What is a Dakota Rising Fellow?

A Dakota Rising Fellow is a person who has taken a startup business to a viable, profit-earning stage and is poised for the next level of growth. After successfully completing the application process, and being chosen, Fellows are connected to a community of statewide resources, mentors and financial experts. Personal and business growth strategies are developed while working in a small cohort where Fellows help one another, despite vastly different industries and experiences. After one year in the program, each Fellow is awarded a $10,000 grant to support professional growth and business expansion.

Click here to request additional information about becoming a Dakota Rising Fellow.

Do you have what it takes?

Are you the owner or primary decision maker of a business that is no longer concerned about survival? Are you primed for growth? Do you have at least one employee or contract for labor? Are you a job/wealth creator with a vision to bring outside dollars into your community? Are you ready to face the challenges known and unknown that have kept you from igniting growth in your company? If so, you are just the kind entrepreneur we are looking for. All it takes is an open mind and the willingness to grow. The cohort process is a deeply personal, highly confidential method of pushing you to do what you know you probably should, but don’t. The very fact that you commit to the program provides the accountability for you to follow through with what you say you’ll do, without excuses. Nowhere else can you get this sort of mentoring. You will work to prove yourself to your cohort. That’s how the Dakota Rising program works. 

Dakota Rising Fellows

The Dakota Rising Fellowship is an opportunity available to second stage entrepreneurs:

  • Whose business:
    • Is located in rural South Dakota
    • Employs at least one employee (PT or FT) or contract labor
    • Has progressed beyond survival.  At a minimum, the business must have filed a business tax return for at least two years (Schedule C qualifies)
    • Has potential to draw from beyond the immediate service area or provide an essential community product or service.
  • Whose applicant is:
    • The owner or primary decision maker
    • A full-time entrepreneur
    • Invested in personal/professional development
    • Invested in the personal/professional development of others
    • Committed to learning and growing
    • Able to be away from the business for three days, four times per year

What is the Fellowship application process?

Past Dakota Rising applicants contend that the application process alone is enough to get them thinking more strategically about growing their business. The application includes an executive summary, a business plan, and questions about leadership qualities. Assistance with the application is available statewide from a Small Business Development Center near you.

  • A staff member of Dakota Resources will contact you within 2 business days of receiving your request for information to determine eligibility.
  • If eligibility requirements are met, you will receive a link to to the 2016 Dakota Rising Entrepreneur Fellowship Application.  Applications for the 2016 round must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. CDT on September 15, 2016.
  • Your application will be reviewed by the Fellowship Selection Team, made up of Dakota Resources Staff and Dakota Rising Fellowship Alumni, all of whom have signed Confidentiality Agreements.
  • If you are selected as a Finalist, you will be invited to set up a booth about your business and be interviewed at the 2016 Dakota Rising Conference in Spearfish on October 8, 2016.  Fellows will be announced at the Gala that evening.

Fellowship Application is open August 1, 2016 – September 15, 2016.

Dakota Rising Fellows


Les Bellet

Twin City Hardware
Dakota Rising Lawrence County

Les grew up on the family farm near Spring Brook, ND. His education included an Associate of Art degree at the University of North Dakota at Williston followed by a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Minot State University in North Dakota.

Les and his wife, Cindy, bought their first hardware store in Watford City, ND from his father-in-law in March 1988. Les was very involved in his community by being a member of the volunteer Fire Department, EMT, and Chamber President. He sold the hardware store in June 2003 and moved to Deadwood, SD to begin purchase his current store, Twin-City Hardware, Lumber & Rental.

Les enjoys golfing in his spare time. He and his wife have 2 daughters, 1 son, … Read More »



Chad Gollnick

Iron Outfitter

From early childhood, Chad was convinced that being an entrepreneur was going to be the best path to independence and creation–his two favorite things. He spent ten years in the corporate world acting as a major player on several multi-billion dollar projects, all while dreaming of starting his own business.

In 2010, Chad began his entrepreneurial journey with Iron Outfitter, a metal fabrication business, and since then started Dakota Cable Solutions Inc., a consulting/engineering firm, and Colorado Excavating, a construction company. Chad has an unwavering love for business and watching his young employees develop their skills. He constantly dreams of creating more opportunity and developing new products– and is taking the necessary steps to move in that direction.



David Malsam

CompQuest Technology
Dakota Rising Aberdeen

David earned his Associates of Applied Science with an emphasis in Computer Information Systems in 2000 at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, SD. David moved to Sioux Falls to work for Gateway Computers, until family ties moved him home to Aberdeen. David pursued his technology career with PC Lan Computer Center in Aberdeen until 2011.

With over 10 years’ experience in the IT industry, serving his loyal clientele as a business owner was the obvious professional leap, which led David to opening CompQuest Technology. As a knowledgeable and motivated person, David had earned the personal and professional respect of many locals and businessmen in and around the Aberdeen community by providing them with the best technology service and sales in the industry. CompQuest Technology personally engages with customers to deliver … Read More »



Dr. Bob McIntosh

HealthSource
Dakota Rising Lawrence County

Dr. Robert (Bob) L. McIntosh is Board Certified with the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners in Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, and Rehabilitation. He is a Native of NE Wyoming, and now lives in Spearfish with his wife, Jenny, and their two daughters.

He attended BHSU in Spearfish for his undergraduate degree in Biology, prior to that he completed Diesel School to become a mechanic. After his bachelor’s degree, he attended Western States Chiropractic College (now University of Western States) in NE Portland, OR. During his time in school Dr. McIntosh was appointed as the occupational safety program developer where he implemented back safety programs within many Portland businesses like Pepsi, UPS, Miller Paint Company, and Waxie Bathroom Supply. He also is registered with OSHA to become a … Read More »



Barb Pechous

Taboma Publishing
Southern Charles Mix County Dakota Rising

Barbra Pechous was raised in the southeast corner of South Dakota in the small town of Springfield. Enjoying the small town feel, she and her husband Scott, now reside in Avon, SD. She is the editor/publisher and general manager of the Wagner Post, Lake Andes Wave and Announcer, a weekly newspaper firm located in Wagner, South Dakota. The newspaper provides coverage for the towns of Wagner, Lake Andes, Marty, Ravinia, Pickstown, Dante and for the Yankton Sioux Tribe. The Wagner Post and Lake Andes Wave include weekly columns from Roger Wiltz sharing his hunting and fishing stories, to Vince Two Eagles sharing tribal stories and issues.

Barb began her career in the newspaper business in 1995 as a typesetter and quickly advanced to editor, but she always dreamed of having her … Read More »



Cheryl Swatek

The Cake Lady
Southern Charles Mix County Dakota Rising

As a child, growing up on a farm twelve miles south of Dante, South Dakota, Cheryl Swatek learned many of her cooking and baking skills from her mother and grandmother. Some of her fondest memories growing up were being in the kitchen with her grandmother making homemade kolaches, which are now a staple at her bakery. In 1995 she decided to try her hand at cake decorating. Over the next twenty years, Swatek would become a self-taught cake artist who worked her way through the restaurant and cake industry at many levels.

Since opening her commercial storefront in 2014, in Wagner, South Dakota, she recalls upon her favorite memories with her grandmother to provide the community with homemade, never frozen, treats that are reminiscent … Read More »



Mark Bower

Aberdeen Parts Store
Dakota Rising Aberdeen

Mark was born and raised on a ranch south of Pierre. He received a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Business at Dakota State University and his life goal was to own his own business. Mark’s first job after college was in a retail management training program for Woolworth. The training was priceless but the advancements were tough so he left in pursuit of his dream to own a business. After other business ventures, Mark started a mobile home repair company. He also wrote a book on mobile home repair and built a website to promote it and later added mobile home parts sales. Increased website sales meant needing more space. After renting a couple of locations, he bought a 4,500 square foot building including a … Read More »



Cristin Stewart

The Hot Springs Vault
Southern Hills On The Rise

Cristin grew up in Bailey, Colorado where she spent her childhood. After graduation she moved to Fort Collins, Colorado to attend college. While attending college, Cristin worked at DEA Construction Company where she was promoted to office manager. Since moving back to South Dakota, she has spent the last 11 years enjoying marriage, raising kids and working. Cristin worked in the medical field for the first part of those years; first as a receptionist in a doctor’s office and then from home as a medical transcriptionist for a national company. She also owned her own business as a medical transcription subcontractor. Four years ago, Cristin and her husband, Shane, bought an old rundown building that had been an old bar for over … Read More »