Meet the founders: Startup Sioux Falls welcomes first internal CO.STARTERS cohort of 2022

At the end of July, Startup Sioux Falls launched its fifth CO.STARTERS cohort and its first of 2022. The group of 16 founders has already been diving into the CO.STARTERS curriculum and getting to know one another, alongside their facilitator, Daniel Card

While this is the first cohort hosted locally by Startup Sioux Falls this year, it’s actually not the first CO.STARTERS program to occur in 2022. We recently celebrated the graduation of Accelerate Mitchell’s first cohort, an opportunity that came about thanks to Startup Sioux Falls’ partnership with Dakota Resources through the Community Navigator grant program

We’re proud to be serving founders not only through our local Startup Sioux Falls community with cohorts like the one we’re featuring today, but also through underserved communities, including women, rural populations, New Americans and immigrants, Native Americans and veterans. 

Meet the founders

The founders participating in this cohort comprise a diverse array of industries and backgrounds. We invite you to read through their bios and Q&A below to learn more about their ventures and how you can support them. 

Please note, some of the founders participating in CO.STARTERS have asked that their names or information about their ventures remain anonymous for the time being. 

Check them out!

Jump to:

Founder: August Brown

Business venture: Embyr Designs 

Tell us about yourself and your business: My name is August Brown (they/them), and I live and create in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I have always loved working with clay, but really got into it when I took my first serious class with Gerry Punt at Augustana University. He demonstrated how to throw a bowl on an old Lockerbie kick wheel, then cut it in half, much to the shock of everyone in the room. (He does this to show us how even the walls are.) I couldn’t wait to begin. I went home and immediately began watching videos, came into the studio over the weekend to practice and haven’t stopped since. Wheel throwing clay is a mesmerizing experience that allows the artist to create beautiful, symmetrical pieces they could never create on their own otherwise. I also hand build and make small whimsical creatures as well as larger abstract pieces. 

Why did you apply to CO.STARTERS? I love creating art and want to sell it, but I need more support and information about how to run a business. By the end of the program, I hope to feel confident and ready to start my small business.

Find Embyr Designs on social media:

Founder: Kelcey Schroder

Business venture: KS Photo

Tell us about yourself and your business: My name is Kelcey Schroder, and I am currently based in Sioux Falls. I have lived in the Midwest my entire life, and I graduated from Columbia College of Chicago with a B.A. in photography. In the fall of 2009, I returned to my hometown in northwest Iowa to open a photography studio focusing on weddings, high school senior portraits, family portraits and engaging community events. After seven successful years there, I left the physical location to transition my photography business into being mobile and accessible to a larger audience. I moved to Sioux Falls in 2016, and a year later, began pursuing a career in event coordinating with a local brewery, all the while never losing my passion for photography. Enter 2020… With seemingly endless challenges to socializing and in-person events, I pushed myself and left the idea of a “box” behind to find solutions, all the while keeping safety in mind. I made the decision to rebrand and officially reopen my photography business full time. While I never quit photographing for loyal clients, friends and for fundraisers, I am proud to own a small business and collaborate with other businesses and clients. My passion is and will always be offering affordable, professional photography services to people. 

Why did you apply to CO.STARTERS? I need assistance in building my business and need motivation to build it. I hope to come away with confidence and a better idea of my business goals. I am very thankful to be a part of this program.

Find KS Photo on social media:

Hannah Whiting

Founder: Hannah Whiting

Business venture: 24/7 Canine Cabin

Tell us about yourself and your business: I'm a nurse who started my career in the midst of the pandemic. I'm also the founder of 24/7 Canine Cabin—a doggy daycare and boarding center that is open 24/7. As a working nurse and a lifelong animal lover, I saw how limited boarding options made it difficult for some pet owners to juggle both work and life with their furry friends. When I'm not coaching hockey, building my business or working as a nurse, I'm probably cuddling with my cat, Princess, and pandemic puppy, Rhett—the inspiration for the business.

Why did you apply to CO.STARTERS? My brother-in-law, Peter Hauck, went through the program and I saw how it kick started his business—I’m hoping it will do the same for me! I hope to learn what it takes to start a business and gather tips to make it successful. I’m also excited to meet a group of people that are so willing to help me through my journey and to be surrounded by people with the same entrepreneurial spirit.

Sam Brown

Founder: Sam Brown

Business venture: XME Plus is a digital entertainment and IRL experience company representing and partnering with talented creators and community-focused brands to create and produce original, and cross platform entertainment experiences that engage youth and young adult-centric audiences.

Tell us about yourself and your business: I am an accomplished and experienced music business executive born and raised in Boston, Mass. After studying at the Berklee College of Music, as well as the New England Institute of Art, I began working with award winning music producer/songwriter David "Preach" Balfour (UMPG). It wasn't long before I found myself serving as tour manager for bands like Within Reason and Hinder. I currently work with the startup company, Nothing But Hu$tlas, LLC, an independent record label owned by NFL wide receiver, Julio Jones. 

Why did you apply to CO.STARTERS? I had been hearing about CO.STARTERS for a while, so I started researching the program, and after Peter Hauck and Jeff Hayward suggested that I apply, I was inspired to do so. I hope to establish my company as well as identify where we can be most impactful. I also am looking forward to developing great relationships in the Sioux Falls business community.

Founder: Amy Pokela

Business venture: AMPO is working with small and midsized organizations to provide philanthropy solutions. The goal is to provide web based products for common nonprofit activities. The first solution being built is to help create year-end fundraising appeal letters.

Tell us about yourself and your business: I have had the opportunity to serve in leadership roles in organizations with fewer than five people and in a nationwide foundation with locations in 24 states. For seven years, I used my talents to teach undergraduate and graduate level students about philanthropy as an adjunct professor at the University of South Dakota. From this experience, I have created learning plans for two different fundraising teams. My collective experience exemplifies my personal mission statement of seeing potential, working for change, and leaving things better than I found them.

Why did you apply to CO.STARTERS? I need help figuring out how to pull off all the ideas I have to reimagine how small and mid-sized nonprofits do philanthropy.

Find AMPO on social media:

Men's Emporium

Founders: Jeffrey Amdahl and Joshua Gudmundson

Tell us about yourself and your business: Our business is a men's emporium providing stylish and lasting casual to business-casual attire and accessories, barber services, a minimalist coffee bar, and a welcoming atmosphere that creates a relaxing and comfortable environment to help men suit up (or simply get dressed) in style.

Why did you apply to CO.STARTERS? We applied to CO.STARTERS to create the strongest base for starting our business. We hope to increase our networking capabilities and gain knowledge for acquiring startup funds and/or investments, as well as overall cash flow and inventory for our store.

Founder: Katie Herrmann

Business venture: Cirka Performance Arts 

Tell us about yourself and your business: I am the co-founder, along with Kayla Mathieu, of Cirka Performance Arts, an aerial and circus performance company based in South Dakota. I am an aerial performer who coaches students of all levels, and I am a marketer by trade. I'm excited to expand the performance capabilities and opportunities for Cirka. Additionally, we strive to make aerial arts more accessible to all people and build resources for people to learn on their own.

Why did you apply to CO.STARTERS? I had chatted with individuals who were part of previous cohorts and heard more about it at the SME Women in Business event, and I knew I had to apply. I hope to make connections in the business community and learn ways to grow and scale a business. Cirka is the only company in this region that provides this type of performance and has this type of talent. We're continuing to grow our performance group and the types of performances we offer, and we would love to partner with any business who is looking to add an interactive and unique performance element to their events.

Find Cirka on social media:

Founder: Whitney Donohue

Business venture: The Daily Collective

Tell us about yourself and your business: My name is Whitney Donohue, and I’m the founder, owner and creator behind The Daily Collective, an online shop featuring hand-crafted goods for everyday necessity. In addition to running my small business, I am a full-time associate at an architecture firm and am actively working towards receiving my architecture license. This venture started from a passion for creating things. I love creating digitally and by hand, and I ultimately want to share that passion with the world, whether it be through my products, social media or even DIY classes.

Why did you apply to CO.STARTERS? I have been running my business for about a year now. Although it has been so much fun and super rewarding at times, I have learned a lot and am having some growing pains. I'm hoping CO.STARTERS can help me take my business to a new level that I probably would not be able to do on my own. I hope to feel more confident in decision making in my business, and I also hope to learn new tools for more efficient day-to-day operations. 

Find The Daily Collective on social media:

Jackie Coleman

Founder: Jackie Coleman

Business venture: The Inner Garden

Tell us about yourself and your business: Everyone has ideas and aspirations. Mine has been to start an interior plantscape design business. In 1983, a position in the seasonal department at Target Corporate office sparked my interest in plants. I ordered in plants for the advertising department after they were photographed. I was responsible for their disposal. Many went home with me. That began my education in caring and decorating with living plants. After a divorce, I moved back home to Sioux Falls where I worked different jobs and raised my children for the next few years. I started working for Gro-Joy Plants out of Madison in 1992 where I sold greenhouse setups to mass merchandisers. I developed a training program for store employees including building displays, caring and ordering products. After several years on the road and several issues at the greenhouse, Gro-Joy Plants closed. As I continued with my working life, I've been involved with construction and design. I've had experience with cabinetry, plumbing, windows and doors. My husband and I have remodeled three homes, always learning as we go. Our current home includes custom copper and iron touches we enjoy, and people have stopped and asked us who did our work—proving to us we have sellable design ideas. Recently, I was asked if I would allow the Master Gardeners to use my yard for their garden tour, once again proving that our hard work and design ideas have merit. I have the industry expertise, technical skill and a long-term vision and I'm ready to offer my skills to the Sioux Falls market.

Why did you apply to CO.STARTERS? The idea that is executed will always be better than one that doesn't. I have talked myself out of bringing my ideas to life too many times for too many reasons. Even if it's not perfect, I now have a little money in the bank, and I'm ready to chase the dream.

Nadia Hall

Founder: Nadia Hall

Business venture: Njaa Braiding Bar

Tell us about yourself and your business: Njaa Braiding Bar is dedicated to providing a pleasurable natural hair care experience. We offer a variety of natural hair care services at an affordable cost.

Why did you apply to CO.STARTERS? I want to learn how to maintain my small business in this economy. 

Find Njaa Braiding Bar on social media:

Founder: Chelsea Alexander

Business venture: Kane’s Baked Goods

Tell us about yourself and your business: I was born and raised in Sioux Falls, and I grew up baking with my family and decided to make a career out of it. With the support of my wife, Regan, and son, Kane, I am able to own and operate Kane’s Baked Goods and Cafe food truck.

Why did you apply to CO.STARTERS? I’m looking for anything I can do to help my business. I really want Kane’s to be community focused—local produce, meats, eggs, vendors. Small businesses helping small businesses. I want to give back to the community and also start a garden that provides for local shelters.

Find Kane’s Baked Goods on social media:

Founder: Brian Robinson

Business venture: C. Woodcock and Co. 

Tell us about yourself and your business: I have worked and lived on five continents and moved to Sioux Falls in January 2022. I have been building my business—sourcing and sales of vintage hunting, safari and travel gear—from part time to “all in” since 2019. 

Why did you apply to CO.STARTERS? I want to solidify the foundation of my business, with a clear focus on “what” we do and “how” we do it, so it can be explained clearly and succinctly. My business is a passion for the outdoors that I have morphed into a small business. My goal is to keep the business moving forward without losing the joy that was behind its creation. My prior small business became 90 percent me “running a business” and 10 percent doing what fueled my passion for the work. I don’t wish to repeat this mistake, and I want to work to establish an intentional balance between these factors. Sustainability is the key for me.

Find C. Woodcock and Co. on social media:

PlayOff Sports Wall

Founders: Shelly Timmer, Pam Sandbulte Meiztler, and Sandra Gonzalez

Business venture: PlayOff Sports Wall

Tell us about yourself and your business: We are two sports-loving sisters who have spent a lifetime playing games and staying active. Growing up on a farm, we spent endless hours rebounding any kind of ball against any wall we could find. It’s how we became multi-sport athletes and enjoyed successful sporting careers in high school, college and recreational leagues. Playing games has brought joy to our lives, and it is this love of sport and game play with family and friends that provided the idea to create PlayOff Sports Wall.

Why did you apply to CO.STARTERS? There is so much to learn as an entrepreneur that it is overwhelming, so it’s good to network and find people to lighten that load. We hope to make new friends, learn about new businesses and their business plans and gain knowledge.

Find PlayOff Sports Wall on social media:

Interested in learning more about CO.STARTERS? We accept interest forms on a rolling basis and will notify you when the next cohort opportunity comes up.