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Nationally recognized Launch Conference set for seventh year


Rhonda Pole, director of the Kelley Center for Entrepreneurship at DWU.
MITCHELL – The entrepreneurial spirit isn’t about expanding the borders of innovation, it’s about erasing them.

The annual Launch conference will invite educators and aspiring entrepreneurs back to Dakota Wesleyan University for the seventh statewide gathering of brainstorming, networking and entrepreneurial mentoring. The annual conference will be Thursday, Feb. 23, at DWU.

The day’s events begin at 10 a.m. and end at 3:15 p.m. in the Sherman Center and Rollins Campus Center. Attendees can register at www.dwu.edu/SDLaunchConference, or call 800-952-3562 or 605-665-4408.

Launch includes keynotes, exhibits, workshops and a Q&A with young entrepreneurs from throughout the country. Students will brainstorm with business professionals and meet like-minded students through networking events while faculty learn to integrate innovative and creative thinking into their respective disciplines.

Partners in the event include: Kelley Center for Entrepreneurship at DWU, the South Dakota Small Business Development Centers, the Enterprise Institute, South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development, South Dakota EPSCoR, and the South Dakota State University Entrepreneurship Program.

This year the Q&A portion will consist of two entrepreneurs who have come full circle through the programs, Launch, the Innovation Expo and the Governor’s Giant Vision, and created successful businesses, and another South Dakotan who has created two successful business ventures. Students and community members will have the opportunity to ask these young professionals questions about how they used their networking tools and the help of these programs to succeed.

The panelists include:
Dustin Pratt, originally of Watertown, is founder of Solid Rock Clothing LLC. He was the winner of the 2010 Governor’s Giant Vision Student Competition, and was also the youngest individual named in the Prairie Business magazine’s 40 Under 40.
Josh Aberson is the creator of Green Acre Real Estate, a boutique real estate company located in downtown Sioux Falls. He also organized Meso, a community office environment for freelance-, independent- and mobile-based companies and workers.
Royce McDaniel was the winner of the South Dakota State University IDEA competition in February 2010 and third-place finisher for the Governor’s Giant Vision Student Competition in 2011. He also launched Nism, which produces bike conversion kits that enable a mountain bike to convert to a ski bike.

Launch was created to cultivate a spirit of entrepreneurship, which really is more of a mindset than a discipline.

“The entrepreneurial way of thinking is about thinking outside the box, looking beyond what you might think is the ‘only’ way to do something. Entrepreneurs don’t limit themselves to anything,” said Rhonda Pole, director of the Kelley Center for Entrepreneurship at DWU, and conference coordinator for Launch for the past seven years. “Every successful entrepreneur will tell you that they got there through innovative thinking and connecting with people who could help them in the areas where they are weakest.”

Job creation is at the forefront of any community looking to attract and keep its members, and right now the majority of new job creation is through the private sector, according to Pole. These are people who see a need and find a way to serve it.

“Today, more than ever, we need individuals who are problem-solvers and who will go out and make an impact on our society. All sectors, both public and private, are in need of individuals with an entrepreneurial mindset,” Pole said. “The Launch entrepreneurship education conference broadens career horizons and challenges both students and educational institutions to think about job creation, innovation and growing new business and social ventures.”

This year’s Launch keynote speaker is Dr. Heidi Neck, an associate professor and the Jeffry A. Timmons professor of entrepreneurial studies at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., where she teaches entrepreneurship at the MBA and executive levels.

“Simply put, entrepreneurship is a platform for positive change in the world,” Neck said. “Entrepreneurship is about the power of humans to discover, create, and improve their lives and improve the societies in which they live.”

This will be Neck’s first visit to Launch, but she was a keynote speaker at this year’s national conference for the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

“Conferences such as Launch create a real network,” Neck said. “When you have hundreds of like-minded people come together for a conference on entrepreneurship, there is no downside. You know people will come together and do something of value!”

Don Jorgensen, a 1986 DWU alumnus and anchor for KELO TV, will give an opening address this year, followed by break-out sessions with the following speakers:

Arel Moodie is co-owner of The Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour and was named  one of the 100 future business leaders in the world by St. Gallen Symposium in Switzerland, one of Inc. Magazine’s “Top 30 Entrepreneurs in America Under 30,” and is also an award-winning entrepreneur, published writer, and professional speaker.
Brittany Rose is the owner of More Than Cheer, a recreational sports company that creates cheerleading and dance programs for ages 5 to 18. She is currently a United States Ambassador for the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards.
Gary Archamboult has been the director of the South Dakota Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program since September of 2001, assisting small technology-business and start-up companies to identify federal grant funding for high-risk research and development of new technologies and innovative products. He also works closely with the Governor's Office of Economic Development, most recently authoring the SBA FAST proposal to fund the SBIR/Innovation Fellows program and Student Technology Entrepreneurs.
Mark Slade has been with the South Dakota Small Business Development Center program since early 1998 and works with approximately 200 start-up and existing clients per year in fields from retail and service to manufacturing and professional/technical services.
Tom Eitreim serves as a research analyst for the Enterprise Institute, conducts and supervises market research and competitive analysis for clients, and also has received awards for his involvement in various competitions in the entrepreneurial community, such as the Governor’s Giant Vision Student Competition and the SDSU Business Plan Competition.

 “There has never been a more important time in modern history for entrepreneurship education to be at the forefront of our education system,” Moodie said. “We are excited to be partnering with South Dakota Launch again to help teach this extremely important topic to the individuals that will lead the charge in getting our economy stable again while helping individuals pursue a life of passion and fulfillment.”

The South Dakota Launch Conference occurs every year in February during National Entrepreneurship Week. It was one of four finalists for an Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education Innovation Award through the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) – a prestigious award that not only calls attention to Launch, but the nomination celebrates the partnership that created it.

Pole coordinates Launch in partnership with the Enterprise Institute; South Dakota EPSCoR; South Dakota Governor’s Office on Economic Development; South Dakota Small Business Development Centers; and fellow educator and coordinator Barb Heller with the South Dakota State University Entrepreneurial Studies Program.

Heller and Pole presented at the USASBE conference in January in New Orleans, along with the other three finalists for the award: the Brock School of Business-Samford University, Birmingham, Ala.; the University of Utah, Salt Lake City; and the University of Texas-Dallas. Though they didn’t win, Pole and Heller were both excited that a South Dakota conference drew national attention and recognized along with programs of the size and prestige as the other nominees.

Launch was nominated by nationally award-winning entrepreneurs, Michael Simmons and Sheena Lindahl, co-founders of Extreme Entrepreneurship Education, which has appeared at Launch for four years.

EET provides practical advice not just for business school students, but those interested in creating their own opportunity. Whether they’ve studied philosophy or computer science, the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour encourages students to think like a savvy business owner and apply an entrepreneurial mindset to whatever career they choose.

The Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour has received the Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations and the Program of the Year award from Northern Michigan University.

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Last updated: 2/23/12