Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Sioux Falls Part 3: Better Storytelling

A few weeks ago, I published an important post highlighting four things that the city of Sioux Falls will need if it’s going to become a city that fosters new startup businesses that create high-paying jobs and attract outside capital. Since then, I’ve dived a bit deeper into the topics of making capital available to entrepreneurs and building community among entrepreneurs. Today, I want to focus on how we can do a better job of telling the stories of entrepreneurs that are already doing great things in the city of Sioux Falls so that we can inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to start businesses.

Why Storytelling Matters

When I attended the first 1 Million Cups event in 2014, Andy Traub spoke about how he wrote his book The Early to Rise Experience. He talked about the self-publishing process, how he marketed the book and how the book has since impacted his professional life. Until then, I didn’t really think that writing a book was something that I could do. I thought to myself, “If Andy figured out how to write a book and sell a bunch of copies, maybe I could too.” I later sought out Andy, hired him to coach me through the process, began writing, and published my first book, 40 Rules for Internet Business Success, a few months later. Andy’s story made me realize that I was capable of doing something I previously thought I couldn’t do. The telling of his story inspired me to take action, try something new and achieve a new level of personal success.

Publicly sharing the success stories of entrepreneurs is critically important to inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs to take the leap from idea to action. Hearing from an entrepreneur that has weathered the successes and failures of entrepreneurship causes people to think thoughts like “What kind of business could I start?” and “If she was able to successfully start a business, maybe I could too.” We need to know that there’s a person that lives down the street from us that had a similar upbringing to our own, yet has achieved significant success. If one of your high-school classmates has worked hard for the last decade and achieved something great, you might realize that if you’re willing to put in the hard work, you could do something great too.

Reflections on the Local Media

There are two major local business publications in Sioux Falls, the Sioux Falls Business Journal (SFBJ) and Jodi Schwann’s Sioux Falls.Business. They both do a great job of highlighting retail businesses, because they are often the most visible businesses in the community and they tend to drive the most page views. They also do a good job of covering large companies that are more media savvy than many startup businesses. They don’t do as good of a job covering entrepreneurs and small businesses that are less visible in the community. There are many successful businesses in our community that are getting ignored because they haven’t made it onto the radar of our local business media. For example, MarketBeat was recognized as the fastest-growing privately-held company in South Dakota by Inc. in 2016. This would be a significant accomplishment for any company, yet MarketBeat has never been profiled by any local media outlet. I know both publications are open to covering new and unique local businesses, but Jeremy Fugleberg (SFBJ editor) and Jodi Schwann can’t write about your company if they don’t know that it exists. It’s as much on us as entrepreneurs to tell the local business media about our companies as it is for them to report on us.

1 Million Cups as a Storytelling Tool

I believe 1 Million Cups is beginning to play an important role in telling the stories of entrepreneurs in our community. This is primarily because we’re highlighting stories that you may not hear anywhere else. Between 50 and 75 people come every Wednesday to hear the story of an entrepreneur and the video recordings of the weekly presentations are attracting between 1,000 and 2,000 views on Facebook. I know that speakers at 1 Million Cups have inspired people to start businesses, write books (that’s me!), join startup companies and change jobs. In the future, I hope that 1 Million Cups can continue to grow and have a wider distribution reach online.

Next Steps for Storytelling

In order to highlight all of the hardworking and successful entrepreneurs that are launching and growing businesses in Sioux Falls, I believe there’s room for a new media channel to highlight these stories. What if one of the several community organizations whose mission involves promoting the local economy hired a journalist and interviewed local entrepreneurs? This could take many forms—a weekly podcast, an online video show, a blog or something else I’ve never thought of. Instead of just spending dollars trying to recruit out-of-state companies to move to Sioux Falls, we could spend some of those dollars telling the stories of homegrown entrepreneurs that built something in our city so that the next generation of Sioux Falls entrepreneurs is inspired to take action and launch their own businesses.

Join the Conversation

I created a discussion group on Facebook called Sioux Falls Area Entrepreneurs. Join the group and have your say in what the city of Sioux Falls needs to do to better foster entrepreneurship and tell the stories of entrepreneurs doing great things in the city of Sioux Falls.