VERMILLION, S.D. – Students from the University of South Dakota won two of the top five awards in this year’s Governor’s Giant Vision Student Competition, which promotes South Dakota as the best place to start a successful business.
Placing second, with a prize of $4,000, were USD students Michael Helgerson of Yankton, and Naveen Rokkam of Vishakapatnam, India. Their business idea, called WeConnectU, is intended to make college campuses more accessible to students. It would use a beacon device and a mobile application to provide indoor directions and send informational push messages to smart phones.
In third place, with a price of $3,000, was USD student Taylor Huseman of Manson, Iowa, for coming up with N-DORFN Foods, Inc. Huseman’s idea is to create food products using only raw, natural ingredients produced locally.
Another USD student, Javier Bravo Garcia of Sioux Falls, placed in the top 10 finalists in the student competition.
“I am pleased to see that USD had three out of the 10 finalists for student projects,” said Venky Venkatachalam, dean of the Beacom School of Business at USD, who has established a program called Entrepreneurs in Residence to help people convert their ideas into businesses.
Helgerson and Rokkam were advised by Venkatachalam, Professor DeVee Dykstra, and Ben Hanten, one of the Beacom Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. Venkatachalam also has offered Helgerson and Rokkam space in the Beacom School of Business to work on product development.
Awards were presented by Gov. Dennis Daugaard on April 15 at the annual banquet for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development in Sioux Falls. The Giant Vision Student Competition is a program of the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce. The student awards were supported by the governor’s office, Citibank N.A. of Sioux Falls and South Dakota EPSCoR of Brookings.
“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,” said David Owen, South Dakota Chamber president.