The Brains Behind Rochester Brainery
Danielle Raymo ’09 makes community education fun and affordable.
It was a post-graduation move to New York City that inspired Rochester native Danielle Raymo ’09 to make her next big move: becoming an entrepreneur back in her hometown.
Her Brooklyn apartment was across the street from a community education venue. Working as a brand development specialist for Red Jacket Orchards, she set up one of their farmers to teach classes there. This got Raymo thinking about what a powerful opportunity businesses have to market themselves by teaching others.
“I saw what great conversations it started,” she said. “It gives people another platform to share what they know.” She decided she wanted to play a key role in facilitating such conversations herself.
In 2013, she moved back to Rochester, worked with SCORE (a nonprofit organization that mentors small-business entrepreneurs) to build a business plan and apply for a loan, talked with other local business owners for guidance, and opened Rochester Brainery, a community classroom focused on single-session courses.
Raymo takes pride in keeping the classes both fun and affordable. The course topics are unrestricted — from cake decorating to papermaking, from Google analytics to American Sign Language — and most are $30 or less to attend.
Raymo earned an associate’s degree in vocal performance from Monroe Community College and a bachelor’s degree in communication from Brockport, concentrating in broadcasting. Throughout her time at both schools, she interned and volunteered at Rochester radio station WBER, where she served as a DJ, host of the show First Impressions, and co-host of the Friday Morning Show. At Brockport, she also worked in the Office of College Communications as a marketing intern.
“My internships were great preparation,” she said. Her experience from interning at WBER led to a job upon graduation, working as promotions coordinator for three Rochester radio stations through Stephens Media Group and as a DJ for 94.1 The Zone.
“Working in radio, I got my hands into everything,” said Raymo. “This helped me in starting the business, too, because I was playing all roles in the beginning.”
The multitasking approach is one in which Raymo thrives. In addition to owning and operating Rochester Brainery, she does social media marketing and consulting work for Hart’s Local Grocers and Starry Nites Café, and she and a friend started Upstate Social Sessions, an annual, one-day conference bringing social media professionals from across the country together in Rochester.
From the beginning, the idea of Rochester Brainery appealed to her because of its many layers.
“It allows me to combine my love of events, education, and marketing,” she said.
Raymo returned to Brockport in February 2017 for a “Lunch with a Career” event through Career Services, where she spoke candidly with students about her journey into entrepreneurship.
“The first six months were a struggle,” she told them. Many classes in those early days were cancelled due to low registration. But persistence led to payoff.
Now, Raymo rarely cancels any of the 45-plus programs scheduled each month, and classes often sell out. She also rents out the Rochester Brainery space for meetings and events, many of which incorporate classes; offers weekly Freelance Fridays, which provide workspace, Wi-Fi, and “great company” for $10; and hosts a Brainery Bazaar the second Saturday of each month, showcasing the work of local artists.
All of this activity soon outgrew the original location in Village Gate. She moved to a larger location, just down the street on Anderson Avenue, in June 2016, where she held a “Brainiversary” celebration for the business’s fourth anniversary in March.
“Finding a way to combine the things you love can take time,” said Raymo, “but it can happen!”