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Winners Announced for BIG Idea Competition

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

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For more information, contact: Kelly Weaver at (605) 626-2565

(December 11, 2019, Aberdeen, SD)  The 2019 BIG Idea Competition was a BIG success with 276 entries involving over 389 students from 29 schools. The event wrapped up Wednesday, December 11th, on the campus of Northern State University (NSU) and the winners were determined from among the eight final entries with over $30,000 in cash and scholarships awarded.

Korbin Leddy of Milbank High School took first place with Korbin’s Steak Express which aims to sell convenient meat grill packs to customers, such as active camping families for example. His prizes include a $1,000 cash prize, a $2,000 scholarship to NSU, a $2,000 scholarship to Presentation College and a $2,500 scholarship to the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.


Second place went to The Urban Garden, by Megan Nash of Northwestern High School, which aims to provide the urban population with fresh, quality fruit through hydroponic and vertical farming techniques.  Jordan Edwards and Paige Evans of Aberdeen Central High School also placed second with Smart Rides, which aims to help parents transport their children to and from school or extra-curricular activities while providing the children with a snack along the way. Second place prizes include $500 cash, $1,000 Presentation College scholarship, $1,000 NSU scholarship and $1,000 South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.


New this year, all remaining finalists will be receiving $100 cash and $1,000 scholarships to Presentation College, Northern State University, and the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology! The other finalists included Wild Yarrow Design by Elizabeth Wright from Rapid City Stevens High School, Hoffman Manure Hauling by Miles Hoffman from Leola High School, Vandy’s Lawn Care by Paul VanDover from Milbank High School, CattleHome Fencing by Jessie Lux and Kodi Retzer from Eureka High School, and New Home by Quentin Eck from Brookings High School.


The Marketing Design competition is an option for students create an ad for their business idea.  The award is sponsored by McQuillen Creative Group which donates $500 cash and Northern State University donates a $500 scholarship as well. This year, seventy-seven entries were judged in this category. The winner was Leeper Farms Custom Work by Phoenix Leeper of West Central High School.

The winner of the Food Animal Agriculture Category was Large Animal Immunization Robot (L.A.I.RA). The $500 cash prize is sponsored by Midwest Ag Supply and Northern State University donates a $500 scholarship. This year there were fifteen entries in this category.


In the Wellness Category sponsored by Sanford Health with a $500 cash prize and a $500 scholarship to Northern State University, sixty-five entries were submitted. The winner was Romulus and Remus by Paul Wehrung of Spearfish.


Our new category this year, Agriculture Innovation, received thirty-nine entries. The South Dakota Agriculture Foundation sponsors the $500 cash prize and Northern State University donates a $500 scholarship. The winner this year was Feather-Lite Mix by Jacey Orthaus of Florence High School.


The final event required finalists to make a 6 minute presentation on their idea for the four final judges – Chad Evans of Centennial Homes, Paul McDonald of Dacotah Bank, Rod Tobin of Siegel Barnett and Schutz, and Paula Carlson. Students also heard from business owner and entrepreneur Phil Zuckerman of Applewood Books, Inc. Phil spoke about the journey of entrepreneurship and the value of leaving your assumptions behind you as you look for new opportunities. 


This year’s BIG Idea competition also included an honorable mention award for those applicants who scored within 10% of the finalists. The 68 honorable mention idea entries and 5 honorable mention marketing designs are listed below (as well attached). In addition to the schools listed above, students from the following high schools also participated: Aberdeen Roncalli, Edmunds Central, Faulkton, Groton, Hitchcock Tulare, Hoven, Lemmon, Lennox, Madison Central, McCook Central, Miller, Pierre T.F. Riggs, Redfield, Tea Area, Vermillion, Watertown, Webster, Wessington Springs, West Central and Yankton.


The Partners in Business Award is sponsored by Angelhaus to reward the networking and mentorship experiences teachers have incorporated into their classroom. This year’s recipients of the Partners in Business award are Jerry Janisch of Milbank High School and Brandt Munsen of Aberdeen Central High School.


The prize for the Makerspace award, sponsored by CREATE includes 4 consultations, a year of makerspace management software, and a final report with a blueprint for starting a makerspace. The winner this year was Eureka High School.


The BIG Idea Competition aims to promote entrepreneurship, spur creative thinking and encourage students to start a business. The competition is coordinated by the Small Business Development Center.  Sponsors for 2019 include Sanford Health, East River Electric, REED Fund, Dacotah Bank, Midwest Ag Supply, First Bank and Trust, Northern State University, Presentation College, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Black Hills State University, Aberdeen Development Corporation, GROW South Dakota, McQuillen Creative Group, Northwestern Energy, Angelhaus, South Dakota Agriculture Foundation, CREATE, Midcontinent Communications, 3M, and the Tom and Danielle Aman Foundation.  The Competition is a result of the input and collaboration of many organizations including: Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce, Aberdeen Downtown Association, Aberdeen Catholic School System, and Aberdeen School District. 

Questions regarding the competition can be directed to Kelly Weaver of the Small Business Development Center at (605) 626-2565 or  For more information about the competition, see


Category: GROW SD, Success Stories

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In 1978, NESDCAP created the Northeast South Dakota Economic Corporation (NESDEC) as a revolving loan fund to focus on small business lending and job creation in 22 counties. In 2007, Grow South Dakota, was formed to provide housing, community and economic development statewide. Through services to individuals, technical assistance to community and economic development agencies, and loans to small businesses and homebuyers, GROW South Dakota has had broad and lasting impact.

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