The UNI team believed that a technology solution could be found to identify and attract entrepreneurs so that EDO’s could engage them over the life of their business and that such an approach could improve business owner access to resources and their peers. Building upon the premise that all entrepreneurs want to secure cash grants if possible, the Dream Big Grow Here contests were developed as an attractive cash competition to engage entrepreneurs online, where they could then be connected with resource providers in their home communities and online. As it was developed over the first two years, it also became a powerful tool to foster collaboration between existing service providers and a marvelous way to celebrate small business in the state.

We established multiple success measurements for DBGH:

  1. to connect small business and entrepreneurs with regional economic development organizations,
  2. to encourage small business owners to use technology and to interact with one another online,
  3. to leverage widespread marketing and positive publicity for small Iowa companies,
  4. to enhance the supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem in the state.

The use of an online contest to attract, learn about and engage large numbers of entrepreneurs is novel. Unlike business plan competitions which attract only small numbers of deeply committed entrepreneurs, Dream Big Grow Here attracts hundreds of entrepreneurs at different stages of business development and across many industries. The online pitches capture critical information about these entrepreneur’s plans for startup and growth which can be used by regional EDO’s to better serve them and others on an ongoing basis.

Recognition & Awards

  • Mid-America Economic Development Council's 2012 Annual Economic Development Award
  • University Economic Development Association Award of Excellence in Innovation & Entrepreneurship 2013

Last Year's Winners

Click below to choose a category of last year’s winners and entrants.


Calling all retailers and wholesalers! This contest is for you!


Help Provide Equipment to Support Local Food Production

Ellen Walsh-Rosmann
FarmTable Delivery
Harlan, IA
FarmTable Delivery is an infrastructure, marketing, wholesale and delivery support for small local producers of produce, dairy, meat and dry goods. We strive to improve our local food system by providing sound and reliable distribution for local farmers and producers.
FarmTable Delivery grew from our farm's relationships with chefs at restaurants in Omaha. Many chefs requested that we grow a certain product next year or asked if we knew of anyone that did. Ellen had been procuring for various events that were seasonal and local food centered, so she had already built a network. One thing led to another, and soon we were delivering farmers’ products and marketing it for them as well. FarmTable Delivery began in November of 2013 and the demand and growth has been substantial ever since. FarmTable Delivery has the advantage of being one of the only delivery and marketing services available to smaller producers in Iowa and Nebraska. The demand for local food is at an all time high, and farmers need adequate infrastructure to grow their businesses which FarmTable Delivery hopes to be able to provide. Our services help farmers grow more food and simplify their post harvest process. The products we distribute and procure for them are handled safely and are of the highest quality. The market consists of both producers and end users, both of which are passionate about local food. The end users demand an affordable high quality product, while the producers want a fair and simple way to distribute their products. We offer aggregation, distribution and delivery services to local farmers. We market their products to area restaurants, grocery stores, buying clubs, etc.

We would like to offer a variety of services for farmers and consumers including:

- A certified kitchen for product processing
- Storage of farmer’s items
- Local procurement services for events
- Post harvest handling - Wash area
- Food Box Program for work-sites
- CSA Fulfillment
- Packaging supplies
- Equipment storage and rental
- Group bulk orders of seed
- Delivery service

We currently are looking for a warehousing/storage facility that will allow us to hold products safely and efficiently. This would allow us to buy back stock from farmers we do not see very often, which is more cost effective. We also will use this space for an office and for housing the services we plan to provide for producers.

We are in conversations with large purchasers of local food like hospitals, nursing homes and schools.
We'd like to offer more services for farmers like safe and proper storage of producers' goods. We would like to use the money to purchase walk-in coolers and washing equipment to better serve more farmers and increase local food production in our area.

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

American Hero Clothing is bursting at the seams!

Michelle Sanderson
American Hero Clothing
Larchwood, IA
Founded by an Army veteran in 2011, we are an e-commerce on-trend boutique. We specialize in custom, high-quality women's rhinestone-decorated apparel to honor American heroes. We are bursting at the seams due to amazing growth & loyal customers and need to expand!
American Hero Clothing’s mission statement is clear - “Honor Your Heroes.” Owner Michelle Sanderson, an Army veteran, wants just that-for everyone to be able to show their support and love of their heroes with her unique and trendy clothing and accessories.

Beginning with only offering custom rhinestone clothing geared toward American heroes (Our troops & veterans, firefighters, law enforcement, EMTs & paramedics), it has since expanded to other mediums of clothing decoration (screen print, embroidery, vinyl) and any subject matter for the design.

The year before American Hero Clothing (AHC) began, Michelle was surprised with the addition of identical triplet boys to her family of four. With five boys now to raise, all under the age of 5, Michelle wanted to be able to both provide extra income for her family and also be able to be home to raise her children. The strong desire of wanting to be home with her young children pushed Michelle to work hard and make a business that women world-wide can't live without!

Having gained 7 1/2 years of experience with graphic design for screen printed clothing at her parents' business, she combined that with her love of her country and all those who serve. The result was that she started creating beautiful rhinestone designs on clothing and began promoting her small business on social media.

What she was not expecting was how quickly her business would grow! Word spread and orders were coming in faster than she could keep up. Originally set up to decorate clothing with rhinestones by hand, as more and more designs were being requested she soon realized the need for an automatic rhinestone setting machine.

From the beginning, Michelle worked only when the boys were sleeping, Michelle is now flooded with orders and working whenever she has a spare minute. By 2014, she had sold 150% more than the year prior. January 2015 has been a record breaking month in sales for AHC. In a month that is typically the slowest of the year for retail sales, this is monumental for this thriving at-home business.

Although the growth has been thrilling, it has become more and more difficult to keep up with designing and production as well as giving each customer the important midwest customer service experience. With Michelle being the only employee, she handles customer service, advertising, social media, designing, producing clothing, website design and upkeep, shipping and follow up as needed.

It is clear that word of mouth from amazingly loyal customers has helped American Hero Clothing become successful. E-mails, YouTube videos, raves left on the website and social media all have helped new people to find the business. The love that pours into the clothing is witnessed by all customers who receive our products. American Hero Clothing's customers are proud to wear our clothing and share the love with their family, friends and co-workers.

AHC is beginning its fourth full year of business. It has a very strong customer base that continues to expand. There is no direct competition to American Hero Clothing. Michelle feels she sets herself apart from any company with her focus being on the highest quality clothing and rhinestones and small-town, midwest customer service. She truly loves each and every one of her customers and is thankful beyond words that they are helping her to be a work at home mom to five children.

American Hero Clothing strives to give back to veterans and its local community in Lyon County. A percentage of the profits are donated to military charities. Clothing is also donated to ATLAS of Lyon County.
Michelle is in need of a way to be able to be more efficient. With as many orders as she is taking in on a daily basis and handling hundreds of orders at once, help is necessary. Michelle would like to hire an employee to help handle the day to day functions of the business as well as help with production.

To help make the growth as seamless as possible, she would need an additional computer, rhinestone setting machine, heat press and vinyl cutter. Michelle would also like to move her office space, which would include minimal renovation to the space. She would use her winning grant money to help renovate the new office space and purchase this equipment that total over $10,000.

There have been times when equipment has needed maintenance, and that has brought production to a stand-still. Having additional machines would not only help with efficiency in getting orders done, but also is essential in keeping her business going, even when one machine needs a rest! Michelle strives to have not just great quality, but also great customer service-including reasonable production time.

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

Voweletics gives children the reading tools they need. Voweletics put the joy into learning to read!

Jane Volden
Voweletics...The New Phonetics
Bettendorf, IA
Voweletics is a vivacious & interactive learn-to-read program. It accelerates this process, while keeping the fun factor alive!Whimsical characters, 23 teaching songs, colorful charts plus web-based & hands-on activities makes learning key reading skills fun & memorable.Easy to learn & fun to teach!
Voweletics™ Business Model
The Problem: URGENT Need for Reading Improvement!

According to our NATIONAL REPORT CARD (May 7, 2014) put out by the Federal National Assessment of Educational Progress, our national reading scores continue to remain low.
• Only 33% of 4th graders read at or above reading proficiency levels.
• Only 37% of 12th graders read at or above reading proficiency levels.
• The United States ranks 17th globally in reading literacy skills.

Good reading skills are the key to educational success. Our diminishing reading scores are of genuine concern for our state representatives and parents of struggling students. An effective new method for teaching children to read is a must. Voweletics provides this method.
Voweletics provides an innovative method of reading instruction. When you understand the how and why words sound the way they do, you can duplicate the rules and not simply try to memorize words.

Voweletics attacks the hardest part of reading (vowel sound recognition), simplifies the method of this learning, and makes it fun for all!

Voweletics Penetration to Effect Reading Improvement

Voweletics positively impacts children, families and the community. Our children are the future, and their ability to effectively read at a high level is vital to long-term economic growth.


The THINK BIG began in 2004, when as a reading tutor I saw the need to help struggling readers by developing a systematic method to teach phonics skills. It had to be fun and engaging! Being a girl who likes to sing, the songs became the starting point where rules were set to music. Rules became charts until charts became one chart – The Smart Chart. All the rules were condensed into one chart that maps the internal process for word decoding for all levels of readers. The program has given children “go-to” rules to help them read and spell, but also has delighted them along the way.

The five short vowel characters teach good values to live by through their songs, stories and poems. Since its original conception, the vision has been to create a learning environment for children where the whimsical characters and fun songs may eventually be sold in book stores as stuffed animals where you press their bellies and they play their songs. These would be accompanied by the books written by the characters that live Voweletics town called Readersville.

This START SMALL strategy began with the Buddy-Up Reading Program (pre-Voweletics). The program was offered at a local community center where parent/child partners received six weeks/one hour per week of instruction. Students were given pre and post testing. The results were excellent. In 2006, the Buddy-Up Reading Program evolved into the business entity of BU Publishing, LLC with its signature product being Voweletics™…The New Phonetics. In 2008, Voweletics was in its first school. I became a teacher in this school where I could see first-hand what was working and where improvements could be made. Voweletics went to the next level with accompanying spelling programs and a responsive web design that allows children to do the activities and play the songs on computers, tablets and smart phones.

With development complete, we are now entering the SCALE FAST stage. The penetration path is detailed below. The focused direction is listed in order of priority markets. The priority markets were determined based upon the following factors:

• Operation on a small budget
• Ease of penetration
• Product design to meet varying niches

Market Penetration
Increasingly, parents are seeking ways to help their children to succeed. Many parents experience the need to support their children struggling to read. Other parents are seeking ways to accelerate their children’s reading progress. Voweletics meets both needs.

Market penetration begins with personal sphere of influence and expands through use of social media and word-of-mouth.

The number of children homeschooled continues to show a steady increase nationwide. Homeschool parents find teaching a child to read to be one of the most difficult tasks to take on. Voweletics clearly outlines the essential skills, gives them weekly lesson plans, and has multi-leveled activities, so they can teach multiple children using the same teaching method. Video teaching tutorials for each lesson are especially valuable for homeschooling parents. This is both time and cost efficient for the parent.

Market penetration begins by connecting with homeschool networks in a defined geographical area using advertising, conventions, and sample product distribution.

Due to globalization, the US is experiencing an increased demand for instruction for both children and adults in English. As with any learner, the vowel sounds are the most difficult part of learning to read. This is especially so with ELL leaners. For example; in Spanish, there are only five different vowel sounds. The English language has 18 different vowel sounds with multiple spellings. Voweletics provides an almost mathematical method to help them determine the correct vowel sounds to use in words.

Market penetration begins by distributing sales videos to junior colleges and learning centers in defined geographical areas. Follow-up e-mails and phone calls would be made to push sales.

Charter and magnet schools are generally partially or fully funded by public dollars. They promote alternative methods of learning. Voweletics incorporates innovative memory techniques to accelerate the learning-to-read process: (1) Uses multi-sensory program components: visual, auditory and kinesthetic (learn by doing) (2) Encourages the combined use of the analytical left brain and the creative right brain (3) Facilitates rapid memory recall via association techniques, otherwise known as mnemonic processes. Entry into charter and magnet schools, provides an entrance point into public schools funded with the same dollars. Growth in public schools can be exponential.

Market penetration begins by distributing sales videos to charter and magnet schools in defined geographical areas. Follow-up e-mails and phone calls would be made to push sales.

Private schools pride themselves on smaller class size, accelerated learning environment, ability to practice religious freedoms, and ability to make individual school curriculum decisions. Voweletics provides the accelerated learning and encourages values. Private schools provide Voweletics with an easier point of entry due to the curriculum decisions being made on site as opposed to district or state decisions required for public schools.

Market penetration begins by distributing sales videos to charter and magnet schools in defined geographical areas. Follow-up e-mails and phone calls would be made to push sales.

Public schools are the most difficult arena to enter. Voweletics would require a larger support staff for school districts. With successful management and retention of single building schools, as with the two Voweletics currently services, a more exact school needs profile is being compiled. Due to the advantages of recurring revenue from schools, a scaled growth model would include the public schools.

Market penetration begins by distributing sales videos to public schools in defined geographical areas. Follow-up e-mails and phone calls would be made to push sales.

With the insurgence of online tutoring, Voweletics has the essentials to make this a viable concept. It could be added as an adjunct to home and home school customers for an additional fee. The possibility of making it totally on-line with webinars for each of the 26 lessons is a possibility to develop. The instructional material is already developed; however, further development would be required to deliver material and instruction in a completely remote medium.

Market penetration feasibility and strategies are under consideration.

There is a growing demand to increase the adult literacy rate. Programs have been initiated to teach the adult alone or parent/child in conjunction. Voweletics™ lends itself to meet this market. Its 26-lessons with video tutorials and checklist of activities, plus at-home access to the web with audio files, makes it ideal for a parent/child partnership to thrive. The parent learns along with the child in a fun learning environment.

Market penetration feasibility and strategies are under consideration.

The magic of Readersville, where all the Voweletics characters live and teach children to live, are all in place. They all have distinct qualities that draw the children in through their songs, stories and poems. One Readersville Reader book already written, Summer Vacation. Each book consists for five chapters, which each of the central short vowel characters writing about the story events from their first-person perspective. The model would be to have these five characters made into stuffed animals with their signature songs which each teach a different life value recorded in their bodies. Children could press their belly and their song would sing. The chapter books would be sold separately. They could be sold at book stores, gift stores or school book fairs, as well as on-line.

Market penetration feasibility and strategies are under consideration.

Cost of Goods Gross Profit Margins
COG margins are excellent. Development is complete. The majority of product is delivered via the web. Hardcopy costs consist of a workbook and chart which results in high profit margin. Now that the product has been designed and the platform is scalable, the costs of goods per unit are minimal in relation to retail.

Three Year Schedule for Expected Revenues
Within the next three years, using the market penetration strategies, Voweletics plans to be recognized as the “phonics expert” in the home and home school market. Continued presence in the home and home school market will foster reputation credibility and increase data points for entry into the vast network of public schools.

Revenue Generation

Voweletics is a stand-alone product. Revenue is generated through sales of the product via ecommerce or school sales. The product is delivered primarily through the Internet, as well as consumable student workbooks and charts. Customers pay up front prior to receiving the product; which promotes an ideal cash flow model for Voweletics.


$149.99 – Voweletics™ …The New Phonetics
One Year On-Line License *per household (detailed content listed below)
Student Kit *hardcopy delivery
-Student Workbook (detailed content listed below)
-Decoding Charts

$189.99 – Voweletics™…The New Phonetics PLUS
One Year On-Line License *per household (detailed content listed below)
Student Kit *hardcopy delivery
-Student Workbook (detailed content listed below)
- Decoding Charts
Voweletics™ Spelling Program *web delivery
-Level I,II &III; - spelling lists to accompany the 26 Voweletics™ lessons
Readersville Reader Kit *web delivery
-Comprehension kit accompanying 78-Reader’s Theater pieces

$39.00 – Additional Student Kit
Student Workbook
Decoding Charts

$29.00 – Additional Student Workbook

$19.99 – Additional Decoding Charts

$49.99 – Renewable One Year On-Line License *per household

Future Voweletics™ Add-On Products
$49.99 – Pre-Voweletics™ 200-Page Workbook *hardcopy delivery
30 One-Page Lesson Plans
Five worksheets to accompany each lesson

$29.99 - Voweletics™ Spelling Program *web delivery
Voweletics™ Spelling Program
-Level I,II & III - spelling lists to accompany the 26 Voweletics™ lessons

$29.99 – Readersville Reader Kit *web delivery
Comprehension kit accompanying 78-Reader’s Theater pieces

On-Line Content
26 Lessons each containing:
-Chalkboard Session- short, step-by-step video instruction lesson skill
-Lesson Plan – easy, one page, five-day plan
-Character Introduction – Voweletics character introduces itself to serve as guideword
-Character Song – memorable song to learn the character guidewords
-Rule Song – memorable song to teach phonics rules
-Word Lists – audio files to accompany Student Workbook
-Worksheets - two different skill levels for lesson skill practice
-Reader’s Theater – three poems or stories with fluency audio files
-Student Checklist – self-directed list of fluency and skills practice

Additional Content:
-Review Word Lists – cumulative word decoding and audio fluency practice
-Spell Wells – cumulative spelling audio assessments
-Martian Madness – cumulative audio assessments for word decoding
-Smart Chart Reviews –PPTs to accompany Student Workbook
-Word Family Practice – PPTs to accompany Student Workbook

Student Workbook Content
Character Songs –lyrics and flashcards for vowel sound guidewords
Rule Songs – memorable lyrics to teach 11 phonics rules
Word Lists – over 800 words of controlled vocabulary
Sort it Out Games – letter tiles to form 180 phonetically patterned words
Endless Endings – letter tiles to add endings to 90 different words w/rules
Word Family Activities –single consonant and consonant blends practice
Smart Chart Reviews – cumulative practice identifying vowel patterns
Sight Word Progression Charts for 55 sets of isolated sight words and sight word phrases

The Competition
Saxon Phonics: $170 – Kindergarten $164 - 1st Grade $164 - 2nd Grade
The Home School Kit consists of 500+ page teacher’s manual, two student workbooks, an alphabet strip, three sets of kid card games, letter cards, key word cards, spelling cards, letter tiles, 15 readers, work list booklet, rule book , audio pronunciation tape, and introductory video.
Sing, Spell, Read, Write: $307 – Ages 5 – 8
23- phonetic readers, CD w/songs to teach phonograms(sounds) bingo and card deck games, phonogram strips for blending, cardboard treasure chest for prizes, phonics placemat, raceway chart and car for tracking progress, teacher’s manual, four consumable student workbooks, assessment book and teacher training video. All self-contained in a box.
Hooked on Phonics: $239 – Ages 5 – 8 (presently sale priced at $180)
24-storybooks, 6 celebrated author storybooks, 6 workbooks, 6 DVDs, quick start guide, 6 sets of stickers, access to Learn to Read on-line experience

Voweletics™…The New Phonetics $149 – single K - 2nd+ Kit
This signature product, Voweletics™, is a learn-to-read program used as a stand-alone product for direct sales and /or a supplement to complement the core reading programs used in elementary schools. The Voweletics reading method teaches to the hardest part of reading, correct vowel sound determination. Voweletics utilizes an innovative charting method where students both learn and reinforce essential phonics rules in order to effectively decode and spell words. Instructional videos accompany each of the 26-lessons to teach learners this new methodology. Voweletics brings learning and fun together.
Its combined use of interactive activities with memorable songs and characters helps to cement and simplify difficult vowel sound determination. The LOOK! THINK! READ! method presented in the program is unique in its nature. It teaches a student the internal process necessary when decoding words using the vowel patterns to correctly determine vowel sounds in words. This internal process has been simplified and is reproducible when following an easy-to-follow flow chart, which summarizes the 26-lesson curriculum. The information provided is complete and can be used for any level of complexity in an English word all the way through adulthood.

The Voweletics team is pleased its competitors have experienced such phenomenal success. They share the same approach, that providing phonetic skills for learners is key to successful reading and spelling. However, the methodology and precision that Voweletics delivers ensures all readers of any age receives the key essentials. Voweletics provides the tools one needs, and puts joy into learning to read. It simply cannot get much better!
Use of Funds
Thank you so much for this opportunity. DREAM BIG – GROW HERE is very exciting and provides a launching pad for Voweletics to enter the home market. Voweletics has been operating in one school for five years, another school for three, and recently beginning home sales. The program has evolved and has proven statistics showing its effectiveness in teaching children to read.

In preparing an on-line course for educators which teaches the foundational skills for reading, video tutorials were created to demonstrate the Voweletics learning method for instructional purposes. With the creation of these tutorials for each of the 26 lessons in Voweletics, it is now possible for parents/educators to learn the method using the tutorials as their sole training method. Hence, we are beginning the next business of stage: eCommerce. This requires marketing dollars to launch. The funds from the grant would be applied towards marketing needs. It will help to enable us to reach home and school users to grow in the marketplace.

In our Voweletics business model, expansion will begin in four geographic areas: Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. If this grant is awarded to Voweletics in May, the early stages of social media creation will already have been in place. A huge portion of the “grunt work” will have been executed. With the above groundwork in place, wise usage of marketing dollars will follow. The benefit of having been in development for a good period of time is that I have been “around the block” a bit. Through experience, I am better able to recognize where the next step in our growth is evolving. Listed below are the present areas of concentration for market penetration.

In keeping with our business model: THINK BIG - START SMALL - SCALE FAST, I believe we are somewhere between start small and scale fast. The marketing dollars would be placed in the following order from easiest to hardest for Voweletics to penetrate. Along this next journey, I believe a true niche will begin to open up, and we may need to adjust our growth path. We are ready for the ride!

MARKETING DOLLARS SPENT - *Marketing dollars appropriated in the order of priority for market penetration.
NOTE: The dollar amounts for social media marketing were obtained from an outside marketing firm. The marketing firms specializes in start-up companies and preparing social media marketing with a conservative approach.

• Use advertising to promote posts with key messages. Promote within identified geographic areas and targeting parents of appropriate-aged children. Use “page likes” ads as well as promoted posts.
• Start with $5 a day for five days. Make the most of a small budget, keep the geography close until can afford to invest more in advertising.
• Review analytics and revise ad creative and targeting as necessary.

• Use advertising to promote tweets with key messages and to promote the account.
• Target followers of similar pages. Start with $25 for five days.
• Review analytics and revise campaign as necessary.
• Ads are the best way to create awareness and increase followers.

• Use advertising to promote posts with key messages.
• Target member of relevant groups of teachers and educators in the geographic markets you are targeting.
• Start with $25 for a month and see how it goes. This target is pretty narrow. This type of user doesn’t use the network very often, may not get many impressions or clicks on your ads.
• Review analytics and revise campaign as necessary.

• Run ads that will appear when people search on keywords.
• Start with $200 to run over a month to run in the geographic markets targeted.
• Pay only for the clicks that you get on the ads.

• Use advertising to promote posts with key messages. Promote within identified geographic areas and targeting parents of appropriate-aged children. Use “page likes” ads as well as promoted posts.
• Start with $5 a day for five days. Make the most of a small budget, keep the geography close until can afford to invest more in advertising.
• Review analytics and revise ad creative and targeting as necessary.

• Use advertising to promote tweets with key messages and to promote the account.
• Target followers of similar pages. Start with $25 for five days.
• Review analytics and revise campaign as necessary.
• Ads are the best way to create awareness and increase followers.

• Use advertising to promote posts with key messages.
• Target member of relevant groups of teachers and educators in the geographic markets you are targeting.
• Start with $25 for a month and see how it goes. This target is pretty narrow. This type of user doesn’t use the network very often, may not get many impressions or clicks on your ads.
• Review analytics and revise campaign as necessary.

• Run ads that will appear when people search on keywords.
• Start with $200 to run over a month to run in the geographic markets targeted.
• Pay only for the clicks that you get on the ads.

Homeschool Networks
• Considering paying for a list of networks in geographic area after trying with ones publicly posted.
• Create and prepare a DVD for network meeting on How to Teach a Child to Read – copy & mail
• Advertise in homeschool publications.
• Budget entrance fees for homeschool conferences.

• Produce a video with emphasis on the Voweletics method helping ELL. Costs to cover the specialist and video expenses.

• Considering paying for a list of charter/magnet schools in our defined geographic area after resourcing publicly posted schools.
• Prepare a video emphasizing the creative, innovation Voweletics Method.
• Advertise in charter school publications.
• Budget for entrance fees for charter school conferences.

• Considering paying for a list of private schools in our defined geographic area after resourcing publicly posted schools.
• Produce a video with emphasis on accelerated learning using the Voweletics Method and values based learning. Costs to cover the specialist and video expenses.

• No marketing budget at this time. Follow-up exclusively on personal leads.

• No marketing budget at this time

• No marketing budget at this time

• No marketing budget at this time

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

What's Old is New Again: Rebranding Hansen's Dairy

Jordan Hansen
Hansen's Farm Fresh Dairy, Inc.
Hudson, IA
The Hansen's Dairy dream is to update our brand with a new logo and packaging. We are an established local business, but our branding has been inconsistent. We want our products to tell our story. We seek to modernize our brand while staying true to the roots and values our customers love.
We are a family-owned dairy farm with four brothers operating the major aspects of the business (livestock care, milk processing and managing sales). The farm has been in the family for 150 years, and the on-farm creamery opened in 2004. We sell milk, cheese curds, butter, cream and ice cream at our three retail locations --- the farm's tour center, Moo Roo in Waterloo, and Hansen's Outlet in Cedar Falls --- and also to a variety of retail stores and restaurants in Waterloo/Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids. There are only a handful of other on-farm creameries in Iowa.
A great logo and packaging are key to communication with customers. We are a firmly established local business, but our promotional materials do not effectively convey who we are. Through more consistent branding, we feel we could reach an untapped market in our area. This grant would fund a redesign of our logo and packaging through a marketing agency.

We want our updated branding to:
• Make the Hansen name more prominent.
• Evoke nostalgia, as we are the equivalent of the modern-day milkman. People need to know that our milk comes from a single herd of cows right in their "backyard." Our business is rooted in history and tradition. By telling our story on the label, people can immediately understand that our products are quality, local and natural.
• Create consistency for the public. We have different names for our stores, and we would like to relaunch our retail stores as Hansen's Dairy Markets.
• Allow us to sell our products to a wider market. Some of our packaging does not meet the labeling requirements to sell in larger retail stores.

Our business has grown and developed over the years, and it's time to refresh our look with an eye toward a more cohesive look and connection with the market. Through rebranding, we seek to better communicate our values to reach new customers.

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

Taking Small Town Style To The Next Level

Candi Cheville
Scrub N Style
Waverly, IA
I opened Scrub N Style in 2013. I thought back then I was dreaming big! I have had a great deal of success and I'm ready to make it even bigger!
Mission Statement:
"A place you can go where your professional needs of comfort and style are met."

Vision Statement:
To be a premier retail provider for the medical profession and beyond. Offering a diverse selection of medical uniform brands, styles, and accessories. The customer's comfort and satisfaction is our number one priority at Scrub N Style.

About my store:
Scrub N Style was opened by myself, Candi Cheville, on June 24th, 2013. I was a local nurse at the time and after working as a Registered Nurse for a number of years I knew all too well how difficult shopping for medical scrubs in rural Iowa can be. In my profession, as well as many other lines of work in the medical field, comfort is a must when trying to get a task done. While those who work in a great deal of other fields can go to nearly any clothing store and purchase clothing within their work place dress code, this area has been very limited for retail locations that sell our line of uniforms. There is a wide variety of styles and brands of scrubs out there. When I opened my store front I felt it was time to bring to life a place that people could come and experience those brands in rural Iowa without the hassle of trying to pick the right style, the right size, and trying to guess which color that fabric actually is through a computer screen. At Scrub N Style you are able to actually try your Scrubs on, get a feel for the fabric and how it moves with your body type. You are able to bring to life your own style through your choices and you are able to leave with your purchase in hand. If you don't see your size in that style or color your interested in... no problem we take care of ordering that special set for you. You are also able to purchase accessories to further personalize your uniform. As members of highly respected fields it is time we have a place to go to meet our professional uniform needs with added style and Scrub N Style is that place. At this time more and more professions are turning to scrubs for their uniform of choice, more than many realize. I have had hospital medical staff, dietary aide staff, professional cleaning companies, Spa's, Veterinarian clinics, Eye clinics, Dental clinics, Nursing Home staff, Home Health Agency staff, Med students, Pharmacy staff, Hospice, Dialysis Centers, Cancer Centers, Specialty clinics, Doctors Office staff, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Respiratory Therapists, and many more come to Scrub N Style to add to their professional wardrobe. We carry a wide variety of sizes, brands, styles, and colors... there is something for everyone on any budget. Scrub N Style is the place to go when you want the whole package! Quality, Variety, and Style.

One thing that has always made Scrub N Style unique is the fact that this is a business that the owner (myself) knows 1st hand about all the products sold. Not only have I tried them all on and learned a great deal about each brand, I have also worked in the nursing field wearing the products. I am the only scrub store in the area that carries the amount of brands I do, I carry 8 brands in scrubs alone. My customers appreciate this because they like choices. Suddenly they come into a store and see many brands they have only seen online if at all. I know many say "quality is better than quantity" but at Scrub N Style you get both.

My primary focus has always been to have my store front as the back bone of my business. I wanted the small town feel of walking into my store having us know your name and know where you as a person not just a customer. As a resident of a rural community I personally know how it feels to travel 20 or more miles to get some shopping done. I feel our community is growing more and more every day. I am proud to be a part of that.

I have reviewed the wide variety of distances people have traveled to come to Scrub N Style. Whether it was there reason for their trip or a stop at Scrub N Style was added to the route that day it is equally rewarding to be able to meet there needs. Our customers leave not only satisfied but also excited about their purchase and their next visit.

When I opened many people were used to only wearing a select few scrub brands with little to no variation in fabrics or styles. This is because those were the brands they had access to without having to go online. There are brands I carry that people may have seen on someone at work or seen in a catalog but they had not had the opportunity to try them on for themselves. I also have brands that people had not heard of and since have fallen in love with. Customers find what they love and continue to come back for more. Many of our return customers come in knowing exactly what brand, color, and size they want before even entering the store. I feel if we introduced online sales at this time this would benefit a number of our customers. I would be able to get them the products they know and love. The online shopper can still shopping local while eliminating the hassle of drive time.
It is not unusual for a customer to call ahead from many miles away to see if when they arrive to our store front we will have exactly what they need in stock. Having a web store would allow these customers to go online and see our inventory as well as place orders. The plan is not to change Scrub N Style from its original path but to add to it making it bigger and better without losing the "Small Town" feel our customers have come to know and love.

I feel adding online sales would benefit not only customers that live a great distance away from the store front but also local residence that are unable to make it to the store during regular business hours. My goal each and every day is to meet my customers need to the best of my ability. I feel this is yet another step towards doing just that. One of my long term goals for Scrub N Style is to open a 2nd store location within 5-7 years of my opening day. I feel with online sales I will be able to build up a number of business relationships and learn what area in Iowa is in need of such a store as Scrub N Style.

At this time we have a number of local accounts that we provide their facility employees uniforms. We also have one mobile store location that we visit every 4-6 months. I literally load my entire inventory to a truck and haul it to their location of which is 30 miles from my store front. Often times their employees have already traveled a distance to report to work by bringing the items they need to work in to their location I have removed the hassle of added travel time that they would need to spend getting to my store front. Not only does this mobile store help the employees but also other residence in their community due to their willingness to open the even to the public.

Many facilities bring in scrub companies for an onsite sale however until now most times those companies were from out of state. Most scrub stores located in Iowa are in cities with major hospitals. With our mobile store we travel to an area that located a great distance from those communities but still have equal need for such products. I am looking at this time to move towards adding more hospitals across Iowa of which have equal need. In an effort of doing so I am looking at the need to increase my inventory to meet the needs not only of my loyal "walk in" customers but also to keep up with the demand of future mobile store customers and potential online shoppers. I not only plan to increase the amount of inventory I have on hand but also what items we offer. First addition is going to be a quality shoe line.

With all of these new and exciting things in our near future I feel it is time I also increase the amount of adverting and marketing we invest in. Word of mouth from satisfied customers has been a driving force in our success and we are forever grateful for that. I still have people who just happened to run across our store without any former knowledge that Waverly had such products available at a local store. I feel that it would be very beneficial to get our name out there just that much more.

The success of my dream of Scrub N Style has already gone beyond my wildest dreams but let me be the first to tell you.... This is only the beginning! I know that the funds from the "Dream Big... Grow Here" grant would give us a good jump on making these visions a reality. I look down the road at what these additions will bring to the table including employment opportunities for residents in the area and I get that much more excited to be a part of that. The future is bright for Scrub N Style and I thank you for coming along for the journey.
1.) Bring Online sales to Scrub N Style customers and beyond. I will use a portion of the grant to build a quality website. I plan to include graphics of all products as well as a secure check out process.

2.) I am planning to increase the number of "Roadshows" I go on to surrounding community hospitals that otherwise do not have access to Medical Scrub Stores. With that comes the need to expand and increase inventory. One item I am looking to add promptly is a shoe line. I want to add more to the store inventory that makes Scrub N Style truly a one stop shop.

3.) Increase advertising is definitely a need. On a regular bases I meet people who come into our store after just learning that there was a scrub store in Waverly. This after over 18months of being open. I chose in the beginning to limit the amount that was spent on such things as advertising. Word of mouth has done well for us... but it is time to move forward.

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

One Stop Treasure

Audrey Hurd
The Flower Pot
Calmar, IA
I opened a floral/gift shop in Calmar, IA a little over a year ago. Calmar and the surrounding community needed a retail shop to encourage people to stop and SHOP LOCAL. I would love to expand my store for more unique and different gifts for customers to come and look and purchase.
With a town of almost 1,000, my floral and gift shop is a perfect fit for this town and surrounding community. I offer fresh flowers, live plants, silk arrangements, and many different gift lines. I am the only full time employee, designer, and bottle washer. I do, on occasion, have extra help from family and friends for busy holiday times. I carry a limited amount of gifts but would love to expand this area and also bring in other unique items for customers to purchase. Small hometown mom & pop stores are starting to come back, I believe. Customers like to have that small personal touch that you can only get from your local shops. Floral shops have needed to expand into also having a diverse amount of gifts for many occasions, such as funerals, births, weddings, birthdays, the list goes on. With that being said, it is difficult for small businesses to have the cash flow needed to purchase these items for customers. My business in this small town only works with the support I receive from my customers. They don't want to have an empty store on main street and they have supported me tremendously. I don't have any competition in this town, but I do from the surrounding towns. I have made known my shop through Facebook, newspaper, radio, and just being involved in the community and our community groups. I design my own silk arrangements and wreaths and I have a unique talent. To go with that, I like to have unique gifts to offer my new and returning customers.
It would be wonderful to receive this grant money so that I could expand my gift line for our very small community. I have several vendors that I would love to have to offer to my customers, but with being a small mom & pop store, I need to watch every dollar that comes in and I don't have the cash flow that I would need to bring in these new gifts.

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

Dream BIG, Sip Local.

Jorene King
Wines of Iowa
West Des Moines, IA
We are sisters! We are local! We are wine! Located in Historic Valley Junction, Wines of Iowa is 3 years young. We support more than 3 dozen Iowa wineries, carrying over 300 varieties in-store! We love our loyal customers & encourage you to stop in & learn about the finer things in Iowa. #SipLocal
Wines of Iowa is an independent retailer of Iowa wine, wine accessories and home décor located in the historic shopping district of Valley Junction, in West Des Moines. Owners & sisters, Jorene & Rae Ann King have been in business together for 8 years. Two and a half years ago, we opened Wines of Iowa.
We are the only wine retailer in Central Iowa specializing in only Iowa wines. We carry wines from 3 dozen Iowa wineries, and over 300 varieties. We offer complimentary wine tasting. We even have space for private wine tastinlgs for corporate or social groups with advance reservations. We offer a friendly environment for novices to aficionados to experience the fun of finding a new favorite wine made locally. We expand the shop local to include bus trips to the wineries & vineyards. Our customers know they are buying local and supporting Iowa vineyards.

Our Dream Big to Grow Here:
1. Wines of Iowa needs branded. We hear all the time, “ How long have you been here?” We want to change that to, “We found you!” Logoed wine glasses, corkscrews, t-shirts, bottle gift boxes, & reusable bottle bags will help spread the word. Our customers will help us promote our business by using these logoed items with friends and family.

2. We have a variety of wines, but want to expand our inventory to include food items that pair with wine. Offering crackers, cheeses, dips & chocolates will allow us to make gift baskets. This would be another avenue of income We can promote Wines of Iowa as your source for corporate gifts for clients.

3. Wines of Iowa’s website needs updated to allow better access for mobile users. We also want to expand our website to allow eCommerce. More and more customers, shop online. Offering the option of online purchases will add another source of income.
We applied because we know Wines of Iowa is a fantastic local shop in the heart of Iowa that benefits our communities. We sell wines from 3 dozen local Iowa wineries, helping many other local businesses grow!
We will use the money to increase our brand awareness in store & online. So many local businesses need help with branding, & the one thing standing in their way is usually the money. By getting our logos on merchandise in-store as well as on reusable bags & boxes, we can employ our current customers to share our name with the world! We would increase our inventory to carry foods & snacks that pair perfect with our local Iowa wines, such as crackers, cheeses as well as chocolate. This will open up our brand for corporate gifting as well as daily add-ons. As the market continues to adapt, we know we must adopt new forms of communication. So many consumers look towards & rely at shopping online, we know there is a huge opportunity for Wines of Iowa to capture that market as well. Finally, a place to support local open around the clock!

All in all, we will use the money to take the practical & necessary steps forward to grow our little 'sip' of heaven here in the heart of Iowa. Dream BIG, #SipLocal!

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

Creating My Dream- One hair bow at a time

Cherie Edilson
The Pink Barrette, LLC
Marion, IA
The Pink Barrette, LLC makes cute hair bows. Realizing many customers want hair bows of their favorite school, the business is expanding to create licensed college/university and high school bows. Though there are many licensed apparel and accessories products, there few offerings for hair bows.
Currently I make hair bows and accessories that are sold online at ThePinkBarrette.com and Amazon.com, at local farmers markets, and in a few of retail locations. While my individual hair bows may be unique, the hair bow business is not. I want to change that by becoming one of the few licensed college and high school hair bow/accessory companies on the market. The sales potential of licensed hair bows is huge as we all know fans will buy almost anything with their favorite teams logo.

After researching, I know there's a demand for my plans. I've not found another business doing exactly what I'm trying to accomplish. For example, there are hair bow companies offering licensed bows, but only local to their state. Other companies create licensed gifts and novelties with an occasional bow, but it's not their specialty. Another is building sales in this category, but does not offer high school bows, still has many school licenses to obtain, nor have I seen their bows in retail locations or on other websites.

There are over 2,800 four-year schools in the U.S. and over 19,000 high schools. I want to sell my bows to all those school fans! Hair bows and hair accessories are very popular, worn from little babies to adult women. Mom's accessorize their babies’ and girls' outfits and fans add to their game day apparel. And although the high school market is considerably smaller than a university market, there's still a bow demand for the cheerleader, the softball star, or even the average student accessorizing on pride day.

As my business grows, I would like to employ other moms like me. Moms who want to work from home to raise their children and still contribute financially to their family.
I'm applying because this money will allow me the financial freedom to expand my business immediately securing sales in an already demanded, but non-existent, category of my target market.

This money will be used in two ways:

1. It will be used to apply for licensing, starting with our Iowa schools first- Iowa, ISU, and UNI (On a side note- I have already began getting licensing approval with local high schools). Many universities and colleges have application fees in addition to the product royalties.

2. To obtain additional UPC codes. At this point, I have only 10 UPC codes. To offer products for retail sale, I need to purchase more. A lot more. It costs $2,500 to purchase 1000 UPC codes, $6,500 to purchase 10,000 UPC codes, or $10,500 to purchase up to 100,000.

I'm already working on this new expansion, and I'd love the additional resources to help me accomplish it. Thank you!

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

Kuehler Coffee’s Launch to Full Time Coffee Roaster/Blender/Brewer

Joe Kuehler
Kuehler Coffee
Spencer, IA
Kuehler Coffee, formed by founder Joe Kuehler, intends to be a Spencer, Iowa based coffee roaster that develops a line of specialty coffees. Joe has already established unique blends that bring a balance of flavors to the coffee cup much like a winery blends grapes and fruits to create a fine wine.
The idea for Kuehler Coffee was conceived by me, Joe Kuehler. It is currently in the developmental stage as a home business and is ready to enter the growth stage of full scale coffee roasting. Kuehler Coffee became a Sole Proprietorship in March of 2012 to fill a need in the following market conditions.
•Fresh roasted coffee offered by competitors in the Spencer area is overpriced.
•Beta testing was done at the Spirit Lake Farmer Market. At these markets 15-25 pounds of coffee were sold weekly during the five hour markets.
•During the winter, beta testing continued with colleagues and friends. Word of mouth has spread and I now normally do 5-20 pounds a week in phone, Facebook or email orders roasting usually on Fridays and Saturdays.
•Over the past few years, I have carefully blended 15 different well-balanced coffee blends. At first, I plan to introduce four main blends and gradually add the others as demand increases.
•I have taken the initiative to write and design a coffee tutorial website containing written and video tutorials on brewing coffee. These videos have been written, directed and edited solely by me at www.theartofcoffeedojo.com.
When full scale production commences, Kuehler Coffee's operations will consist of three major sales outlets. First is prepackaged coffee that can satisfy the demands of the average grocery store shopper desiring specialty coffee but not wanting to make a special stop to get coffee directly from the roaster. Second will be coffee roasted for the bulk buyer such as coffee shops and restaurants needing freshly roasted high quality coffee as soon as they can get it. The third part is Kuehler Coffee’s in store coffee shop with coffee served and prepared differently than the way most coffee shops do it. Kuehler Coffee will use great care and unique brewing methods to introduce Northwest Iowa to higher standards in coffee preparation. It will be the Cadillac of the coffee shop world. It will also serve as a place to buy whole bean and ground coffee directly.
It will take a great deal of determination to be successful in the coffee world. A brutally competitive market awaits, but Kuehler Coffee will strive to beat the expectations of the customer. I am convinced that Kuehler Coffee will not only succeed, but thrive. Kuehler Coffee’s visionary business overview are as follows.
•Kuehler Coffee will continue the development of fine coffee blends.
•Attractive packaging will be used in grocery stores with the understanding that this is very effective and cheap advertisement.
•Kuehler Coffee currently has one main competitor in the target market of the general walk in customers.
•I have taken great care in my blends to effectively balance taste with tactile mouth feel; these are the two main characteristics for which coffee connoisseurs aspire. This is what separates Kuehler Coffee from its competitors.
•Coffee shops in the immediate area will have the benefit of a local coffee roaster.
•Top notch customer service that exceeds expectations will be a high priority.
•There are other key elements to winning and keeping customers that I have purposely withheld. This is information I wish to keep from my competitors.
The total National U.S. market size of specialty coffee is nearly $16 billion. Over the past year, I believe the nationwide obtainable market size to be $4.8 billion and that Kuehler Coffee should be able to successfully obtain .00007% of that obtainable market in four years. This would equate to $336,000 in annual revenue by the end of year four. Kuehler Coffee, as described in my business plan, can produce a maximum of $1.4 million in revenue annually. That being said, by the end of year five, it is likely that further expansion will be required to keep up with demand, creating multiple jobs.
I intend to achieve this end with my unique and carefully blended coffees. Coffee shops and customers alike will be able to choose between coffees from a single country or any of my own original coffee blends. This would mean that to date the total number of choices would be 15 blends and 11 single origin coffees. Kuehler Coffee also offers a lower price than the local competitions single origin coffees, and Kuehler Coffee's blended coffees are far superior to most single origin coffee as singles are often incomplete in taste and lack balance of body which is mouth feel.
If you are interested in trying Kuehler Coffee, ordering information can be found at www.theartofcoffeedojo.com by clicking the "Kuehler Coffee" tab at the top.
I am not so proud that I won’t admit that I am entering because I need the money. I have chosen to take the slow route in business, starting very small and letting the business build itself while being unpaid as the operator. Kuehler Coffee has been a profitable home business and is operating by reinvesting approximately 85% of those profits. This route has minimized the financial burden on my family and will ultimately de-risk the business when it launches to full scale production with a coffee roasting facility.
As a $5000 grant winner, I would be able to purchase an espresso machine. That is this year’s planned investment, but with the extra money I will be able to purchase a grinder dedicated to the espresso machine which was not originally in the plan. A dedicated grinder is a must with an espresso machine as espresso brewing is a very sensitive method of brewing coffee. Fine tune adjustments on a dedicated grind is essential to a perfectly brewed espresso.
As the $10,000 grand prize winner, the plan changes entirely as this will catapult Kuehler Coffee financially making the full scale production dream a reality. According to the business opportunities in front of us, as described in this business overview, and based on what I believe are sound business assumptions, my capital requirements are $70,095.

$52,570 Product/ Service development
$8,030 Marketing
$9,495 General & Administrative
$70,095 Total Use of Proceeds required

I am honored that you have taken the time to read my business overview. I also thank you for your consideration.

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share
  • Entry Image
  • Entry Image
  • Entry Image

Spicing it up with Mo'rub

Stephanie Jessen
Mo Rub
Des Moines, IA
Mo'rub is an Universal Seasoning that is great on anything. What started as gifts for friends has become our business! We're two Iowa-bred folks growing this enterprise from the ground up. We're gaining MO'mentum, so jump on board and be a part of our MO'vement. You're Gonna Want Mo'!
Mo'rub is a new, all-natural seasoning that is great on anything! It's seriously fantastic! It’s versatile.

What started as gifts for friends as a spice rub for chunks of Iowa pork has turned into a “it’s great on anything”
Universal Seasoning. Meats, seafood, poultry, veggies or any food that could use a kick of delicious!
* It’s All Natural- No icky stuff added! [certified organic, actually...we just don't pay for the label, yet.]
* Gluten Free
* Non-Irradiated Spices
* This is the product that will have people coming back for mo’!

The bottom line is: we are launching a full-line of products [think bloodies, marmalades, nuts, sauces and mo'!]
where we hope to help individuals and families get back to the basics. Cook at home. We share every simple recipe and when we vend or deMO, we cross-promote every local producer partner.

Unlike many of our competitors, Mo'rub offers both wholesale/retail and our MO TO GO Fresh Foods,
[where we prepare awesome food with our special Mo'rub kick]. This dual channel model has enabled us to build
strong brand presence and gain a wide range of consumers across the Midwest. We're not messing around.
We have done over 400 events [and some crazy ones taboot] and hundreds of thousands have saw our brand.

You scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours.

Our mission and goal is pretty darn simple... we want people to start cooking at home. Doing hundreds and hundreds of demos, people aren't cooking. We want to help them cook at home with their kids and their families and pretty much just get back to the basics.

The market size is everyone. Simply, everyone eats...they just don't all eat healthy nutritious food. Read the labels, folks. I'm a walking billboard for my slow transformation, re-training my brain from growing up on an organic lifestyle and going haywire when I hit college. It's been a major wake up and it's making me mo' determined than ever to help educate the people that surround me.
Here's the real deal. We need help. It's been the two of us on a mission, with the biggest network of support that people really do dream about. We wouldn't be where we are without hard work and the help from our family and friends.

The one missing piece of our puzzle is finding a new member of our squad [aka CFO] that can assist with our numbers and figures. We weren't blessed with a number brain.

We're also at the point where we need to figure out our distribution plan to get this statewide and ultimately nationwide.

Our website is sad and wouldn't it be swell to have a MObile app?

Oh and our cars... they really should at least have a small wrap so people know we are moving around town and the country doing our thing.

Thanks for the opportunity. We look forward to hearing from you! Cheers! Steph & Mo

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

You're Never too Old to Dream Big... grow worldwide

Gail Chavenelle
Chavenelle Studio Metalworks
Dubuque, IA
Chavenelle Studio Metalworks creates sheet metal sculpture for office, home, and public spaces. At 69, Gail has been a successful solo artist at her home-based business for nearly 20 years. Her Internet business sells internationally. Gail’s dream is to grow big and build a valued Internet brand.
Describe your business model
Chavenelle Studio Metalworks is both unique and a solid business model.
1. The product is unique and proven.
From an artistic viewpoint Chavenelle’s minimal sculptures are unique. Since they have no ethnicity they are embraced by all ethnicities, sexual orientations,and ages. Even the Chinese do not sell similar art! Chavenelle sculpture has delighted collectors world wide for nearly 20 years.

2. As a business, Chavenelle Studio Metalworks is unique and experienced.
A. AGE- While most entrepreneurs are younger adults, Gail Chavenelle started Chavenelle Studio Metalworks at 50. Now after nearly 20 years she continues to Dream big and grow her sculpture business.
B. INTERNET-Having never done the traditional “art circuit” of wholesale and retail shows, Gail sells through the Internet . She has successfully explored Internet sales platforms like yahoo, ebay stores, wholesalecrafts.com, and recently Etsy to find the most profitable. 80% of her sales are Internet driven. Mobil e marketing and sales is at least 40% of all internet sales and growing.
C. MARKETING-Gail Realizes that marketing is key. She recognizes that you have to spend money to make money and have to reach customers thru all media-advertize in expensive print, local and professional publications, email, and use social media- especially mobile.
D. CUSTOMER /TARGET- Gail built a business serving and changing with different market needs. She wholesales, retails, and works with consultants, landscapers, and collectors. Though she began with garden sculpture, she offers a gift and miniature line for efficient mailing internationally. Most recently she has offered a line of high end awards for schools, universities, and nonprofits. She has created corporate and public sculpture- now in the permanent collections of Iowa cities. She has touched the wedding market with cake topper sculpture. Like musicians, a visual artist has to have multiple “gigs” or markets to make a profit.
E. DEVELOPMENT- Yearly Gail re-invests earned income and personal capital into new lines and sculpture- ie large public sculpture are expensive to construct.
F. DREAM/GROWTH READY- Chavenelle Studio Metalworks is incorporated. Gail has a bank line of credit, an accountant managing payroll withholding etc, and takes credit cards through several venues including iphone. Chavenelle has the tools in place and is poised to Dream Big and grow an Internet business here in Iowa.

Chavenelle Studio Metalworks -money making strategies
1. Currently Gail operates a home based business, so keeps expenses low. The % of profits from gross sales is high.
2. OUTSOURCING-A key strategy to build a team of professionals.

A. Time is money and Gail hires consultants/experts. She has worked with the Small Business Development Center, and hired an expert in the Etsy platform to efficiently get up and operational. She has a web designer. She takes advantage of Entrefest.
B. Gail hires shop time with local metal fabricators to access large rollers and breaks- equipment a studio business could not afford. This is the avenue into larger scale public sculpture.
C. Chavenelle hired local experts in software platforms which translate to and control computer laser cutters. This has allowed a line of smaller, yet affordable gift sculpture of her design.
D. She works with a local engraver for personalization of product and soon offer such personalization in her online venues.

3. Chavenelle has hired artists as independent contractors for large projects. What would Chavenelle Studio Metalworks’ relationship with Artist helpers be in the Dream Model? Employee , contractor or partner relationships will be explored so all can make money and remain creative.

Relevant information about industry, competition and market size.

Quality of Life and Market Size
Gail wants to enjoy the size and quality of life in Dubuque Iowa, but realized that the physical market size to support a sculpture business is not there. All artists have to expand their market. Some do by the traditional Art show/fair circuit or large wholesale shows. Chavenelle attends no wholesale or retail shows. Rather she has chosen to enlarge her market by selling through the Internet. Only a small percentage of a world -wide market is needed to be profitable and successful. Chavenelle’s Dream is Internet Big.

Industry and Competition
American and Canadian fine craft is marketed and sold generally through studios, galleries and shops- small , independent local businesses competing successfully for the disposable income market. Artists can be retailers and wholesalers. More traditional brick and mortal galleries have an online presence and sales. Fine craft is a different marketing model than fine art- most cash on the barrelhead!

The Internet keeps changing and growing. Competition too is world- wide. 850,000 active sellers are estimated to be on the Etsy site for handmade alone. Going Viral is rather like striking it rich during the gold rush- highly unlikely. The competitive key- Having someone find your product. SEO or pay to play/per click options? Which is more profitable at each time? Each platform has paid options. Especially social media is aggressively marketing paid advertizing. Amazon and now China’s Alibaba are generalized competition. Chavenelle has succeeded in this arena, but needs help to grow into a big Internet presence, based in Iowa.
Chavenelle and her Internet business are poised to grow, but how? Gail is inundated with “Opportunity”- Google offers, Twitter offers, Facebook offers, Etsy offers, Ebay offers, print offers, show offers… She needs help to sort it out. Gail admits to currently running her business in a reactive mode. She needs to plan her Dream!

Chavenelle Studio Metalworks needs a growth business and marketing plan to keep making cost effective decisions and production team motivation. How other artists will fit is another question for business outcomes, goals and impact.

Chavenelle has listened to webinars, subscribed to Entrepreneur magazine, read trade journals, downloaded ebooks …but these have not built Chavenelle Studio Metalworks into her Dream Internet Brand.

Use of the money-
The initial $5000* will accomplish the first two goals:
1. Chavenelle will hire an acknowledged expert to help put together a business review. This will culminate in a solid business and marketing plan specifically for Chavenelle Studio Metalworks to build value and growth. Such Iowa consultants have presented at Entrefest. VentureNet could be approached.
2. Chavenelle Studio Metalworks will begin to implement the business growth plan. The best business plan sans implementation is obviously ineffective.
3. Gail will document and share so other home-based business have an example of economic growth path.
*The additional $10,000 will fully implement the first year of the Business Review /Plan in #1

Chavenelle Studio Metalworks can be a 2015 Dream Big, Grow Here winner!

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

Triversible Jerseys

David Brown
Triple Threat Threads
Spencer, IA
Triversible Jerseys are a Basketball/LaCrosse/PE and Soccer practice aid - the jersey allows for the wearer to have access to three colored sides while wearing one jersey. Coaches trying to organize teams find great use in having the third color option.
We started selling the Basketball version of the Triversible in 2014 - selling close to 1000 units basically from word of mouth and the website, and the majority of which happened in the 4th quarter. We reached across the nation in pocket areas without any online marketing strategies - all the feedback we have received on the jerseys is positive and we anticipate sales to rise substantially in 2015 due to an increased awareness of the product, a new website utilizing seo/e-commerce and a growing sales team.

Ourmanufacturing partner is GameGear out of Salt Lake City which is a made in the USA manufacturer - at this time all Triversibles are custom made and we carry no stock items. Gamegear is a great partner as they can cut, sew, print and drop ship the garments to the customer.

We are beginning to sell LaCrosse Triversibles this year - which is a product similar to the basketball version in that teams will want to get their school colors and have them screenprinted - again Gamegear is a strategic partner for this version with the screenprint and drop ship option.

Currently we are also pursuing the Soccer / PE pinnie version of the design. This version is a little different than the Basketball and LaCrosse versions as they aren't custom made to the schools 3 colors and aren't screenprinted. This version can easily be sold on a website and not by working with a dealer.

Moving forward the business plan is to:
1- Have stock Basketball and LaCrosse versions on hand - the three colors of these would be White/Black and a third color that would match the schools (there are about 8 colors that we would carry) --- schools could choose to get the stocked jerseys at a lower cost or Gamegear could still custom make to their 3 specific colors if the customer wanted
2 - Order a stockpile of the Soccer / PE versions and have them on hand for easy online order and ship

Let me know if you need any more info - thanks for reading!
I am applying to make some more connections in the entrepreneurial world in the hopes of developing relationships that I can learn about start-up businesses from. When I began the patent of the design I thought it would be something that would be bought out from me but in fact it is turning into a business due to many unique factors with the product.

I would use the money from this contest to develop a new website - part of that process will be developing higher quality images of the product. Locally I could use the money in that regard.

Moving forward there is a piece to the puzzle that could impact our local economy. If I choose to order jerseys in bulk I will need to either develop a local partner with a screen printing company to house and sell the jerseys or get my own warehouse to store and distribute the jerseys. This could also be an avenue for using these funds.

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

Hangerbee hangers make preservation easy

Lindsey Smith
Des Moines, IA
Hangerbee produces affordable, museum-quality padded hangers for the long-term preservation of historic clothing. Founder Lindsey Smith drew upon 15 years of experience working with heirlooms and museum artifacts to produce a reliable product and fun experience.
Hangerbee produces affordable, museum-quality textile preservation supplies. Our padded hangers are the unique in the industry. Long considered to be a do-it-yourself product, Hangerbee padded hangers and Hangerbee Kits provide textile enthusiasts with an easy way to take control of their collection and preserve them for years to come. As Hangerbee grows, our product line will expand to become a one stop shop for textile preservation needs. Lindsey Smith, Owner, currently manages all Hangerbee operations. Hangerbee is part of Exhibitsmith, LLC, a museum consultant firm owned and run by Lindsey Smith.

Hangerbee's primary customers are museums, historical societies and keepers of our cultural heritage. Hangerbee produts are also for vintage clothing dealers, collectors, theatrical costume shops and individuals who wish to preserve their personal wardrobe.

What Drives Us
Hangerbee will become the preeminent textile preservation supply company in the industry, providing a large catalog of archival, trusted preservation supplies and products. Our product line began with artifact-safe padded hangers. As the company grows, the product list will include a full line of padded specialty hangers, garment and storage bags, padded inserts, liners and other items geared toward textile preservation. The business will expand to include a sales and marketing team, and a manufacturing department. Our office will relocate to a facility with ample administrative, manufacturing and shipping space, including sewing stations and a laundry hookup.

The preservation industry is a multi-million dollar industry geared toward preserving and protecting cultural heritage of all mediums. Our material culture is found in museums, vintage and antique shops and in homes. Museums and historical societies are the largest customers of preservation supplies; they purchase acid-free, artifact-safe products of all kinds to ensure that their historic artifacts are safe for the future. Textile-specific preservation products are made from materials that will not damage fragile fabrics and provide ample support. Hangerbee's customers are stewards of cultural history. They manage historic items in the public trust. This responsibility encourages them to purchase and make adequate preservation supplies for their repository. These curators, collections managers, vintage dealers and collectors often have limited resources and most of the adequate textile preservation suppliers readily available are expensive. Therefore, my customers understand that they must either produce their own supplies or go without. Hangerbee provides an affordable, time-saving solution to this problem.

My largest competitor are my prospective customers! Textile preservation has long been regarded as a do-it-yourself activity. Museum personnel source, prepare and assemble hangers and similar preservation supplies themselves. In addition, there are other retail options available, but they are either more expensive or lower quality. No one sells padded hanger kits except Hangerbee.

Competitive Advantage
Hangerbee saves time, money and stress by purchasing in bulk, preparing (washing, cutting, sorting) materials and, depending upon the product purchased, assembled. Unlike my retail competitors, Hangerbee hangers offer ample padding at a low price. Our materials are safe and sturdy. Also, Hangerbee will soon be supplying our products to Gaylord Archival, the largest archival supplier in the industry.

Hangerbee produces padded garment hangers and related items for the preservation and long-term storage of garments. We provide retail products that are ready to use and help organizations who wish to provide an experience and make the hangers themselves. Our Hangerbee Kits provide people with an opportunity to gather and have a stress-free DIY experience with colleagues and friends.

Pricing Structure
Our current catalog of ready-to-hang hangers cost between $9.00 and $13.00. Hangerbee Kits are sold by the dozen and range from $76.00-$99.00. Hangerbee strives to keep costs low to make sure cultural organizations are able to purchase our products. Our products are sold online through www.hangerbee.com. We also accept orders in person, over the phone or via email. We are happy to invoice institutions that need to pay via purchase order.

Product/Service Life Cycle
Hangerbee hangers are designed for the long-term preservation of garments and textiles. Our products are suitable for garments new and old, but our marketing focuses on clothing that will be kept permanently.

Research & Development
Hangerbee hangers are continually being tested and improved upon as new products emerge and customers provide feedback. In the coming months, Hangerbee plans to debut specialty hangers as well as other supplies meant for textile preservation.

Growth Strategy
Hangerbee needs exposure to expand. This requires a well-planned marketing campaign and attendance at vendor shows during museum and historical conferences. The next big step for Hangerbee will be a dedicated office space which will allow raw materials to be washed, cut, sorted and assembled. As Hangerbee expands past hangers, the space will also include dedicated sewing stations and laundry facilities.

Hangerbee is active on social media (Facebook, Twitter & Instagram) and has a website (www.hangerbee.com.) We also maintain an e-newsletter that goes to an ever-increasing list of prospective customers. We also contact prospective customers via an ambitious direct mail campaign. Hangerbee also has a presence at various museum and historical conferences as a vendor, so customers can see the products before they buy. We will soon be going on sales calls to visit prospective customers at their institutions to see how we can better serve their needs.
I am applying to Dream Big Grow Here because Hangerbee needs a financial boost to live up to its potential. Hangerbee needs professional design and marketing materials, as well as a dedicated office space in an environment that is appropriate for Hangerbee's special needs. I have been growing this business as my profits allow but a financial boost would help Hangerbee grow exponentially. Therefore, I am seeking funding for:

1. Professional Branding & Design:
I need funds to acquire professional graphic design work and build a dynamic presence during museum trade shows. Experience in 2014 made it clear that my customers want to see my products in person before they buy. A professional graphic designer will create a basic design package for my marketing materials and vendor display to make the company appear as professional as it is. Funding will allow Hangerbee to attend national conferences with a professional image and marketing materials to distribute.

2. Improved Office Space:
All Hangerbee activities currently take place in my home, which is convenient but not ideal. A busy home with pets and a child, mixed with a hodgepodge of shelving and office furniture, make it difficult to keep preservation supplies in the pristine condition that my customers demand. Ideally, Hangerbee needs a workspace for product assembly, storage and shipping that is free of cats and toddlers. As Hangerbee and its product line grows, I will upgrade the space to include a sewing station (for future products) and a washer/dryer (all fabrics are washed in special, artifact-safe soap.) In the short term, I need a dedicated work and storage space of at least 250sq ft.

As Hangerbee and its product line grows, I will hire staff to help with production as well as office staff including people with experience in sales, marketing and bookkeeping. I am proud to be an Iowa transplant and am excited to grow my business here in Iowa.

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

Iowa Wines & More Focusing on Iowa and Family

Colleen Oliver
Iowa Wines & More
Harlan, IA
We want to begin selling craft-beers from Iowa’s micro-brew industry, as well as grape juices & soda pops made in Iowa. We will increase our hours of operation and purchase our building in order to add a larger tasting area & private-party event room.
Almost every business begins the same way- with a dream. Iowa Wines & More began in just such a way—with a dream. The dream of owning a business that would lend economic support to their life-long town and state – Harlan, Iowa. After 2 years of discussion, research, planning and only personal financial investment, the family business of Iowa Wines & More opened seven years ago with product from 7 wineries.
Our dream continues to grow. We now carry wines from 33 wineries, aronia berry products such as salsa, jam, chili starter, and meat products like beef jerky. We also take special orders for Drew’s Chocolates, another great Iowa product.
The majority of our money is made from selling the unique products Iowa made wines, along with other Iowa made products and the accessories to enjoy them. We strive to give personal attention to each and every customer by offering – free samples of our stock so customers are sure to find something they will enjoy, help them carry their purchases to their vehicles and get special orders in as quickly as possible. We make deliveries if need be and even have and on call number posted on our door for those spur of the moment needs or those out of town drop-ins. These unique qualities of our business approach appeal to the people to create repeat customers.
Any business that is allowed to sell Iowa wines could be considered a competitor. Our biggest local competitors are the gas stations as they often sell cheaper than we do; using the wine as an impulse buy product.
Our location just east of the historic downtown is ideal for a small business. We often get the tourism traffic that is enjoying our historic downtown. Being close to restaurants, nail salons and gift shops is also a plus.
With the continued growth of the Iowa vineyards and wineries, our continued growth looks great. The wineries continue to release new varieties giving us a way to always have new products available. More and more people are seeking out a wine they will enjoy for pleasure or for the health benefits. We look forward to having that special wine for them.
Our future plans include owning our building with space enough to offer an event area. Along with these plans, we will continue to grow our product lines and add a charter vehicle to be able to help our customers enjoy the winery experience.
Our reasons for applying to Dream Big Grow Here are to be able to expand. We want to expand our product lines to include more wineries, micro-brews, and other Iowa made products such as soda, juices and food products. We want to expand our building space and have room for an event center. We want to expand and purchase a vehicle that would allow us to offer charter services to the wineries and events they offer and to pick up the wine from the wineries. We want to expand our hours so customers have even more time to shop with us. Winning the Dream Big Grow Here would help us do these things without adding a financial burden, as we have not yet borrowed any funds for this business, it has been all personal investment capital.

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

Monster Cookies & more...

Tracy Beier
Monster Cookies & more...
Waterloo, IA
Monster Cookies & more... is a homemade baked goods business started from the kitchen of Tracy Beier.
Monster Cookies & more... has a menu of basic "grab and go" homemade cookies. My kitchen has been inspected and is licensed as a home food establishment. All cookies are made with real butter and Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract and are baked on high quality baking stones. Of course lots of love goes into the baking of these cookies, which produces a great homemade cookie. Enjoy!
I am applying for the Dream Big Grow Here grant contest because I would like to expand my current business. My ultimate goal is to do weddings, graduations, and community events, in addition to current and growing accounts. Even with the current demand I have with orders and accounts, it is hard to keep up. I am definitely in need of the next size mixer to increase productivity and I would also like to expand on offering more gluten-aware products in addition to the monster cookie. I would also love to have my own cookie shop attached to my home in the hopefully near future and the Dream Big Grow Here grant will help me get started towards these goals.

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

Love Fashion- Love Shopping- Shop Locally Bad Habit Boutique

sara morrow
Bad Habit Boutique
Le Mars, IA
Bad Habit Boutique started with a dream! This is what I have wanted to do since I was 12. We offer all of the latest fashion trends from around the world at affordable prices and outstanding quality. This opportunitywill help grow Bad Habit Boutiques business online and make us a household
I currently own 2 clothing stores. 1 is located downtown Le Mars and the 2nd location is located at the Southern Hills Mall in Sioux City, IA. I also have shopbhb.com. My goal and vision for 2015 is to expand my online website to reach outside IOWA borders and ship all over the US. We currently already do this. However, I want to increase my exposure. From September 2014- to December 2014 we had over 30,000 people visit our online website. With only 1% purchasing. The reasoning is because we didn't have alot of product to shop online. So this year we are focusing on growing by adding more product to the online website. Focusing on ADWORDS, every item available instore will be available for online purchase.

Bad Habit Boutique is unique because we have different styles, trends, we buy limited supply of items so not everyone is wearing the same item! We offer stylist to show you how to wear the items, as well as our Facebook page you can see how we style our outfits are are able to buy the entire outfit either instore or Online.

Our market is women ranging from 15-60! Anyone that loves to shop, stay trendy, and loves pinterest. If you work, we offer work apparel, if you travel, we offer dresses, shorts any items to wear on a vacation! We offer dresses, necklaces, shoes, tops anything to complete your entire Look!
I am applying to further my knowledge about the web. To be able to hire someone that understands Online Marketing, AdWords, Website Design. I want to enhance my online experience and store front design. As well as invest in marketing online and Facebook.

I would also like to hire someone full-time to help with instagram, facebook, pinterest, Wanelo, and Twitter. With so many different social medias, it is a full-time itself to post all the new arrivals, trends, and what is happening in the business to let our customers know.

We have looked into Firms to help us with online advertising, facebook ads, google ads, help run our website. One firm quoted us $5,000-$10,000 a month. I really believe that the internet business will be a huge investment for us but also a great return on investment!

Please take a look at our online website site as well as our Facebook. We have over 55,000 followers. We also are on pinterest, Wanelo, Instagram

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

Keep Calm and Whimze On...growing a small business on a smaller budget

Carol Rolf
Whimze Boutique
Ames, IA
Whimze Boutique is a women's clothing and accessories store offering fashions for your every Whim! Our challenge is to develop a marketing strategy to grow our business locally by reaching the right customers and to expand our sales beyond our "brick and mortar" through a successful online campaign
Whimze Boutique's business model is to showcase USA made clothing and locally made jewelry and accessories, targeting fashion and value conscious women ages 35-75. Our customers are from the Ames area, as well as Story County and bordering counties. There are approximately 50,000 women in our local market area. Ames has a small mall that has a department store and a couple of women's clothing stores. Whimze Boutique is located in the Main Street Cultural District (MSCD) of Ames, where there are 2 other women's clothing boutiques. There is some overlap in the demographics of the customer that we all sell to, so Whimze strives to offer quality products at competitive prices. Whimze Boutique's challenge is to present value, differentiation, and fun in our advertising to create top of the mind awareness of our brand. Whimze Boutique's Facebook page has a strong local following and it is our primary source for retaining our current local customer base. We use it daily to communicate new products, promotions and sales, and receive positive feedback from the site. We also tie our marketing into the MSCD's marketing for special events, seasonal sales, and holiday events, which has successfully brought in new customers. MSCD also offers a unique opportunity by having visitors coming in from outside of our local market, which has brought in new customers who have enjoyed the Whimze experience. However the challenge is how to retain these customers after they have gone home and have them continue to experience Whimze again and again. The myriad of advertising options is very expensive. My advertising budget last year comprised a significant percent of my total budget, and it did not reach any new markets. We have created a website, but it is not reaching these new and potential customers. We know an on-line store can be the next step in reaching these new markets that we are seeking, but we do not know how to implement this.
I am applying for this grant to obtain needed resources to pursue my marketing objectives to implement a social media campaign that will drive traffic from outside of our primary market to both Whimze's physical store and web store. We have a very good Facebook following to leverage and we have started a website that needs to be developed further. I would use the money to consult with an expert on how to improve my social media footprint by having an on-line store to increase my market area. I would like to support my local community by hiring local students with social media expertise to implement these improvements. I would likely need some small capital investments dedicated to run the website. In addition, I would put a monitor in my store that would not only advertise Whimze's new on-line store, but present it in an intriguing way by streaming Whimze's fashions and accessories worn by models for customers to see how each item is worn and accessorized. We would also need to create printed handouts to include in every bag and for every event advertising our new on-line store. Whimze Boutique's proven in-store model, loyal local customer base, and dedicated staff makes this new venture exciting and achievable. Please help us "Keep Calm and Whimze On...and on...and on!" THANK YOU

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

#1 Jewelry Arts Diva's Dream of becoming JADIVA

Jennifer Kellogg
Mason City, IA
Jadiva focuses on Jewelry & Arts. I work in all mediums from the most expensive metals and gems to the cheapest goods and recycled finds. I encourage making jewelry and things from everyday found objects. Be they river rocks or playground stones. Unique & One of a Kind is what I offer my clients.
Thinking outside the box tends to give me a unique edge over my competitors. Not only can I produce items out of expensive high end gems but I can take plain uninteresting river rocks and turn them into the extraordinary. My money obviously comes from retail sales of jewelry, sculptures, photographs, and jewelry repair. I make a majority of the products I sell so there's less need to purchase any premade items. I'm set up to accept several forms of payments including all major credit cards & online payments like PayPal which will help add to my sales exponentially. My business design is encouraged for growth. Once certain profit margins are made my business is intended to upgrade itself. The first is moving from a home craft room into an actual solid storefront. Doing so will enable me to receive more clients & help generate more interest. Getting the retail store going will generate the revenue to go onto to the next phase in my vision. The second phase comes in the form of beads. By offering beads for my customers to buy I will bring in more varied clients interested in buying supplies to make their own things. This will open up my third phase and that comes in the form of instruction & classes. By teaching others I generate more revenue. The added profit will be used to buy more equipment I'll need to go from just beads to working on metals. This will give me the ability to produce more unique one of kind jewelry for sale and work on a wider range of jewelry repairs. Not only will I be able to produce more but then I'll be able to start making my own parts so I'll no longer have to purchase them from my suppliers. With the added ability to make things out of metal I will in turn be able to teach silversmithing classes which several of my clients have already been asking for. Once my silversmithing classes get going I'll be selling many more parts with the extra added sales of tools for students. Having unique tools for sale to students will also bring in sales from those that already know how to use the tools but have not had a place to find them locally or in Iowa. Once my students start producing more quality designs they will have the option to sell their work in the retail section of the shop bringing in a percentage for my store at the same time. My students will also get to start learning more about the repair of jewelry for future careers repairing jewelry in my shop for clients. Now that I've been making my own parts to use in my own designs these parts will be available for sale to students and other artists too. Once profit begins generating from all this I will expand my shop area to include more stations and larger classes working on even more advanced level stuff. The added bonus to the enlarged shop will be space that can be rented out for use to former students when classes are not in session. The added shop will also have a section that is used specifically for trade jewelry repair being brought in from other jewelry chain stores that don't have in store goldsmiths of their own. This way the shop can begin generating money when it's not in use for classes which will also in turn add to sales of tools & parts. At some point as I produce more parts I'll set up a catalog and begin selling them to wholesale buyers nationwide and internationally. The added sales in parts will then start the manufacturing phase of my business. As more requests come in more various things will be added to the manufacturing section of the shop. As more work comes in I can hire from the selection of trained students I have to produce even more parts for sale. Once the manufacturing side is working efficiently I'll be adding Lapidary & Stone Carving to the things I produce for sale, classes to teach, and parts to make & supply. High end gemstones and stone sculptures will start being sold both at a retail & wholesale level locally, nationally, & internationally. The process I used to turn my metal shop into a Learning center then on to a manufacturing center will be applied to the Lapidary & Stone Cutting section as well. Then I'll be making, selling, & supplying beads of my own rather then buying them from various suppliers. Once the business starts to bring in more profits I will focus on setting up a schooling area that is separated from the retail store. With focus on building a larger school that will specialize in everything I've been doing so far. I will bring in and host professional jewelry trainers to teach a wider variety of specialized classes that will both train future employees & train future business leaders of the jewelry trade.
Jadiva is all about jewelry, the arts, and teaching my techniques to others. I make various types of jewelry, photography, and original arts. By selling my designs at the local Main Street Market and teaching a few classes at the local art museum I have noticed a need for both handmade goods as well as unique instructional classes. Many Jadiva customers have requested me to open a bead shop and teach art classes for either themselves or their children. I want my town to have a go to place that will encourage learning various art methods for self motivation and even possibly inspire them to create their own dream. I have seen a dramatic decline in the arts community due to restricted budgets at our local schools as well as museums and I want to bring that back to my hometown. My ultimate dream is to become a manufacturer of unique jewelry, beads, and artworks. I want to create an instructional school that makes this town a coveted place to come to. I want my visiting students to seek out the many historical sites our town has to offer. I want to be able to showcase, not only my original designs, but my students work as well. Jadiva products will sell locally, nationally, and hopefully internationally as well. I want to help other people like me that have disabilities find their footing again and see that there are different ways to get back on your feet again. I have a rare Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy. I need my dream to come true before the disabilities I suffer from become a hindrance and stop me just short of my goal. I want my Jadiva business to get that kick-start that will launch my dream and better my community at the same time. I want to spread the word of my dream and find people who want to join my cause. Hopefully soon I'll be able to open up shop for everyone to enjoy. I'm looking for that stepping stone I need in order to move forward. I have done a lot of research for this. I have already taught classes of my own design. My background as a goldsmith at various retail jewelry stores for over 15 years has prepared me in advance for this. I love what I do and I want to share my knowledge with others. One way or another Jadiva will be your #1 jewelry arts center here in Iowa. I'm hoping to see my dream become a reality sooner rather than later.

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

Boosting Bevometer to the Big Time

Jenny Richmond
Bevometer, LLC
Des Moines, IA
We created the patented, trademarked Bevometer as a totally new twist on a standard koozie®. We started with a fun thought and quickly found ourselves on a quest to give everyone a fun, socially acceptable way to track consumption with The Only Koozie That Counts. Be Healthy + Have Fun = Enjoy Life!
How did the Bevometer get its start? Why is it unique?

Our endeavor began a few years ago on a perfect summer evening. My father’s trusty old 1983 koozie had seen better days. He started telling stories about his treasured relic that had us rolling with laughter. His stories became our inspiration for the Bevometer. What started with a fun thought, quickly evolved into a quest to make a reality out of an extremely beneficial and relevant idea: Giving consumers the ability to track their own consumption.
“Created to Promote Responsible Consumption” is embossed on the base of every Bevometer. “The Only Can Cooler That Counts” is our standard description, which appears on our packaging and marketing materials. These two lines sum up our mission --- helping consumers track consumption so that they can make responsible decisions while still having a fun.
In its first (current) version, the patented and trademarked Bevometer is a totally new and unique twist on the standard koozie®. With a little technology added, the Bevometer automatically counts your beverages for FUN & HEALTH. Just insert a drink and the Bevometer tracks beverages consumed both “this time” and over the “lifetime” of your Bevometer, similar to a trip-set and odometer in your car and displayed on a digital screen. The Bevometer is the same size as a traditional foam koozie®, lightweight, fun to look at and even more fun to use.

How do we make money?

The Bevometer is still a new product, yet we’ve had quick success with limited resources. We received our first inventory in Summer 2014 and have explored both retail and wholesale avenues. Retail sales channels include E-commerce via our own website, Amazon and affiliates and direct sales at vendor events. These opportunities offer a higher profit per unit. Our higher volume sales are via our wholesale customers. In just over half a year we’ve made it into 30+ retail outlets in 6 states (see our full list at www.bevometer.com/buy-the-bevometer-here/). We’ve gained these customers by personally knocking on doors (good old fashioned hustle) and more recently by word-of-mouth recommendations.

What is our industry like?

Hundreds of companies offer standard drink holders. The Bevometer is a truly unique (patented, trademarked) rendition which has proved to be highly desirable in a short period of time. We attribute this to its versatility, value in supporting health and fun, built-in technology and in-demand attributes (interactive, techy, social). Large companies such as Norwood and Topperscot are considered competition; however, we hope that they will also become customers. The Bevometer could be included in a number of industries, but the one that we feel has the most potential is promotional products. In 2013, this was a $19.4 billion sector, with drinkware at 7.7% of the sector. We estimate holders comprise 15% of drinkware and it is our intent to capture at least 1% of this by 2018.

What’s next?

The Bevometer is great as-is, but we know there is potential for so much more. Modifications to the current rendition will include water-proofing, lighted screen and greater flexibility with what it can easily hold. We are most excited about branching out beyond a drink holder into areas that our intellectual property supports and where we see a large market demand. We have two specific projects on the drawing boards just waiting for resources to move forward.
What’s a Bevometer?
I answer this question more times per a day than I can track. Beyond a doubt, it's our largest hurdle. We need to get the word out!!

With exposure will come sales. With sales, the means to leap over our other hurdles: factory location (bring it to Iowa!), lower factory pricing, product advancement (improved features), product development into new versions serving different target markets. The Bevometer is a great product with a solid business behind it, ready for growth. The time to realize huge success would be expedited with added resources. We would use the money this way:

50% media: Why = The Bevometer has been featured on 3 network television shows and each time we experience a big spike in sales from parts of the country we have not been able to reach otherwise. Similarly, when the Bevometer is recognized or included in social media beyond our own efforts, our sales rise. To accomplish this, we would benefit from a publicist and a social media expert both with relevant connections and/or knowledge.

25% major retailer / distribution power: Why = Although our profit is higher when we are the retailer, volume sales are the best way to make this a truly viable business. To accomplish this, we need resources to travel to meet the right people either at their offices or at tradeshows.

25% collaborations: Why = First, our largest competitors have already established themselves and have connections built over years and years in the industry. Second, industries such as sports and beverage host and sponsor events, teams, organizations all who would be a perfect fit for including the Bevometer in their merchandise or swag. Similar to above, to accomplish this, we need resources to travel to meet the right people either at their offices or at tradeshows.

Thank you so much!!!

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

Happiness Incarnate

Katrina Moyna
Happiness Incarnate
Elkader, IA
We provide alternatives to mainstream fashion by selling Fair Trade clothing made with organic cotton.
Happiness Incarnate is a concept store that features organic and Fair Trade fashion-forward clothing, jewelry, and accessories. Customers are ready for clothing made from top-quality materials that fit well and are timeless in style. With tragedies such as Bangladeshi factory collapses and the instantaneous, primary news reporting through the Internet, consumers are aware of abuses and malpractice that current fashion companies practice and these consumers are looking for alternatives that do not take advantage of the earth or of other people. The industry is gaining traction all over Europe (http://www.dreambiggrowhere.com/SubmitDream.aspx). Happiness Incarnate would be the first boutique in the United States of America to sell these luxury goods. Most organic clothing is priced in the $250-$500 range and only one United State vendor that I am aware of has recently started their own line, with a few t-shirts for sale at that price point. My suppliers in Europe sell in the $20-$60 range, which will enable me to sell organic, Fair Trade clothing to the masses.
A European sweet shop component will supplement my income, as Elkader desperately needs a sweet shop to complete its Galena/Decorah vibe, and the previous Elkader sweet shop in the 1990s closed down because it was so successful and the owner didn't want to take on more customers. After those two ventures are established, I dream of establishing a sUStainABLE Center, a one-stop shop for citizens, businesses, and cities to learn how to save money, reduce waste, change buying habits, and benefit the environment in the process. As of now, it is difficult for concerned citizens who want to live a greener life to dig through resources and contact various agencies to figure out the most cost-effective and available renewable energy resources to fit their lifestyle. The sUStainABLE Center would act as a one-stop shop for those who want to live more sustainable lives, as I have researched and made contacts in the renewable energies field, local and organic food revolution, organic and Fair Trade clothing and other luxury goods, the tiny home movement, houses that are built for longevity and from materials destined for the landfill, electric and public transportation, natural habitat restoration, etc.
Eco-tourism would play a huge role in the sUStainABLE Center, as Elkader and the surrounding area is known as "Little Switzerland" for its rolling bluffs, freshwater trout streams, and wooded hills. The area is also at the southwest edge of the Driftless Area, an area missed by the last glaciation, and is rich in ecology and glacial relics found nowhere else in the world. I envision this area as eventually becoming a National Wildlife Refuge, and indeed, there are already many groups forming to make this dream a reality. In essence, I want to change the way business is done by putting the environment first and serving humans desires for beauty and art in commerce, which is not found in today’s business world where the goal is to push as much product through as quickly as possible. Buy less and buy better is the motto of Fair Fashion!

"Happiness Incarnate" is a vision that women (and men) are beautiful in the bodies they have; they don't need to "keep up with the trends" and they should dress for their own body type. Human beings are happiest when enjoying the Great Outdoors with friends and family, and oftentimes, the simplest pleasures in life are sharing goods and times with each other, and using all the saved money to venture outdoors and experience all that life has to offer.
*The YouTube video and photos are from northeast Iowa's first-ever Fair Trade and organic Fashion Show, which Happiness Incarnate hosted on December 10, 2014 at the Hotel Winneshiek in Decorah. In attendance were 50 guests who learned about the daily horrors faced by sweatshops workers and how the environment is being destroyed when business goes on as usual. Fair Trade and organic is a means to remove these injustices and promote fair practices, and the Fashion Show was a fun way of involving the community (many of the volunteers had never modeled before!) in a fun venture and educating the public simultaneously.
I am applying to the "Dream Big, Grow Here" business grant opportunity to get the word out about my Big Dream, as well as apply for a chance to win a grant that will enable me to purchase a storefront for my own boutique (Happiness Incarnate) in downtown Elkader, which leads Clayton County in retail sales. As of now I am planning on renting space at a newly opened establishment; however, the dream is to open my own boutique which will eventually include the sUStainABLE Center and serve surrounding communities.

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

"Popping" Up Around The Nation

ReShonda Young
Popcorn Heaven
Waterloo, IA
Popcorn Heaven is a gourmet popcorn store and more! Our dream is to expand the Popcorn Heaven brand nationwide. We will have our 1st anniversary on 2/26/15. We have opened 4 locations. Our 1st licensed location opened in Columbia, SC, on 12/31/14. We dream of opening 5 locations, or more, each yea
Popcorn Heaven has three business models, all of which also sell products online. The first model is a storefront that makes more than 60 flavors of fresh popcorn each day, as well as a large variety of fudge, nut brittles, and candy. The storefront also produces large quantities for catering large events, and for fundraisers.

The second business model is a mall kiosk. The mall kiosk is setup to have up to 12 individual flavors at any given time. It can be staffed with up to 3 people at a time, and takes up only about 150 square feet of space.

The third business model is a mobile vending cart, where up to 6 individual flavors can be made and served at any one time. The cart is designed to be taken to festivals and events with large crowds of people, as well as wedding receptions, graduation parties, and corporate gatherings.

Our main competitors are other specialty stores and popcorn stores that sell gourmet snack items and focus on catering and vending at large events. Right now, there is no one within a 50 mile radius that does the same thing we do, with all three different business models.
I am applying for the Dream Big Grow Here grant because we need to purchase the mobile cart that has been designed for us. The cart costs $13,000. We have the first two business models for potential licensees to see and be trained on, but we do not have the mobile cart. Our licensee in South Carolina is anxious to add the mobile unit to their business, so we really need to get ours up and running. We have signed up for more than 50 events so far, starting in April.

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

Creating Ways to Keep our Earth Clean.........

Wendy Morrow
Gypsies & Drifters
Le Mars, IA
Our society as become SO disposable that not only our landfills are overflowing with perfectly REUSEABLE items but our oceans have 5 garbage patches of plastic bigger than TEXAS!!! Gypsies & Drifters is a salvaging, junk collecting, dumpster diving business that REUSEs, RECYLCEs, and REPURPOSEs!
I am a One of a kind business by creating awareness of SAVING THE EARTH (to a money making level) by taking the old stuff folks are throwing away, REPURPOSING them and creating a warehouse for all the D.I.Y. LOVERS to shop I have tons of merchandise to REUSE, REPURPOSE, and RECYCLE. Junk that doesn"t fit my store's environment that was salvaged, I donate to the local women's shelter and to other places like Shephard's Closet which runs solely on donated items to help others. Feeling that since we have become such a disposable society, it seems others can forget that folks out there maybe able to use what people are tossing away and it is perfectly good!

Encouraging local artist is another unique feature! I LOVE to sell their creations in my store and have featured many locally talented people. The talented artist in our Siouxland area need a place to sell their creations and I find their work inspiring and motivating as well! It is truly awe-striking to see what creative minds can turn ordinary items we no longer deem as usable into TOTALLY AWESOME usable pieces. From turning cassette tapes, old tires, and dresser drawers into planters and more. Customers love the ideas and talk about how fun Gypsies & Drifters is to shop. Using old pallet wood that would have other wise but burned up, I create wonderful children's furniture such as a puppet show theater that duels as a Lemonade stand or whatever else their imagination turns it into. My daughter and I painted hers as a Tattoo stand!
I also build kids picnic tables, wall paintings, and built shelves for local small business as wall decor or photo shoot props out of old pallet wood! It is such a great business to be able to recreate, paint, and listen to the compliments of customers who come in and RAVE about the environment and products.

Pinterest, Etsy, and Facebook have blown up this artistic craft of creating, making, repurposing old stuff and turning it into perfectly reusable items that are not only modern but great selling pieces. The industry does not have places to come shop for D.I.Y. supplies but I do have several small local artist who Refurbish old pieces of furniture, pallet art, and the likes in surrounding small towns.

Combining this with the clothing, there is no store like mine in the area. I have a limited clothing option as of now but the clothing styles and selection are limited in Le Mars with only three fashion boutique that carries women's clothing (two for older women and one focusing on the younger). I plan on carrying a different selection than the one's in town due to our difference in styles and would love to open the clothing to provide a selection for men as well. The market size is Huge for this D.I.Y./clothing combination due to growing popularity of REcycling and the limited fashion selection in town. A Chicago firm completed a survey and $350,000 is leaving Le Mars for just women's clothing within a 10 mile radius, this doesn't include the figures for a larger radius nor men's clothing.
I am applying for this grant to be able to buy unique pieces from Estate sales, and the likes to create a more "American Picker" kind of selection in my store. It would also allow me to buy cool pieces from Auctions to complete different kinds of metal art decor and repurpose unique pieces. My creativity would have more options if I were to be able to purchase what I know sells well. As of right now, I have merchandise that was retrieved or donated by people throwing/giving it away! Customers come in looking for specific pieces and this grant would allow me to be a personal thrift/junk/collector shopper for folks because I have an eye for great decor/fashion pieces!!!!!
It would also allow me to purchase from Local Artist their creations wholesale. I feel this would encourage others who LOVE to create to focus on their passion of making amazing pieces, provide them with the finances to continue their passion and eventually lead them to a full time life of doing what they love (many of us don't have the opportunity to work on our hobbies as a living but rather are stuck in 9-5 jobs)! I would love to support and encourage the works of so many talented people out there, that are unhappy with their daily jobs and would rather be making truly amazing things! This would bring in more great talent from our Surrounding Area and awaken others as well. As of right now, Gypsies & Drifters displays pieces by Artists, taking a 30/70 split when the item sales....the downside to this is some Artists don't feel comfortable/confident that their pieces will sell and I lose a lot of great pieces that would DEFINITELY sale :(
Also with this grant money, I would like to be able to have a combination of COOL Refurbished pieces with Fair Trade Clothing, and various other Brand name clothing that represents the look of this store. I want my store to have the "Anthropology" kind of vibe (mixing household goods with clothing) but with REuseable/Recycled stuff and clothing that advocates Saving the Earth, Fair Trade clothing, Made in America pieces, and earthy trends that current local store do not carry. This would be how the grant money would greatly change the environment of the store and help me reach my goal of what I want this business to evolve into! I believe using the grant money would not only attract more customers of the "SAVE the EARTH" following but would substantially help the success of Gypsies & Drifters and lift it to a thriving and popular destination for consumers in the Siouxland Region and beyond.
The grant would also provide with the means of purchasing a silk screening machine to design my own tee shirts! I have so many ideas and statements that are not available to folks and this would allow me to purchase and design graphic tees! I know they would sell due to lack of supply for them and the high demand for this kind of merchandise due to customer feedback on my pallet art and old city signs that I recreate into pieces that make a statement.....such as turning a "STOP" sign into a "STOP WAR" sign, "NO DUMPING ALLOWED" turned into "NO DUMPING ALLOWED ON EARTH" sign.....all which have sold with ease!
Thank you for this opportunity and be sure to vote for Gypsies & Drifters!!! Please come shop the boutique to have the full effect of what this store is truly about and leave with the inspiring energy like our regulars!!!!

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share

Delivering Health To The Cedar Valley

Brent Johnson
Bike Tech
Cedar Falls, IA
We are growing into the Cedar Falls historic post office. Having outgrown our current space years ago, this space provides the room for our business and services to grow for future years while highlighting historic preservation efforts in Downtown Cedar Falls.
Bike Tech focuses on customer service and knowledge - two items that the internet and larger stores can't provide. Since 1996 Bike Tech has been keeping the Cedar Valley and surrounding areas rolling with bicycle sales and service expertise. Purchased by Brent Johnson in 2006, Bike Tech has doubled its sales in just under 7 years. Since that time, fitness equipment has been added to give a much needed boost to weak winter sales and to help retain year-round employees.

We are extremely excited to expand our product range to include recumbent trikes. This category of product does not have any dealers located in Northeast Iowa and has the potential to make our store a regional destination. New customers will be entering our store and community to shop our selections.

Having already had moderate success with professional fitting services, our new location will allow us to provide for a dedicated room and will let us perform fits before, during, and after regular store hours. Our current space only allows for fits to be conducted after store hours and by moving multiple store displays to make room for the various pieces of equipment used during the process.

Our competition varies greatly in terms of size and style of service. We have big box retail along with the smaller independent bicycle dealers. Bike Tech's move will aim to blend the benefits of both - a large spacious floor with attractive displays and professional appearance blended with friendly, knowledgeable, down to earth staff whose goal is to make your next bike ride the best ever. All in a space full of historic character helping to balance them all together.
The funding provided by this contest would help Bike Tech with the significant build out expenses associated with moving to a new space. These would include lighting and flooring, new computer and service equipment to increase efficiency, and an increase in inventory levels to fill the larger space.

The additional space will also allow us to expand our product range to increase sales and services to under served demographics in the Cedar Valley and Northeast Iowa. We hope to do with dedicated space and products for aging Iowans, fitness equipment shoppers, and premium bicycle fitting services.

With these new offerings we hope to provide a better, more modern customer experience that consumers will be expecting from bicycle specific retailers in the future.

Current Rank


Number of Votes

Bookmark and Share
  • Entry Image
  • Entry Image
  • Entry Image