DSU DIRECTOR of Economic Development Katherine Cota will be holding a business bootcamp for entrepreneurs on Saturday.

The Dakota State Paulson Cyber Incubator and Entrepreneurial Center and South Dakota Biotech are initiating a collaborative project this weekend with a business bootcamp.

The intense one-day workshop will be the first of three scheduled this fall and will provide those who attend with the framework for additional training which will be available, according to Katherine Cota, director of economic development at DSU. The business bootcamp will be held on Saturday, Sept. 4, and be repeated again on Nov. 6. And Dec. 4.

The workshop is free and will offered both in-person and on-line. Registration is required by 5 p.m. on Friday.

In addition to being a stand-alone workshop for those who want to be introduced to entrepreneurship, the workshop can be taken as the first step of South Dakota FAST Launch, a program designed to help entrepreneurs start and expand their businesses. The five-part program offered through S.D. Biotech includes three which are offered in collaboration with the Paulson Center.

“Joni Ekstrum and I have a working relationship through other programs we are part of,” Cota said, explaining how this partnership developed. Ekstrum serves as the executive director of South Dakota Biotech.

“Joni said, ‘Well, you handle the educational side and I’ll handle the other side,’” Cota reported. “It’s a natural partnership. We’ll each play to our strengths.”

The Paulson Center will partner with S.D. Biotech on not only the business bootcamp, but also on customer discovery and developing a business plan. S.D. FAST Launch will also encourage participants to compete for cash awards in the South Dakota Governor’s Giant Vision Competition. Finalists will present at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development Conference with one receiving $20,000.

Finally, those who participate in S.D. FAST Launch will be encouraged to apply for funding through the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs which are coordinated by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Last year, companies in the state received 18 SBIR awards totaling nearly $6 million.

Entrepreneurs and small business do not have to be considering or involved in a biotech business to participate in S.D. FAST Launch.

“They’re supporting it for all companies in South Dakota,” Cota indicated. “They believe the advancement of any business in South Dakota is a good thing.”

A key piece to developing a successful business is conducting customer discovery, according to Cota, so this will also be a key piece of the bootcamp training.

“Your business is not about you; it’s about your customer,” she stated. Entrepreneurs have to ask questions such as: Who is buying the product? Who is using the product? Who might recommend the product?

“Not all products are used by the person purchasing them,” she explained. A lot of factors come into play – economic factors, geographic factors, personal preferences and behaviors. “We need to understand who the customer is.” However, that is just one component of launching a successful business. Entrepreneurs must also understand government regulations, competition, pricing, permits, taxes, funding, and intellectual property.

“The heart of it is product-market fit. Does your product fit the people you’re trying to market it to?” Cota said.

With the bootcamp, she will be compressing into a single day a series of eight workshops she usually offers either twice a week for four weeks or once a week for eight weeks.

“The bootcamp is very intense. I do tell people it’s a lot of information in eight hours,” Cota indicated.

She believes it’s helpful to consider it an introduction or framework which introduces terminology. Additional workshops will be offered in which participants can “delve deeper and explore deeper,” she said. For some, though, the bootcamp may be enough.

“If you’re familiar with the terms, you can start doing this,” Cota said. One-to-one guidance is also available for those eager to get started.

She recognizes that offering the bootcamp on a holiday weekend is not ideal for some and said that in addition to the currently scheduled bootcamps, others can be offered if there is enough interest. To register or receive more information, contact Cota via email at or call 605-256-7493.