New program at Mitchell Tech looks to give students jump start on business ownership

Entrepreneurship program to help cultivate skills needed to build own enterprise

Mitchell Technical College.jpg
Mitchell Technical College.

MITCHELL — With its many programs producing skilled workers in a wide range of in-demand industry fields, Mitchell Technical College prides itself on getting students out into the workforce and into the hands of anxious employers.

Now a new program at the school aims to get those students working for a different kind of employer: themselves.

“People who have an idea or passion will now have a way to turn that into a thriving business,” said Ryan VanZee, an instructor at Mitchell Technical College.

VanZee was referring to the newly formed Entrepreneurial program at Mitchell Technical College. The nine-month program, which is expected to kick off in the fall of 2023, is designed to help recently graduated students develop the skills needed to set up their own business endeavor in the event they want to go into business for themselves instead of working as an employee for an already established business.

The 36-credit program is made up of 12 courses ranging from strategic thinking and planning to professional selling to leadership and project management and is designed to serve as a complement to the many programs already offered at the technical college. Only instead of taking their newfound skills to a new employer, they will have some of the skills needed to set out on a career of their own.


The program will take many of the lessons a graduating student may get from an employer after they accept a job with a company after graduation. That mentorship will be replicated by Mitchell Tech staff and organized and structured in a classroom setting.

“Knowledge is free online, but one thing you can’t get online is mentorship,” VanZee said. “At a technical college, that’s what we specialize in.”

The first iteration of the program will begin with 10 students on Aug. 30 and is expected to grow and evolve as future classes move through it. It will be held twice monthly over the course of nine months, allowing students who are actively working at establishing their own businesses the flexibility to concentrate on their venture while also applying lessons learned in the program.

The program was designed with recent Mitchell Tech graduates who want to start their own business in mind, but the program should be a benefit to any graduate of any age who wants to learn the ins and outs of self-management. Those skills can also be beneficial to students who start out working for another employer and the businesses that take them on.

Mitchell Tech programs are known for developing professionals for industries where there is shortage of workers. VanZee said even students who start working for someone else after graduation can gain something from the course, and their employers are generally on board with the program because, in many fields, there is more than enough work to go around.

Mitchell Technical College is launching a new program for graduates to help them kickstart their business ownership plans.
Mitchell Republic File Photo

Carol Grode-Hanks, vice president for academics at Mitchell Technical College, agreed that the program has something to offer even if the student doesn’t immediately jump into the business ownership waters.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start your self-supporting business right away. The skills you learn are universal to any type of work environment. Just gaining the skill set is a plus for you as an employee whether you work for an employer or another partner in the industry,” Grode-Hanks said. “It’s just a win for everybody, even if they stay on staff for another five years.”

The classes will serve up a variety of courses that should help the budding business owner with everything from marketing plans to social media interaction and tax preparation. The course will cover this by bringing in a cadre of outside professionals who will lend their expertise. These professionals will help fill the role of mentors to the students, only it will be done in a structured classroom setting instead of specifically on the job.


That will allow for professional networking as well as for building a customer base, which is a challenge all new entrepreneurs face.

“One of the big benefits of having a structured class is the personalized advisory boards. We have a small business insurance person who comes in, and a lawyer, and a banker and an accountant,” VanZee said. “If you don’t have those people in your network, we’ll put you in a professional network to help you through the ups and downs. So as you scale, we’ve already thought about it before the students have started. They’re all friends of the college.”

The class will hopefully serve as another way Mitchell Tech graduates can get out into the regional workforce, particularly in smaller communities where employment in a studied field may not be an option. As a business startup owner, students can establish needed services in communities that may be lacking in them.

“Talk about rural economic development. Small towns need practical things like a diesel mechanic or a carpenter or an HVAC person,” VanZee said. “It’s more affordable (to use local services) and way more convenient. With all the boomers retiring, this is a strategy to build up all the small towns in South Dakota, along with the larger ones.”

Students figuring taxes for area residents free of charge

Six of the 10 open slots for the first cohort in the program are already filled, and VanZee and Grode-Hanks both encourage interested parties to take a look at the program specifics at the Mitchell Technical College website or by reaching out to the school admissions department.

There are also scholarship opportunities. The program runs about $8,000, but VanZee said the first 10 students qualify for a $4,000 scholarship from the Sabers Family Visionary Fund. Terry Sabers, a member of the Mitchell Technical College Foundation Board of Trustees and the South Dakota Board of Technical Education, was instrumental in the growth of Muth Electric and provided critical encouragement in developing the program, VanZee said.

VanZee expects the program will grow along with the students who take its lessons out into the world as they establish their own companies and businesses. He’s excited to see how far they take those lessons.

“We’ll grow. We’re starting with a small group to make sure we didn’t miss anything and so we can have a lot of personalized attention and so that we can get the community used to building these relationships with young entrepreneurs,” VanZee said. “It’s kind of a new concept in town, but we want our entrepreneurs to be successful, and once we have our first cohort successful, we can grow from there.”


More information on the program can be found at

What To Read Next
Get Local