Startup Sunrise – New to Sioux Falls

This article is written in partnership with local founder Megan Raposa from Sioux Falls Simplified. "Feel smart about where you live. We make it simple."

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Dozens of entrepreneurs and business leaders gathered in the Marketbeat Theater on a crisp January morning to attend the first Startup Sunrise event of 2024. Speakers Aanna Chase and Jael Thorpe joined host Mike Lynch, program director of Forward Sioux Falls. 


The event kicked off with some motivation from local real estate agent and entrepreneur Albert Huizing, followed by a performance from the Good Night Theatre Collective, showcasing a taste of their upcoming performance as part of the Washington Pavilion’s “Live and Local” series on Jan. 18. (You can find tickets here.)


January’s Startup Sunrise conversation topic was “New to Sioux Falls,” and both speakers shared how their recent moves to Sioux Falls impacted their journey as entrepreneurs.


Jael Thorpe is the founder of GameDay Social Apparel Co., a company she founded while living in Brookings and has continued to grow now living in Sioux Falls. Aanna Chase is the owner and founder of Aanna Chase Photography, and she began her career in Chicago before moving to Sioux Falls just over a year ago. 


Both women shared some of the details of their personal entrepreneurial journey, as well as 

Here are some key takeaways from that conversation: 


Connections across industries is helpful (and accessible)


Chase noted that as a photographer in a big city she was able to find connections within her industry, but so far in Sioux Falls, it’s been easy to get connected with the business community as a whole. She said she’s been inspired in different ways by interacting with people from a diversity of fields, and she’s found friendships, clients and mentorships across industries. 


Thorpe echoed Chase’s sentiment, adding that Sioux Falls is the perfect size …..


Feeling established as a business owner takes time


When asked how long it took to get to a place where their business felt “established,” both women noted that it took about four years to really feel like they knew what they were doing. 


  • For Thorpe, the decision to move to Sioux Falls was a big one. In previous years, her husband had worked as a farmer, and deciding to leave that was a big shift for their family. 
  • For Chase, feeling “established” came when she made the decision to run her photography business full-time after years of building up clientele and perfecting her craft.


Take the leap, but strategically


Chase noted that part of what helped her feel more established in ultimately running her business full-time was the two years she spent working part-time as a nanny and part-time building her business. 


“It was a slow build,” she said. “Often people say, take a leap of faith, but they were calculated leaps.” 


It’s important to support small businesses – and give back


Thorpe said in her nearly 20 years as an entrepreneur there were times when she felt like she and her business were underestimated. People would give off the energy of, “Oh that’s cute” or assume her husband was financing her business. 


“There isn’t always as much enthusiasm or support around those businesses that don’t seem scalable,” said Thorpe, whose start in small, local women’s boutiques crew to a business that now sells official licensed collegiate athletic apparel nationwide. 


She hopes she can continue to build her business to the point where she can give back to some of those businesses, as well as help them find a niche where maybe they can really scale.


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