As the Evan C. Nolte Leadership Sioux Falls (LSF) program launches its 35th class, we at Zeal feel privileged to call five of the participants our own.

Including tenants, sponsors, board members and even one of our own staff members, these individuals represent the community-minded, entrepreneurial spirit of our Zeal ecosystem. 

“I think it’s a testament to the strength of the Zeal network, if you will, that we have so many up-and-coming leaders that are connected to our community,” said Brienne Maner, Zeal’s executive director. “These are the people that are going to be the face of leadership for many years to come, and that’s something to be celebrated.” 

The program is hosted by the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce, and its goals are to develop knowledge and awareness of the Sioux Falls area, strengthen leadership skills, build a network of informed, like minded citizens and motivate leaders to become more involved in the community.

“The Chamber of Commerce is a partner and supporter of Zeal’s, so it’s cool to see our network of leaders taking part in this really important program,” Maner said. “We’re very much connected.” 

Participants must be 25 years of age or older, have lived in Sioux Falls for at least one year, and have past experience in community or professional activities. Upon completion of the program, graduates must be committed to supporting and strengthening the Sioux Falls community. 

We chatted with each of our participants to hear why they chose to apply to LSF, what they’re hoping to learn and what strong leadership for Sioux Falls means to them. 

Brad Jankord, Vice President of Lending, South Dakota Development Corporation

Brad Jankord, South Dakota Development Corporation

Tell us about the SDDC and its connection to Zeal. 

The South Dakota Development Corporation is a certified development corporation (CDC) that focuses on economic development by way of assisting small businesses to gain access to the SBA 504 program. The 504 program is focused on real estate and large equipment used by the small businesses we service. We can assist with purchases, renovations, upgrades, build outs or leasehold improvements that the small businesses are improving on their properties.

The SDDC chose to office out of Zeal because it houses many of our partners including the South Dakota SBA, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), among other companies we frequently interact with at Zeal.

What inspired you to apply to LSF? 

I have been lucky enough to have many mentors throughout Sioux Falls and in different areas of business, and all them recommended that I apply for LSF. Many of those mentors are former LSF graduates, and with their background in the program I knew it was an opportunity worth pursuing.

Having been back in Sioux Falls for three years, I thought now was the right time where LSF could be a great benefit to me and I can hopefully contribute to the class through my experiences.

What are you most looking forward to learning during LSF?

I moved back to Sioux Falls from Minneapolis because I truly love South Dakota. The feeling of community you get when you’re out in the state meeting people is really something special. Not to knock on “Minnesota Nice,” but I think “South Dakota Nice” is on another level.

LSF is a fantastic avenue to learn more about Sioux Falls and South Dakota in general as we explore different facets of private business, local government, state government and more. The opportunity to learn the stories of successful professionals and leaders in South Dakota is what I am most looking forward t0.

What are your goals for this experience?

I want to identify at least one key lesson from each aspect of this program and apply it to my professional and personal journey. The LSF curriculum offers participants multiple opportunities to be vulnerable in our leadership development through interactions with the community of Sioux Falls, business leaders and our peers. I’m entering this program with eyes wide open and momentum to learn how to be a better leader and community member.

When you think of a great leader, what characteristics do they embody? 

A great leader is an aggregator of others’ ideas, opinions and passions. They have a high emotional IQ to identify and understand individual needs, and they can lead from behind by showcasing their team members’ skills and competencies while guiding them to success.

Who have been examples of great leaders in your life?

My first job out of college was with U.S. Bank in Minneapolis, and our CEO at the time was Richard K Davis. We were in the midst of the Great Recession of 2010, and his focus was on two things: his employees and our customers. He made decisions with those two things in mind when the world was telling him profits, expense cutting, etc. was most important. He’s also personable and caring at his core, which I experienced when I met him in-person at the Alzheimer’s Walk. I looked up to him as he was passionate about the people he worked for and with. His ability to impact a new employee of a company of 50,000 people speaks volumes to how he led and who he was as a leader.

James Gaspar, Business Development Specialist, Interstate Office Products

James Gaspar, Interstate Office Products

Tell us about Interstate Office Products and its connection to Zeal. 

We are a full-service office products firm, specializing in interior design and contract furniture for corporate, education and healthcare. In addition to furniture, we also provide office supplies and promotional products.

Recognizing the importance of home-grown talent, we sponsor the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship and the [email protected] Co-working space in order to help the Sioux Falls community develop the next generation of entrepreneurs.

What inspired you to apply to LSF? 

Leadership Sioux Falls is regarded as the premier leadership development program in the city. The Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce has developed the curriculum of this program to support up-and-coming leaders, help them grow into their roles and assist them in developing meaningful networks and connections with other leaders in the community.

I was inspired to join by my dad, Gary Gaspar, and aunt, Sheila Casiello. They are the co-owners of Interstate Office Products and are both graduates of the Leadership Sioux Falls program. After completing my MBA at the University of Sioux Falls in May, it feels like the perfect time to take the next step in developing my leadership skills.

What are you most looking forward to learning during LSF?

I’m looking forward to learning more about the history of Sioux Falls. As a life-long resident, I know how Sioux Falls has grown and developed since the 1990s. However, I know there is a deeper and richer history of how Sioux Falls has reached the point it is today, and I look forward to getting the chance to meet some of the “movers and shakers” that made it happen.

What are your goals for this experience?

I hope to further develop my individual leadership skills, learn what skills are employed by some of Sioux Falls’ current leaders and to deepen my connections with the business community.

When you think of a great leader, what characteristics do they embody? 

Great leaders are empathetic, ethical and pragmatic. They recognize opportunities as they arise and take risks when they see a realistic return.

For Interstate Office Products, that has meant investments by our leadership in new staff over the last year to support our vision of growth. For Sioux Falls and South Dakota, that has been an investment in tourism and advertising to help our community grow. Great leaders recognize when there are opportunities, even in the face of significant challenges like the Covid-19 pandemic.

Who have been examples of great leaders in your life?

I’ve had the fortune to know many great leaders throughout my life that have helped me grow and develop throughout my education and career. These include, in no particular order: Gary Gaspar, CEO, and Sheila Casiello, President at Interstate Office Products, Chris Filsinger, former chair of the Sioux Falls Young Professionals Network steering committee and director at Mickelson & Company, Steve Horan, director of the MBA program at University of Sioux Fall, Richard Molseed, interim chief information officer at Avera Health, Paul TenHaken, Mayor of Sioux Falls, and Joe Rutten, director of the Catholic Men’s Business Fraternity and director of the Benedictine Leadership Institute at Mount Marty University. 

What would you tell someone thinking of applying to LSF in the future?

To all new and aspiring entrepreneurs – never pass up a chance to meet new people and broaden your horizons. Programs like Leadership Sioux Falls are exactly the opportunities to help you further your individual and business prospects. If you want to be in the “room where it happens” – this is the room!

Sara Wevik, Marketing Specialist, South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solutions

Sara Wevik, South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solutions

Tell us about the SDMTS and its connection to Zeal. 

We help manufacturers in the area remain competitive by assisting them through consulting, training and events. Our office is a part of the South Dakota Small Business Development Center Network, which is also a tenant at Zeal. Because we’re under the same umbrella, we like to be housed in the same building. Another advantage of being located in the Zeal building is the opportunity to help startup companies navigate the manufacturing scene in South Dakota. We are happy to provide our expertise and connect others to manufacturers who may be able to help them.

What inspired you to apply to LSF? 

I applied for Leadership Sioux Falls because I knew of some people who had gone through the class previously and had nothing but positive things to say about it. I want to continue to grow as an individual and network with other people in the business community, and I saw this as a great opportunity to do so. Why now? Why not? I always want to challenge myself to grow professionally and put myself in positions that would allow me to interact with a variety of people.  

What are you most looking forward to learning during LSF?

I’m looking forward to hearing everyone’s unique perspectives on what we can do to make Sioux Falls an even better place to live and work. I’m excited to work together to come up with solutions to problems in our community and to cultivate more relationships and learn from my peers and guest speakers. 

What are your goals for this experience?

My goals are to develop stronger relationships and refine my leadership skills. I hope that by getting outside of my comfort zone I can develop new skills and increase my confidence as a leader.

When you think of a great leader, what characteristics do they embody? 

Great leaders embody servant leadership. They inspire others by how hard they work for the team and how and interact with people. I think kindness attracts kindness. If you treat others with kindness and respect, most of the time others will mirror the same behavior.

I also believe trust and respect are important aspects of leadership. Connecting with people on a deeper level and being able to delegate, support, encourage and guide are all traits of a strong leader. I also think giving employees the chance to take risks and fail is important.

Who have been examples of great leaders in your life?

A great leader I’ve always looked up to has been my dad. He has shown me what it looks like to be a servant leader, how to work hard and be open-minded. He is willing to try new things and is constantly learning how to fix things himself. I would describe him as a laid-back leader because he reacts calmly in stressful situations. He’s not afraid to delegate or hire those who look different from him, and he treats his employees with respect and cares about each one of them. 

I also admire the Mayor because I see his leadership style align with his values. I see him work hard, respect others, and lead by example. I know he strives to do his best every day to create a lasting impact on the lives of the people in Sioux Falls. 

Matt Paulson, Founder, MarketBeat

Matt Paulson, MarketBeat

Tell us about MarketBeat and its connection to Zeal. 

MarketBeat is a financial technology and media company that provides news and research tools to stock investors. I have served as a Zeal board member for the last three years and in various volunteer capacities prior to that. I also founded Startup Sioux Falls which operates under Zeal’s umbrella.

Zeal serves an important role as the physical hub of the startup ecosystem in our community and it’s important for business leaders to support it to foster the creation of new startups and small businesses.

What inspired you to apply to LSF? 

A mentor of mine encouraged me to apply to Leadership Sioux Falls about ten years ago, but it never quite seemed like the right time with small children at home and an increasingly busy schedule.

I decided that 2020 was going to be the year to apply because most of my normal travel that would conflict with Leadership Sioux Falls is on pause due to COVID-19. I’m thrilled about the opportunity to learn more about our city and what opportunities there are to serve our community.

What are you most looking forward to learning during LSF?

Leadership Sioux Falls exposes emerging leaders to city and county government, universities, the two hospital systems and other entities that provide leadership to our community. I’m looking forward to learning about the institutions that manage our city and spend time networking with other young and emerging leaders. 

What are your goals for this experience?

If anything comes out of participating in Leadership Sioux Falls, it should be action for the betterment of the city. I am hoping that what I learn in Leadership Sioux Falls inspires my cohort and I to take on a significant service project and find new ways to give back to the community over time. 

When you think of a great leader, what characteristics do they embody? 

Leaders are people that do not accept the status quo for what it is, see what the world could look like and take action to turn their dream into reality. Leaders do not wait for someone to give them permission to lead. Leaders identify problems and bring people and resources together to solve those problems. They are servant-minded, forward-thinking, philanthropic, opportunistic, organized and quick to act. 

Who have been examples of great leaders in your life?

I have great admiration for mid-career business leaders who are a few miles further down the road than I am, including Eric McDonald, Michael Zuercher, Kevin Tupy and Eric Yunag. These entrepreneurs have shown what it looks like to take a company from startup to exit and maintain their integrity throughout the process. 

Peter Hauck, Community Manager, Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship

Peter Hauck, Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship

What inspired you to apply to LSF? 

I was raised by one of Sioux Falls’ biggest promoters. My father, Mike Hauck, is a graduate of Leadership Sioux Falls-9, and he has sung our city’s praises to me for as long as I can remember.

In light of that, I have always counted the stewardship of our city as one of my chief responsibilities. In my role as the community manager for the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship, I work to deliver on that responsibility by providing new and aspiring entrepreneurs with the tools they need to launch, grow and maintain their businesses right here in Sioux Falls.

LSF is a program designed to equip the next generation of leaders in our great city with the tools they need to carry Sioux Falls into the future, and I cannot imagine a better use of my time than that. I’ve actually wanted to apply to LSF since I was in high school, but I didn’t meet the program’s age requirement until this year.   

What are you most looking forward to learning during LSF?

I’m looking forward to getting a behind-the-scenes look at how Sioux Falls operates, as well as insight into how I can use my strengths, talents and purpose to carry the banner of our city forward. 

I’ve always been fascinated by Sioux Falls. I love learning about our history, how we got to where we are today, and what wheels are already in motion that will change the landscape of our city over the next 20-30 years. I’m a big Sioux Falls guy, so I’m excited to soak up all the information I can.  

What are your goals for this experience?

My biggest single goal for this program is to learn how I can best make an impact. We have so many exciting things going on in Sioux Falls right now, and there’s a small army of people to thank for that. Our city has gotten to where it is today because of the leaders who have invested mountains of time and energy in pursuit of making Sioux Falls a better place to live, work and play. 

Ultimately, I’m hoping that Leadership Sioux Falls gives me the tools I need to be one of the leaders pushing our city forward and into the future.

When you think of a great leader, what characteristics do they embody?

Great leaders are thoughtful—they care about and serve the people they lead. They are slow to anger, quick to innovate and the last to complain. The greatest leaders I know would rather help develop a solution to your problems than complain to you about their own.

Who have been examples of great leaders in your life?

I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by incredible leaders for the majority of my life. Most recently, I’ve been blown away by the leaders on our board at Zeal. The board is made up of some of the most thoughtful, successful and influential individuals that our city has to offer. The way they help our team guide Zeal into the future with such intentionality has been a masterclass in leadership, and learning from them has been a great opportunity for me both personally and professionally.

Outside of Zeal, one of the greatest leaders in my life is my friend and mentor, Jesse Fonkert. I first met Jesse when he was the Chamber and Economic Development Director for the city of Hartford. I’ve watched as he has used his positive energy, creativity and drive to make huge strides for Hartford and now for the Lincoln and Minnehaha County Economic Development Associations as their executive director.