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March 8, 2018
This piece is presented by the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship.
Karla Santi knows about pioneering new industries. When she first became interested in web development, it was very much an emerging field.
As she and her profession grew, she co-founded Blend Interactive, a web design and development firm, in 2005. She was named CEO in 2014 and is among the latest new board members at the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship.
What motivated you to join the Zeal board of directors?
Having started a business over a decade ago, I have compassion for others that are willing to take the same risk. Successful companies, big and small, all start from an idea — paired with a lot of hard work and determination. I’ve learned along the way that you also need a supportive network of people you trust and advisers that are willing to point you in the right direction. Zeal fulfills those needs for our startup and entrepreneurial community, providing resources, guidance and a supportive network for those launching a new business. I’m excited to be working with Zeal to encourage entrepreneurship and foster relationships that can be critical in the early stages of a company.
How would you assess the climate for startups in Sioux Falls? What do we do well and what might we be missing?
More than ever, I believe the city is recognizing the importance of small business and its economic impact on the city. Serving on the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors has given me insight as to how the organization values entrepreneurship. The efforts of programs like Forward Sioux Falls and the Sioux Falls Development Foundation encourage quality economic growth through entrepreneurial and workforce development. Zeal was created for that very reason. There are many opportunities available to startups that can help grow, incubate and, hopefully, graduate businesses to be thriving economic engines in our city.
The programs are in place. However, it’s up to the startups themselves to utilize them. There’s a disconnect between the two. We need to improve the visibility of these programs and reach those who are unaware of the resources and programming available to them. Our startup community is strong but not always inclusive of everyone in need of assistance.
What is one piece of advice you wish someone had told you when you were a beginning entrepreneur?
If you wait for perfection, you’ll never start anything. I still remind myself of this daily, but in those early years, I held back and perhaps missed out on opportunities because things weren’t “just so.” Besides, there’s no finish line where you’ll eventually have it all figured out, so perfection is out of the question. Start something and be proud of what you’ve accomplished, one step at a time.
You’re also familiar with what it takes to grow a company from early stage to maturity. Are there additional resources we could provide small businesses to help them scale?
Growing a company often relies on being connected to the right people who can help a business scale, whether that be in size or revenue. Although our population count may not exactly reflect it, this city is small. Knowing the right people can either help or hinder the success of a small business or startup. Fortunately, there are endless opportunities to get involved, connected and be introduced to peers that can help you foster growth and the visibility of your company. Zeal has programming specifically designed to encourage and promote the resources available to the entrepreneurial community, and they are available to everyone.
How do you see yourself personally becoming more involved at Zeal?
Zeal hosts a diverse collection of startups and individuals in need of answers and advice. From mentoring Zeal accelerator participants to taking an active role in the events and programming, it’s my turn to give back to the entrepreneurial community by sharing what I have learned though my experience. I’m also looking forward to representing the diverse voices in our business community and ensuring we are inclusive of all entrepreneurs.
New Zeal board member Karla Santi offers valuable advice for entrepreneurs.