Scott and Nathan Sletten standing in warehouse
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Moving Sioux Falls Forward: JDS Industries grows world-leading business from mom-and-pop shop

  • January 4, 2024

From a single trophy shop to the world’s largest wholesale supplier in the awards and personalization industry, JDS Industries proves what’s possible for what once was a Sioux Falls startup.

From its headquarters in northeast Sioux Falls, JDS now counts 13 warehouses nationwide and ships worldwide.

JDS Industries Building

“JDS is a model business and employer,” said Bob Mundt, president and CEO of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation. “This is a company that established a niche, grew within it and cultivated an outstanding culture along the way.”

Here’s a closer look at the business, courtesy of president and CEO Scott Sletten.

Darwin, Scott, and Nathan Sletten

Darwin, Scott and Nathan Sletten

Year founded: Sletten’s parents, Darwin and Jane, began in business in 1972 as JD’s House of Trophies. JDS Industries was formed in 1990 as a separate corporation.

Total employees in the Sioux Falls area: There are 190 employees in Sioux Falls and 350 nationwide.

CEO/lead executive in Sioux Falls: Scott Sletten, president and CEO.

How would you describe your organization to someone not familiar with it?

We are a wholesale supplier of awards, recognition, personalization and signage products. We mostly supply the blank products that people then personalize through some form of printing or engraving process.

What are the top three reasons you continue to locate in the Sioux Falls area?

Quality of our employees is a key reason we continue to do so much here in Sioux Falls. Our focus on the customer is always top of mind, and we are able to find a good amount of people here who fit in with that focus and mindset. Quality of life in Sioux Falls is also a big factor, both in our ability to operate our business and for our employees to have a stable life so that they can devote a good amount of effort and focus to work. Sioux Falls also had a lower cost of doing business than many of the other places that we have operations, which is an advantage to us as well.

What are you most proud of within your business in the past year?

I am most proud of our resilience after several tougher years with COVID and the supply chain problems. We have been able to navigate the situation well, as well as find some new opportunities that have made us much stronger and more successful today than before the pandemic.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing your business?

Continuing to find opportunities for growth that fit within the range of things that we do well and our customers have a need for. We have a lot of interaction with our customers, as well as suppliers around the world, and are always looking for what is new and what is next. We add around 1,000 new products to our line per year, which is much more than any other competitor in our core markets.

How would you describe the culture of your business in three words?

Always customer-focused.

In everything we do, we always want to keep our customer in mind — how are changes going to impact them and hopefully make things better or easier for them. We want to be the easiest supplier to do business with so we become the default supplier to our customers for much of what they need.

Why does your business choose to invest in Forward Sioux Falls and what specific advantages or value have you found in partnering with FSF?

We choose to invest in Forward Sioux Falls because the quality of life in Sioux Falls and quality of the workforce play a role in how successful we can be. Probably the most important role we look to them for is workforce development — both in bringing people to Sioux Falls and then developing them once they are here.

What are your expectations for your business in the year ahead?

Given the weaker economy expected in 2024, we are expecting slower but steady growth. With many things like supply chain more normalized now, it is allowing us to focus more on strategy and execution instead of feeling like we are playing defense and “whack a mole” like the last several years.

Forward Sioux Falls is a joint venture between the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce and the Sioux Falls Development Foundation and is widely respected as the premier economic driver for the Sioux Falls region. To learn more and connect, click here.