OpenX spurs a new event

Posted on April 19, 2017

Paula Jensen
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OpenX brings women to the table for an exciting new event in Aberdeen

What started as an OpenX topic at last summer’s RuralX Summit has evolved into the inaugural Northeast Women’s Business Conference next spring.

The idea to host the women’s conference was inspired by Helen Merriman, Director of SD Center for Enterprise Opportunity (SD CEO) at Black Hills State University.  Helen was attending RuralX as a way to connect with more resources and entrepreneurial thinkers across the state.

“As director of the only Women’s Business Center in South Dakota, I am always looking for new ways to connect with more people,” she explains. “I hosted an OpenX table conversation to see if there was any interest in holding a women’s business conference in northeast South Dakota, and the women at my table showed significant interest. We were able to identify nine women from the area who could be part of a planning team, and everything grew from there.”

The event, which will be co-hosted by SD CEO and the Small Business Administration, is planned for March 9, 2018 at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel in Aberdeen. The day will feature keynote speaker Dee Dee Raap along with activities and other successful women geared to inspire women and encourage them to make an impact.

“Women like to connect with other women,” says Merriman. “We have some really exciting strategies planned that feature women business leaders, community leaders and entrepreneurs. Their stories, advice and support are designed to help other women become better leaders and strengthen their businesses and community organizations.”

The planning team has been organizing the Women’s Business Conference in Aberdeen through monthly teleconferences and met in March to work face-to-face. The team includes:

  • Michele Arends, SBA
  • Heather Beaner, Wal-Di Inc.
  • Char Hager, Northern Electric Cooperative
  • Rebecca Honl, GROW South Dakota
  • Nicole Johnson, NJMGMT Consulting
  • Kae McNeil, SCORE/ U.S. Bank
  • Judy Stulken, South Dakota Wheat Growers
  • Dawn Williams, SD Department of Labor
  • Kelly Weaver, SBDC
  • Helen Merriman, SD CEO, Director
  • Andrea Bakeberg, SD CEO, Assistant Director
  • Mela Cosme, SD CEO, Senior Secretary

Several sponsors have already been secured for the event, including Dakota Resources.

“Dakota Resources is a strong partner of the SD CEO and the Women’s Business Center. We have similar missions and work together to help women reach their fullest potential in their communities. There are some fabulous women doing amazing things across South Dakota,” says Merriman.

The SD CEO has hosted a Women’s Business Conference in the Black Hills for several years, and it usually involves about 300 women. The goal for the first conference in Aberdeen is 150 attendees.

“The first event always takes a lot of work, but we are already receiving very positive feedback about it,” says Merriman. “It’s very exciting for us to expand to this area of the state. The Women’s Business Center of South Dakota provides a special focus to women throughout South Dakota.  We have connected with women (and men) in 50 of 66 SD  counties—and counting.”

For more information about the event or to become a sponsor, contact 605-642-6435. www.bhsu/edc/sdceo.

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