Downtown Brookings store relocating after two years in business
By: South Dakota Small Business Development Center

Before she launched her business, Kirsten Gjesdal visited about a dozen kitchen stores in six states. She checked out stores in South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado.

She paid attention to the layout of the stores and was able to discuss financial details with one of the owners. She’s also sought advice from local experts.

With help from the South Dakota Small Business Development Center, she opened The Carrot Seed Kitchen Co. in leased store space on Main Avenue in Brookings in June 2015. Gjesdal promotes the store as a go-to source for kitchenware and local specialty foods.

“We sell anything you’d have in a kitchen,” she said. Merchandise includes utensils, aprons, towels, mixing bowls, cleaning products and specialty foods, such as dips and coffee.

“Business is going well. We have a lot of support from the community,” Gjesdal said.

In fact, business has gone well enough that she is buying a vacant store building next door to The Carrot Seed, the former location of Cover to Cover. She plans to fix the building and relocate her business there later this summer. The new site will give her more room to sell local foods, such as cheese, butter, meat, eggs and ice cream, she says. She also has extra space in the lower level that is being leased to another business, Funky Junk.

Long term, she’d like to add a commercial kitchen to the new building so that other entrepreneurs could use it. Cooking classes also could be held there.

Gjesdal, a 2012 graduate of South Dakota State University, worked in the catering department at the university for two years before going into business for herself. A conversation with Scott Meyer at a local meeting of 1 Million Cups, an entrepreneurial organization, led her to Tim Weelborg, a consultant at the SBDC’s satellite office in Brookings.

Gjesdal’s preparation and passion for business have been impressive, according to Weelborg, whose office is a branch of a SBDC regional office in Watertown. The Brooking office is hosted by the Enterprise Institute.

Weelborg says Gjesdal has been a great client.

“She’s extremely smart and very willing to roll up her sleeves and get into it,” he said. Her regional tour of kitchen stores is an example of how seriously she prepared to go out on her own, he added.

Weelborg assisted Gjesdal with detailed financial projections to help get the business started, and he helped her again with the building acquisition and expansion. The SBDC consulting services were free.

“Tim was extremely helpful,” Gjesdal said. “I don’t think I would have started or expanded the business without his help.”

Starting a business can be scary as well as complicated, so getting good advice at the start is crucial, she said. She jokes about pursuing her entrepreneurial desire early in her career.

“I thought if I was going to go bankrupt chasing a dream, I might as well do it while I was young enough to make up for it,” Gjesdal said.

One of the top-selling items at The Carrot Seed has been coffee from Kool Beans Coffee and Roasterie, which is in the process of opening a coffee shop in downtown Brookings. Being able to sell coffee at The Carrot Seed has been valuable because Kool Beans has been working out of a garage and not had retail space of its own, owner Kurt Osborne said.

“Kirsten runs her business with energy and commitment and a view for the future. She has a great passion for improving our community from a downtown retail perspective, as well as for bringing people together to create opportunities to experience our community in a variety of ways,” Osborne said.

Gjesdal has enjoyed becoming part of the business community. She attends various meetings and serves on the Board of the Brookings Farmers Market.

“I’ve gotten a lot of help from other business owners, so I’m trying to give that back,” she said. “It’s fun.”

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