Start Up Sioux Falls hopes to build entrepreneurial community with new location
With the ceremonial swinging of sledgehammers, Sioux Falls business and community leaders celebrate the next step for the growing start-up community. A long-vacant downtown building will soon serve as a collaborative workspace and hub for entrepreneurs.
Start Up Sioux Falls is a non-profit organization that offers resources to entrepreneurs. It's currently located on the northwest edge of Sioux Falls, on the campus of Southeast Technical College. Local entrepreneur and founder of MarketBeat Matt Paulson donated $1 million toward the move to downtown. He says moving to a new location is a risk.
"Because of this risk we're going to take, we're going to be able to help many more businesses. We're going to be able to hold accelerator programs, code schools, and all sorts of things that nobody's even thought of yet in this space. This is going to be the entrepreneurial heart of the city, and it's going to happen with Start Up Sioux Falls."
Starting a business is inherently risky, but current factors like low unemployment and high inflation could make any prospective entrepreneur hesitant. Even still, Brienne Maner, executive director of Start Up Sioux Falls, says some of the greatest innovations come out of economic hardship.
"During the last recession, two major businesses were launched: Airbnb and Uber. We're looking for those next great innovations, and we know we have the talent here in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to make something happen. We're just here to plant that fertile ground for people to be able to grow and flourish."
The prevalence of the gig economy makes starting a business even more feasible now than in years past, according to Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken. He knows firsthand the challenges of starting a business in an uncertain economy.
"For me, I started a business in 2008, right at the height of the recession. I think with the right kind of foot leather and the right chutzpah and the right determination, and then facilities like this which aid entrepreneurs, I think anything's possible."
The city-owned building Start Up Sioux Falls will soon inhabit has been vacant for years. It sits just south of the Levitt at the Falls outdoor concert venue, and across the street from restaurants and retail shops. TenHaken says a collaborative workspace for entrepreneurs is an ideal tenant for that location.
"A B2B telecom company, for instance, would not be a good fit. A place like this where there'll be tons of foot traffic, people coming in and out, meetings, conversations. This is going to be a great addition to this corner, it's going to be great for the retailers across the street."
And it will provide regular opportunities for collaboration. Karla Santi serves as a board member for both the Sioux Falls Development Foundation and Start Up Sioux Falls. When she started her business nearly 20 years ago, she says the biggest resource she lacked was a community of mentors.
"Being part of the downtown active community is going to be amazing for start-ups and entrepreneurs to run into people that can really help them in their business. Those collisions, that collaboration — it's an ideal time for us to be here in the heart of downtown Sioux Falls."
The space is expected to open early next year.