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SD Businesswoman recognized at annual luncheon.
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SD Businesswoman Honored at luncheon

SPEARFISH, S.D. – Over 200 women gathered on Thursday, May 2 to celebrate accomplished businesswomen at the Celebrating Women in Business Awards Luncheon at the Spearfish Holiday Inn Convention Center.

The annual Outstanding Women In Business Awards was designed to highlight the impact of outstanding businesswomen across the state of South Dakota. SD CEO West Women’s Business Center recognized the accomplishments of nine finalists for their business acumen and contributions, – and the four award recipients were announced. Keynote speakers Molly Brown, GenPro Energy Development, and Kayla Klein, Klein Visioneering Group, took the stage and shared how they failed forward as both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.

“This year, we had an incredible group of award finalists from across the state, representing a broad range of businesses, and each nominee showcases their passion, dedication, and resilience through their business,” said Elizabeth Freer, SD CEO West director. “These women have a notable impact through their businesses, organizations, and communities which contributes to our local and state economy. Women are building organizations that fill gaps in our community while demonstrating that economic impact. It is an honor to recognize the finalists and award winners for all they do for South Dakota.”


The 2024 SD CEO winners include:

Enterprising Young Entrepreneur Award

Marcela Salas, Salas Salsas, Sioux Falls

Marcela Salas launched Salas Salsas in 2020 with her mother, Patricia Burbine. Starting at a Farmer’s Market in Brandon, South Dakota, Marcela’s offerings quickly gained popularity, prompting expansion to Farmer’s Markets across the Sioux Falls area extending north to Brookings.

After several set-backs in opening a store front, Marcela purchased a Food Truck, broadening her reach across South Dakota. Salas Salsas has also expanded to multiple retail partners and markets across eastern South Dakota and is in the process of opening a storefront in downtown Sioux Falls.

SD CEO West’s Elizabeth Freer (left), Director and Carrie Gerlach (center), SD CEO West Advisory Board member and Owner of Black Hills Adventure Tours present Marcela Salas (right) the 2024 ‘Enterprising Young Entrepreneur’ award.


Enterprising Woman Intrapreneur Award

Amber Vogt, Director of Planning & Zoning, Lawrence County

For the past twenty years, Lawrence County Planning and Zoning Director Amber Vogt has strategically guided sustainable growth by adding the new positions of Building Inspector and Plat Reviewer/Assistant, improved office systems, and enhanced application processing efficiency. She was integral to developing the Lawrence County Comprehensive Plan Revision, Ordinance Revisions for Highway 85 Corridor, Old Belle Road, Colorado Boulevard, and Spearfish Rest Area Study.

Amber’s commitment to community service extends beyond her professional achievements, as evidenced by her involvement in numerous organizations and initiatives, from school boards to youth programs and nonprofit organizations such as Lead-Deadwood Girls Softball and Lead-Deadwood Black Hills Juniors Volleyball Program.

SD CEO West’s Advisory Board member Michele Loobey-Gertsch (left), Black Hills Community Works Foundation Advancement Director and Elizabeth Freer (right), Director present Amber Vogt (center) the 2024 ‘Enterprising Woman Intrapreneur’ award.


Enterprising Woman Entrepreneur Award

Jenny Schmidt, Black Hills Advocate, Rapid City

Black Hills Advocate was launched in 2015 to provide guardianship/conservatorship services for the vulnerable population of people who  ack the cognitive capacity and family to act on their behalf.

From its modest start, the company has grown exponentially, generating $430,000+ in revenue in 2023, has served over 400 families from Rapid City to neighboring states, and has been court-appointed to 152 guardianship cases.

During 2020, Jenny, and her all-women team of four, found new ways to serve their clients. They adapted and conducted “window visits” to their clients in facilities, and Jenny founded Sequel Incorporated, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, recognizing the need for services for financially disadvantaged elderly individuals.

The 2024 ‘Enterprising Woman Entrepreneur’ award recipient Jenny Schmidt (center), Owner, Black Hills Advocate poses with SD CEO West’s Advisory Board member Molly Brown (left), GenPro Energy Development and Elizabeth Freer (right), SD CEO West Director.


Outstanding Women’s Choice Award

This year marks the third-year attendees could vote during the conference for the Women’s Choice Award. The candidates for this award include our top nine award finalists. This award is designed for the community to choose and recognize a woman they see excelling in their craft and whose story resonates with them.

Jenna Farrar, Owner, Rushmore Athletics

Jenna Farrer launched Rushmore Athletics in May of 2019.

Since its inception, Rushmore Athletics has experienced growth, and now the gym has over 500 recreational and competitive athletes and a team of 17 employees.

The gym has become a powerhouse in the cheerleading community, with 150 competitive athletes competing throughout the Midwest and achieving numerous 1st place finishes. For the second consecutive year, 50 athletes will represent Rushmore Athletics at the All-Star World Championships in Orlando on April 18th.

The 2024 ‘Women’s Choice’ award recipient Jenna Farrar (center), Owner, Rushmore Athletics, poses with Michelle Kane (left), director of the Sanford Underground Research Facility Foundation, and Elizabeth Freer (right), SD CEO West Director.


BHSU Alumna Entrepreneur In Excellence

The inaugural Black Hills State University Alumna Entrepreneur In Excellence was created in partnership with BHSU Foundation. This honor recognizes an exceptional woman who embodies entrepreneurship, leadership, and community engagement, modeling the values of Black Hills State University through her work.


Kelsey Stine, Vela Creative Co. & Accessible Black Hills, Rapid City


Black Hills State University Foundation Director of Development and Planned Giving, Shauna Junek (left) and Elizabeth Freer (right), SD CEO West Director present Kelsey Stine (center) the 2024 ‘BHSU Alumna Entrepreneur In Excellence’ award.


Congratulations to our nine finalists. Over 30 women from across the state were nominated. Of these nominees, our 9 finalists were:

Enterprising Woman Entrepreneur Finalists

Becah Fliehs, Sun & Sea Travel Co., Groton

Addie Graham-Kramer, The Event Company, Sioux Falls

Jenny Schmidt, Black Hills Advocate, Rapid City

Enterprising Woman Intrapreneur Finalists

Paulette Davidson, Monument Health, Rapid City

Jill Holt, Weller Brothers Landscaping, Sioux Falls

Amber Vogt, Lawrence County, South Dakota County Government, Lead

Enterprising Young Entrepreneur Finalists

Kendra Cersosimo, Two54 Creative, Sioux Falls

Jenna Farrar, Rushmore Athletics, Rapid City

Marcela Salas, Salas Salsas, Sioux Falls



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