Olson, Merriman  Darling, Meriman
Merriman, McClendon, and Litzen Davis, Merriman
Tawney Brunsch 
Women in Business Award Winners

The South Dakota Center for Enterprise Opportunity (SD CEO) at Black Hills State University announced the winners of the Women in Business awards during the “Celebrating Women in Business” luncheon held today at the Spearfish Holiday Inn.

Newly launched this year, the statewide awards program was designed to highlight the impact of outstanding women entrepreneurs across the state. Winners for the four award categories were:  Dixie Olson, broker/owner at Properties Unlimited Realty in Sturgis for the Enterprising Business Woman award;  Kelsie Darling, owner of Quik Signs in Spearfish, for the Enterprising Young Entrepreneur award; Project Solutions, Inc, owned by Sandy Burns of Rapid City, for the Enterprising Business Team award; and Dakota Resources under the direction of Beth Davis, president, and Lakota Funds under the direction of Tawney Brunsch, executive director, for the Enterprising Friend of Small Business award.

“We had an outstanding list of nominees from across South Dakota, so our statewide team of judges had quite a challenge selecting just one recipient for each award,” said Helen Merriman, director of the SD CEO. “South Dakota can be very proud of all of its women-owned businesses as we congratulate these winners whose actions exemplify savvy business acumen, integrity, compassion, and commitment to community.”

The winner of the Enterprising Business Woman award, Dixie Olson, broker/owner at Properties Unlimited Realty in Sturgis, is a dynamic business woman has achieved substantial success in her business and community, and has demonstrated outstanding skill, commitment, and accomplishment while successfully navigating obstacles.  In 1999, Olson ventured away from being a broker in a local firm and founded Properties Unlimited Realty which hosts seven experienced REALTORS® dedicated to providing uncompromising service in assisting buyers and sellers with the most important transaction in their lives. Olsons’s firm is one of the top producing firms in the Northern Black Hills. Outside of real estate, Olson was a founding member of Realtors for Kids. The local non-profit organization has given more than $300,000 to children of the Northern Black Hills to fund everything from hair cuts to insulin pumps. She has served on the Sturgis Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and is a founding member of Citizens to Advance Sturgis.

The winner of the Enterprising Young Entrepreneur award was Kelsie Darling, owner of Quik Signs in Spearfish. In just three years this young entrepreneur has created a successful business by demonstrating outstanding skill and commitment.  Darling graduated from BHSU in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurial Studies and Management and in 2008 from BHSU with a Master of Science in Business Services Management.  She started Quik Signs from scratch in 2009 and infused the business with energy and talent.  In this short time, she has surpassed her financial goals, including moving into a new, larger location and expanding her staff.  Quik Signs offers a wide array of products such as signs, banners, vehicle wraps, and other creative graphics.

The winner of the Enterprising Business Team award was Project Solutions, Inc, owned by Sandy Burns of Rapid City. This team is being recognized for their significant contributions to the overall success of the business. The team has collectively demonstrated outstanding skills and customer service. Burns, chief executive officer, has owned and managed Project Solutions, Inc. since 2000. She has developed a team of individuals who vary in expertise so that the company can be a resource for entities utilizing government contracts. Small business owners have relied on Burns and her team’s knowledge and skills to learn how to garner contracts by hosting procurement fairs. The company provides management consulting and mentoring, estimating and scheduling, engineering studies, technical training, government contract management and construction assistance for women and minority-owned businesses. Additionally, the South Dakota Department of Transportation contracts with Project Solutions to provide free services to South Dakota Disadvantaged Business Enterprises.  This team was nominated by one of their clients for outstanding customer service.

The winners of the Enterprising Friend of Small Business award were Dakota Resources under the direction of Beth Davis, president; and Lakota Funds under the direction of Tawney Brunsch, executive directorThese businesses are advocates for the growth and development of small business and have demonstrated commitment and on-going support to the success of women-owned businesses.

Davis is the president of Dakota Resources, a statewide, not-for-profit that stimulates financial and human investment in South Dakota communities. In her 15 years with the organization, she has raised more than $12 million in private capital and attracted resources to develop innovative products and services to support rural development, including Dakota Rising, an entrepreneur development system, which Davis started in 2008. She was also the 2011 winner of the Distinguished Service to Business Award from University of South Dakota’s Beacom School of Business.

Brunsch is the executive director of Lakota Funds, the first certified American Indian community development financial institution on a reservation. Prior to her current position, Brunsch served as loan portfolio manager at Lakota Funds and served eight years at Black Hills Federal Credit Union in Wall as a branch manager. The Lakota Funds staff provides business loans, success coaching, and technical training for start-up businesses owned by members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Brunsch currently serves on the Board of Directors of Mazaska Owecaso Otipi Financial and is the chairperson of the proposed Lakota Federal Credit Union Steering Committee. She grew up on a ranch south of Interior on the Pine Ridge Reservation and is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

To learn more about the SD CEO, visit www.BHSU.edu/SDCEO or call (605) 642-6435.

The SD CEO is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), and is part of a network of more than 110 centers nationwide established through the SBA’s women’s business funding. While services are available to all those interested in entrepreneurship, there is a special emphasis on women, women veterans, Native Americans, the socially and/or economically disadvantaged, and youth entrepreneurs.