Nearly 100 members of Sioux Falls’ entrepreneurial ecosystem gathered on Tuesday night to celebrate the graduates of Startup Sioux Falls’ third CO.STARTERS accelerator program cohort.
In just over a year, CO.STARTERS has produced 46 alumni and dozens of incredible business and mentorship connections. Founders have refined their ideas, launched products and services and successfully found ways to pivot when necessary.
The energy and support surrounding this program was visible on Tuesday at the Icon Events Hall as alumni, friends, family and mentors cheered on the graduates and pitch presenters.
"Watching the cohort go through pitch night is like watching your child graduate from high school. You see the work they put in over a long period of time and who they have become throughout the process, and I could not be more proud of them,” said Larry Young, owner of Boiling Frog Development and facilitator of Cohort 3.
The following founders completed the 10-week program and are moving forward with their businesses at various stages of development:
- Jesus Gonzalez, A Moment Forever
- Erica Locke, Articulate
- Carly Kewley, CK Design
- Albert and Kayla Huizing, Huizing Properties LLC
- Kevin Forshey, MyndTek*
- Jessica Meyers, Porchlight*
- Peter Hauck, Rink Rabbit*
- Russell Mendenhall, Robin Royal*
- Marcela Salas, Salas Salsas*
- Elsa Posey, Solar Xpress
- Jamie Sterk, Wounded Healer Recovery*
- Rachel Stroschein
* Indicates pitch presenter.
Six of the founders had the opportunity to present a five-minute pitch to the audience and a panel of three judges — Julian Beaudion of Swamp Daddy’s Cajun Kitchen, Kurt Loudenback of Grand Prairie Foods and Tove Hoff-Bormes of Rug & Relic and the University of South Dakota School of Law. Both the judges and the audience voted on one winner who would receive $1,500 toward his or her business.
In the end, that winner was Marcela Salas of Salas Salsas, a mother-daughter business handcrafting authentic Mexican salsas which have recently become available at local retailers like Pomegranate Market, the Sioux Falls Food Co-op and Look’s Marketplace.
“It feels great to have won pitch night,” Salas said. “We have amazing startups in this community, and my cohort is proof that this community is thriving. I feel so grateful to Startup Sioux Falls for having this opportunity for startups to find solidarity, solutions and networking opportunities, and to Larry [Young], who brought forth knowledge, expertise, understanding and solutions.”
Each graduate was also paired with a mentor who will meet with them now that the program is complete. Additionally, Sioux Falls’ community of business owners and CO.STARTERS alumni has been generous with their time and expertise to these graduates.
“Having Karla Santi and Sanaa Abourezk as my mentors has been amazing,” said Salas. “I feel so blessed to have strong experienced women who want to see me succeed. The entrepreneurial journey can be lonely at times but Startup Sioux Falls has created a community that changes that.”
Learn more about CO.STARTERS at www.startupsiouxfalls.com/accelerator/, and stay tuned for updates on the ways Startup Sioux Falls is expanding this program to underserved communities through the SBA Community Navigator Pilot Program in 2022.
We are grateful to all of our Startup Sioux Falls sponsors for making events like this possible:
- First PREMIER Bank and PREMIER Bankcard
- Boyce Law Firm
- Eide Bailly
- First Bank & Trust
- First National Bank in Sioux Falls
- Interstate Office Products
- Midwest Employee Benefits
- Nelson Commercial Real Estate
- Tiger 29
- University of Sioux Falls – Entrepreneurial Studies Program.