Dakota Resources honors rural entrepreneurs, leaders and communities
Seventy-five rural economic development leaders, entrepreneurs and change makers convened in Watertown on October 5-7 to learn, connect and to celebrate the vitality of South Dakota’s small communities. The “Empower Sessions” event was hosted by Dakota Resources, an organization dedicated to empowering people and enriching communities across rural South Dakota.
In addition to breakout sessions, a panel discussion and motivating keynote speakers, the Empower Sessions included a gathering for Dakota Rising fellows, alumni and finalists competing for the next class of Dakota Rising fellowships. Dakota Rising is a two-year entrepreneur development program that helps rural business owners discover new ways to grow their businesses, themselves and their communities.
The Dakota Rising finalists were one of the highlights on Saturday night during the Dakota Resources Gala. The finalists came from a field of 104 entries.
“We had a flood of applicants for this year’s Dakota Rising fellowship. Narrowing those down to the top fellowship recipients was extremely difficult,” says Beth Davis, President at Dakota Resources. “We have some real talented, motivated and creative entrepreneurs in rural South Dakota and we are excited to take this next step with them as Dakota Rising fellows.”
The newly inducted Dakota Rising Fellows include the following rural entrepreneurs:
- Jen and Andy Holst, Embroidery & Screen Works, Yankton
- Tanya Olson and Matt Fridell, Tallgrass Landscape Architecture, Custer
- Kirsten Gjesdal, The Carrot Seed Kitchen Company, Brookings
- Seth Koch and Brant Mathiason, Wooden Legs Brewing Company, Brookings
- Erin Beyke, Erin J Beyke Agency, Canton
- Tyra Gefroh, Tyra Gefroh Photography, Britton
- Amber and Jamey Nehring, Renatus Woodworking, Sturgis
- Jamie Ellenwood, Badlands Trading Company, Rapid Valley
In addition to celebrating the Dakota Rising finalists, several awards were presented at the Dakota Resources Gala:
- Webster Area Development Corporation was named the Innovative Community of the Year by Dakota Resources for their visionary commitment to workforce development through a private, public, nonprofit partnership. Other candidates for this award were De Smet Development Corporation, Southern Hills Economic Development Corporation, Centerville Development Corporation and Freeman Community Development Corporation.
- Dakota Rising Fellows who met the one-year mark in their fellowship experience were awarded a $10,000 grant for personal and business development through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
- Dakota Rising graduates, Mark Bower of the Aberdeen Parts Store and Cristin Stewart of the Hot Springs Vault, were honored for successfully completing their fellowship experience.
The evening ended with a special induction into the Dakota Rising Hall of Fame for longtime Dakota Resources president, Beth Davis, who will be retiring at the end of this year. Davis has been the driving force behind Dakota Resources for 20 years, building strong rural partnerships across the state and around the country. She’s helped raise over $23M in investment capital and has been an integral part in rural entrepreneur and small business development, housing development and leadership development.
“My goal was to help grow Dakota Resources into the kind of organization I would want to work for,” she says. “That goal has been accomplished, and I am ready for my next adventure. I am honored and humbled by this award. There are so many people to thank. I’ve had an amazing ride,” said Beth Davis as she closed the event.