Entrepreneurship conference connects local business owners and students

By Lance Dunwoody

Thursday Feb. 19, students, educators, and entrepreneurs in South Dakota attended the Launch ‘15: South Dakota Entrepreneurship Education Conference at McCrory Gardens.


This was the 10th annual Launch Entrepreneurship Conference and third in Brookings. S.D. EPSCoR, the Kelley Center for Entrepreneurship, Enterprise Institute, the S.D. Small Business Development Center and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development partnered with Vision Brookings and NESS Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to host the event. The conference was planned by a committee including entrepreneurship coordinator Barb Heller and instructor Craig Silvernagel.


 An estimated 150 students, teachers, and members of the entrepreneurship community met to network, discuss, and hear from Dr. Samuel Holloway, entrepreneurs Shane and Shawn Ward, Ben Hanten and a panel consisting of South Dakota business owners. Craig Silvernagel explained that attendees came from distant parts of South Dakota such as Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, Mitchell, Vermillion, and Watertown – as well as SDSU students in Brookings.


The committee planning the event wanted local business owners to share their experience with attendees and speakers to share new ideas. Dr. Sam Holloway from the University of Portland spoke comparing effectuation to business planning or how entrepreneurships can be more effective with available resources and information to the owners, Heller said.


“He was an advocate of the subject matter – that was our real draw to him,” Heller said.


Shane and Shawn Ward discussed the fun and exciting parts of entrepreneurship as well as the mundane and stressful aspects to business operation. They reminded attendees that focusing on the interesting, exciting aspects should be balanced with disliked or uninteresting portions of work. “Both are important takeaways for students” Silvernagel said.


Heller approached local South Dakota entrepreneurs to fill a panel to speak with attendees. Carrie Kuhl, panelist and owner of Hitch Studios in Brookings, explained Hitch Studios was approached because the entrepreneurship program wanted a newer business on the panel. She found attendee questions interesting and learned from Shane and Shawn Ward’s advice to keep operations small for as long as possible. Kuhl liked the turnout and described the event as “well planned and put together.”


The committee liked the ease of access to the interstate for traveling attendees and speakers and the large amount of available parking at McCrory Gardens. Heller also described how the space brought the Launch event for the past three years.


“A lot more inspiration can happen here,” Heller explained. The committee plans to meet in May to discuss further plans.