Along the streets of downtown Sioux Falls, a historic building has been transformed into a place to nurture new ideas.

Last year Startup Sioux Falls moved into the downtown community with the intent of supporting entrepreneurs and founders, igniting innovation, and bolstering economic development in South Dakota’s largest city.

Though Startup has been around for 21 years, the nonprofit has shifted names and identities as it has grown. Back in 2002, the organization opened under the name South Dakota Technology and Business Center, focusing on tech and business incubation.

In 2016 it was rebranded to the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship, and in 2021 the organization made the shift from Zeal to Startup Sioux Falls.

Last year Startup Sioux Falls moved into the downtown community with the intent of supporting entrepreneurs and founders, igniting innovation, and bolstering economic development in South Dakota’s largest city.

“We all have something to learn from the entrepreneurial mindset.” -Brienne maner

As the isolating side effects of the pandemic marched on, creating community became nearly impossible. Startup’s 45,000-square- foot facility on the northwest side of town was spacious, but incongruent with the organization’s needs and goals.

To foster connectivity, a location change was inevitable.

“All signs pointed to downtown,” said president Brienne Maner.

Maner joined the team in 2019 after working at Downtown Sioux Falls, Inc. and other community and non-profit organizations for 15 years.

As the team scouted for a new location downtown, they began to consider the city-owned Parks and Recreation building with encouragement from Mayor Paul TenHaken.

Built in 1894 as a freight depot and office of the general agent for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, the building had been sitting vacant for over five years.

“When the Mayor first suggested a tour of the facility, I was in disbelief that our operation could downsize to 5,500 square feet. The pandemic’s effects on remote work helped us realize it was exactly what we needed to serve today’s entrepreneurs,” said Maner.

The Startup team had their Wall Breaking Ceremony in May 2022 followed by the financial support of dozens of local businesses to begin renovations. The doors opened to the public in February of 2023.

Maner says the building, affectionately called “The Depot,” is a testament to entrepreneurship.

“I look at the quartzite walls and think about the determination, care, and the tenacity that it took to build a facility that’s still standing strong,” she said.

“Our move would not have been possible without the support of our greater business community such as MarketBeat, Lloyd Companies, POET, and SDN Communications, as well as our dedicated board and staff.”

With increased visibility downtown came an influx of folks drawn to the building, the organization, and its many services.

“We serve three different markets,” said community coordinator Amos Buelow. “Entrepreneurs and founders who want to grow a business and network, remote workers who want a workspace with community, and business organizations that need conference rooms or an event space.”

February 7
Startup Sunrise – Tech Ventures

February 8
Startup Skills Workshop – Facebook Ads for Beginners

March 6
Founder’s Day

March 6
Startup Sunrise – Designers & Builders

March 14
Startup Skills Workshop – Get Started with Federal Contracting

April 3
Startup Sunrise – Artisans & Makers

The Depot functions as a space for each of these groups, creating opportunities for connections and encouraging focused work.

Buelow’s role is connecting the people who come through the doors to whatever person, resource, or program is most useful most to the next step in their journey.

“I help them identify what is most beneficial for them,” says Buelow, who provides initial consultation and direction to new clients.

Beyond helping newcomers, Buelow also promotes inclusive offerings available through Startup Sioux Falls.

“We are an organization that thinks like an entrepreneur, ignites innovation, and supports growth for founders, remote workers, and organizations,” summarizes Buelow.

Startup offers different assets for each of the groups it serves. For remote workers, the facility provides a coworking space that increases focus and allows for connectivity with other entrepreneurs.

“I love the space,” said member Josh Lapin. “The staff is awesome, sometimes there’s free food, and it’s only $106 a month. I swear they are losing money on me,” he said.

Big Goals

A Startup Sioux Falls goal is to serve 100,000 people & help 100 startups grow in 10 years.

Member Tim Summerer agreed, “It’s great to have the community and have a space I am proud to bring clients to, and it’s fun to be in a cool part of town and a cool building.”

Buelow revealed that remote workers often end up starting their own businesses just because of the environment.

“There’s a level of intention here that you can’t get anywhere else. You’re naturally motivated because you’re around like-minded people,” he said.

For entrepreneurs and founders, Startup offers a handful of programs.

First, there is a weekend bootcamp that serves would-be business owners at the idea stage. The two-day program helps innovators troubleshoot whether their ventures would be profitable to pursue and how to start.

For those who have begun their entrepreneurial journey, Startup offers CO.STARTERS, a 10-week business accelerator that helps founders fine tune their new businesses alongside others in the community and connects them to mentors.

“Whenever there’s a hurdle or obstacle, that’s when you know to reach out to us, because we’ll be able to help you find what you need.”
-amos buelow

Growco is a year-long program for established businesses which have reached a plateau or are looking to expand.

Business leaders and organizations are also embraced in the Startup community to mentor, rent out spaces, sponsor projects, and get involved.

According to Maner, Startup also functions as direct economic development support for workforce and business relocation, and provides a space where people from all stages in the business community can come together and sharpen each other.

“We have incredible access to brilliant business leaders who not only invest in our startup community, but also our team, which better equips us to serve needs throughout the founder’s journey,” she reflected.

Beyond these programs, Startup hosts a vast network of programming, connections, and resources available to founders.

Among these are Startup Sunrise, which is an entrepreneurial gathering on the first Wednesday of every month, and Startup Pitch Night, where entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to the community for a cash prize.

For Maner and Buelow, it’s all about the community and ways to serve the entire founder’s journey in a way that is real and involved.

“It takes a village to nourish a vibrant and inclusive startup ecosystem, and we are serious about the growth and accountability of those we serve at Startup Sioux Falls,” said Maner.

For more information, visit STARTUPSIOUXFALLS.COM +
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