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Start Dakota

Start Dakota

By Startup Sioux Falls

At Startup Sioux Falls, our dream is to empower founders to solve problems and start businesses that build a better future for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Start Dakota is a show by Startup Sioux Falls where we:

Dispel misconceptions about starting a business
Uncover unique challenges faced by founders
Highlight today’s problem solvers
And build a stronger startup community for tomorrow

This project is powered by the SBA.
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Overcoming Challenges With Innovative Thinking

Start DakotaSep 12, 2023

Overcoming Challenges With Innovative Thinking
Sep 12, 202347:05
From A Corporate Job to Entrepreneurship

From A Corporate Job to Entrepreneurship

In this episode, Brad Edwards shares his journey of stepping away from his corporate job and into entrepreneurship.

Aug 08, 202346:42
A Real Estate Entrepreneur's Journey

A Real Estate Entrepreneur's Journey

On the latest episode of Start Dakota, Startup Sioux Falls’ president, Brienne Maner, sits down with Saugat Pradhan, an ambitious young entrepreneur juggling both college and a career in real estate.

Pradhan is also a recent graduate of Startup Sioux Falls’ CO.STARTERS program, which he says proved instrumental in helping him define his ideal real estate customer.

At the beginning of the episode, he shares his experience growing up in a refugee camp in Nepal and moving to Sioux Falls in 2011. While it was challenging to relocate to a place where everything was unknown, from the people to the language and customs, Pradhan says he loves being in Sioux Falls.

“We didn’t have much in Nepal — we really depended on the government for food and basic needs,” he said.

He goes on to talk about his family’s experience as refugees and how that inspired him to pursue entrepreneurship.

“My parents came to America to give us a better life because they loved me and cared for me. I wanted to give back to my parents, and after I got here, I really liked the idea of owning your own business, working for yourself and not really depending on someone else to give you money or feed you,” he said.

Pradhan had part-time jobs as a teenager, but even then, he says he hated working for someone else. He began buying items at thrift stores and reselling them online. He would then take the money he earned and invest it into other ventures.

At just 21 years old, he is finishing up a degree in business administration online through the University of South Dakota, but he also has his real estate license with eXp Realty. He discovered the world of real estate investing online and quickly became intrigued by the possibilities.

“I met with other realtors in town, and they encouraged me to get my license so I could learn about the industry and then invest. As I started selling properties, I was like, ‘Wow, this is amazing. I can help people while I learn about what I want to do?’” he said.

He especially enjoys helping people from his community and from other countries who don’t understand English or need assistance navigating the world of real estate. He has been dedicated to meeting potential customers using tactics like cold-calling and networking all over town.

“Anywhere I go, I introduce myself to people,” he said.

In fact, that’s how he first heard about CO.STARTERS. He met one of our facilitators, Terry Liggins, at a Toastmasters event, and he encouraged him to apply to the program.

“The most important thing I learned in CO.STARTERS was figuring out your customer base … what kind of customer fits your business and marketing to those customers to build and expand your business,” he said.

He shares the following advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

“Business is a hard field to get into, and you're not going to get results right away. It's going to take months, or even years. My advice would be to just learn about the business. What do you want to start, or what kind of field do you want to get into? Find a mentor or someone that knows about that field, and learn from them.”

There’s so much more to hear from this episode. Tune in today, wherever you listen to podcasts!

Show Notes:Connect with Saugat on LinkedIn.

Submit an interest form for CO.STARTERS

CO.STARTERS Challenge: Revenue Complete your “fieldwork” before the next episode:

Identify your revenue streams.

Add it to your business model canvas.

Track and identify trends and opportunities.

Business Minute: Learn more about the Community Navigator Program at Website: Facebook: Instagram: LinkedIn: Address: 100 E 6th St. Sioux Falls, SD 57104

Jul 11, 202340:26
CO.STARTERS Helps Startup Find Its Footing

CO.STARTERS Helps Startup Find Its Footing

On the latest episode of Start Dakota, Startup Sioux Falls’ president, Brienne Maner, sits down with Kesmond Willert, co-founder of Unseen Outdoors and a graduate of our CO.STARTERS program. Willert started his business, which is focused on creating portable hunting concealment products, with his co-founder and childhood best friend, Dylan Dulas, during his sophomore year at South Dakota State University. Growing up hunting and fishing, he always had a passion for the outdoors, and in college, he began creating content for a successful YouTube channel called MinnDak Outdoors. At the time, he and Dulas were shooting DIY-style videos for the page, and in the process, they ended up repurposing an old ice-fishing shack into a duck blind. “We just had this feeling of ‘I don’t think we should post this, we might have something here,’” he said. Dulas is a mechanical engineering graduate, and Willert, whose skills are more in marketing and PR, says the two complement each other well as business partners. They took their duck blind prototype and began working on e-commerce plans, but after graduating, progress started to dwindle. “We needed to get back on the right track,” he said. “We got out of college, had to pay the bills, and it felt like we were beating a dead horse for a while there.” Moving forward with the product would be a financial risk, and Willert says they panicked a bit. However, he ended up connecting with Carrie Kuhl, a Brookings native and CO.STARTERS graduate. She encouraged him to check out the program, and to Willert, it felt like just what he needed. “That's one of the things that's awesome about CO.STARTERS is you put yourself in a room with entrepreneurs — like-minded people. You have these great connections, but the other thing, too, was pivoting … sometimes you have to be willing to let go of your baby, essentially, and pivot a little bit to make something that can feed your baby,” he said. Going through the program pushed Willert and Dulas back to the prototyping phase, and Willert says the product they have now is significantly better than what they originally created. Additionally, the CO.STARTERS team was able to connect them with Sean Weaver, head waterfowl rep for First Lite, a company Willert says they aspire to be like one day. “We ended up calling him on the phone around 6 p.m. and talking until about 10 p.m.,” he said. “That’s what’s cool about entrepreneurs … I think they understand the struggle and how much work it does take to get going.” He continued, “One of the things is that you want to be wise and not smart. You do things that are smart based off of what you’ve learned … where being wise is you learn and listen from other people’s past mistakes and implement your decisions from there. In a matter of three to four hours, [Sean] probably gave us a year’s worth of knowledge.” There’s so much more to hear from this episode. You don’t want to miss this one. Tune in today, wherever you listen to podcasts! Show Notes: Learn more about Unseen Outdoors on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Submit an interest form for CO.STARTERS. CO.STARTERS Challenge: Distribution Complete your “fieldwork” before the next episode: -How you will distribute your products or service? -Use your canvas to visualize your distribution plan. -Identify if there are any missing steps or gaps. Business Minute: Learn more about business financing from internal or external sources. This project is made possible through a partnership with Startup Sioux Falls and grant funding provided through the Community Navigator Pilot Program, powered by the SBA. More information can be found here: Website Facebook Instagram LinkedIn Address: 100 E 6th St. Sioux Falls, SD 57104

Jun 13, 202348:41
Coaching For Community Success

Coaching For Community Success

On the latest episode of the Start Dakota podcast, Startup Sioux Falls’ president, Brienne Maner, sits down with Terry Liggins, CEO of TLC Services, founder of The Hurdle LIfe Coach Foundation, and a recent CO.STARTERS facilitator. 

Through The Hurdle Life Coach, Liggins offers mentorship, coaching, guidance, and facilitation services to organizations looking to build bridges with people from different communities.

“My cup overflows with the work I get to do,” he said.

When asked about the “why” behind what he does, Liggins says the biggest thing for him is the importance of community and how it matters to families. 

“I want our community to be a safe place for my 10-year-old daughter, and I want that for everyone else’s family, too. I want all people’s families to have prosperous, safe upbringings,” he said. 

He adds that, as a person of color and business owner, it’s a powerful inspiration for kids who grew up like him.

“They may not be exactly like me, but we're very similar in some of our conditions and our similar upbringings, and I know that by being in business for myself, by letting my vision come to fruition, that's also giving people hope that they can have the same thing happen for them in their lives.” 

Liggins went full-time with his business three years ago in 2020 after working for Lutheran Social Services (LSS) providing reentry services for adults coming out of incarceration. He says it was a wonderful opportunity, but he wanted to go deeper than the scope of his role. 

The challenge of entrepreneurship was, in his words, figuring out “how business works.”

“I didn’t have that type of mentorship around me in my upbringing. I’m a first-generation business owner, and I had the passion, the spirit, and the faith, but the understanding of how to incorporate, how to stay in good standing with the law, that was all a learning curve for me,” he said. 

“Now, I’ve learned quite a bit and am able to pass that on to others.” 

In a way, his journey has come full circle, as he recently had the opportunity to facilitate a CO.STARTERS cohort through LSS’ Center for New Americans, one of Startup Sioux Falls’ partners through the SBA Community Navigator program.

Liggins says one of the major takeaways from that experience was the importance of cultural humility. 

“It’s a posture and a mindset that allows all of us to stay in that learner seat as it takes us working with people from different cultures than our primary culture. Sioux Falls is filled with so many different cultures, so many different languages, so many different ethnicities, and that's a strength, and it's beautiful to see. But in order to leverage it, we have to keep the humility intact.”

That’s just a taste of the conversation. Tune into Maner and Liggins’ full episode — available now wherever you listen to podcasts!

Show Notes:

This project is made possible through a partnership with Startup Sioux Falls and grant funding provided through the Community Navigator Pilot Program, powered by the SBA. More information can be found here.





Address: 100 E 6th St. Sioux Falls, SD 57104

May 09, 202350:50


Episode 10 of the Start Dakota podcast features CO.STARTERS graduate (EmBe cohort), Desiree Donovan. The founder of a cleaning company, Donovan’s Diamond Details, she sat down with Brienne Maner to chat about jumping into entrepreneurship. 

Donovan has 25+ years of restaurant and hospitality experience, primarily in management roles, but she never imagined starting her own business. Nearly a year ago, however, she was working for a cleaning company and had the feeling she could run things better on her own. 

She set a goal of opening in February 2022, but when the time came, she still didn’t feel ready. As a mother of three, she wanted to feel more stable before taking the leap, so she held off. 

By July, however, nothing had changed, and she was still feeling frustrated at work.

“I was trying to decide what to do. Change jobs? Jump into this? Then CO.STARTERS came across my Facebook page. It just kept popping up, so I applied,” she said. 

CO.STARTERS participants dive deep on the process of customer discovery.

Donovan says Sioux Falls has two things going for it in terms of the cleaning industry — a booming construction and home building industry and lots of families with busy lives. 

She hopes to serve these two areas by providing post-construction cleaning and staging, as well as assistance for families who don’t have time to devote to their homes. 

There’s no shortage of competition for Donovan. However, she believes the love she brings into her work is what sets her apart from other companies. 

“When I walk into somebody's house, I see, ‘Okay, we definitely had hockey or baseball this week.’ I don't just walk in and see the mess. I see all the things that have added up to the chaos, and then I just give it a lot of love.”

She clearly has passion, but when it comes to self-identifying as an entrepreneur, Donovan hits a wall. 

“I was definitely one of those people who didn’t consider myself an entrepreneur,” Donovan said. 

She talks about comparing herself to the other women in the room and the types of businesses they’re pursuing. 

“One thing I have learned is even though I don't necessarily feel like I have this booming business sitting in front of me right now, all of the skills that I've built over the last 20-some years of management have given me so much more information than I thought I had, and I was actually able to offer some of that to some of those other ladies,” she said. 

She says building that self-confidence was one of the things she most appreciated about CO.STARTERS.

“One of the things I was hoping to get from this class was confidence in myself, knowing that I could move forward with anything I needed to do. I borrowed that power from those other women — I know it doesn't necessarily make sense, but you feel it when you walk in a room, when you know that everybody has their hands on your back and are going to push you towards whatever it is you're looking at.”

There’s so much more to hear from Desiree! Tune in to the full episode wherever you listen to podcasts.

Show Notes:

  • Follow Donovan’s Diamond Details on Facebook.

  • Learn more about EmBe.

  • Submit an interest form for CO.STARTERS.

  • CO.STARTERS Challenge: Marketing 

    • Complete your “fieldwork” before the next episode: 

      • Define your messaging and add it to your canvas. 

      • What does your customer need to know?

      • Why should your customer like and trust you?

  • Business Minute: Learn more about SD CEO

This project is made possible through a partnership with Startup Sioux Falls and grant funding provided through the Community Navigator Pilot Program, powered by the SBA. More information can be found here.





Apr 11, 202342:59
CO.STARTERS FEATURE: The Entrepreneurial Journey

CO.STARTERS FEATURE: The Entrepreneurial Journey

David Clifford, founder of Trap Tipi and Director of Communications at Thunder Valley CDC and Brienne Maner sit down to discuss David's entrepreneurial journey. 

Mar 14, 202346:40
CO.STARTERS FEATURE: A Starter's Origin Story

CO.STARTERS FEATURE: A Starter's Origin Story

On Episode 8 of the Start Dakota podcast, Startup Sioux Falls’ president Brienne Maner sits down with CO.STARTERS graduate and AMPO founder, Amy Pokela.

The two discuss Pokela’s vision for her business and the supportive environment created by the CO.STARTERS program.

AMPO is a tech-based business with a goal of creating solutions for nonprofits.

“I’m really working on building a web ecosystem where small and mid-sized nonprofits will be able to go in and get their tools, products and services right there on the web without having to contract with anyone,” she said.

“A lot of times, people say, ‘We need to be teaching people how to fish.’ Sometimes, you just need the fish. So with my business and what I'm doing, I just want to give people fish, and then that might help them at some point in time where they’re like, ‘Okay, now I want to learn a little bit more, and I want to read more about the strategy.’”

Maner asks Pokela what drove her to go out on her own after spending the majority of her career in the corporate world.

“I just reached the point in time where I was like, ‘I have knowledge, and I'm not scared to take risks, and I was sick of other people not really being willing to jump off the cliff with me, so I decided to do it by myself,” she said.

Having the confidence to go out on your own doesn’t mean you automatically have it all together though. The CO.STARTERS Canvas provides a structure for entrepreneurs to assess their business or concept and identify the gaps and challenges that are in their way.

During her CO.STARTERS experience, Pokela dug into the barriers she faces when it comes to building a tech business. She was able to pinpoint three primary needs: web development, content creation and customer acquisition.

Additionally, Pokela says she deeply valued the community that CO.STARTERS provided during a time when she was looking for answers and confidence as an entrepreneur.

“I really can’t say how invaluable the experience was. I’d be lost without it.”

That’s just a taste of this fantastic conversation between Maner and Pokela. Tune in to hear more about Pokela’s business journey and how CO.STARTERS provides a supportive, collaborative environment for entrepreneurs to move forward with their businesses.






Address: 100 E 6th St, Sioux Falls, SD 57104

Feb 14, 202344:17
CO.STARTERS FEATURE – Creating A Space For Women to Flourish

CO.STARTERS FEATURE – Creating A Space For Women to Flourish

Episode 7 of Start Dakota brings us an interview between Startup Sioux Falls’ president Brienne Maner and CO.STARTERS graduate Jackie Wilson.

Wilson recently graduated from the EmBe cohort of CO.STARTERS, an offering made possible through the Community Navigator pilot program. She joined the program when her business, As I Am In Christ, was in its early development stages.

Wilson’s business concept is to create a platform for underserved women “to show up authentically as they are and to be able to leverage their skills in the community to get the resources they need and build the life they want.”

She was inspired by her personal experience and says that through the CO.STARTERS customer discovery process, she saw her younger self as the customer.

“I was an underserved teenager and child; I've come from a very difficult background that included a lot of different things that have the ability to put people at a disadvantage as they're starting off in life,” she said.

Wilson says she thinks a lot about what she needed as a teenager and a young woman starting out in life.

“Some of the women in the community are facing difficult situations, and they don’t know what resources are available in Sioux Falls.”

While there are organizations in the community that provide for underserved women, Wilson says many are geared toward giving women what they need in the moment instead of teaching them how to be successful long-term.

“I learned throughout my life that you can give somebody something, but if you teach them how to do it themselves, it lasts a lot longer.”

She is grateful to have been pointed to CO.STARTERS while her idea was in such an early stage.

“I had volunteered with Embe before and when I didn’t know how to get started with my business, I was pointed back to them, and they told me about CO.STARTERS,” she said.

“Another woman opened the door for me, and I want to be able to do that for other people.”

Wilson feels that her business concept has evolved significantly over the 10-week program. Looking to the future, she plans to pursue a degree in social work or sociology and then begin identifying specific resource gaps within the community before setting up her nonprofit.

“I certainly feel like I've gotten more [from CO.STARTERS] than what I initially went into it seeking. I was able to make connections with women in the community who are successful and started businesses out of ideas that they had brewing in their minds, and they actually turned into really successful stories. It's been nice to have those resources offered to us as women that went through that program,” she said.

That’s just the beginning of the conversation. Tune in to hear more about Jackie’s business journey and how CO.STARTERS helps entrepreneurs develop their ideas from the ground up.







Address: 100 E 6th St, Sioux Falls, SD 57104

Jan 11, 202337:32
An Interview With A CO.STARTER Alumni

An Interview With A CO.STARTER Alumni

Episode 6 of Start Dakota brings us an interview between Startup Sioux Falls’ president Brienne Maner and CO.STARTERS graduate Kendra Cersosimo, owner of Kendra Cersosimo Creative, which provides professional social media, graphic design and marketing services.

Cersosimo participated in CO.STARTERS in 2022 through Dakota Resources’ cohort in Mitchell, as part of the SBA Community Navigators Grant. Upon joining the program, she had been running her business full-time for less than a year, though she had been freelancing on the side since 2018.

“It got to the point where I either needed to stop spending all my nights and weekends pouring my soul into this business, or I needed to take the leap of faith and do it,” she said.

For Cersosimo, figuring out the structural elements of running a business was crucial to feeling secure and setting herself up for success.

Though she has been creative since childhood and remembers, as a third-grader, saying she was going to own “Kendra’s Crafts” someday, by the time she was out of college, freelancing and running her own business didn’t sound that appealing.

“I love stability. I love a schedule. I love a routine. So, being a freelancer was never something that sounded like something I wanted. It sounded unstable and out of my comfort zone.”

Faced with the reality that her side hustle had the potential to succeed full-time, she dove into research, reading books, listening to podcasts and meeting with accountants, health insurance providers and financial advisors, as well as connecting with the South Dakota Small Business Association (SBA).

She initially heard about the SBA Community Navigator grant program from a former employer, Laura Klock of Klock Werks, who was facilitating the CO.STARTERS program in Mitchell.

“I saw that Laura had posted about it on LinkedIn or Facebook, and so I clicked on the link to read a little bit more about it, and honestly, it seemed too good to be true. It was one of those things where it was like, ‘Why wouldn’t I?’ I have a graphic design degree, I have a master’s in project management, but none of those really prepared me to start a business. That was exactly what CO.STARTERS provided me, and so it was kind of a no-brainer to apply.”

Cersosimo appreciated the diversity of her fellow CO.STARTERS participants and the different perspectives they each brought to the table. She also valued the insights of the various business experts who came in to present each week.

“It was really fun to hear each and every business owner’s story, but also to get to hear from the experts on how to correctly go about these different areas.”

That’s just the beginning of the conversation. Tune in for more details on Cersosimo’s business and how she serves her clients. You’ll also hear how she plans to move forward by utilizing mentorship and continued resources from the CO.STARTERS program, along with so much more!





Dec 13, 202240:55
Bolstering Entrepreneurial Development in the Lakota Community

Bolstering Entrepreneurial Development in the Lakota Community

In Episode 5 of Start Dakota, Startup Sioux Falls’ president, Brienne Maner, sits down with Ryan Hussman of Thunder Valley Development Corporation to discuss entrepreneurship in the Lakota community. Thunder Valley’s mission is to empower Lakota youth and families to improve health, education and culture through healing and strengthening of cultural identity. The organization takes a holistic approach to accomplishing that mission with eight different initiatives: food sovereignty, housing and home ownership, Lakota language and education, regenerative community development, regional equity, workforce development, youth leadership and social enterprise. Hussman serves as the regenerative economy development director for social enterprise, and he says one of his biggest goals has been to develop a business development center or incubator on a reservation. 

A few years back, his team conducted a feasibility study and interviewed Maner, who provided insight on what makes a successful accelerator program. Fast forward to 2022, and Thunder Valley is now one of Startup Sioux Falls’ spoke organizations through the Community Navigator program. “When the Community Navigator pilot program showed up and you reached out to us, we were really excited for the opportunity to make things happen,” Hussman said. Hussman and Maner went on to discuss Hussman’s personal connection to and interest in entrepreneurship. Born and raised on the Pine Ridge reservation, Hussman grew up on a cattle ranch, working with his family for much of his life. 

As early as fourth grade, he was pursuing entrepreneurial ventures, selling homemade stress balls to his classmates. Now, he is completing his education in an entrepreneurship program at a community college and has plenty of entrepreneurial ideas up his sleeve, including a farm-to-table business connected to cattle ranching. Maner asked about the challenges the Lakota face as one of the most economically disadvantaged communities in the United States. “The biggest thing is infrastructure,” said Hussman. “In terms of having a business, infrastructure is the biggest thing you’ve got to build up … and it’s just a high investment for any regular community member to do. You start talking about big numbers where a simple business can’t really sustain it.” Maner says that when Startup Sioux Falls was putting together its group of spoke organizations, they knew they were ill-equipped to support underserved communities across the state for a number of reasons. “I think the biggest thing that came up for our team was trust and how we haven’t had the opportunity to build rapport or build that relationship, partly because of the miles between us, but also there’s cultural barriers here, there’s history, there are feelings,” she said. 

Show Notes: Learn more about Thunder Valley here. Submit an interest form for CO.STARTERS. CO.STARTERS Challenge: Your Solution Complete your “fieldwork” before the next episode: Take time to identify and write down your solution. Whether you’re selling retro-themed t-shirts or tattooing services, formalize in your mind what your solution is and all the features it includes. Business Minute: Learn more about SD CEO here. This project is made possible through a partnership with Startup Sioux Falls and grant funding provided through the Community Navigator Pilot Program, powered by the SBA. More information can be found here.





Nov 08, 202230:09
Supporting New American Business Owners

Supporting New American Business Owners

In Episode 4 of the Start Dakota podcast, Startup Sioux Falls’ president, Brienne Maner, sits down with Laura Smith-Hill of Lutheran Social Services (LSS) and the Center for New Americans.

They kick the conversation off by discussing an anecdote Maner had run across which posited that immigrants and new Americans tend to be more entrepreneurial and more likely to start a small business than people born in the United States.

Smith-Hill agrees, noting that entrepreneurship often comes up in her conversations with refugees and immigrants.

“They have this really organic entrepreneurial spirit, and when we have conversations about the type of work that they did before coming to the United States, it is not at all uncommon for people to say they had a shop — like a small shop that a family establishes in their community to solve problems and meet the needs of their neighborhood,” she said.

She adds, however, that it becomes more challenging for those folks when they try to do the same thing in the United States and come up against different structures and regulations.

“There are not a lot of barriers for people to do that in their country of origin. It looks a little different than it does here in the United States.”

Smith-Hill has been working with LSS for 21 years, and in her time, 47 different nationalities have been through LSS’ adult education program alone. Meeting the needs of such a variety of communities is a challenge, but it’s one LSS is deeply committed to.

“It is one of the delightful challenges of the work that we do in our little education program — and when I say little, it's between 400 and 700 students a year, typically. It's relative, but it feels small, because we're morning, afternoon and evening, and we are classroom-based, so we’ll have a group of five to 10 in this room, and five to 10 in that room,” she said.

Customization and adaptation are key when it comes to meeting varied needs and skill levels, and that’s a challenge Startup Sioux Falls has been tackling through the Community Navigator program as well, in part through its partnership with LSS’ Center for New Americans.

“When we were selecting which spoke organizations would be best to work with, it was a no-brainer to work with you guys, and the more you talk about your resources and your process, it's just so apparent to me that you're equipped to take on these challenges with grace and strength,” Maner said.





Oct 10, 202237:26
Supporting Women in Entrepreneurship

Supporting Women in Entrepreneurship

In Episode 3 of the Start Dakota podcast, Startup Sioux Falls’ president, Brienne Maner, sits down with Megan Bartel, the new executive director of women’s programming at EmBe.

Maner and Bartel begin by discussing the challenges that EmBe faces when it comes to empowering women and families in the Sioux Falls community.

“I think right now, after the pandemic, that has just added extra layers of barriers, but we just have so many opportunities through our programming,” Bartel said.

She references Dress for Success, Women to the Workforce, Tapestry and the Women’s Leadership Program, to name a few. Recently, EmBe added CO.STARTERS to its lineup of programming, thanks to the Community Navigator grant partnership.

“It's just amazing to look full circle at what we offer, and to see that every part of your journey, whether there's barriers or not, there's something EmBe can step in and help support you with, and it just makes sense to be a part of that. This grant is just another layer of support we can offer,” she said.

Part of that support involves meeting women where they are and helping them find the best fit.

“It's really supporting women from the whole spectrum, whether they're like, ‘Hey, I've been in a leadership role for a really long time, but I don't know if I necessarily need to be in the women's cohort. And then you have people that are like, ‘I would love to develop it, but I don't know if I'm ready for it yet.’ And so I think it’s just having conversations and letting us help you figure out the best route,” Bartel said.

Maner and Bartel talk about how CO.STARTERS might be a natural fit for some of the women who have been through other EmBe programming.

“I just think that's one thing that we can increase our visibility of what we already do, and then showcase what we have coming up as well. We have a woman that just went through Dress for Success. … She was able to get a whole wardrobe for her new job. She went through our Women to the Workforce program, she went through our Tapestry program, and now she has her own business, and I just think [CO.STARTERS] is something that could have been that next step for her,” Bartel said.

“I really feel like through our current programming, we're going to be able to help guide and direct these women and say, ‘Hey, let's work on your skills. Let's work on your confidence. And then let's get you a business.”

Maner emphasizes the importance of a partnership like the one between Startup Sioux Falls and EmBe.

Show Notes:

  • Learn more about EmBe at
  • Submit an interest form for CO.STARTERS:
  • CO.STARTERS Challenge: Alternatives
    • Complete your “fieldwork” before the next episode: Begin researching existing and alternative solutions to your business. Try engaging customers for feedback to learn more about your business landscape.

Business Minute: Learn more about SD CEO at





Sep 08, 202237:28
Building Communities of Rural Founders, featuring Paula Jensen

Building Communities of Rural Founders, featuring Paula Jensen

In Episode 2 of the Start Dakota podcast, Startup Sioux Falls’ president, Brienne Maner, is joined by Paula Jensen, vice president of program development at Dakota Resources.

Jensen and Maner discuss the important work Dakota Resources is doing for entrepreneurs in rural areas, including being part of the Community Navigator program, which brings CO.STARTERS to rural communities.

Dakota Resources’ partnership with Startup Sioux Falls through the Community Navigator program allows the two organizations to pool their knowledge and make a greater impact.

“I think that’s what we're ultimately trying to do, as an organization, is give people the tools they need to succeed and let them run with it, and that's really the beauty behind this Community Navigators pilot program from my purview,” said Maner.

“Our hesitation with trying to expand our reach is that we feel ill-equipped because we don't have the necessary relationships, and I know this isn't always the case, but the big city folks coming into the rural communities, that can cause a little bit of tension I would assume, where I don’t know your market, I can only give you what I have available. So, I love that we're partnering together.”

Jensen talks about a former program for entrepreneurs, Dakota Rising, which was similar in nature to CO.STARTERS in that diverse participants were put into cohorts to learn from one another.

Show Notes:

  • Learn more about Dakota Resources at
  • Dakota Resources is partnering with regional economic development organizations in five rural South Dakota communities including Watertown, Yankton, Vermillion, Mitchell, and Brookings. We are hosting CO.STARTERS cohorts in 2022-2023. Here’s what we’re offering:
  • Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Corporation in Mitchell, SD
  • Yankton Thrive in Yankton, SD
  • Brookings Chamber of Commerce in Brookings, SD
  • Watertown Development Company in Watertown, SD
  • Vermillion Chamber and Development Company in Vermillion, SD
  • CO.STARTERS Challenge: Know your customer.
    • Test, iterate and revise any assumptions you’ve made about your product or service to make sure your solution is what a customer wants. How do you do this? Through customer discovery—talking to people and getting their feedback.
    • Complete your “fieldwork” before the next episode: Conduct your own customer discovery. Talk to a future customer each week for the next month.
    • This exercise will show you where you’re strong and where you’re stuck.

Business Minute: Learn more about SD CEO at





Aug 10, 202239:34
Supporting Communities of Starters with Jose Alfaro Start Dakota episode 1

Supporting Communities of Starters with Jose Alfaro Start Dakota episode 1

On the first episode of the Start Dakota podcast, Startup Sioux Falls’ executive director, Brienne Maner, sits down with Jose Alfaro, CEO of CO.STARTERS.

The Startup Sioux Falls team first met Alfaro in May 2022 for a CO.STARTERS community training as part of the newly-launched SBA Community Navigator pilot program. Working with Alfaro and the rest of his crew has proven to be a valuable and encouraging experience for our team here in Sioux Falls, as we continue to navigate the needs of founders and starters in our community.

To kick off the conversation, Brienne asks Jose about his own path to CO.STARTERS—he started in sales, was later promoted to COO and took on the role of CEO just three months ago.

Jose shares his perspective on the “why” behind CO.STARTERS.

“CO.STARTERS built programs and frameworks to help individuals understand entrepreneurship in a different way, but also we redefined what entrepreneurship is,” he says.

“We call our entrepreneurs starters because you just start anything, right? You start a project, you start a nonprofit, you start a business, a side hustle, whatever it is, that is creating impact in the community.”

That concept of entrepreneurs as “starters” resonates deeply with our team.

“As an organization, we have completely transformed how we talk about entrepreneurship in this community. There were so many small businesses and creatives that felt like they didn't have a place in the ecosystem. So, to pivot from ‘entrepreneurship’ … to call them ‘founders’ or ‘starters’ and start talking about inclusivity of industry has been transformational for the city,” says Brienne.

Jose and Brienne discuss the growth that CO.STARTERS has experienced, both at the organization-level with more and more cities adopting the program, and here in Sioux Falls, where we are beginning to reach out to and build relationships with local underserved communities through the SBA Community Navigators grant.

Growth like this is exciting, but it also brings with it a fair amount of challenges. Jose closes the conversation by sharing a few nuggets of advice for creating a successful community of starters.

“Stop trying to be like everybody else,” he says. “Because you'll never be Silicon Valley. You'll never be Austin. You'll never be St. Louis. You'll never be Boston. You are you. You’re Sioux Falls. Don't be Chattanooga, be Sioux Falls. What is Sioux Falls? What is Sioux Falls’ energy? Find it.”

Tune in to the full conversation to hear these takeaways and many more.

Watch the video version on Youtube, or listen on your favorite podcast platform—Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music or Anchor.





Jul 14, 202243:06