Graduating Fellows


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 »