Dakota Rising Graduates Celebrate True Fellowship

Posted on April 6, 2017

Paula Jensen
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The most recent class of Dakota Rising Fellowship graduates were asked to reflect on their fellowship experience and to compare their original goals to their actual outcomes. Their hard work and commitment to the three-year program is evident in their answers, and their belief in the value of Dakota Rising makes us proud. We thank these amazing rural business owners for supporting one another and our mission of engaging, empowering and supporting entrepreneurs and local businesses.

MELANIE HOKE |BURGER SHACK, FAULKTON

DAKOTA RISING GOALS
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  • » Purchase a new heating and cooling system
  • » Enclose patio and pursue being open year-round
  • » Increase sales $30,000-$40,000 per year
  • » Learn to use P.O.S. software instead of hand writing everything
  • » Become a bigger and better resource for the community and school—hire more people, teenagers, etc.

AFTER DAKOTA RISING
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  • » Became a year-round business after the first year in Dakota Rising
  • » Remodeled the building to increase space and year-round use
  • » Doubled sales and increased profit by $150,000 per year
  • » Grew from five employees to a high of 17
  • » In a position to sell the business and move on to the next entrepreneurial dream

“The Dakota Rising application process gave me the opportunity to get all my ideas and plans on paper and really think things through. My goals seemed lofty at the time, but with the support of my cohort I was able to push even farther. It’s crazy to see the success. I’m now in a position to sell my business and pursue new adventures. When I called to tell Beth Davis at Dakota Resources, she told me she was proud of me. She said, ‘Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur!’ That kind of support is priceless.”

CHERYL SCHAEFERS | CHERYL’S CATERING, POLO

DAKOTA RISING GOALS
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

  • » Expand business in the local community
  • » Employ additional help
  • » Upgrade heating and cooling system

AFTER DAKOTA RISING –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

  • » Learned to work smarter, not harder
  • » Hired additional help to serve, but profits by making all the food herself
  • » Realized retirement is within reach and is actively working toward retirement

“Dakota Rising was more than I expected. It was the “business” difference between using dried basil vs. fresh basil. A difference you can never imagine until you experience it! I learned that catering is more than cooking and trying to keep up with the bookwork. My cohort found the many “holes in my bucket,” helped me devise a fix and kept me accountable. I grew personally and professionally, and along the way, experienced a renewed confidence in myself.”

LISA MUELLER | MUELLER THERAPEUTIC MASSAGE, FAULKTON

DAKOTA RISING GOALS ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

  • » Purchase new equipment
  • » Bring on an independent contractor or hire an employee
  • » Pursue continuing education opportunities
  • » Expand specialty services
  • » Become more business savvy

AFTER DAKOTA RISING
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  • » Purchased an orthotics machine to help provide custom orthotics, which has been a huge addition to the business
  • » Purchased an upgraded table to aid with in-depth maneuvers
  • » Pursuing continuing education in the area of Craniosacral Therapy
  • » Hired part-time massage therapists to provide temporary workload relief, currently seeking possible full-time person
  • » Created Facebook page and online appointment system, learning Quickbooks

“There are things I have done I don’t think I would have considered without the support of Dakota Rising. The people in my group eased my fears about hiring an employee or bringing on an independent contractor and gave me the confidence to take some classes and learn more about the business side of my business. On the other side, they also helped me decide against a few business decisions I was about to make. I appreciate having honest, smart people to talk to about being a business owner. Dakota Rising is a time commitment, but you will get out of it what you put into it. I have big goals and my work is not done—three years is the blink of an eye, but those three years gave me a strong foundation for the years ahead. I look forward to seeing what the future holds.”

RON WALDNER | SNOWFLAKE METALWORKS, WHITEWOOD

DAKOTA RISING GOALS –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

  • » Grow Snowflake Metalworks out of his home and into its own facility
  • » Hire more employees
  • » Increase focus on Snowflake Metalworks and move away from Ron Waldner Signature Homes

AFTER DAKOTA RISING
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  • » Doubled employees between the two businesses and saw increased sales and growth
  • » Broke ground on new Snowflake Metalworks facility in January 2017
  • » Has a renewed focus and energy on Ron Waldner Signature Homes

“Through Dakota Rising, you build deep, meaningful relationships with other business owners very quickly. Some of the businesses in my cohort had nothing in common with my business, but I learned that all business owners face the same challenges and frustrations. Having a sharp group of people to talk to about business decisions has given me more confidence and less anxiety as a business owner, with access to a network of people I trust. Through some of the coaching, I learned better ways to interact with my employees and I feel I am a better leader. Before Dakota Rising, I was an island on my own. Now, I have people. It’s the biggest and best benefit of the program.”

JAMIE GILCREASE-HEUPEL | LOTUS UP ESPRESSO AND DELI, LEAD

DAKOTA RISING GOALS
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  • » Move to a new high traffic location
  • » Increase sales and profitability
  • » Give back to the community and become more involved

AFTER DAKOTA RISING
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  • » Built a new building in a visible location
  • » Opened extra space in the building for lease to other viable businesses
  • » Doubled gross income
  • » Found her voice and became deeply involved in fundraising, various non-profits and community leadership positions

“Dakota Rising was so much more than I ever dreamed it would be. Being a Fellow changed my life, and in turn, it’s changing my community through the resources and contacts available through Dakota Resources and my newfound ability to champion a cause and make things happen. I overcame a lot of barriers to get to this place. I’ve always been a dreamer and now I can help others dream, too.”

DUSTIN FLOYD & MONTE AMENDE | TDG COMMUNICATIONS, DEADWOOD

DAKOTA RISING GOALS
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

  • » Expand new business development
  • » Increase profitability
  • » Win creative industry awards
  • » Gain more management and leadership skills

AFTER DAKOTA RISING
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  • » 2016 was most profitable year in the last five years
  • » Won a prestigious regional award at the District 8 Advertising Awards in Minneapolis
  • » New clients were gained directly through Dakota Rising connections

Dustin: “There are so many interesting opportunities to connect with people through Dakota Rising. Being able to connect with people who understand what it’s like to be in

business is hugely beneficial. We really started to see results in the last year of the program, so the only downside was that it had to end. Thankfully, we learned a lot and are still involved in ways that will allow us to continue our path. ”

Monte: ”I went into Dakota Rising expecting there to be some traditional business training. There is actually very little of that. I was surprised to discover that when they say fellowship, they really mean it. Dakota Rising seems to be as much about connecting its fellows as a community as it is about business development.”




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