New Prairie Family Business leader brings broad experience with businesses

June 7, 2018

This paid piece is sponsored by the Prairie Family Business Association.

Laura Schoen Carbonneau is used to working with businesses of all ages and sizes.

She has spent the past 12 years leading the Pierre Area Chamber of Commerce and began her newest role as the executive director of the Prairie Family Business Association this week.

We caught up with her to learn more about her vision for the organization and the businesses it serves.

What attracted you to your new role with the Prairie Family Business Association?

This was the first opportunity that caught my eye as I began the transition to the Sioux Falls area. I was somewhat familiar with the organization because each year the Prairie Family Business Association presents the Excellence in Family Business Award at the Pierre Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual celebration. The more I looked into the job description, it seemed like a very good match for my skill set. Additionally, one of the things I look for in any position is the opportunity to make a difference. I want to go to work each day knowing what I am doing is meaningful and part of the bigger picture. After only a few days on the job, I’m quickly learning that the PFBA offers excellent programming, which will allow me to contribute to the ongoing strength and success of our members.

You grew up on a South Dakota farm, so you learned about mixing business and family at a young age. How do you see that helping you in your new position?

Growing up on the farm was a great lesson in responsibility, inventiveness and hard work. I watched my grandfather and dad work from sunup to sundown. They didn’t stop until the job was done, and if something didn’t work or go quite the way it needed to, they figured out a way to pull it together. As the years went by, I also watched as my grandfather passed away and my dad lost interest in farming. There were some hard and emotional decisions that needed to be made about the future of the land, the farm operation and the dividing of assets with my uncle, who had moved to another state years ago. The transition was a challenging time for my family, just as it is for many of our members as they hand a business from one generation to the next. Although my role in our family’s process was as an observer, I feel I have great empathy and understanding and will be able to relate to many of our members as they go through their transition.

At the Pierre Area Chamber of Commerce, you helped meet the needs of 500 members. What parallels do you see with the Prairie Family Business Association?

While the two organizations are very different, there are similarities. Both strive to provide resources and quality programming for the members. They both encourage relationship building through a variety of social events. There’s also the element of sponsorship solicitation, working with boards and building partnerships with other organizations. I think the biggest difference is the type of membership each serves. The Pierre Area Chamber had a mixed membership of all sorts of businesses that were based in Pierre and Fort Pierre. The Prairie Family Business Association focuses specifically on family businesses and covers members in South Dakota as well as North Dakota, Iowa and parts of Minnesota and Nebraska.

What are you most excited about with your new role?

I love South Dakota and am continually in awe of the men and women who carry on the tradition of family business. There are some amazing companies out there that have been in operation through multiple generations. I’m excited to meet our members, hear their stories, to find out how the PFBA can play a role in their ongoing success.

What are some of your initial goals for the organization?

Over the last few years, the Prairie Family Business Association has increased membership and done a tremendous job in providing value through its programming. It has an excellent presence in Sioux Falls, Rapid City and the larger cities in North Dakota. My goal is to build on that success by creating more of a presence in the smaller communities across South Dakota and the rest of the region. Coming from the chamber world, I see opportunities to strengthen our relationship with chambers and economic development corporations. I’m a person who believes in building partnerships and working together to achieve common goals.

If businesses would like to learn more about the Prairie Family Business Association, what should they do?

Our website,, and Facebook page both offer a great deal of information about our Lunch & Learn webinars, peer groups, case studies, conferences and more. But the best way to find out more about what we do is to sit down with us for a personal conversation. My door is always open at the University Center, and we are happy to visit member and potential member businesses. Give me a call at 605-274-9531, and we’ll set something up. When our members are successful, we are successful.

The Prairie Family Business Association is an outreach center of the USD Beacom School of Business.

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New Prairie Family Business leader brings broad experience with businesses

Meet the new leader of the Prairie Family Business Association, and learn more about her plans to work with area family businesses.

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