Announcing a Strategic Partnership

Zeal to Receive a $50,000 Entrepreneurship Grant

We’ve teamed up with the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship here in Sioux Falls to support entrepreneurship initiatives and foster business innovation in the region. Our recent $50,000 grant initiates a strategic partnership to jointly develop new resources for entrepreneurs and drive the growth of new companies in the area.

“This strategic partnership with The First National Bank in Sioux Falls is an exciting and significant development for our entrepreneurship organization,” said Rich Naser, Jr., president of the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship. “They came to us with curiosity, ideas, and a genuine interest in growing businesses in Sioux Falls – then, stepped up in a big way,” he added.

Our grant will be used as seed capital, with a match from Forward Sioux Falls, to create an accelerator fund within Zeal for early-stage companies. The goal is to garner additional contributions from other sources to this fund. Zeal can then use this capital in the form of convertible notes or equity investments to support businesses, with proven models, ready to grow and scale.

“Our business has been built by entrepreneurs, and we see that as an important sector to continue to grow,” said The First National Bank in Sioux Falls president, Chris Ekstrum. “We wanted to invest resources and develop tools to help early-stage businesses grow at a sound and accelerated pace. Then, we realized this is what Zeal does already and–it just made sense not to recreate the wheel, but rather to tap into Zeal’s expertise and network, support their mission, and pursue this together.”

The contribution will be awarded to Zeal over two years with an initial $25,000 in 2016 and an additional disbursement of $25,000 in 2017.

“We’re proud to make this commitment and realize early-stage companies need more than funding to be successful,” added Ekstrum. “Through our partnership with Zeal, we can play an active role in the evolution of business growth with education, mentorship and creation of new.”

Zeal, formerly the South Dakota Technology Business Center, was formed in 2002 as the result of a partnership between the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce and the Development Foundation through Forward Sioux Falls. The organization houses a business incubator that has served more than 350 entrepreneurs since its inception.

“Our organization was founded by business as an investment in building new business,” added Naser. “The opportunity to partner with an industry leader like The First National Bank in Sioux Falls empowers us to maximize and develop new resources to accelerate the growth of our client businesses while helping to increase their likelihood of success.”

Other initiatives are planned as part of our on-going partnership including research, a new curriculum, and expanded programs.

”The ability to meld the resources and expertise of established business leaders with the innovation and energy of start-ups inspires collaboration and spurs growth,” said Naser. “Ultimately, that’s our goal – to keep the pipeline of emerging businesses flowing.”