It took brains, gumption and the pride of a Rochesterian to create something Monroe County has never seen before.
For Danielle Raymo the concept was simple: create a place that brings together the community in a way that adapts and changes often. Cue the
Rochester Brainery—a community classroom and events space.
“This has been the culmination of all of the things that I love,” Raymo says.
Growing up in the suburb of Greece, Raymo was a natural collaborator, thanks to acting and choreography—both childhood passions.
“I danced and I really loved that, and I thought I wanted to do choreography. And then I got really into singing, and I did a lot of theater,” says Raymo, 31. “I’ve never been the kind of person to put all my eggs in one basket.”
She started her college career at Monroe Community College as a vocal performance major. While there, a back injury proved to be a pivotal turning point. Because she could not dance or pursue theater performance, she decided to attend Nazareth College for music education.
Raymo discovered she loved participating in music but not teaching it. After a semester, she landed at SUNY College at Brockport. She graduated with a degree in communications/broadcasting in 2009.
While at Brockport she focused on her interest in radio.
“I think I’m lucky that I’ve always had a lot of passions,” Raymo says. “And so for me it wasn’t like, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ I just changed my focus. I always try and go with the flow.”
During school Raymo was an intern at WBER, a noncommercial alternative music station. She remained there for five years, doing everything from cataloguing music to co-hosting the Friday Morning Show to eventually DJing.
She helped the station run a regular event called Juke Box Jury. Listeners came into the radio station and rated music on the air. With it she gained skills in running an event—which would prove critical to her future endeavors.
“Obviously, you’re on your feet. It’s live radio; anything can happen,” Raymo says. “It was great for me because I was musically introduced to so many different people. Planning the events and coordinating all of that stuff was the first time I did anything eventwise, and I thought, ‘This is super-fun.’”
She began working as on-air talent and promotions coordinator for Stephens Media Group in 2009. In that role she helped coordinate up to 30 events a week for three local stations—94.1 The Zone, Warm 101.3 and Fickle 93.3.
A year later, Raymo moved to New York City, hoping to find work in the promotions industry. While still living there, she began working as a brand development specialist for Red Jacket Orchards, based in Geneva, Ontario County.
“So I was living there but coming to Rochester once a month, sometimes for work, sometimes for a weekend … and seeing all the things that were happening in Rochester,” Raymo says. “It was never like, ‘I want to get away from Rochester and move to New York.’ It was just purely circumstance.”
While in New York City, she was exposed to the Brooklyn Brainery through her Red Jacket job. Raymo liked what she saw. People were flocking to the community classroom.
“It was just incredible,” Raymo says. “The community around it was so engaged, and everyone was so interested in the conversation that was going on and I was like, ‘This is everything that I really love. This is amazing.’”
She knew the same model would work in Rochester.
“I had experienced it there and just saw how many people were excited about it and just felt like we can at least get the word out about it,” Raymo says. “I can’t imagine that people in Brooklyn would be excited about this and people in Rochester would not be.
“It was never something that we didn’t think would work. It was just a matter of us saying how do we explain it and make it happen,” she adds.
In 2013 she and her friend, Stephanie Rankin, launched Rochester Brainery, a classroom and events space in Village Gate. There was nothing quite like it, then and now, Raymo says.
Today Raymo runs the operation on her own—Rankin left in 2015 to pursue other interests—and the organization has three employees. Raymo continues to do social media marketing for Hart’s Local Grocers and Starry Nites Cafe while running the Brainery.
The Rochester Brainery moved to a larger space at 176 Anderson Ave. last June. The business holds 40 to 50 classes a month—up from 20 to 30 a month in 2013.
“I’ve come to realize over my time here with the Brainery that the Rochester community is incredibly collaborative,” Raymo says. “I always try and work with collaborative people. It always creates more opportunities. You never know what’s going to happen next week.”
The Brainery has four focus areas. The first is classes— play reading, laughter yoga, hands-on opportunities like jewelry making and painting and business topics such as Google analytics and blogging. Another focus is the company’s Brainery Bazaar, offered on the second Saturday of the month.
More than 20 local vendors showcase their talent, creativity and products.
“We needed another reason for people to come and experience the space, so we started the Brainery Bazaar about a month or so after we opened,” Raymo says.
Freelance Fridays began in early 2017 as a way for remote workers to change up their day and operate from the Brainery’s headquarters on Anderson Avenue. Participants have access to snacks, WiFi and a discount on a class offered at noon.
The final area of focus for the Brainery is events. The Anderson Avenue location can hold up to 110 people. Business meetings, private classes, bridal showers, team-building events and even weddings are held in the space.
“Not putting all your eggs in one basket is my motto,” Raymo says. “Not that it’s a bad thing to do that all of the time—you have to be focused; you can’t be all over the place—(but) we knew that classes necessarily might not be the only driver.”
Goals for 2017 include adding a kitchen area and boosting event business.
In four years the Brainery has come a long way, Raymo says. She thinks it is because the business is open to being involved in Rochester.
“You can’t overcommit. At a certain point you have to say, ‘We’ve committed to too much.’ But if it’s within reason, on mission and it seems fun, even if it’s just a donation of something or promotions … (we ask) ‘In what way can we be involved?’” Raymo says.
“For me that seemed to really work out: be open about things, be honest about things, be collaborative when you can.”
#TeamPXY with Carter and Corey on 98PXY is a partner with Fast Start. Listen on Monday from 6 to 10 a.m. for their interview with Danielle Raymo.