For Immediate Release
April 15, 2015

Contact:  David Owen, President of the South Dakota Chamber at 366-2669 or
Mary Anne Boyd, VP of Program Services of the South Dakota Chamber at 260-8215

Governor’s Giant Vision Business and Student Competition Winners Announced

Sioux Falls, SD - As host of the Governor’s Giant Vision Business Awards Program, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry President David Owen announced the top winners of the 2015 business and student business competitions in Sioux Falls.

After a preliminary judging process that reduced the field of applicants to eight qualifying business and ten qualifying student entries, the competition concluded with day-long judging activities Wednesday, April 15 at the Sanford Research Center in Sioux Falls.  The awards were presented as part of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) banquet with Governor Dennis Daugaard presenting the top prizes in both competitions.  The following were selected as the 2015 Governor’s Giant Vision winners.  Each includes the competitor’s “elevator pitch” that explains their business.

A tie was announced for first place between Equinox of Sioux Falls and VRC Metal Systems of Rapid City.  First and second prize money was combined and divided to provide $15,000 for both.

Tied for First:  Equinox – John Berdahl and Jamie Beckman, Sioux Falls   
Glaucoma is a 6B industry and the 2nd leading cause of blindness.    The standard of care is only 50% percent effective and despite our best efforts people still go blind every day.    Our landmark research has redefined glaucoma as a 2 pressure disease, instead of a 1 pressure disease.    Our new technology exploits this understanding by balancing these 2 pressures in a completely controllable way for the first time ever.    We have a path for FDA clearance and have been funded by NASA to help astronauts suffering from an analogous condition.

Tied for First:  VRC Metal Systems, Robert Hrabe and Christian Widener, Rapid City
VRC Metal Systems is an advanced materials process technology manufacturer specializing in turnkey systems for cold spray and additive manufacturing.   These technologies have applications in aerospace, defense, heavy industrial, oil & gas, biomedical, electronics, consumer products, and repair and refurbishment of high value components. VRC is building on over $7.5M in research and development efforts at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, has exclusively licensed three cold spray related patents, and is the only domestic manufacturer of high-pressure cold spray equipment. With only three major competitors worldwide, we are positioned to successfully lead the global cold spray market.

$5,000:  Module Innovations, Vivek Agarwal and Sachin Dubey, Rapid City - Food pathogens cause 48 million illnesses in the US alone.   The Global numbers are even more staggering, affecting individuals and food companies alike.    This is accounted to slow, expensive and instrument-dependent bacterial detection methods used currently. We are poised to change this with the introduction of BactisenseTM, a color changing strip that detects harmful bacteria in food and water within minutes.   No lab, no instrumentation.   As easy as a pregnancy strip, it could be used by a layman, promising to save millions of dollars for food companies.   With prototypes in testing, we aim to hit the 221 billion dollar food processing industry.

$3,000:  ODIN Holdings Company, Timothy Wakefield, Jr and Blake Hoffman, Sioux Falls - ODIN Holdings Company was created to best leverage the strengths that have been critical in the success of the Hunting Products Division.   ODIN has expanded with divisions in Tactical and Engineering Services markets with an existing core competency in each market. ODIN rapidly identified the opportunity to utilize resources for a cross-functional business structure.   ODIN looks to expand market share in each individual business unit for long-term future growth of the company.

$2,000:  Kingfisher Enterprises, Dan Ackerwold, Volga - Our company harvests a variety of wild caught fish, crustaceans and amphibians.  Even though we were founded as wholesale bait business, we discovered a phenomenal bi-product using previously unmarketable fish.   We developed DANKYIELD – a premium all natural fertilizer and the results are nothing short of spectacular.  Hydrolyzed fish is blended with organic minerals to produce a top-shelf fertilizer.   Commercial growers and ordinary gardeners alike are raving about the size and quality of their yields.   Consider joining us and Grow Big … Grow Green … Grow DANKYIELD.

The remaining qualifiers received $500 each to help with the expenses of participation. 

Sponsors of the Giant Vision Business Competition are Governor Dennis Daugaard; Black Hills Power and Black Hills Corp., Rapid City; Christiansen Land & Cattle Ltd., Kimball; Dacotah Banks, Aberdeen; Daktronics, Inc., Brookings; MidAmerican Energy, South Dakota; Toshiba America, Mitchell; US Bank, Sioux Falls, Aberdeen and Rapid City; Wheeler Manufacturing, Lemmon, and Xcel Energy, Sioux Falls. 

The Giant Vision Competition is a program of the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry, located in Pierre.  SD Chamber President David Owen stated, “The goal of this program is to encourage people to explore being a business owner and to create an exciting future while also expanding South Dakota’s economy.  We have worked hard to produce an event that will benefit all of the businesses participating.  While the prize money will help the finalists, the contacts and rigor required to be a qualifier will prepare each entrepreneur to advance their business idea.”

2015 marked the ninth year of a college student competition. Entries were received from across South Dakota.  From the original applications, the top 10 were selected to compete April 15.  The winners of the student competition were 

The first place $5,000 winner was Farnsworth Downs Technology, Conrad Farnsworth and Siouxzanna Downs, SD School of Mines and Technology.
Farnsworth Downs Technology operates principally out of South Dakota School of Mines and Technology with co-founders Conrad Farnsworth (SDSMT, Electrical Engineering) and Siouxsie Downs (ISU, Nuclear Engineering) in order to produce small scale liquid fluoride thorium molten salt reactors. These will be able to be small, portable, modular, and rugged power generators that can be used in everything from water desalination to setting up emergency power in the event of a disaster or grid failure. The reactor will be passively safe and will be able to drastically reduce the cost of power and water purification as well as reducing nuclear waste stockpiles by using it as fuel.

Second ($4,000):  WeConnectU, Michael Helgerson and Naveen Rokkam, University of South Dakota.
We are developing a system called QUICKcampus, which aims to make college campuses more accessible to students.  The QUICKcampus system consists of beacon devices and a mobile application.  The beacon devices will be able to provide indoor directions and send informational push notifications to the students' smartphones through the application.  The types of information that can be sent to the smartphones are nearly limitless and could include: campus news & events, student club information, athletic events, flash sales and more!

Third ($3,000):  N-DORFN Foods, Inc., Taylor Huseman, University of South Dakota
N-DORFN Foods was founded on the principle of "put good in, get good out".  We know the secret ingredient to a successful, happy life, is good health.  There’s great opportunity—and urgent need—for a positive change in the food industry.  Only raw, natural ingredients are used in our products.  In the future, we plan to offer a growing selection of foods that encourage support of local food producers, and provide real food to real people.  We're more than just an energy bar, so eat free, ride on, and we'll see you at the finish line.

Fourth ($2,000)CookieGram, Taylor Steiger and Jamie McKinney, South Dakota State University
CookieGram is an online service where users create an edible greeting card. Customers select their favorite cookie type to be personalized with images and messages for any occasion. We offer many trendy templates to make the CookieGram complete. After ordering, the custom cookie card is created and mailed directly to the recipient on the desired date. The best part is our product acts as the gift and the card all in one. Cookiegram – The cookie is the card!

Fifth ($1,000)HelpU, Zak Fik, University of Sioux Falls
Help U is a web-platform connecting communities and campuses across the nation to fill odd jobs, quick tasks, local errands, and volunteer work. Job posters post whatever they need done, for whatever they are willing to pay and college students make good money whenever they want. We strive to build a safe, secure, and easy to use platform, and proudly ask "How can we Help U?"

The remaining qualifiers will receive $500 each to help with the expenses of participation.
Governor Dennis Daugaard supported this program financially, along with Citibank N.A. of Sioux Falls and South Dakota EPSCoR of Brookings. 

The Governor’s Giant Vision Business Awards and Governor’s Giant Vision Student Awards were established to help citizens realize that South Dakota is the very best place to start a successful business.   The program was designed as an opportunity for entrepreneurs to compete for seed money and a chance to achieve their dream. 
This South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry program is chaired by Brad Wheeler, President of Wheeler Manufacturing in Lemmon.  Wheeler commented “We are fortunate to have successful entrepreneurs take time to be judges and really work hard to examine all of these new ideas.  This is an exciting day with high energy people working hard to share in the American dream.” 

For information on the April 15, 2015 Giant Vision Final Competition, please click here.


FROM THE South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry


Dear Entrepreneur:

Have you been waiting for the right time to explore a great business idea?  Are you looking for a safe place to explore the idea’s potential with experienced business people and possibly win $20,000 to help make the idea a reality?  You are looking in the right place.

Thank you for your interest in the Governor’s Giant Vision Business Competition.  Governor Dennis Daugaard, along with Black Hills Corp./Black Hills Power, Rapid City; Christiansen Land & Cattle Ltd., Kimball; Dacotah Banks, Aberdeen; Daktronics, Inc., Brookings; MidAmerican Energy Company, Sioux Falls; Toshiba America, Mitchell; US Bank, Sioux Falls, Aberdeen and Rapid City; Wheeler Manufacturing, Lemmon; and Xcel Energy, Sioux Falls, are sponsoring this competition with the hope of giving South Dakota entrepreneurs a chance to achieve their dreams.

The Governor’s Giant Vision Business Competition will give you the opportunity to develop your ideas, write a business plan and make a formal presentation.  A panel of business experts will review all entries and select up to ten qualifiers who will attend the final competition in Sioux Falls.  Qualifiers will give presentations and discuss their ideas with seasoned business and financial experts and other invitees. 

The winner will be awarded $20,000.  The second place award is $10,000, third place is $5,000, 4th place is $3,000, and 5th place is $2,000.  The remaining qualifiers will receive $500 each to help with the expenses of participation.  Selection of winners will be based on a combination of the viability of the business proposal, including considerations of potential competition, likelihood of success, market size and profitability.  The judges will give heavier weighting to business proposals that have the potential to advance employment or the economic base in South Dakota. 

Those entering the Governor's Giant Vision Business Competition will submit a written business plan that outlines the business idea, potential markets, production requirements (if any) and other standard items.  All South Dakotans, including innovative individuals in the workplace with ideas for their own business are encouraged to apply.  The competition is open to entrepreneurs with new ideas that they believe would benefit from the review and analysis process of the competition.  Existing companies may only have been in business three years or less (as of the competition date) AND with annual sales revenue not to exceed $300,000. 

The focus of this program is on the business plan or business model and is not limited to technology entries. 

There is a separate competition for college/university/technical school students.

While starting your own business may seem overwhelming, it can also be very rewarding.  We hope you will find the experience you gain by entering the Governor’s competition to be as valuable as others have found it.  As you begin writing your business plan, please take advantage of assistance from the agencies listed throughout the website.

 Chris Lien, Owner
Outdoor MotorSports, Spearfish
2013-2015 Chairman of the Board
South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry