In one weekend, startup founders can chart path toward business launch

It wasn’t long after Bret Morstad moved to Sioux Falls from Denver that the new downtown resident spotted Startup Sioux Falls.

“I just went over there one day,” said Morstad, a self-employed consultant who works with consumer products companies.

“I live right down here on Phillips and have been driving past the building, so I was curious about what services they provide.”

He soon learned about CO.STARTERS Bootcamp, a weekend-long introduction to Startup Sioux Falls programming designed for founders working through their business concepts.

“I had an idea for a new business and had started writing a business plan and thought it might be a good idea, so I just walked down there and signed up,” Morstad said.

For Haley Jones and her fiance, Nick Rapisarda, connecting with CO.STARTERS Bootcamp meant returning to her hometown for a weekend. The Twin Cities attorneys are working through a startup concept and planning to move to Sioux Falls once they find a location.

“We’re currently very much in the beginning phases of chatting through what financial projections look like, what marketing would look like, all the nuts and bolts of what it would take to get our startup up and running,” Jones said. “We stumbled across Startup Sioux Falls in looking for any assistance in that realm just because a legal background isn’t necessarily a business background.”

The weekend bootcamp left them with “a great launch plan and road map that I think was a huge takeaway for us,” she said. “They helped us decide how we can prioritize certain things. There’s a lot of moving pieces in a startup.”

Startup Sioux Falls will hold its next CO.STARTERS Bootcamp April 27-28, with applications closing April 14.

It’s an abbreviated version of the 10-week CO.STARTERS Core program. Bootcamp participants spend one weekend together working through a shortened curriculum designed to provide entrepreneurs with insights, relationships and tools to turn their idea into a business. It’s a commitment of 13 hours over two days.

“It is a lot in a short amount of time,” said facilitator Erin Bosch, who has led both the Bootcamp and the 10-week program.

“I would tell people that they don’t have to have an idea fully baked — this is where the collaboration and ideation during the program are important. People also need to bring an open mind, a willingness to learn and the drive to make something happen.”

During the Bootcamp, participants will complete a CO.STARTERS Canvas, which helps identify:

  • Who their customer is.
  • What problem they are trying to solve for the customer.
  • What alternatives customers have when resolving their problem.
  • Presenting the solution to the customer.
  • Defining why the customer may want the product or service.
  • What gives an advantage over alternate products or services.
  • How to get the message out to the customer.
  • How to get product or service to the customer.
  • How to make money from the customer.

“We cover all of these topics within four segments: DISCOVER, PROMOTE, BUILD and LAUNCH,” Bosch said. “It’s a super-fast but thorough process of understanding what needs to be considered before launching a business. Participants can expect to connect with other entrepreneurs, some who have established businesses and some who have an idea. The collaboration and networking that comes out of these programs is really inspiring.”

The 10-week CO.STARTERS Core program takes a deeper dive into all these topics, she added.

The Bootcamp draws “a pretty wide spectrum of people, from those who simply have an idea to those who already have established successful businesses,” Bosch said. “Having such a diverse group allows for collaboration, ideation and an opportunity to learn from each other. No matter what stage you are in, you will walk away with something.”

Those who complete the Bootcamp can go on to do the 10-week version, with enhanced content and a greater focus on their businesses, but don’t have to, she said.

“Both programs really push you to understand the problem you are trying to solve, and sometimes, the business you thought you wanted to start doesn’t resemble the business you actually started. And sometimes, you discover you aren’t ready to start a business. It’s all part of the process,” she said.

“The self-discovery, business discovery and relationship-building are so worth it. You get to have a plan you created laid out in front of you, and you get to decide your future. Sioux Falls entrepreneurs are so lucky to have Startup Sioux Falls and CO.STARTERS. Even if you have a long-shot idea, invest the time in either course. You will not regret it. However, you will always regret not trying.”

The time spent definitely proved valuable, Morstad said.

“I am glad I did it,” he said. “I went in to see if everyone was going to laugh at me or if they thought it was a good idea, and we went through some really good exercises, like who is your customer, sort of defining your market and getting nitty-gritty on the details of expenses. It was just interesting to help other people and have other people listen.”

For Jones and Rapisarda, “one thing we weren’t expecting — that was surprising in a great way — was connecting with other people who wanted to do a startup and this jumping off of ideas, even if they weren’t in the same industry, talking to someone who wanted to start a health and fitness business and connecting with someone who wanted to start a bakery and some who had different connections with further help,” Jones said. “Everyone was very open-minded and collaborative, and it sparked more excitement about getting rolling on your business.”

It also underscored for the couple that they would become part of a broader, supportive business community, she said.

“One of the things my fiance and I chatted about was Startup Sioux Falls, how truly pro-business Sioux Falls is, as is South Dakota as a state,” Jones said. “Sioux Falls is growing, and it’s exciting. There’s young and old, and a lot of people moving to Sioux Falls, and it seems like it’s ripe for a startup.”

To learn more about the CO.STARTERS Weekend Bootcamp, click here.