When we launched Dakota Rising “once a fellow – always a fellow” was a principle we hoped would evolve into an axiom and it has. The generosity and commitment of the Alumni to the Dakota Rising community speaks volumes for the power of the Fellowship. Many of the alumni have engaged more fully in the civic life of their communities. These Fellows volunteer their time to mentor the incoming class of Fellows and they are committed to sponsoring one of the $10,000 Fellowships. Dakota Rising is a community that depends on leadership. The Fellowship alumni are playing an active role in moving entrepreneurship forward in South Dakota.

Monte Amende

TDG Communications
Dakota Rising Lawrence County

Born and raised in the Northern Black Hills, Monte Amende received a degree in mass communications from the University of South Dakota in 1993. He has been designing and administering web sites since the mid 1990’s. In 2002, Monte joined TDG as Creative Director. He is responsible for much of the agency’s success in the digital arena, and oversees and directs the agency’s growing team of creatives.

Dustin Floyd

TDG Communications
Dakota Rising Lawrence County

He penned travel books for some of the nation’s biggest publishers by his 25th birthday. He helped launch an online multiplayer video game. And then there’s that whole Oxford University-educated thing. But being part of the first generation to start kindergarten with computers (starting somewhere in ancient antiquity with the Apple IIe), Dustin has unique insight into the way online trends are shaping the buying habits and attitudes of today’s consumers. As TDG Communications’ Benevolent Overlord, that kind of experience comes in handy as he advises clients marketing to a new generation of consumers. In between blogging and social networking, he’s addicted to episodes of Futurama – and, in a true testament to his geekiness, he understands most of the jokes.

Jamie Gilcrease-Heupel

Lotus Up Espresso
Dakota Rising Lawrence County

Jamie was born and raised in Washington state. After overcoming childhood downfalls she was adopted at age 10. A natural born leader, Jamie moved her family to Lead to follow her dream of owning her own coffee shop.  Jamie began Lotus Up Espresso and Deli in 2010. Under her leadership, the coffee house has experience 200% increase in gross income, lowered the cost of goods by 3% and now employs between 4 and 7 people. Since purchasing the coffee shop, she has added a drive thru, banquet room and large outside deck. Her next large leap of faith will be moving the coffee shop to a new location, which she will not only be a business owner, but also the building owner.

Melanie Hoke

The Burger Shack
Faulkton Area Economic Development Initiative

Melanie was born and raised in Bend, Oregon.  After high school she attended Central Oregon Community College and then Western Oregon State University majoring in Early Childhood Education.  Discovering she had a passion for business, she went into partnership and ran her first restaurant in Oregon for ten years.  She then decided to move to Faulkton in 2010 to be closer to her family and take over her parent’s business.  The Burger Shack was established in 2003 by her parents, then they decided to retire and sell the business to Melanie.

Melanie has been in the food and beverage industry for twenty years, owning a restaurant in Oregon and general Managing a restaurant and Lodge in Kula, Hawaii.  After a lease option on the Burger Shack for … Read More »

Lisa Mueller

Mueller Therapeutic Massage
Faulkton Area Economic Development Initiative

After graduating from Faulkton High School in 2000, Lisa Mueller attended Concordia College, Moorhead, MN where she earned her BA in Exercise Science.  With her passion in the health and wellness field, she knew that she wanted to pursue a career in massage therapy, therefore continued her education at Northwestern Health Sciences University, Bloomington, MN, while also employed as a personal trainer.  Lisa had always had the dream and lifelong goal of being a successful entrepreneur.

After her marriage to husband Kyle, they moved to Algona, IA where she opened her own massage business, Mueller Therapeutic Massage in 2005.  The background and expertise that Lisa brought to her business of overall wellness and fitness made her business an immediate success.  With the opportunity to move to South … Read More »

Cheryl Schaefers

Cheryl’s Catering
Faulkton Area Economic Development Initiative

I have always loved to cook. Before my Mom corralled me to start helping her in the house, I spent the summers making mud pies with my sisters. We even set up our store and sold them to our brothers!

My husband Fred and I got married in the drought year of 1976, and began our dairy business just weeks later. We were blessed with seven wonderful children in fourteen years. We worked together as a family in our dairy and farm until the barn burned to the ground in 1992. I began working at the Legion Café in Orient in 1993, and that was where my catering career began to blossom. Once again, we were working together as a family, as we prepared and fed up to 900 people … Read More »

Ron Waldner

Snowflake Metalworks
Dakota Rising Lawrence County

Ron’s childhood was spent on the rural prairies near Carpenter, South Dakota.  He attended school in Willow Lake while his passion for design grew.  Farm and shop class experiences with welding and fabrication provided creative outlets and problem-solving opportunities.  After graduating high school in 1987 and a brief stint in a packing plant, he enrolled at Lake Area Votech in Watertown, SD in June of 1988.  He received a degree in Advanced Building Trades, which gave him tools to take on design and construction problems.

He next moved to DeSmet, SD where he went to work for Gordon Holland Construction.  This was a position that brought valuable experience which enhanced his education in this trade.

In the spring of 1991 he started a small manufacturing business in his garage; Yankee Manufacturing.  Through Yankee, he produced a small group … Read More »

Lorri Riley

Rylo, Inc.

Lorri was born and raised on a ranch west of Belle Fourche, SD. While playing basketball at the University of South Dakota, she developed foot problems. She had to have surgical reconstruction of both of her flat feet, which led her into podiatry. Lorri graduated from Des Moines University with the degree of Doctor of podiatric Medicine. She opened her first solo practice – Black Hills Foot Clinic – in Spearfish in 1992. Dr. Riley started the Spearfish Surgery Center in 1995.

In 2005, Lorri received a patent for ThinNail®, a topical treatment for thinning thick nails. In 2006, she formed a company called Rylo, Inc. to market ThinNail®. Her most recent product is called J1 Insoles®. J1 Insoles® is patent pending for its unique design in providing a generic arch support for people with flat … Read More »

Jeff Prior

Dakota Greens of Custer
Southern Hills On The Rise

Jeff & Robin prior have been the driving force behind this family owned business since its start in 1999. Dakota Greens of Custer was a roadside flower stand on the family property until 2004. The prior’s were married in Custer in 2000 and made it their permanent residence in 2004. Jeff retired from the US Army in 2006. The greenhouse and nursery business has steadily grown, retails a full line of garden plants, and is proud to supply and care for the City of Custer’s beautiful hanging gardens every Spring. These baskets are displayed by Custer’s main street business district from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Jeff is a Certified Nurseryman, holds an A.S. degree in Ornamental Horticulture, and a grower of Annuals & … Read More »

Kelly Melius

Common Sense Manufacturing
Faulkton Area Economic Development Initiative

Kelly grew up on a family farm in rural Faulk County, SD. After high school he attended Mitchell Vo-Tech receiving a degree as an electrician. Kelly worked in the Minneapolis area as an electrician, but had a strong desire to return to his family’s farm. He moved back to the Faulkton area where he ran Kelly’s Electric and farmed and ranched with his father. He formed a partnership with his father called M&M Farms. While farming, he saw a need for a heavy duty bale feeder that would be durable and eliminate waste caused by the feeders that were available. Kelly and a friend worked together to design a unique cradle-style bale feeder, which Kelly later patented. Common Sense Balefeeder became its registered trademark … Read More »

Troy McQuillen

Elmwood Studios and McQuillen Creative Group
Dakota Rising Aberdeen

After a typical childhood in Aberdeen, Troy packed his things and headed for Los Angeles to attend film school at the University of Southern California. He graduated in 1987 and worked in the film business for about thirteen months. He didn’t like the direction he was headed. Troy went back to the University and convinced them he was a graphic designer and was hired by the School of Business.

Troy moved back home to Aberdeen, got married, bought a house and began working as a graphic designer. Ten years later he would have a staff of 13 and dozens of name-brand Aberdeen accounts. Troy and wife Suzette purchased a historic building in downtown Aberdeen and continue to restore it. McQuillen Creative Group offices out of this building.

Troy has grown … Read More »

Margaret Lindskov

The Bunkhouse Inn of Isabel

Margaret was born and raised in Isabel, SD. After graduating from Isabel High School, she attended Stewart’s School of Hairstyling and received herCosmetology License. Margaret started her own business out of her home in Isabel and as her business grew, moved it to a larger location on Main Street, Isabel. In 1989, she and her husband, Dennis, purchased Hel-Mar Candles and renamed it Dakota Country Candles, merging it and her hair salon into one building. Margaret operated these businesses full-time until choosing to pursue a degree in Education. After graduating with an Education Degree, Suma Cum Laude from Northern State University and SiTanka University, she taught at Eagle Butte Upper Elementary until she and Dennis took 100% ownership of the implement and car dealership they’d been in partnership with for over 25 years. They also purchased the local motel … Read More »

Cindy Kopecky

The Potting Shed
Faulkton Area Economic Development Initiative

Cindy and Jerry Kopecky opened The potting Shed Greenhouse the spring of 2010. A long time passion for gardening and the desire to own their own business has led them to a successful businessventure in Faulkton, SD. The business and finance experience that Cindy gained as the Business Official of the Faulkton Area Schools for the past 27 years has been a valuable asset tothe Kopecky’s. The potting Shed is the only greenhouse in the county and the Kopecky’s have enjoyed building the business into a destination spot for surrounding community residents. One of their goals was to enhance the gardening experience for residents by offering classes, project Days, and new and innovative products.

Cindy and Jerry have been lifelong residents of the Faulkton area; raised three … Read More »

Emily Heintzman

Double Duty Portable Storage

From an early age, Emily has known that one day she would operate a large company. She has used every job and experience as a learning opportunity to gain the skills needed to be successful. Working as a distributor, owning her own salons, being a landlord, and managing her family of six and foster children on a budget has prepared her for this next stage. Over the past two years, she and her husband have researched and started Double Duty portable Storage and Movers in Aberdeen. The company provides services to both residents and commercial businesses that need moving, portable storage, and transfer services. Currently operating in the Aberdeen area, the company plans to expand to the Midwest region and eventually become the leading portable storage and moving company in the nation. … Read More »

Chris Brill

RABCO Products

The father and son team of Richard and Chris Brill started RABCO products in 2002 and moved it to Spearfish in 2009 to fill a niche of selling and manufacturing custom vinyl envelopes, sheet protectors, badge ID holders, restaurant menu covers, and more. RABCO is able to foil stamp logos and other information on their products as well. With Richard’s 40+ years in the plastics manufacturing industry and Chris’ business and IT background with MCI Communications and other telecom companies, they are determined to grow RABCO products into a competitive plastics manufacturing company. RABCO has leased a facility in Spearfish, SD, and has purchased several machines in order to manufacture in the Black Hills. Chris and Richard are off to a great start and look forward to many years here in SD.

Kory Anderson

Anderson Industries, LLC.

Anderson Industries LLC president Kory Anderson’s experience in the manufacturing industry started at age 12 when he began working for his father’s business as a welder and machinist. In the last three years, he has managed the operations of Anderson Industries, a company he started in 2006. Prior to that, he was employed as the Engineering Manager for the Horsch Anderson Company, which manufactures large seeding and tillage equipment for agriculture. He was responsible for the design and manufacturing of new products, as well as managing the engineering relations with Horsch Anderson and partner company Horsch Maschinen GmbH located in Sitzenhof, Germany. Previous to his management position at Horsch Anderson, Kory attended North Dakota State University and studied Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. During college, Kory worked at Larson Welding and Machine Company in Fargo, ND as the welding and … Read More »

Peg Austin

Vanilla Bean Bakery

Peg Austin entered the baking trade after a successful 30+ year career in the healthcare industry. During her medical career, she worked as business office manager for a multi-specialty physician clinic, served as VP of a medical outsourcing company, taught physician reimbursement nationwide, and co-authored a college-level textbook. Peg and her husband of 33 years (and business partner) Chuck have two grown sons and have been part of the South Dakota business/healthcare industry since 1985.

An opportunity to fulfill a life-long dream of owning a bakery presented itself in 2009, and she accepted the challenge of keeping fond memories of a favorite hometown bakery alive, while bringing healthy trends and new tastes to the residents of Spearfish. With her new designation as a Dakota Rising Fellow, she looks forward to working hand-in-hand with the residents and business … Read More »

Kristin Bennett


Having grown up in Britton, S.D., Kristin Bennett graduated in 1982 and left for sunny California where she earned degrees in art, graphics and business administration with an emphasis in public relations and marketing. After college, she worked as a recruiter for IBM, shared in her father’s business, and began her career in non-profit management in 1991. Having been widowed, then divorced, she found the job market to be extremely attractive in Denver. She moved there for a period of three years, greatly expanding her non-profit management business in the process. In August 2007, she realized that South Dakota was the best place to raise her kids and made the move ‘back home’. Today, Kristin runs her business in Britton, where she lives with her three children: Emma (13), Clara (9), and Joe (8). They are surrounded … Read More »

Josh Fritz & Jeff Drumm

Crow Peak Brewing Company

Josh is the Vice President/Owner of Crow Peak Brewing Co., LLC. Josh grew up on a cattle ranch in Montana where he learned the value of hard work and being self-employed, but it was in Montana and later Colorado where he developed a taste for premium, handcrafted beer. Josh and his wife Tanya and their newborn daughter Josie moved to Wall, S.D. in 2002 to manage the family ranch. In 2009, they sold the ranch and decided to go in a different direction. Having spent seven years in South Dakota with virtually no good beer to speak of, Josh convinced the rest of his family to invest in Crow Peak. With an email and a couple of phone calls to Jeff Drumm, the founder and current co-owner, the plan was set in motion! Crow … Read More »

Brad Heitmann

Trail Tamer ATV, Inc.

Brad Heitmann was born and raised in the northeast corner of South Dakota by Lake City but the businesses he has owned or managed have taken him to Arkansas, Missouri and North Carolina. Currently, Brad is the President/CEO of Trail Tamer ATV, Inc of Eden, S.D., a company that specializes in the design and manufacturing of four-, six- and eight-wheel amphibious vehicles. A division of that same company is an ag equipment parts, repair and welding facility that markets its products worldwide. Brad, a true entrepreneur and developer, is dedicated to the success of the communities he lives in. He is actively involved in the Chamber of Commerce as President and V. President, Community Development V. President, A+ committee board member, Main Street Program facilitator, Workforce Investment Board private sector, Awarded Missouri Volunteer of the Year, Training … Read More »

Mark Hollenbeck

Sunrise Ranch.
Southern Hills On The Rise

Mark Hollenbeck is an Edgemont, S.D. native. He holds a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and is a licensed Professional Engineer in South Dakota.

Mark has been involved in energy-producing industries for much of his career, designing and managing natural gas systems for the Black Hills Division of Montana Dakota Utilities and as the Executive Director of the South Dakota Office of the American Petroleum Institute. He was elected to the South Dakota House of Representatives where he served from 1989 through 1994. He also served as Mayor of Edgemont from 2001 to 2006. Along with his wife and four young children, he lives and ranches on an organic ranch north of Edgemont. In addition to their grass-fed organic business, … Read More »

Lori Holt

Quilter’s Corner
Faulkton Area Economic Development Initiative

Lori opened Quilter’s Corner, in Faulkton, S.D. in August of 2009. Lori grew up in rural South Dakota and developed a passion for quilting shortly after marrying her husband, Kurt, 31 years ago. She and her husband have owned and operated a cattle ranch for over 30 years and in 1997 added a hunting lodge to the business. After working for several years at a quilt shop in Aberdeen, S.D., her dream came true in 2009 when she opened Quilter’s Corner and her vision of “someday” moving to a larger location became a reality in spring 2011. Quilter’s Corner is quickly becoming a destination shop with many customers traveling 50+ miles to share their enthusiasm for quilting and provide overwhelming support for a small-town, local business.

Chad Homan

Homan Welding
Faulkton Area Economic Development Initiative

Chad is co-owner and president of Homan Welding, a welding and repair company that started as a business adventure with his brother, Brian, in 2007. The desire of both Chad and Brian to be their own boss inspired them to start the company from the ground up. Previously, Chad worked as an employee on a farming and livestock ranch for 10 years. Before that, Chad was involved in the dairy industry, where he owned and managed a small dairy farm for two years.

Thomas Hurlbert

Hula Design/Build Architecture
Dakota Rising Aberdeen

Tom earned his Master of Architecture degree from Montana State University in 2001 and interned for firms in New York City and Sioux Falls. In 2008, Tom opened Hula Design/Build Architecture, with offices in his native Aberdeen and in Sioux Falls. His firm is involved in various community-oriented project including downtown streetscape and façade projects, school and college designs, low-income housing, community planning, office, religious, retail and hospitality. Tom is also developing high-quality residential and commercial projects with the idea that Dakotans deserve better quality. Hula’s mission statement is “Bring more thoughtful design to the upper plains.”

In addition  to Hula, Tom is also involved in several community organizations, builds office furniture, and co-hosts the Rock Garden Tour on South Dakota Public Radio.

Bryan Lessly

Western Sky Media, Inc.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Bryan has always had an eye toward television, video and film production. Growing up, it seemed he was always the official photographer and moviemaker for family vacations. During his career he has produced television specials from the Olympic Games to the Super Bowl. In local television, broadcasting as a sports director and special projects producer, he pioneered an award-winning documentary series on “Midwestern Wetlands Restoration” and was host of “Outdoor Iowa” and the groundbreaking “Friday Night Heroes” high school sports specials. More than 30 years of working both in front of and behind the camera, as well as experience in marketing and public relations, has provided him with in-depth knowledge of all aspects of the media world. In 2005, he founded Western Sky Media, Inc. and the company … Read More »

Chris Malo

Black Hills Urethane.

Castaway Products, located in Westlock, Alberta, Canada, was started by Chris Malo in 2002. But before starting his own business venture, he was the fifth employee hired at Lehman Trikes and worked there for eight years as a machinist, draftsman, Quality and Safety Manager, and Plant Manager. Lehman Trikes started in John Lehman’s garage and eventually became the largest trike company in the world. The opportunities and education Chris received from this experience were critical in building the skills he needed to succeed in business. After four successful years in business in Canada, Chris had the opportunity to expand his operation into the USA — he jumped at the offer. Black Hills Urethane began operations in May 2006 and within two years B.H.U. had tripled in size.

Jim Meyer

Quarq Technology, Inc.

Jim has always been a hands-on sort of guy. He spent his teen years building stuff and wrenched in a bike shop. In college, he joined the solar car race team and spent far more effort designing and building solar cars than he did on classes. Fortunately, Jim had a knack for standardized tests and was accepted to graduate school in Mechanical Engineering at MIT. While there, he worked a bit on hybrid car technology and did his thesis on race car data acquisition. In 2006, he quit his real job and moved to Australia with his wife to train more and find inspiration. He was only there a few weeks before he really wanted a power meter, but didn’t like the options. Jim realized that his background in bicycles, engineering and data was … Read More »

Jenny Nelson

Sisseton Flower Shop

After graduating with a business degree from Northern State University, Jenny worked in various offices and spent over 10 years with Farm Credit Services of America as a Country Home Loan Officer. Work was good, but she knew she wanted something more.

In fall 2006, Jenny completed a Floral Studies Program at Southeast Tech in Sioux Falls and tested to become a member of the South Dakota Designers Club. Being educated in the floral industries area was important to Jenny — she wanted to be ready to own the business in 2007.

As an active part of the Sisseton community, Jenny owns and operates the Sisseton Flower Shop. In the past four years her goal has been to expand the gift area of the shop and ultimately be recognized as a more than just a flower shop, since she offers … Read More »

Dee Sleep

Chicken Creek Communications

Dee has owned and operated Chicken Creek Communications, a full-service graphic design and communication service, since 2001. The business is located in Spearfish on the northern edge of South Dakota’s Black Hills.

Dee earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from South Dakota State University before the Internet explosion. She specializes in print communications, but she is well-versed in web design and marketing options, as well. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in journalism through the University of Nebraska at Lincoln’s distance program.

Dee has taught Mass Communications courses at Black Hills State University and has taught web design courses through the Black Hills Community Education program. She volunteers with various clubs and organizations throughout Spearfish. She currently serves on the Spearfish Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Dee and her husband, Matt, have three daughters.

Mark Stein

ESCO Manufacturing.

Mark Stein is a second-generation owner of ESCO Manufacturing, a wholesale electric sign manufacturing firm with facilities in Watertown and Webster, S.D. ESCO’s primary customers are sign companies, which are located all across the United States. Also part of ESCO is Stein Sign Display, a retail sign company that sells, services, and installs signs for end-user customers, primarily in eastern South Dakota. Mark has been in and around the sign business almost his entire life, starting while still in high school during summer vacations. After graduating from Northern State in Aberdeen, Mark obtained his MBA from Arizona State University in 1979. While in college, Mark held several part-time jobs to pay for school expenses. These included videographer for KABY-TV, News Director for the campus radio station, and onsite management of a storage rental complex. Mark then joined … Read More »

Les Voorhis

Focus West Gallery

Les has been a professional photographer since 1990. After learning the ins and outs of the stock photography business as a Photo Editor and Image Library Manager, he decided to put his skills to the test with his own work.

Les is also a teacher, teaching photography classes and workshops. In 2001, selected him as one of the top 100 photographers in the country.

Les is widely published and his published images have appeared in magazines, advertising campaigns, retail packaging, calendars, websites, books and more. Les and his wife, Julaine, own Focus West Gallery in Spearfish, as well as a stock photo agency, Royal Tine Images, Inc. Les’ work is also available in several galleries and art shows throughout South Dakota and the western US.

Tobey Vander Laan

Wild Dutchman Products, Inc.
Tri-Community Economic Enhancement (T.R.E.E.)

Tobey and his dad, Wayne, run Renegade Auto and Wild Dutchman Seeds. Tobey is a farm boy through and through. Growing up, he farmed with his family and raised dairy cows and feeder cattle. Tobey attended Lake Area Vo-tech in Watertown and received his auto mechanics degree. He and wife, Sandra, moved back to the farm where Tobey did most of the mechanic work. In 1994, he started Renegade Auto, a body shop, with a friend. Tobey also turned their old hip roof milking barn into a hunting lodge and moved Wild Dutchman Seeds to a part of that barn. In 2006, the hunting lodge burned down, destroying the Wild Dutchman Seeds homemade equipment. Tobey didn’t give up though, he restarted Wild Dutchman Seeds in a new facility where they … Read More »