Dakota Rising Fellowship Helps Local Businesses

Shown is the staff of EASW, Embroidery & Screen Works, Inc., of Yankton, one of the Yankton-area businesses that benefits from the Dakota Rising program.

Dakota Rising is a free comprehensive Fellowship experience that seeks out, celebrates and inspires rural entrepreneurs. The 24-month program is designed to provide rural entrepreneurs with the tools, resources, and connections to help them reach their greatest potential.

The program works with entrepreneurs from anywhere in South Dakota, excluding Sioux Falls and Rapid City.

Dakota Resources, the non-profit that organizes the Dakota Rising Fellowship, has a core mission to enrich rural communities and empower rural people. Dakota Resources offers programs that are available to the community and economic development leaders across South Dakota and beyond.

“Our goal with the Dakota Rising Fellowship is to help business owners grow in a way that allows them to work on their company instead of in it,” said Joe Bartmann, community coach/VP of Community Innovation of Dakota Resources.

Dakota Rising benefits Yankton in two ways. First, an economic ripple is created as a business grows — more dollars come into the community, jobs are created and retained, investments in buildings and equipment, and multiplier effects to suppliers, etc. The second, longer-term benefit is that Dakota Rising prepares entrepreneurs in our program to become impactful leaders in their communities and businesses.

“An example of preparing entrepreneurs is Andy and Jen Holst, owners of EASW, Embroidery & Screen Works, Inc.,” Bartmann said.

The Holsts are members of the newest class of Dakota Rising Fellows in Yankton. Dakota Rising Fellows are a diverse group, quickly bonding over the shared passions and challenges of being rural business owners.

Dakota Rising Fellows gather for two to three intensive days each quarter in various locations around the state for networking, mentoring, training and business coaching. They learn together as a group in three classes of 8-12 each and practice coaching each other in cohorts of three to four entrepreneurs.

“Jen and I applied for Dakota Rising as we saw it as an opportunity to learn and grow as entrepreneurs in collaboration with others from across the state that’s doing the same thing in their communities,” Andy said. “As a small business owner, it’s nice to discuss life with others going through the same challenges. The program is a great resource for our state that most business owners would pay thousands of dollars to participate in.”

He continued, “We are in the early stages of the program, and it has already helped change our perspective on our business, which we anticipate being beneficial.”

“It’s common for business owners in small communities to feel a lack of support. Programs such as Dakota Rising Fellowship, want to bring people together. If our businesses thrive, so does our community and the lives of those who work with us,” Jen added.

“Relationships are important to Jen and me, and we look forward to those that develop through the Dakota Rising program,” Andy noted.

Currently, Dakota Resources is working closely with Yankton on revitalizing our downtown business area.

There are three Fellows in Wagner: Cheryl Swatek (The Cake Lady Bakery), Barb Pechous (Pechous Publications), and Rachel Woods (Apparel WorX). In Canton: Erin Bayke (Insurance Agency).

There are currently 27 active Fellows and 33 alumni who’ve graduated from the program. Current Dakota Rising Fellows represent 21 South Dakota communities.

“These communities benefit the most directly, but the ripples reach far and wide across the state,” Bartmann said.

For more information, visit dakotarising.org

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