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Published February 03, 2012, 12:00 AM

SOUTH DAKOTA: Accelerator program assists entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs launching a new business will find a wealth of resources and mentorship in the South Dakota Technology Business Center’s Accelerator program.

By: Loretta Sorensen, Prairie Business Magazine

SDTBC client services administrator Pam Boehm says the program is designed to assist entrepreneurs in developing a new business and advancing business activities for a recently developed company.

“The National Network for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization (N2TEC) was established to help start-up business,” Boehm says. “We hosted the N2TEC Accelerator program in our building for three years. During that time we realized that the goal to bring start-ups to South Dakota was a valuable endeavor. When the N2TEC program funding ended, we decided to continue that program’s mission on our own, using the same local resources that made N2TEC possible.”

The SDTBC, located in Sioux Falls, S.D., is an on-going effort to diversify and grow the regional economy by assisting in creation and expansion of technology-based business in the area. The center is an outgrowth of the Forward Sioux Falls Technology Program initiated in April 1999. Multiple public and private organizations partnered to fund construction of the SDTBC, reflecting a broad-based support for this economic initiative.

Boehm notes that SDTBC hopes to attract start-up companies from South Dakota and the surrounding area to participate in the Accelerator program. Companies whose applications are approved will take part in a 13-week coaching program that will help them explore their current business activity and potential for growth and development.

“The first week of the program is an intensive ‘boot camp.’ Before boot camp begins, we ask participants to complete some homework, identifying some important information about their business,” Boehm says. “All the participants come together for discussions that provide an opportunity for them to learn what other start-up companies are doing. The sessions help them think through and rethink their plans and business activity.”

The goal of the first week of the program is to assist participants in refining their presentation and communication skills to clearly explain what their business does and how their audience can benefit from it or help the business succeed.

“The boot camp week also gives participants opportunity to meet with mentors and business advisors, investors and other resources that will help them launch a successful business in South Dakota,” Boehm says. “At the end of that first week, each business will develop their own set of specific goals and milestones to guide them through the actual start-up phase of the business.”

Marketing and financial planning skills are two areas in which most business owners struggle. Boehm notes that the Accelerator program provides assistance in identifying funding options and developing skills to turn marketing activities into sales.

“We don’t do the work for them. We do help them find the resources they need to develop a growth plan,” Boehm says. “Because of the work we do, we have knowledge of many resources in the region that businesses need in order to grow and succeed. We gather data every year so we can measure the success of clients. We know that more than 300 jobs have been created by the businesses we’ve served. The average annual income of these business owners is $70,000, which is far above the average income in South Dakota.”

Boehm expects that start-up business in the region will complete an application for the Accelerator program. Attracting new small business to the state is on ongoing SDTBC goal.

“Small businesses create jobs as they grow and expand,” she says. “In the long run, those small businesses create more high paying jobs in South Dakota. That’s a growth statistic we want to continue to see.”

More information about SDTBC and the Accelerator program is available at www.sdtbc.com or by calling 605-275-8000. SDPB

Loretta Sorensen, Owner, Prairie Hearth Publishing, LLC. sorensenlms@gmail.com.