Startup Saturday Inspiring Local Entrepreneurship

By Victoria Lusk American News, Aberdeen, S.D.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) This article focuses on the terrific startup community in South Dakota where women in business are able to access advice and guidance during "Startup Saturday" events targeted at early stage ventures. Entrepreneur Kelsey Voller says that since attending "startup saturdays" she has seen a significant jump in interest for her startup food delivery service.

South Dakota

Entrepreneur Kelsey Voller's business is still in the beginning stages, but it got a boost from local business owners, entrepreneurs and others in the community on Feb. 27 during the first Startup Saturday.

Startup Saturday was created as a way for someone to build a business with a community behind him or her, organizer Liz Hannum said.

The focus of the first startup event was a nutritional business, HealthEase, that offers the delivery of healthy meals seven days a week, plus the option to add detox juices to five of those days.

Once the pop-up business gets started, customers can request a consultation and then get up to three meals delivered per day to work and/or home.

Voller is pursuing her master's degree in human nutrition and functional medicine. She went into the startup event not sure if actually creating the business was within her reach.

"Before I didn't know if I could," Voller said, but by the end of the day, she was beyond motivated and inspired.

Her endeavor is based on an idea cultivated from personal experience. "When I was 16-18 years old, I started getting sicker and sicker," Voller said. Doctor after doctor gave her a clean bill of health, but she finally decided that wasn't enough.

"They would say I was fine, but I didn't feel fine," she said.

That's when Voller took things into her own hands. "I began researching and found that a lot of people with my symptoms had celiac disease," Voller said. She went back to the doctor with a specific list of tests to request -- all of which confirmed she had celiac disease, as well as other diagnoses such as hypothyroidism and endometriosis.

While doctors said her condition was manageable, she decided to try a gluten- and dairy-free diet just to see if it would help. "My health changed so much within those two weeks that I never went back. All of my symptoms were gone," she said.

Her personal success led her to wonder what else food does to/for people. So she continued her research, helping friends along the way who suffered from migraines or other ailments. "I thought I was a special case, but then I had more and more instances where I would help someone," Voller said.

Now, thanks to Startup Saturday, Voller is preparing to help more people and launch her business, something she calls the result of consumer demand.

The day started with an hour discussion regarding the basics of Voller's business, which was followed by 15-minute presentations that led to workshops regarding the business.

Experts from local businesses volunteered their time to speak to the group. Speakers included Josh Latterell from Elm Digital Marketing, Travis Schaunaman from Production Monkeys, Brodie Mueller from Hub City Events, Jody Hoffman from Jamberry Nails and Mindy Eggers from Cherry Pics Photography.

Prior to the event, Voller had two clients participating in her food program and, by Monday, there were 11 more who expressed interest in a consult. "That's 500 percent growth, just in people who were there Saturday," Hannum said. Voller lives in Aberdeen and she has two local employees who make and deliver the food items.

"It really feels good to me to see people excited about a new business," Hannum said.

StartHUB, the network connections forged at the startup event, and Voller are now working out the details. A launch party is tentatively planned for March 25, after which Voller's pop-up will be open for consultations and more for approximately eight days on the second floor of the Citizen's Building downtown.

While the end goal may not be a permanent physical location for the business, it will have a home at some point, Hannum said. "The goal now is to get her launched," Hannum said.

In the future, a food truck -- an idea that came to the forefront at the startup event -- is a possibility.

Originally, the idea was to have only one week between the startup day and the launch, but through the process, it became apparent that organizers and entrepreneurs need more time for fine-tuning, marketing and networking. "The flexibility of being an independent group makes it easy to be successful," Hannum said.

The Citizen's Building will be able to host up to three pop-up businesses at one time. The spaces come with a month of free rent. StartHUB also offers $500 to entrepreneurs.

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