Owning a small business is an unusual feat for a young adult to accomplish, yet recent Northern State University graduate Wyatt Warkenthien already has business ownership under his belt. For the past six summers, Warkenthien has owned and operated Smoot’s Chill & Grill, located in his hometown of Willow Lake, SD, which serves ice cream and other food items. When asked what prompted him to purchase it from the previous owner, Warkenthien replied, “I grew up with that place in my hometown…and I like ice cream.”
Warkenthien graduated in December 2016 with a double major in Professional Accounting and Banking and Financial Services. While at Northern, Warkenthien was a member of the Honors Program and held the position of Senator for the School of Business in Student Association. When asked about his favorite NSU memory, Warkenthien mentioned, “Playing ultimate frisbee on the McWelsh green with other people from Lindberg Hall stands out.” His involvement in the Honors Program filled his time at Northern, but it enabled him to explore his entrepreneurial spirit. His honors thesis, titled, “Making Space for Entrepreneurship: An Analysis of Entrepreneurial Interests, Perceptions, and Makerspaces at Northern State University,” surveyed student perceptions on the topic of entrepreneurship and their participation in entrepreneurship. The main challenges of his thesis included not making the topic too broad and trying to keep it focused. Warkenthien recalled the help of his thesis director, Dr. Kristi Bockorny, Instructor of Management, saying Bockorny “greatly helped develop my thesis, conduct business research, and also made my research better.”
Do not procrastinate, and do no let senioritis get the best of you. Also, start looking for jobs early—as soon as possible actually—and get your name out there.
-Wyatt Warkenthien, NSU Alumni
As for other faculty members who effected his education, Warkenthien mentioned Dr. Todd Muehler, Assistant Professor in the School of Business, and the life lessons he presented throughout his courses. At his current full-time job at Eide Bailly, Warkenthien has the opportunity to use these life lessons in his actual career. He works full-time as a tax associate at the Aberdeen location, in which he prepares taxes for various processing. Warkenthien described how his life is very different since graduating from NSU. “It’s still so fresh,” Warkenthien commented, adding, “I haven’t processed everything. It feels like I just walked across the stage.” While the memory of his graduation still sinks in, Warkenthien shares his advice for seniors: “Do not procrastinate, and do no let senioritis get the best of you. Also, start looking for jobs early—as soon as possible actually—and get your name out there.” Warkenthien’s experience in small business ownership, past internships, and Student Association involvement display his ability to present himself professionally and make his name available for future opportunities. It’s clear that whether Warkenthien remains with his current position or eventually decides to explore new horizons, the education earned and memories made while at Northern will be along for the ride.