The first South Dakota ‘MarketPlace: Opening Doors to Success’ business conference, held in Huron, South Dakota, late last month drew over 200 participants from across the state for two days of networking and business training. The event focused on energizing small businesses and rural communities.
The conference featured strong, hands-on learning opportunities for potential and existing business owners including on and off farm/ranch, store front or home based, women and Native American owned businesses; community leaders; and youth interested in entrepreneurship. A large group of exhibitors served as resources for participants, enabling them to learn about business solutions products, website design, financing and other business services.
Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director for Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA), welcomed participants to the first South Dakota MarketPlace. Chuck said, “The only limits on rural revitalization and a better future are the limits we place on ourselves. MarketPlace is an opportunity to come together to learn, nurture innovation and imagination”.
“I was particularly excited to have MarketPlace come to South Dakota because of its focus on helping home-grown entrepreneurs,” said USDA-RD State Director Elsie Meeks. USDA Rural Development staff and resource providers such as South Dakota Rural Enterprise, Inc., Rural Electric Economic Development, Inc, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, South Dakota Department of Agriculture, Small Business Development Center and others assisted with the planning and staffing of the event.
“We were impressed with the number of attendees that came to experience MarketPlace,” said South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke. “We’re committed to growing rural businesses and rural communities. MarketPlace is an event that can help business owners learn new ways to grow and expand their businesses as well as help their small towns.” The South Dakota Farmers Union and the Center for Rural Affairs partnered to organize the event in South Dakota. South Dakota Farmer’s Union was an Ambassador Sponsor.
The CFRA was awarded a USDA Rural Development Rural Business and Enterprise Grant (RBEG) to fund the conference. CFRA has assisted several other states including Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado to bring MarketPlace to their states.
Cindy Folsland, owner of Lake Thompson Honey based in Oldham, S.D., took part in the conference and sold her products at the MarketPlace Store. “There’s a lot of help out there, and it’s something I didn’t realize until I came to MarketPlace,” Folsland said. “Business plans, financing, I found everything I was looking for at MarketPlace.”
Over 30 breakout sessions were held on business financing, marketing, business plans and other topics. A business networking roundtable event was held Tuesday evening, along with a business social event. Several prizes were also given out during the two day conference.
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