Chamber president wants to engage with entrepreneurship
The Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship recently welcomed several new board members, including Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce president Jason Ball.
He shared more with us about his vision for his role on the board and how his organization can support entrepreneurship.
Welcome to Sioux Falls! Now that you’ve been in your new role a few months, how would you assess the Sioux Falls entrepreneurial community?
I’m very excited about what is taking shape in Sioux Falls. In just a few short months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many startup owners and leaders. There is a strong and growing startup community of Sioux Falls entrepreneurs who are known and respected throughout the region. There has been a real expansion of the programming and engagement opportunities, too, and I’m just excited to be part of it.
In the business community more broadly, there is great understanding about the importance of having the kind of business climate that fosters more startup activity. That buy-in is so important anytime the chamber is asked to make the case for establishing more resources or programming or assets to further support startup growth.
Zeal has a close partnership with the chamber. What were your initial impressions of Zeal?
The Zeal Center is part of what made the opportunity to work in Sioux Falls so interesting to me. The chamber and Sioux Falls Development Foundation established the Zeal Center, and I’m very lucky to serve on the board as a result.
The Zeal Center is a crucial hub for helping new companies get started in Sioux Falls. Incubator programs like Zeal were always envisioned to be a lower-expense place to get started, with shared service and support for entrepreneurs. But Zeal is more than that. Rich Naser and his team do a great job of acting as a gathering place, a landing pad for great programming and really provide important business consulting for Zeal businesses. I think the Zeal Center has become an important thought leader for what the startup community needs as a result.
What do you think the chamber’s role should be in supporting and fostering entrepreneurship?
I think there are two things a chamber can do to help more startup activity: establish strong ecosystems of support, and encourage the city to celebrate the successes of entrepreneurs.
Ecosystems: Different entrepreneurs in different industries with different goals are naturally going to need customized support in a variety of ways. So there is no single organization that can do all the work that is needed. The chamber’s role should be to work with programs like the Zeal Center, other nonprofit groups and entrepreneurs to foster a wide diversity of services and gathering places. If Sioux Falls has multiple organizations, leaders, businesses all coordinating efforts and focusing their activities on where they are strongest – we will better provide support for entrepreneurs. They will be more likely to access the resources and networks they need, at the time they are needed. The Discovery District is a great example of expanding that ecosystem. The Zeal Center brought together resources and people; the Discovery District is going to leverage academic research capabilities to augment private-sector activities.
Celebrate the wins: I believe that the chamber ought to be out front in celebrating the accomplishments of entrepreneurial business leaders, helping them tell their stories in the community and demonstrating how important their contributions are to our economy. We want to find more and better ways to elevate that recognition in Sioux Falls.
Is there anything you worked on in previous roles related to entrepreneurship that you’d like to bring to Sioux Falls?
Yes. In Lincoln, I was very lucky to be active with several early stage companies, co-working spaces, investment groups and entrepreneurship programs. I hope to continue some of that work in Sioux Falls, although I see my role here as a supporter and collaborator with so many great leaders.
How do you see yourself personally becoming involved at Zeal?
Working with startups is a natural interest for me, and I will always want to stay close to that activity. As the chamber president and a Zeal board member, I have an obligation to be an advocate for Zeal companies and making investments in startup resources. I believe that advocacy is probably the most direct and greatest benefit we can bring. Through Forward Sioux Falls, with the Development Foundation or through the legislative process at the local and state level, I think the chamber is the greatest voice for the Zeal Center. That and attending the occasional Thursday afternoon social with them. The fun in all of that is to just be engaged with what Zeal Center companies are doing.
This post also featured on SiouxFalls.Business: http://siouxfalls.business/chamber-president-wants-to-engage-with-entrepreneurship/