggles, too. And then the Entrepreneur Fund was helpful in filling the gaps and the needs for all of us.”

Sunsdahl is excited about the potential for not only continuing to grow her business, but bringing tenants and more action to Tower’s Main Street.

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