SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Last year was already tough for new entrepreneurs thanks to COVID-19. On top of that, the ‘Hey Sioux Falls! Awards’ ceremony was postponed. The awards are officially set for this summer and are bringing some much-needed recognition to small start-ups.

“I want to welcome Will Buchee up here to accept this award,” Mayor Paul TenHaken said.

At the 2018 ‘Hey Sioux Falls! Awards,’ Will Bushee was recognized as the ‘Startup Champion of the Year’. The award highlights someone in the community who helps others get their business off the ground.

“It was just really great to have all those people come out and celebrate entrepreneurship in our area. It’s really hard to start a business, and I’ve always been really passionate about helping others get their business up and running,” Bushee said.

As an entrepreneur himself, he says it’s difficult to find mentors.

“It’s really lonely and really difficult to start businesses, so anytime we can provide a little recognition, a little bit of thanks and gratitude toward those people, it really goes a long way,” Bushee said.

Hey Sioux Falls! 2018

And that’s what the annual award ceremony is all about: shining a light on those who have made big, local strides. Organizer Matt Paulson says they had to postpone last year’s ceremony due to COVID-19. This year will be in-person at the Orpheum Theatre.

“It is a hybrid event: we will be streaming it. We are going to limit the number of attendees, we’ll be wearing masks, doing all the right things to make sure it’s a safe event,” Paulson said.

There are six categories to be nominated in – including a brand new one exclusive to this year.

“One award that is new this year is the ‘Best Pivot Award,’ so, for a company that’s really changed their business model during the pandemic,” Paulson said.

The winners will take home a trophy in the style of bronze flashlight. Paulson says this is symbol for the ceremony shining a light on the winner, so they can shine theirs on others.

Hey Sioux Falls! 2018

“One of the things that I think is critical to a startup ecosystem is telling the stories of those who’ve come before you and have been successful, and that really inspires people that are thinking about starting businesses thinking, ‘Hey. I can do this too,'” Paulson said.

The ceremony is Thursday May 20, but the deadline to nominate someone for an award is April 16th.