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Young entrepreneurs share their stories at the 2023 Energize! conference in Wessington Springs

Aidan Friesen stands next to signs for his business, Friesen Feed and Seed

BROOKINGS, S.D. – Aidan Friesen always knew he wanted to be his own boss. 

Raised on a small farm near Olivet, South Dakota, Friesen grew up caring for livestock. His grandfather was a veterinarian in nearby Menno, South Dakota, who sold Big Gain Feed. After his grandfather retired, Friesen switched to a different type of feed for his own livestock for a time. 

Then Friesen decided he wanted to return to feeding Big Gain feed to his own livestock – and a new business was born. Through his business, Friesen Feed and Seed, the 21-year-old entrepreneur sells Big Gain Feed and Legend Seed.

“I knew I would have to try and sell some feed to others to be able to have enough feed on each order I made, hence came the start of my business,” Friesen said. 

That was in 2019, and he now sells Big Gain feed for all types of livestock, from cattle and horses to chickens and rabbits. In 2020, he started selling crop seed, as well – mostly corn and soybeans, but he also sells alfalfa, wheat, sunflower, silage corn and cover crop seeds. 
Friesen, who graduated this spring from South Dakota State University with a bachelor’s degree in animal science with a specialization in science, and a minor in chemistry, will attend the SDSU Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine this fall. 

He is excited to be part of a panel of young entrepreneurs speaking at this year’s Energize! conference in Wessington Springs, where he and other South Dakota youth will share their business experiences. SDSU Extension and the community of Wessington Springs will host the 2023 Energize! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities Conference May 31-June 1.

Friesen will be joined by Hope Karels, a junior at Milbank High School, who has launched her own baking business. Karels started baking doughnuts with her grandparents at a young age, and soon was an avid watcher of baking TV shows. That led to a love of baking her own goods. 

“My mom got sick of all the baked goods in the house, so she mentioned selling my cupcakes at our local farmer’s market in the summer,” Karels said. 

She still focuses on cupcakes, but also sells other goods like macarons and cakes. This will be her first Energize! panel, and she is excited to join Friesen and the others to discuss entrepreneurship. Rounding out the panel are Swade Ries, who started Swade’s Eggs near Reliance, and Oliver Moeckly, who attends Britton-Hecla High School and helps manage Au Fait Apparel.

Energize!, an annual event, is designed to invigorate South Dakota’s rural communities by inviting them to share success stories and ideas with community members and leaders from across the state. Along with the young entrepreneur panel, this year’s keynote speaker will lead two breakout sessions, and other breakouts will be led by a diverse set of rural South Dakotans. Breakout speakers will share successes in arts and culture, youth engagement, fundraising and housing.  

Danna Larson, an Iowa-based entrepreneur and consultant, is this year’s keynote speaker. She is founder and host of the Rural Revival podcast, which showcases rural communities and the people who are bringing them back to life.

To register, visit and search “energize”. Registration deadline is May 22, and the cost is $115. A group of three registered from the same community at the same time will receive a $51 discount. Registration will be available at the door on a space-available basis for $150.

For more information, contact Kari O’Neill, Extension Community Vitality Program Manager.