Organization Focus: What’s new at Zeal?

Summer may be winding down, but things are ramping up at Zeal.

At the end of May, Zeal welcomed its new executive director, Brienne Maner

Throughout the summer, Maner has spent time assessing Zeal’s strengths and weaknesses and working on the center’s strategic vision. 

Earlier in August, Maner traveled to Fargo for the Ecosystem Centers Conference, and she was also able to attend the city’s 1 Million Cups, as well as its tenth-annual TEDx.

“The whole city was celebrating, and it was neat to be part of it,” Maner said. “I sat on a panel to talk about some of our struggles and some of our big wins, and it was fantastic to connect with another ecosystem.”

One of the big wins Maner was eager to celebrate was Zeal’s involvement with the arts culture in Sioux Falls. Recently, they brought in local artist, Jillian Gunlicks, to create an innovation-themed mural for the space.

The Embe Camp Girl United visited Zeal in July to learn about entrepreneurship“We’re really trying to infuse arts and culture into the space,” she said. “People are always looking to see what the arts scene is like in a city, and we want to be part of sharing that.”

Innovation doesn’t come without its challenges, however. 

Zeal’s location poses an issue that Maner and her team are eager to tackle. Situated on the northwest side of town, the center is convenient to hubs of innovation like Southeast Technical Institute and the USD Discovery District, but many wish it was closer to the downtown area.

“The facility is fantastic, but it’s a place that’s inconvenient for some to pop by,” Maner said “You can feel the energy in downtown Sioux Falls, that’s where people want to be.”

Maner says she’s working on getting Zeal more plugged into the downtown community. In fact, she joined Zeal after seven years with DTSF, and she says she’s eager to connect the two areas.

“We want to play more of a role in some of those shared networking events, particularly downtown,” Maner said. 

For example, she recently joined the planning committee for 1 Million Cups. 

“I want to offer up my connections and also be more intentional about bringing in big names to help elevate entrepreneurial studies here in the community,” she said. “I also want to work more with students. We’d like to see more students attending.” 

What does Zeal have to offer?

If you’re less familiar with Zeal and its offerings, the facility includes both private offices, meeting rooms, and open co-working space. Young businesses can take advantage of Zeal’s incubator program, success stories of which include DocuTAP, McGowan Capital Group, Meta Payment Systems, Datasync, and Equity Trust’s Sioux Falls branch.

Aside from workspaces and the incubator program, a variety of business-focused government offices are housed on the facility’s ground level. These include the South Dakota Small Business Administration (SBA), SCORE (which is a resource partner of the SBA), South Dakota Small Business Development Center (SBDC), South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solutions (MTS), the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), the Enterprise Institute, and SD Bio Tech.

With so many resources under one roof, entrepreneurs working from Zeal are poised for success at any stage.

“Anyone who has a rough idea of a business plan is welcome to come out to Zeal,” said Maner. “Not only does the Zeal Center provide services, but we have all these other resources right here on site. If you need more support, we’ll send you downstairs to get you what you need on the ground level.”

Ultimately, Zeal aims to be a source of community and a trusted resource for business owners.

“I hate to see people who can’t find a way to work together,” Maner said. “We’re working on a more strategic approach to cultivating peer networks so people can know where their circles of trust are. People are afraid to be vulnerable and share their ideas, and we want to be that connection, to help build their networks and work through some of these more overwhelming processes.”

Two Things You Can Do This Week:

  • Follow Zeal on Facebook to stay up-to-date on the latest happenings.
  • Stop by and take a tour of the space at Zeal. Staff members are available to discuss the variety of membership opportunities.