Jodi’s Journal: Who’s the new face of Zeal?


By Jodi Schwan

Ryan Oines is the reason I’m in business.

OK, that’s an overstatement, but I needed to get your attention for this, and it’s also partially true.

Flashback to early 2017, when I was contemplating whether to start Align Content Studio. This is a little embarrassing, but despite years of covering business, I was realizing how much I really didn’t know about building one.

How do I estimate the actual cost of an employee?

How much should I plan on business insurance costing me?

How much do I get to share with the government when I pay my taxes?

Does my business model even make sense once I plug in these numbers?

I knew I had to answer all these questions. I also knew this was one area where I shouldn’t just Google my way to an answer.

Fortunately, I also knew I could contact the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship. And that’s how I found myself sitting across a conference table from Oines, Zeal’s interim vice president and former entrepreneur-in-residence.

I asked a lot of questions. He probably asked me just as many. I remember feeling this sense of relief when he told me he liked the business model, that my numbers would work and that despite the fact I couldn’t even tell him a business name yet, I was farther along than some who come into Zeal.

Zeal’s motto is “Make it real,” and when I left that day, my business did feel more real. While I had a sense of the work ahead, I also felt like it could work and that I would have support there along the way.

Zeal has reached an important milestone, and we as a business community need to be aware of it.

The organization is hiring an executive director, as Oines – who never planned to be a permanent leader – moves onto other things and Rich Naser, Zeal’s president, transitions to more of a strategic advisory role as he also leads the new USD Discovery District.

This new position presents an important opportunity for our business community at a key time.

Ask yourself: “Who is the face of entrepreneurship in Sioux Falls?”

I would argue it probably shouldn’t be any one person. Just like there should be no one face of the arts or face of the business community.

But it’s critical to have a community-recognized champion of entrepreneurs, one whose job it is to advocate, connect and develop our blossoming small-business community. The leaders of Zeal seem like the logical choice. So I hope there is a solid candidate pool and that we as a community get behind whomever is chosen for this new role.

You can read the job description here. It’s a good one, and I want to lift up a few elements I think are key.

First, it would help if the next leader had personal entrepreneurial experience. I never appreciated what it means to own a business until I started mine. There’s a level of insight and empathy that comes with it that would be a big asset to a future Zeal leader. So if you’ve successfully grown a business — or two or three — or had an entrepreneurial role within someone else’s business, consider this opportunity to lead and inspire others.

Second, we need someone who can lead with vision but still run a smooth operation. Zeal is a lean place with multifaceted constituencies. That means the leader has to be willing to pretty much do everything from meeting with large donors to cleaning up the kitchen. But beyond all the duties, I think we also need a strategic thinker who can bring passionate, but also independent, advocates together and help point us in a direction that lifts up the collective environment for entrepreneurship in this community.

And third, the next leader needs to help continue to spread awareness about all the resources available at Zeal. I’m lucky — I knew where to go when I started the business. But I know others still aren’t aware of all the help that’s waiting at Zeal or of the supportive community they’ll encounter there.

Whoever leads Zeal is inheriting a great team. While I worked with them in starting the business, now I work for them as we help tell the Zeal story. It’s a powerful story, and it’s only getting stronger. So if you or someone you know feels this is the right time and place to lead, reach out. You can apply by sending a resume to

The goal is to have a new executive director in place by early next year. I am sure it won’t be long after that I’ll be paying a visit to the office.

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Jodi’s Journal: Who’s the new face of Zeal?

There’s a rare opportunity to help lead entrepreneurship in Sioux Falls, and it’s key to find the right candidate.

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