Start Dakota, Episode 3: Supporting Women in Entrepreneurship with Megan Bartel

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In Episode 3 of the Start Dakota podcast, Startup Sioux Falls’ president, Brienne Maner, sits down with Megan Bartel, the new executive director of women’s programming at EmBe.

Maner and Bartel begin by discussing the challenges that EmBe faces when it comes to empowering women and families in the Sioux Falls community.

“I think right now, after the pandemic, that has just added extra layers of barriers, but we just have so many opportunities through our programming,” Bartel said.

She references Dress for Success, Women to the Workforce, Tapestry and the Women’s Leadership Program, to name a few. Recently, EmBe added CO.STARTERS to its lineup of programming, thanks to the Community Navigator grant partnership.

“It's just amazing to look full circle at what we offer, and to see that every part of your journey, whether there's barriers or not, there's something EmBe can step in and help support you with, and it just makes sense to be a part of that. This grant is just another layer of support we can offer,” she said.

Part of that support involves meeting women where they are and helping them find the best fit.

“It's really supporting women from the whole spectrum, whether they're like, ‘Hey, I've been in a leadership role for a really long time, but I don't know if I necessarily need to be in the women's cohort. And then you have people that are like, ‘I would love to develop it, but I don't know if I'm ready for it yet.’ And so I think it’s just having conversations and letting us help you figure out the best route,” Bartel said.

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Maner and Bartel talk about how CO.STARTERS might be a natural fit for some of the women who have been through other EmBe programming. 

“I just think that's one thing that we can increase our visibility of what we already do, and then showcase what we have coming up as well. We have a woman that just went through Dress for Success. … She was able to get a whole wardrobe for her new job. She went through our Women to the Workforce program, she went through our Tapestry program, and now she has her own business, and I just think [CO.STARTERS] is something that could have been that next step for her,” Bartel said. 

“I really feel like through our current programming, we're going to be able to help guide and direct these women and say, ‘Hey, let's work on your skills. Let's work on your confidence. And then let's get you a business.”

Maner emphasizes the importance of a partnership like the one between Startup Sioux Falls and EmBe.

“Nonprofit organizations like ours can't be everything to everyone. Partnerships are so dire, filling those gaps is so incredibly important,” she said.

On a similar note, Maner and Bartel discussed how time is one the largest hurdles facing the people EmBe serves. It’s an important element to keep in mind when planning programming.

“People are so busy, they're reprioritizing their lives. They have a lot going on, and so it's trying to find that perfect niche of what's the right time, how long is the right length, and when do we offer this?” Bartel said. 

Financial barriers are another challenge EmBe is tackling. 

“If finances are a concern, if transportation is a concern, let us know, and we will help you,” she said. “Thankfully, CO.STARTERS is free, but I definitely think time and accessibility of resources is the biggest hurdle for us.”

As they work through these barriers and find more ways to serve the women and families in this community, Bartel says she and her team at EmBe are excited to see the impact that will be made.

“You get women in a room, and you just feel that, and I think having the cohorts go through it together, we’re really building that support system and networking within your class,” she said.

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Tune in to the full conversation to hear these takeaways and many more.

Watch the video version on YouTube, or listen on your favorite podcast platform—Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music or Anchor. 

Show Notes

Show Notes:

  • CO.STARTERS Challenge: Alternatives
    • Complete your “fieldwork” before the next episode: Begin researching existing and alternative solutions to your business. Try engaging customers for feedback to learn more about your business landscape.
  • Business Minute: Learn more about SD CEO at

This project is made possible through a partnership with Startup Sioux Falls and grant funding provided through the Community Navigator Pilot Program, powered by the SBA. More information can be found here