South Dakota Small Business Admin office announces 2022 Small Business Person of the Year – Argus Leader

The U.S. Small Business Administration South Dakota District Office has named Karla Santi, CEO and founder of Blend Interactive, as the 2022 SBA South Dakota Small Business Person of the Year.

Santi started her own small firm, Santi Interactive, in the early 1990s to meet a commercial need and business potential in the web development industry. In 2005, she “blended” her company with a co-owner to form Blend Interactive, Inc. which provides web design and development, working with hundreds of clients domestically and internationally in the commercial private and government sectors.

Santi’s company has rapidly grown over the years, providing jobs for 20 employees and reaching annual revenue of $3 million.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by the SBA with this special award for the achievements of Blend Interactive,” Santi said. “Over the last 17 years, we’ve weathered an economic crisis, a pandemic, and multiple curveballs that many tech companies did not survive. It’s a privilege to employ such a talented team that provides consistent growth year over year.”

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Blend Interactive, Inc., received a Paycheck Protection Program loan to assist in retaining employees while revenue dipped due to shutdowns across the nation during COVID-19.

Santi is a 2021 graduate of the SBA Emerging Leaders Program and represented the South Dakota cohort during the national virtual graduation ceremony last fall. Through the years, Santi has served on several advisory boards and mentored aspiring entrepreneurs. She is an active speaker and coach for the Startup Sioux Falls CoStarters entrepreneurial training, partially funded through the SBA Community Navigators Pilot Program.

As a professional woman in the technology industry, Santi places emphasis on encouraging young women to explore STEM programs and careers including owning their own businesses.

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“Karla’s dedication to the startup ecosystem and perseverant leadership through turbulent times has propelled the Startup Sioux Falls organization toward ambitious and necessary growth,” Brienne Maner, Executive Director, Startup Sioux Falls, who nominated Santi for the award, said. “SBA’s recognition of Karla’s achievements is well deserved, and our board, staff, and greater Sioux Falls ecosystem are thrilled to lift her up through this incredible honor.” 

As part of National Small Business Week, the SBA takes the opportunity to highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and others from all 50 states and U.S. territories.

SBA South Dakota District Director Jaime Wood said the award is “prestigious” and honors individuals for their ability to create impactful businesses that meet industry needs, create jobs, and revenue.

“We also look for small business experts – like Karla Santi – who go the extra mile, volunteering time, skills, and talent to positively uplift others.” Wood said in a press release. “With nearly 90,000 small businesses in South Dakota, to be selected for this award demonstrates that the business ecosystem distinguishes Karla as an economic leader.”

Santi will be honored in the following virtual events during National Small Business Week, which is May 1-7, 2022:

  • SBA SD Small Business Awards Ceremony, 2 p.m. May 3.
  • National Small Business Week Virtual Summit’s Awards Ceremony, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 5.

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