Brookings, S.D. – Two Brookings’ area businesses shined at this year’s SD Governor’s Giant Vision Awards competition held in Sioux Falls on April 28, 20201 as part of the annual SD Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) Conference. Placing second in the Student Competition was Prairie BioTech, a team from SDSU, and placing second in the Business Competition (non-student) was Halogi Hot Sauce based out of White, SD. Both received prize money as a reward for their efforts. The Governor’s Giant Vision Awards is an entrepreneurial competition put on by the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The finalists present their pitches to a panelist of judges.
Halogi Hot Sauce – White SD
This passion project, born out of a love for spicy foods, started for Nick Curry at a young age as he grew hot peppers with his father and has been experimenting with homemade hot sauce recipes ever since. Nick has spent most of his professional career in technical writing until recently when the COVID-19 pandemic forced lay-offs at his previous employer putting Nick, like so many others, out of work. But with the unexpected, came an amazing opportunity for this entrepreneur.
On Father’s Day 2020, Nick’s wife and children gifted him a bottling kit for his hot sauce, and he wasted no time putting it to work. He began bottling his recipes, developed the Halogi brand. and word has spread quickly of these premium, small-batch sauces. He has sold as many as 100 bottles per week just out of direct sales. This led to transitioning the business from an in-home venture to a commercial setup and bringing on a new partner, Luke Davidson. They now produce out of a commercial kitchen based in White, SD and are already selling at seven different locations.
When asked what the highlight of being part of the Giant Vision Competition was for the Halogi team, Nick stated it was, “Having so many people sample our product, and then purchase it on the spot. That justified everything we believe about the high quality and desirability of our premium hot sauces.” In addition, he noted the several connections to SD business owners at the conference was a valuable networking opportunity.
As they look ahead to the future, they plan to use the prize money to push forward the timeline for product roll-out and to hire staff to facilitate a more rapid expansion. A grand opening launch is being planned for the near future followed by a website launch to allow for direct sales to consumers. Eventually, they would like to partner with a distribution center to get their product out to a broader, national audience.
Prairie BioTech – SDSU – Brookings SD
Prairie BioTech is a student team comprised of Matthew Cole, Logan Wolf, Nolan Lee and Jordan Traub-Jensen from South Dakota State University. Their product, “The Prairie Pad,” extends shelf life of fruit with a food preservative derived from an agricultural by-product containing anti-microbial properties.
“There is huge potential to have high impact, both economically and environmentally, with our product,” says Matthew Cole. “We are looking to get more people on board to support some gaps we still have in the business, such as business experience and experts in the fresh produce industry to help us better navigate that market. Overall, we are looking to benefit South Dakota and really benefit our farmers and residents.” Other team member, Logan Wolf, commented on the environmental impact of the product stating, “By preventing food spoilage, we are also lessening the greenhouse gas emissions that are linked the warming of our atmosphere.”
As a student team at SDSU, they are well supported for their research allowing the prize money won in the competition to be put towards growing the business of Prairie BioTech. Cole clarified, “We are still lacking a website for future consumers to learn about and experience our product. We plan to develop one over the summer along with social media accounts. Also, the executive team members [of Prairie BioTech] are all students at SDSU and textbooks are expensive, so we are putting a small amount towards our schooling as a reward for our outstanding performance in the past year. With the last bit of money, we are going to save it for a future use to scale up our business.”
“The highlight (of the competition) was having a chance to get constructive criticism from potential investors as well as get experience in presenting our company and its ideas,” stated Wolf.
Part of preparing for entering the Giant Vision competition was first entering the Brookings Student Business Plan Competition that took place Sept. 2020 through January 2021. It is a competition for students to bring their business ideas forward and receive mentorship and guidance to help prepare them for the annual Giant Vision Student Competition. The student business plan competition is a collaboration of SDSU, Research Park, Enterprise Institute, Small Business Development Center, and Brookings Economic Development Corporation.
“The Student Business Plan Competition was a huge benefit to us. Nick Fickbohm (of the Enterprise Institute, Small Business Development Center) and Jennifer Quail (of BEDC) were great mentors in how a startup business should operate. There were areas, like in the budget, I thought ‘this shouldn’t work’ but they let me know it’s perfectly normal for a business to have a rocky start, there’s no one smooth path to getting there,” said Cole.
Website for their company will be coming later this summer. Until then, for more information on Prairie BioTech, Matthew Cole can be reached at email@example.com.
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.”
The Governor’s Giant Vision Business Competition and Governor’s Giant Vision Student Competition 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.
Read the full press release of winners from the Governor’s Giant Vision Awards HERE