Encouraging Entrepreneurial Thinking
Onward Yankton aims to foster and encourage the spirit of entrepreneurism, especially in the traditional sense of business start-ups but also in non-profits, churches, schools and other fields. It seeks to grow its historic downtown district into a creative hub of entrepreneurial activity, yet support start-ups throughout Yankton’s trade area. These goals will be accomplished by identifying and encouraging entrepreneurs with supportive programming, brick and mortar projects and education.
Onward Yankton’s roots can be traced back to a simple conversation held amongst a small group of community advocates. Their question? How could a town with so much potential – a historic legacy built on the banks of the grand Missouri River and filled with scores of unique man-made and natural amenities – continue to struggle attracting and retaining young families?
Determined to make a lasting change for their small but progressive community, these leaders sought out others who believed in the city’s promise and decided to hold a 100-day contest for Yankton’s “Next Big Idea” with a $10,000 incentive for the winner with the most visionary idea.
More than 500 entries flooded in, and from those emerged one that knitted together many ideas shown to be important to the community – developing a vibrant and active downtown, fostering education, creating meaningful jobs and improving quality of life for all. The winning idea, coined “The Missouri River Capital of Entrepreneurship,” belonged to Yankton native Jacob Fokken. Fokken’s plan to make Yankton the Capital of Entrepreneurship called for establishing a creative district in Yankton’s historic downtown, along with a developing community-wide culture that identified, educated and fostered entrepreneurship by partnering with local educational entities, particularly Mount Marty College.
Committed to bringing Fokken’s vision to life, the leaders of Onward Yankton decided to move forward by becoming a legally-recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization, governed by a Board of Directors composed of nine business leaders and community advocates. The Board of Directors governs three core committees – Entrepreneurship, Education and Creative Downtown District – that are designed to work cohesively to create the Missouri River Capital of Entrepreneurship.