Meet the Mason Jar Boutique

Katie Luttmann, owner of the Mason Jar Boutique (Jay Pickthorn/Argus Leader)
Katie Luttmann, owner of the Mason Jar Boutique (Jay Pickthorn/Argus Leader)

I’d love to meet the first person who — several years ago, now — decided to repurpose a Mason jar.

Whoever had the vision to paint it, plant in it, whatever it was, is someone worth watching. No doubt he —   no wait, scratch that — she is on to the next big idea likely sitting right in front of all of us.

There is an interesting article circulated online titled “Behind the Spectacular Rise of the Mason Jar” that sourced Jarden Home Brands, seller of Ball Mason jars. The piece, published in 2014, reported that while the jars had been sold for 130 years, the previous year — 2013 — had been the most successful.

A few years later, they still appear to be going strong.

“I am stunned at how much people love these,” Jarden marketing director Steve Hungsberg said in that 2014 piece, attributing the rise to “a perfect storm of different factors,” including a post-recession attitude toward being more economical and knowing what goes into food combined with a focus on locally grown items.”

Add to that the rise of social media.

“Take a look at the rise of Pinterest especially, which looks like it was built on a foundation of Mason jars,” he said.

I tell you this to frame up a little-known success story called The Mason Jar Boutique.

To read more, click here.

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Schwan: In City Hall debate, consider the customer

A proposed city administration building.
A proposed city administration building.

I was so close to throwing the entire box away without opening it.

Covered in dust, in my garage, sat a box I had hauled out of City Hall in the days before my appointment as chief of staff ended in mid-2010.

It’s funny how the crucial work product of six years ago had become little more than clutter to me.

But for some reason, I opened the box before tossing it.

And there, sitting right on top, was one of the reports I had felt was worth saving: an analysis that recommended how to address adding office space for city government.

“Office Space Utilization Analysis,” read the report, dated 2008 and completed by The Winkels Group. Inside was a detailed analysis of current and projected city office space needs as well as phased recommendations starting that year and continuing potentially through 2025.

To read more, click here.

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From homeless to homeowner

Melvin Nesheim and Codi Nincehelser of Keller Williams Realty Sioux Falls celebrate his home purchase near Terrace Park.
Melvin Nesheim and Codi Nincehelser of Keller Williams Realty Sioux Falls celebrate his home purchase near Terrace Park.

I have toured some truly impressive homes lately.

As part of a Sioux Falls Business Journal report on the increased activity in the upper-most end of the real estate market, I looked at remarkable properties that felt more like resorts that residences.

But by far, the most memorable home I saw in the past few weeks was on North Terrace Place, tucked away in the core of the city within an easy walk of Terrace Park.

That’s where I met Melvin Nesheim, whose path to homeownership holds lessons for all of us.

To read the rest of his story, click here.

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The Sioux Chef hopes to revitalize Native cuisine

Chef Sean Sherman
Chef Sean Sherman

Someone asked me recently if I could provide a list of minority-owned businesses in Sioux Falls.

It’s not a simple task. I’m not even sure it’s an achievable one. The U.S. Small Business Administration has some information. So does the Multi-Cultural Center of Sioux Falls. The Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce probably could help.

But there’s no definitive source I can find.

In my mind, though, I started making a list.

The first businesses I thought of, probably not surprisingly, were restaurants. Because we associate their cuisine with their owners’ ethnicity, it’s a natural connection to make. And the restaurant industry itself has proven to be a successful fit for many business owners in Sioux Falls.

But let’s consider this.

The 2010 U.S. Census found Hispanics are 4.4 percent of the Sioux Falls population. African Americans represent 4 percent, too. Asian Americans are 2 percent of our population. There are some fantastic dining options in the city owned by members of these cultures.

But our population also is almost 3 percent Native American, and when’s the last time you sampled any cuisine from that culture?

Sean Sherman wants to change that.

To see how, click here.

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Sioux Falls Made holds pop-up event

Sioux Falls Made held a Meet the Makers event as part of the Co-op Natural Foods block party Aug. 20. (Jodi Schwan)
Sioux Falls Made held a Meet the Makers event as part of the Co-op Natural Foods block party Aug. 20. (Jodi Schwan)

Sioux Falls Made is one of my proudest achievements in media.

About two years ago, I created this new brand as part of the Sioux Falls Business Journal as a way to tell the stories of all those locally who make things.

It’s introduced us, and our readers, to incredibly talented artists, chefs, musicians, designers, crafters, coders, growers and other entrepreneurs who are helping define the maker movement in our community.

But we wanted Sioux Falls Made to be more than stories. We wanted it to be an experience.

So in December 2014 we held our first Sioux Falls Made Market in a converted garage at the Argus Leader. More than 1,000 people came that day to shop locally made items, including some from makers who had never sold their work in a public setting.

A year later, our event tripled and we moved to the parking garage at Cherapa Place, where we will return this Dec. 2.

Recently, Sioux Falls Made held its first pop-up miniature event for one of our sponsors, The Co-op Natural Foods, as part of the store’s first annual block party. We called it “Meet the Makers” and invited some of our best-selling makers to sell some of their work.

We had a great time meeting a crowd of Co-op members, and our makers had a successful day of selling.

You can see more scenes from the day here.

Sioux Falls Made has won national awards for innovation from the Argus Leader’s parent company USA Today Network and has drawn sponsorship support from several area businesses, and I’m grateful for all of that acknowledgement.

But the most rewarding part, by far, has been to watch the makers we have featured grow into small business people moving their products to market at an increasingly large scale. Proving local media can help serve as an incubator for entrepreneurship is a powerful achievement. For our readers, this blends interesting content with a memorable experience.

It’s the direction I think media must head to remain locally relevant. And there’s nothing but upside to it.



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Schwan: Make time for ‘faith and business’

The 2015 Faith and Business conference.
The 2015 Faith and Business conference.

What’s the first thing you tell someone when asked how work is going?”

My friend, a Sioux Falls executive, asked a group of us that question at an after-work gathering not long ago.

We answered almost in unison. I bet you can say it with me now, too.

“Oh, it’s just so busy.”

There is simply no escaping it. Many of us — me included — no longer have busy days or months or seasons. We have busier days or months or seasons. And the demands seem to just keep growing, don’t they?

To read the rest of my Sunday column, click here.

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Schwan: Don’t let downtown momentum slow

Downtown Sioux Falls
Downtown Sioux Falls (Joe Ahlquist/Argus Leader)

I was asked recently to name the three biggest themes in local business that defined the first seven months of the year.

The first has to be continued solid growth. Major projects are under construction, including more than 40 buildings in excess of $1 million. South Dakota has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate. Houses in some price ranges are selling within days of going on the market.

The second theme, though, is a growing feeling of caution I’m sensing from many in business. There’s the uncertainty of the presidential election. There’s a softening in sales tax growth locally. July building permits, while still a solid $41 million, were half of what they were last July. It’s not alarming, but these economic indicators need to be watched closely in the months ahead.

The third theme probably could have gone a few directions. I thought about the workforce shortage and about wages. But it was hard to argue against including the noticeable momentum I’ve witnessed in downtown Sioux Falls.

To read the rest of my Sunday column, click here.

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Schwan: Family builds on Lake Madison restaurant’s legacy

The Hillside Steakhouse
The Hillside Steakhouse

The great thing about reporting in towns like Madison is that asking one person what’s new there typically leads to a story.

That’s what happened a few weeks ago, when I visited Madison to tour one of the first “tiny houses” built in South Dakota. As long as I was venturing out there, I asked the builder what else has been happening in Madison that I should see.

That led me to the Luther family and their new business venture. Or should I say ventures.

“It’s really a family undertaking,” Nick Luther told me after I tracked him down.

To read the rest of my Sunday column, click here.

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Schwan: A workforce development wish list

Mary Medema (Emily Spartz Weerheim/Argus Leader)
Mary Medema (Emily Spartz Weerheim/Argus Leader)

Call this my $15 million wish list.

That’s how much the latest five-year Forward Sioux Falls economic development campaign has raised in pledges, mostly from the business community.

The focus of the campaign is, to quote co-chair Mark Shlanta, “workforce, workforce and more development land” — a reflection of priorities given to the organization by its corporate supporters.

This five-year campaign includes 2.5 times more money dedicated to workforce development, the campaign’s leaders said when recently announcing they had reached their funding goal.

Click here to read more of my Sunday business column including a Q&A with retiring workforce development director Mary Medema.

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