South Dakota State University sophomore Laurel Diekhoff came away with the top honors at the 2018 First Dakota National Bank New Venture Competition, announced Thursday afternoon at the Brookings Innovation Center at the Research Park at South Dakota State University.
Diekhoff, who is from Wessington, received $3,000 for winning the competition. Majoring in entrepreneurial studies and business economics, she was one of the first students invited into the Innovation Center’s Student Incubator after finishing as an honorable selection at last year’s competition. Her business, Flume Bath and Body, makes and sells handmade bath and body products.
Students were encouraged to submit an essay describing a business plan, explaining how the venture would work and the market demand. There were 16 applications and three finalists were chosen to present to the judges.
Other finalists were Nathan Lax and Logan Roth. Lax, a senior majoring in electronics engineering technology and operations management from Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, received $1,500. His business, Electronic Finish, embeds electronics in furniture, an idea he conceived in his resident hall room. Roth, a senior majoring in entrepreneurial studies from Port Orchard, Washington, won $1,000. He hopes to start his escape room business, Brookings Breakout, before the start of the fall semester.
Diekhoff largely attributes her success to the resources and connections that she has accessed while at the Brookings Innovation Center, where she also makes her products. Flume Bath and Body has been in operation for 14 months and she plans to ramp up operations when the academic year ends. Diekhoff currently sells through Etsy, via consignment with a local business, at vendor events and wholesale to several boutiques.
“I hope to turn this business into a career by moving into large vendor events, such as the Brookings Summer Arts Festival,” Diekhoff said. “This summer will be my first experience getting my feet wet at such a large event. I’m looking forward to all that I will learn from it.
“Preparing for this competition was stressful but at the same time was more about just collecting my thoughts since I’ve had so much experience building this business. It took some time to find the words, but I’ve done almost everything for this business from the ground up,” she continued. “I got my start thanks to last year’s New Venture Plan Competition so it feels surreal to be back just a year and a half later as a finalist.”
In addition, the Ness Division of Management and Economics announced that the SDSU Investment Club received the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Achievement Award, Norah Orina, Outstanding Graduate Student Achievement Award; and Bisi Atoba, Outstanding Faculty Award.