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


Jenni Tucker

Help-U-Rent

Jenni is the owner of Help-U-Rent, a full-service property management company in Spearfish. From a young age, Jenni knew she would be an entrepreneur. That became a reality in 2014 with the opportunity to purchase the business. Along with her entrepreneurial spirit, starting at Help-U-Rent as an employee helped her to gain the knowledge of the industry and business she needed to step into the ownership role. Jenni has continued to grow the company and is always looking for more opportunities. Most recently, she started another company called Black Hills Blinds, specializing in custom window coverings. She also serves as a board member for the Spearfish Chamber of Commerce. Jenni has great pride in the Black Hills and the community of Spearfish, where she lives with her husband and daughter.



Julie Fischbach

Mainstream Boutique

As long as Julie can remember she had always wanted to open her own business, so in 2014 she decided to go down the entrepreneurial road and opened her first Mainstream Boutique in Aberdeen, SD. This boutique brought so much joy & contentment just within the first year, Julie decided to open a second location in Sioux Falls, SD in the new, Dawley Farm Village location.

With over 25 years of sales experience, Julie offers her customers excellent customer service, quality on-trend fashions, and at affordable pricing. Mainstream Boutique is a Multi-Generational Women’s Clothing & Accessory Boutique.

She earned her bachelor degree with an emphasis in business management at Northern State University. Julie, along with her husband, Greg, and twin daughters, Keeley and Ashley, live in Warner, SD near their family farm.



Carrie Kuhl

Hitch Studio

Carrie Kuhl is co-owner, designer, and retail curator at Hitch Studio in Brookings, SD. Hitch opened its doors in 2014 and specializes in website and graphic design services, wedding planning and invitations, and is a brick-and-mortar store which carries high-end stationery and gift items.

My focus at Hitch is taking care of small businesses who need website, branding, and graphic design services. I love having the opportunity to be a part of an entrepreneur’s journey while starting their business or helping an existing business with a brand update. Renee Halgerson, my business partne, manages the wedding planning and invitation portion of our business. It all lives under the roof of our brick and mortar store in downtown Brookings where we carry fun, unique brands like Kate Spade, Ban.do and Rifle Paper Company. At Hitch our overall goal is … Read More »



Hillarey Holland

HH Design

Growing up in small town America, Hillarey always knew that “Home is where the Heart is.” After graduating from Northern State University with a BA in Advertising Design Hillarey recognized she would want to return home to support the small community of Britton, the same place that had facilitated her defining qualities she holds today. In return, giving back to the community has been something she felt was natural to do. Hillarey thusly became a member of the Britton Chamber of Commerce in 2015 and also volunteers her time with other organizations and events by helping other local, rural small businesses and community members like herself succeed.

Hillarey took on many different roles through college, ultimately blazing a path for her to be successful in graphic design and molding her into the young, successful professional she is now. In 2014 … Read More »



Curt Lout

Mammoth Handcrafted Signs

Curt Lout is owner of Mammoth Handcrafted Signs, a full-service sign and awning shop located in Hot Springs, South Dakota. A former United States Marine, Curt has a unique background of fabrication and creative skills, including an extensive background in Visual Communications, a degree earned from the Art Institute of Colorado in 1998 and progressing with advanced fabrication education in the world of custom car and motorcycle industry from The Hot Rod Institute in 2009. Curt is also an internationally recognized freelance photographer. Currently, he is a member of both the Chambers of Commerce in Hot Springs and Custer. Additionally, he serves as a Board Member for the Southern Hills Economic Development Corporation. Furthermore, he is actively involved in the local Rotary Club serving as director of Climb Hot Springs, an annual outdoor stair climbing event. Curt … Read More »



Rachel Woods

Apparel WorX

Rachel was born and raised in Wagner, SD, and attended South Dakota State University where she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing. After graduating, she and her husband, David, moved to Reno, NV where she practiced as a Registered Nurse for 4 years. After having their first child, they decided to move back to their hometown of Wagner, and Rachel took a job at the local hospital as an RN.

After their second child was born, she and her husband decided that a nurse’s schedule wasn’t right for their family. Looking for a way to become her own boss, she decided to start a part-time embroidery business out of her basement, which quickly became more than just a part-time job. She reorganized her small business, changed the name to Apparel WorX, and bought a commercial building on Main … Read More »



Jay Yohner

Pioneer Buildings Inc.

Jay Yohner grew up in Martin, SD; a small rural community with a diverse population of about 1,100 residents. Growing up on a small farm taught him many useful life skills and the value of hard work. He decided to pursue a career in building trades after a year of traditional college at BHSU in Spearfish, SD.  Jay moved to Portland Oregon in 2002 and entered into a structural engineering and architectural design program.

In 2004 Jay married Janell, his high school sweetheart and shortly after in 2005 moved back to his hometown of Martin and started his own business Yohner, Inc. Jay began the third generation of serving the area following his father and grandfather in residential and commercial building services. With a vision to bring industry and manufacturing into the area, Jay saw great potential … Read More »



Renee Halgerson

Hitch Studio

Renee Halgerson is co-owner, designer, and event stylist at Hitch Studio. Opened in February 2014, Hitch Studio specializes in graphic design + website design, wedding invitations + wedding styling, and is a brick-and-mortar paperie + gift shop in Brookings, South Dakota.

Since there are three divisions of Hitch Studio, Renee focuses on the wedding division— designing invitations and decorating weddings. Her business partner, Carrie Kuhl, is the graphic design and website design specialist, and together, they run the retail store full of fun stationery and gifts. Carrie and Renee have deep roots in Brookings. They both graduated from SDSU, both taught at SDSU, and have hired several student employees from SDSU. It was important to them to also serve a market that needed services like theirs.

Renee is a strong believer in giving back to her community. She is … Read More »



Bradley Hahn

Pioneer Buildings Inc.

Bradley Hahn grew up in Martin, a small town in the middle of the southern part of South Dakota. Brad enjoyed his hometown rural setting and instead of leaving it for better opportunities, he decided to create his own. When Brad was young he helped his father with odd construction jobs. At the time, his dad was in charge of maintenance/remodel of a few apartment buildings. Brad learned that he loved to build and started his first construction job at the age of sixteen for Yohner, Inc. Brad’s boss would turn out to be his future business partner four years later. In 2015, Brad and Jay Yohner founded Pioneer Buildings, Inc. which is a 50/50 post frame construction business. The business’s main goal is to increase efficiency during the construction stage. This means decreasing the time … Read More »



Ruth Bouza

Custom Touch and Limo
Dakota Rising Southern Charles Mix County

Ruth was born and raised in St. Georgen, Switzerland and lived there until she was 18 years old.

In 1985 Ruth saw an advertisement in her hometown newspaper about an American family looking for a Swiss nanny. She got the job and was on an airplane a month later. Coming to the United States was her dream since childhood!

After spending 23 years in Miller, SD working in the transportation industry, Ruth and her son moved to Wagner, SD where she spent several years as the Transportation Coordinator for the Marty Indian School.

In 2013 Ruth had the opportunity to purchase a 34-foot stretch H2 Limousine. She opened up Custom Touch and Limo, offering multiple services including detailing services, a graphics shop and custom signs as well as automotive, commercial and residential … Read More »



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 »