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

2016 Finalists

Click below to choose a category of this year's finalists and entrants.

Retail & Restaurants

Selling products or food, this is the category for you!


Revolutionizing the world of custom decorated clothing!

Michelle Sanderson
AHC is a thriving e-commerce apparel business that has also recently opened a brick and mortar production facility. Specializing in personalized custom clothing, American Hero Clothing is revolutionizing the way women confidently bring attention to their mission, business, or favorite team.
American Hero Clothing has built a strong foundation of incredibly loyal customers around the world by offering high quality decorated clothing. Gone are the days of stiff, boring t-shirts. American Hero Clothing brings to the market soft, comfy tees along with numerous other stylish options, combined with screen print and rhinestone designs that are unique. Focusing on women who want to have boutique-quality options, we also have options for children and men that are classy and stylish.

Beginning with only offering custom rhinestone clothing geared toward American troops, 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 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 in the military. The result was that she started creating beautiful rhinestone designs on clothing and began promoting her small business on social media.

By 2014, she had sold 150% more than the year prior. 2015 was a record breaking year in sales for AHC and the forecast for 2016 looks brighter than any year prior!

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 fifth 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, rhinestones and small-town, midwestern 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 the local community in Lyon County. Money is donated to the Larchwood food pantry and new clothing is donated to ATLAS of Lyon County.
AHC is ready for the next big step...collegiate clothing! We would use part of the grant money to apply for collegiate licenses and begin the process to manufacture clothing for all the Iowa public schools, and eventually branch out to other colleges. What could be better than your favorite brand producing your favorite college's logo clothing? Get ready for a little spice in the world of collegiate clothing!

We would also like to help rejuvenate our small town main street by using part of the funds to create a retail space in the front area of our production facility. The building needs new carpeting and a storefront window to get a great retail look and feel.

Thank you for reading about American Hero Clothing, and remember to get your custom clothing from AHC!

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The Local Crumb – a neighborhood bakery

Aaron Hall
The Local Crumb
Mount Vernon, IA
The Local Crumb is a small bakery located off Main Street in Mount Vernon, Iowa. The bakery specializes in hearty breads mixed with Iowa-milled grains. The product is made from simple ingredients: sourdough starter, water, salt and flour. The result is a sturdy bread made with passion and purpose.
The Local Crumb is a bakery for the community. At this time, breads are baked in a small, borrowed, wood-fired brick oven, a result of an ongoing partnership with a restaurant in Mount Vernon. Production and distribution are currently limited due to the shared use space, and also the size and nature of the brick oven. Despite of this, demand within the community by families and businesses have increased. At this time there are no bakeries in Mount Vernon and there is limited availably of freshly baked breads within the larger Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Corridor. Through demand and local support, it has become clear that an established bakery such as the Local Crumb will be a valued asset to the Mount Vernon community.

A Market Analysis commissioned by the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Development Group (CDG) with the help and assistance of the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) and Main Street Iowa (MSI) concluded that specialty food stores and bakeries would be prime candidates for expansion of and recruitment into the Mount Vernon business district(1).

Current demand has taken a toll on the business’s inventory. It is clear that if production could triple, the market would meet the demand. The current business plan calls for the purchase of a steam-injected deck oven once the business is fully able to move into its new location and begin full-time production.

Short-term goals for the company include:

1.A space designated for full-time baking production (in negotiation with a production site)
2.Equipment, primarily a steam-injected deck oven (in discussion with American Baking Systems, Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
3.A marketing plan that takes The Local Crumb brand from the farmers' markets and onto Main Street (www.thelocalcrumb.com)

The bakery’s present and future Main Street location(s) and proximity to several area Farmers' Markets including Mount Vernon Farmers' Market, Cedar Rapids Farmers' Market, Iowa City Farmers' Market allows for a certain flexibility to grow with customer demand. Other opportunities for distribution include partnering with local farm CSA programs around Mount Vernon and beyond. Future revenue streams may include restaurant wholesale and the implementation of a community focused bread share program.

(1)Page 18, Mount Vernon Market Study and Strategies, Mount Vernon, Iowa, 2014.
Business expansion and increased bread production will require an increase of bakery equipment. Award money will be used for baking supplies, including, bread pans, boards for resting loaves, speed racks, cooling racks, preparation tables, and a commercial bread mixer. Award money will also be used to facilitate the company's support and contribution to area farmers' markets by purchasing items needed for a sales booth: display cases, tables and signage. These materials are essential as the business transitions from its borrowed facility into its own, full-time and permanent space.

Ultimately, the award money will allow the Local Crumb to continue producing a product which I am passionate about providing to my valued community in a volume more fitted to the demand.

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Vintage Lane Design {A Jewelry Accessory Company}

Britt Holst
Vintage Lane Design
Sioux City, IA
The Sleevelet is the last bracelet you will ever need as it’s interchangeable and clutter free! This patented bracelet design will allow you to dress up your outfits without the excess clutter that normally comes with a clunky bracelet.
Vintage Lane Design, founded by Britt Lane, launched the first-of-its-kind patented bracelet, called the Sleevelet, that redefines how you wear and store your jewelry! The Sleevelet is more than just a bracelet. It eliminates the added clutter that comes with bulky bracelets. With just one adjustable bracelet cuff, you can add/remove fashionable fabric sleeve covers from your cuff allowing you to match each outfit in your wardrobe. Each sleeve lays flat for easy storage in your jewelry box and is great for travel, as you can toss your Sleevelets and one cuff in a little organza bag and go.

Britt, whose Sleevelet design was patented on July 28, 2015, and whose Sleevelets are in a dozen boutiques across Iowa, Illinois and Missouri area, was inspired to design this clutter free bracelet design to help declutter your jewelry box when packing for a move and discovered the effect bulky bracelets had due to lack of storage. As the Sleevelet came to her in a dream shortly after, she set out to make her dream a reality.

"From the age of ten I have wanted to invent something and start my own business. I thank God every day for giving me this opportunity to live out my lifelong dream!” -Britt Lane

Vintage Lane Design not only sells online and in boutiques, but plans to sell to retail store chains as well.

Our customer base is women ages 20-60.

While there is competition in the jewelry market, the Sleevelet has proven to be successful with it's patented, unique bracelet design.

We plan to expand our market reach in hopes to take the Sleevelet nationwide. In order to support a much higher volume of goods, I will need to have a manufacturer and wholesale reps in place.
The money received would be put towards manufacturing and packaging our product. As I hand sew each Sleevelet, I’m currently limited on where and how I can sell the Sleevelet. Having a manufacturer would allow me to take this product to the next level while also giving me more time to spend on designs and advertising. This would be a tremendous help!

I appreciate you taking the time to read about the Sleevelet. Thank you for your consideration!

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Trofix: Grow Something Awesome

Phill Anton
Cedar Rapids, IA
Trofix is a fledgling startup dedicated to improving the free-time of our customers with creative products that make gardening a freakishly enjoyable experience. We are getting ready to launch our first line of woodcrafted suction-cup window planters made from "rescued" trees.
One bad experience with a temperamental houseplant can lead a person to believe they weren't endowed with a "green-thumb". Trofix is aware of this learning curve and takes pride in developing products for those looking to wake-up their hibernating green-thumb.

First Product Line
We have designed classy "window boxes" with a very convenient set of suction cups mounted on the backside. It's essentially a floating flower pot. Decorate your home, apartment, workplace or patio with a little creative greenery. Unlike a couple similar products on the market, our boxes are made from sustainably harvested hardwood!

Every planter box offers extremely unique grain design and information about the tree it was harvested from. Whats more, we provide the plants and very easy to absorb directions on how to care for your potted friends. It really can't get any easier or more beautiful than that (well, it can, but for now this is pretty great).

The window boxes are just about ready for beta testing within our community supporters. The launch of the product will be sometime in May at the local farmers market in Cedar Rapids IA. This will give us a great chance to talk to interested buyers and get a little one on one feedback.

Our business model is centered around direct sales through internet and local farmers markets. With our modern and crispy clean marketing strategy we will be appealing to the 20s and 30s age bracket but will have the entire amateur gardening demographic looking to give window boxes as thoughtful gifts to their loved ones with a green-thumb.

Our wood is harvested by Trofix and brought to a local sawyer to cut and dry the wood into usable material. Wood sources abound through our network of passionate collaborators and supporters.

A couple other competitors exist in the suction-cup planter market. Trofix' planters differ greatly in curb-appeal and our approach to offering an easily absorbed Trofix' window planters are unique from competitors' in their overall curb-appeal and Trofix approaches

These boxes are only the beginning. We have many more ideas and upgrades in mind for the future. The first line was made from white oak found in Linn County. Many more beautiful species of wood exist in our neighborhood and are ready to be saved from the decay of the forest floor.
This is currently a 1-Man operation. Why do I use "we" so often in the executive summary above^^^?? This is a direct reflection of how every supporting friend and community member has made me feel like there is potential for Trofix to do big things. And Trofix will soon be a "we" endeavor as soon as I can start scaling up the business.

Did I mention this is a part-time endeavor? I have a full-time job as a custom furniture maker in Marion Iowa, all the hours I have spent on developing Trofix have been after 5pm or weekends. My dream is to start creating with my collaborators full-time in order to devote my full attention to building a company that will inspire the masses to Grow Something Awesome.

The prize money would be used to purchase tools for a Trofix workshop where I can work side by side with my colleagues.

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Bring An Art-Based Business To A Storefront

Julie Russell-Steuart
Caveworks Press & Studios
Reinbeck, IA
Caveworks Press & Studios is a specialty printing and art-based business keeping the craft of letterpress alive in a digital age. We print from hand-set metal type, wood type and linoleum carvings to make art prints, greeting cards and custom stationery.
Caveworks Press & Studios, owned and operated by Julie Russell-Steuart and assisted by co-founder David D. Steuart, offers specialty letterpress printing, a line of stationery and art prints, artisan goods in a retail setting, custom laser engraved products, and professional copies (if located in Grundy Center or Reinbeck, which has demonstrated a need.)

Letterpress printing’s unique look and tactile feel of impression into fine papers is achieved using vintage metal and wood types, and custom metal cuts printed on the 1963 Vandercook proof press or the 1917 Chandler & Price platen press. Cuts made especially for clients, such as a business logo, can be ordered for letterpress. The custom printing encompasses business cards, wedding invitations, coasters, posters, and packaging.

Greeting cards, art prints, and hand-made journals from the studio will be offered in the retail area up front, and will be joined by artisan goods from other makers. Letterpress is especially appealing to those wanting a hand-made feel and can be marketed to other hand-crafted businesses to accentuate their look.

In addition to letterpress, graphic design and copywriting services for conventional printing are available for business clients. A production copier will be in place for black and color copies, with the capability to do professional level business printing like brochures and advertising pieces.

Laser engraving is an incredibly versatile service. Sample products include die-cutting for printing and papercraft, business signage, wedding favors, book covers and other artistic and custom engraved items. The laser engraver will also work in support of letterpress production by making custom woodcuts that are printed from.

As part of an artistic teaching community, Caveworks Press & Studios will offer workshops in letterpress, book-making, paste paper, and other hands-on pursuits. The space may also open itself to poetry readings and mini-shows of visual art.

Whether located in Cedar Falls or Grundy County, we hope to develop educational programming and create a tourist destination.
A location in the Main Street area for increased foot traffic, visibility, and retail/meeting/workshop space would be ideal.

In terms of competition, there is no similar type of letterpress business within in the immediate area. Ackley, Dubuque, Mt. Vernon, Iowa City, Des Moines, Birmingham, and Urbandale have access to fine letterpress printing and some have facilities for workshops. We personally know many of the other letterpress printers in Iowa and know that we all have a passion for the craft as well as a willingness to share knowledge, help each other on projects, or locate equipment.

Online, it is certainly possible to order letterpress from other areas of the country. Our online presence will facilitate sales as well.

In laser engraving, there are nearby companies in Cedar Falls/Waterloo that offer this service. As an art-based business, we will develop unique products that are not offered anywhere else. One thing that these companies don’t appear to do is papercraft, which will allow us to customize our printing with cut shapes and overlays.

We hope the Dream Big application process will launch us on our dream to grow here in Iowa.
Thanks for sharing our dream!
Both of us come from families that operated small businesses. Julie's parents had Russell Glass Studios in Frederick, Maryland. She knew she wanted to be an artist and make things from an early age, with the example of her parents right in front of her. She spent many hours in the shop and at craft fairs, and later she graduated from Maryland Institute, College of Art with a BFA in Fine Art. It's been a long road figuring out how to make a living as an artist/craftsperson. While she exhibits her art nationally and even internationally, a storefront would be a permanent space for sales of artwork and other goods, as well as offering specialty printing and design services to the community and continuing the tradition of letterpress through internships and workshops.

David's parents owned a grocery store in Mechanicsville, Iowa when he was growing up, and he learned firsthand about great customer service, and the role of small business in the community. His background is in photography and video/audio production, with a BS in multi-media from the University of Northern Iowa. His design skills and mechanical aptitude are a great asset to the business. Keeping the presses running and developing the laser engraving design service will be some of the main focuses for him.

If we were fortunate to win this contest, we would be able to invest in the goal of having a storefront, which would move us to a new exciting level in our business. We would also perform some equipment refurbishing, and develop tourism and educational programming like workshops and tours/demonstrations to offer to the community.

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Bringing Back Back Home Country Cookin'

Brenda Landis
Back Home Country Cookin'
Strawberry Point, IA
In Nov. 2008 I moved Back Home to start my own Restaurant. Jan. 17th 2015 my dream was crushed by a fire. With no doubt in my mind I know I have to rebuild the dream, rise from the ashes and build bigger to support the volume of the growth we have experienced over the past seven years.
In 2008 we turned a small building into a 45 seat country style restaurant, where we served homemade meals and pies. As time went by we became well known throughout the area for quality food, good fast service with a reasonable price. As more time passed we became the place you must stop and visit, and don't leave without trying the pie! In the last seven years we have developed our own brand, one that people from all over the country have come to trust and love for a great place to meet and eat. We will continue to grow this brand. After the fire the response from the community made me realize just how much our little building meant to the people and the economic growth in this area. The plans to increase the seating to 140 seats will increase sales opportunities in the high volume summer months and give us other income possibilities in the winter months such as private parties to increase sales in the more difficult months.
After 30+ years as a restaurant manager in Florida I decided to build my own dreams back home with country style cooking (Back Home Country Cookin'), as this small rural area family restaurant became the popular place to meet and eat, with customers from all over the country, of all ages. I had only wished my building was bigger to serve the needs of its demands. So with the thought of adding a party room onto the building in the future. On Jan. 17th 2015 the building burnt down due to what was believed a furnace issue on the coldest night of the year. My dreams will not end here, I plan to rebuild with the needed space to continue to grow the business, as well as the community. These extra funds will assist Back Home Country Cookin' in building a better place for all, to have a great place to meet and eat....Back Home.

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If we build it, they will come

Rina Jensen
Cedar Rapids, IA
At 40 years old I finally realized I could, and should, not only share my creativity and pursue it as more than a hobby, I should also support other creatives. Changing our core to make a commitment to Iowa based artists and American made items, we are the epitome of shop local.
Domicile is really about where you live. I don't know anyone whose home is not enjoyable to them. People decorate to fit their styles. Some walls are adorned with original works of art. Some with family photos. Some not at all. We host family and friends. We laugh. We cry. We live our lives and every day we look to add a little more pleasure. Domicile is the only place in the corridor that has made a commitment to Iowa based artists and to our customers to provide original works of art, fun gifts and to spend our money with companies who were born, raised and stayed in the United States. The combination of Iowa artisans and American made is what sets us apart from other galleries and home decor stores.

Domicile makes it money by entry fees for art show submissions, purchasing inventory at wholesale prices and working with interior design companies to move their showroom inventory. We will still consign a few pieces, but on a referral basis from our design partnerships.
I am applying because it is outside of my comfort zone. I prefer to be behind a camera, not in front of it. I love talking with people on an individual basis, not in front of crowd trying to convince them I'm some kind of rock star. I am applying because I will learn and grow from this experience and that is what life is about!

Winning this competition would allow for a larger advertising budget. Ok, who am I kidding? It would allow for AN advertising budget and a bit more inventory. I am great at telling people what my vision is, but my voice travels only so far. The work we display by local artists is not an up-front cost, but the fun and funky gifts and accessories we offer are. This grant would allow me to reach more people, and source more American made products.

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Scrub N Style Where Your Professional Needs For Comfort and Style Are Met!

Candi Cheville
Scrub N Style
Waverly, IA
Scrub N Style has one goal... to bring high quality scrubs to as many professionals from across the state of Iowa as possible. Our focus is not only large towns/cities but also the many rural towns across the state. Our customers comfort and satisfaction is our number one priority.
My name is Candi Cheville and I have been a Licensed Registered Nurse for 8 1/2 years. I learned very early on how difficult shopping for medical scrubs in rural Iowa is. Most stores that specialize in scrub sales are located near major area hospitals, I however worked at a Critical Access Hospital in Waverly, Iowa. There is no grey area in the dress code when working in the medical profession... Scrubs are mandatory. In a situation like mine I had 2 choices hop in the car for a road trip out of town hoping they had what I needed or turn to the Internet. I myself turned to the internet which brought on many challenges of its own, differences is size need brand to brand, fabric not being quite what I expected, and my favorite oh that isn't quite the right color for my department dress code. Now suddenly I am paying to ship items back... the items I had already paid to ship to me in the first place... only to start the whole process again. This in no way felt like real shopping experience this felt like a guessing game!

In the Fall of 2012 I began doing some very basic research and quickly learned I was not alone. In fact everyone I spoke to had very similar stories. Here we all are in a highly respected profession and yet we have such limited access to something as simple as the clothing we are expected to wear to do our jobs. Through this research I was amazed at the number of professions that have turned to the use of scrubs as well. No longer were we just looking at nurses and doctors in scrubs. The market need for Scrubs was on a level all its own. I felt it was time to bring to life a place that people could come and experience the many brands of scrubs there are out there without the hassle of trying to pick the right style, the right size, or trying to guess which color that fabric actually is through a computer screen. A place you would be able to actually try your scrubs on, get a feel for the fabric and how it moves with your body type, a place you could bring to life your own style through your choices and you would be able to leave with your purchase in hand, a place you could go that if you didn't see exactly what you wanted they would handle the ordering process for you. A place you could go knowing the owner had your interest in mind... a person that knew firsthand the struggle you had faced with past shopping experiences.... because she too had had them.

On June 24th, 2013 Scrub N Style opened in Waverly, Iowa... a rapidly growing community full of people that pride themselves on keeping the "Small Town" feel alive. As a member of this community for the past 20 years I too wanted to be a part of that growth. I wanted to create that same small town feel within my store, I wanted you to walk into my store and know you weren't just a customer. I feel I have done just that. I have built real connections over the years with my customers... I know most all of their names, I know where they work, and I know where they travel from to shop within the doors of Scrub N Style. I listen to their feedback and strive consistently to meet their requests and make sure they know this is a place they can go that is truly all about them. This is an experience you would never find in the large chain stores or through a random online search.

We do not simply sell scrubs here at Scrub N Style. We also have a wide range of accessories not to mention a selection of other fun gift ideas. You Name It... most often we can find it. We are currently in talks with a major shoe line of which is yet another product that will help to meet the needs of our many customers. A one stop shop where quality, variety, and style are all equally present.

At this time we use 3 primary modes of doing business as listed below.
● Walk-Ins: These are customers that travel to our store front location in search of just the right scrubs to meet their needs.
● Facility Accounts: We currently have accounts with local businesses including: dental offices, veterinary clinics, pharmacies, nursing homes, and even the local spa. Within these accounts we are asked to put their entire staff in our products.
● Mobile Store: We travel to a facility every 4-6 months. We literally load our entire inventory onto a truck, travel to our destination, and set up our mobile store at their facility for the day. This one day event generates an average month worth of sales... if not more. Our goal is to have a minimum of 4 facilities we visit once every 3 months. Recently we have added smaller scale facility sales as well. We travel to the facility at a requested time and their entire staff has the opportunity to try scrubs on and place an order of their own. Also we have added in home sales. The host invites friends and coworkers to their home for their very own personal shopping experience.

As mentioned before the market need for scrubs is on a level of its own. I am often asked "How have you made a successful business out of a store that the majority of your sales is one major product?" I do not doubt you yourselves wonder the same thing... but let me tell you... no longer do you only see Nurses and Doctors wearing scrubs. I truly believe the scrub market is one of the most under estimated markets out there. There is a greater number of professions turning to their use and this list continues to grow.

At Scrub N Style we have a very strong customer base there are many local customers along with a number of them that travel from surrounding counties. Beyond the "locals" that shop our store front it is not out of the ordinary to have visits from communities within a 40mile radius. These areas are densely populated with places of employment filled with staff in need of our products. When you expand out to the 60mile radius point there is a significant jump in the number of these places of employment. We have had visits from even beyond this point, they may have been simply passing through town... but you better believe there next trip through they stop again. The distances that my customers are willing to drive just to shop to me is a pretty good indicator that our area of the state is not the only area feeling the effects of having limited scrub stores throughout the state.

The locations throughout Iowa where Scrub Stores can be found are pretty spread out. There are only 11 counties in Iowa with a scrub store location. Most of these counties have only 1 store throughout the entire county with the exception of a select few and most are located near major area Hospitals in the state. We are talking about a rapidly growing market with not near the growth of store locations to meet that demand.

I carry a greater number of brands in stock than the other stores located within miles of Scrub N Style. In fact I am the only location that carries 10 in stock scrub brands in the area. Most of my brands are exclusively found at Scrub N Style. In addition to our available in stock brands we also have number of other scrub lines I have access to special order for my customers, and we also have access to a Spa Wear and Chef Line. I feel not only does that draw customers in but my personal knowledge of the products I sell does as well. My customers know that if there is any way I can get a product to them... I will!

This journey started as a dream... I am ready to go bigger! After nearly a year and a half in business I felt it was time I was present at my business full time... it was then that I left my position at the local hospital. Up until that time my family had helped out at the store whenever I unavailable... while I continued to handle the "business" side of things. Many would call this a gamble... Not me! I believe in Scrub N Style and all it is... not to mention what I know it will be!

Now after over 2 1/2 year of business I am where I am as a result of all of my dedication and hard work. I am the person who opens my store each and every day and I am the one who closes each and every night. I handle all matters within my business... the daily duties at the store... the financial aspect... the ordering of products... pretty much anything that needs to be done is done by myself. It is time to build beyond that point.
Overall my goal is to bring the true shopping experience to the greatest number of professionals as possible, much like the countless number of professions that have always been able to receive just that. Let's think about this for a minute, how many of you have been to a doctor this week, to a vet clinic, had your eyes checked, had your teeth cleaned this week alone? This list can go on and on... but at the end of the day these facilities are filled with staff that are expected (not recommended) to wear a set uniform... Scrubs. A majority of these professionals have been limited their entire careers to computer screens that have lead them into the great unknown within the world wide web... until now.

The following is a list of our primary focus in terms of the use of funds from the "Dream Big Grow Here". These additions would happen simultaneously.

1. First and foremost we would increase our on hand inventory. We would need to build up stock to be prepared for the launching of online sales as well as the additional facility accounts and mobile store locations while keeping up with added demand of our walk-ins. We are currently working on bringing in the addition of a major shoe line and funding would allow us to bring it that in on a much broader spectrum. Also we would be able to expand our "accessory and gift" section immediately. With this added inventory we would be able to keep up with the large scale demand.

2. We would launch the official high quality Scrub N Style website of which would include online sales of products. As mentioned before, this website would let my customers know all about Scrub N Style and all that it has to offer. It would let them see
the store inside and out. It would let them know my story and how Scrub N Style came to be. It would create additional connections between myself and my customers. In addition we would be able to launch the e-commerce side of things. Offering online
sales of which will remove the hassle and cost of travel for our customers that travel great distances to shop within our doors. Our local customers would also benefit being many of them have very busy schedules and the store hours are not always within their free
time... I will be offering in store pick up as a shipping option as well. This option would also allow them to approve a guest of their choice to pick their items up in store for added convenience. This is just one more way I would be able to meet the needs of ALL

3. We would invest a greater amount of funds to a solid marketing plan and increase advertising in surrounding communities. This would allow us to reach our prospect customers on a much larger scale and a much faster rate.

With these changes in place we will see an increase in our customer base and facility accounts... in turn we will see a substantial growth in annual sales. With the projected increase in sales we will be able to add 1-2 Scrub N Style employees in the 1st year. I plan to continue building Scrub N Style until high quality scrubs are readily available in all areas of Iowa... not just larger towns/cities but also the number of rural communities across the state. With the "Dream Big Grow Here" Grant I will be just that must closer to my dream.

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Clothes aren’t going to change the world, the women who wear them will.

Brittany Keizer
Simply Jade Boutique
Sioux Center, IA
So they say dreams become reality and my reality has become my dream. My dream does not stop at my current business status; my dream is to grow my business and set an example for women in business all over the world that you can and will accomplish your dreams.
My business model has evolved over the past year, as I went from solely an online boutique to a brick & mortar as well, which provides my business with two platforms for sales. Currently, the largest form of income is my storefront (95%), which is located downtown in Sioux Center, Iowa. I have received a significant amount of interest for my online business but currently do not have the ‘manpower’ and resources to grow my online business alone. The competition in my industry have the staff and resources to manage both sides of their businesses. Currently, I am the only boutique storefront in Sioux Center but do have competition with another online boutique that is housed in the community. What makes my store different from the compeittion is accepting customer requests, my limited amount of each style in inventory and my new mission to create custom exclusive Simply Jade designs.
If I was to receive the funds from the dream big grow here competition, I would utilize those funds to hire a part-time manager to assist in managing my online store, I would utilize ‘sourcing’ at market to create custom exclusive designs for my storefront and online business and create a marketing campaign to grow awareness.

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Frosted! Making the World Shine, One Custom Order at a Time!

BRITTANY Hawthorne
Frosted! by Brittany
Cedar Falls, IA
Frosted! by Brittany is a custom redesign business. With Frost (all things shiny) we appeal to our customer’s desire to have unique, one of a kind pieces through exclusive custom work. Our main focus is apparel but we've also taken on awesome new ventures such as power wheels and statues.
Frosted! is built off of being unique and different. We pride ourselves on creating one of a kind pieces our customers can be proud to exclusively own. Our ability to take our customers request and exceed expectations as well as maintaining affordability forces us to stand out from our competition. We have researched and studied the best ways to do what we do and our quality exceeds that of our competition (which:includes DIYers and etsy). Rather than our customers trusting someone they don't know around the country, we provide a sense of security as well as a guaranteed quick turn around time to deliver the finished product. Our customers are very pleased with our services and are willing to pay our prices and continue referring and using our business creating loyalty.
We hope to incorporate new processes that will increase the servicing of our company including adding new employees, new equipment and on hand inventory to cut down the inconvenience of customers having to provide all items. We would also like to open a storefront in which we can increase our exposure as well as our sales and work space. Though we plan to achieve all of these goals, winning the competition would put our dreams into motion within one year as opposed to several. Though our business is very rare, timing of getting these goals accomplished is important since there is nothing close to our business in the area. This exclusivity would grant us majority of the market share within the state and surrounding areas.

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Create the first allergy free restaurant in the region

Mike Orlando
Gud n Free
Sioux City, IA
We can genuinely say, this business will be a first of its kind in the region. No restaurant closer than Minneapolis sells allergen free food, exclusively. The food will appeal to the masses, providing a safe haven for those that have felt excluded in the past, and opening up possibilities.
There is no other business like ours within 250 miles of us. We are completely free of gluten, wheat, nuts, tree nuts, and fish. Dairy and soy are also avoidable. That said, the food will be familiar to people...burgers, fries, chicken sandwiches, sub sandwiches, etc. We felt that the concept is different enough, so the type of food needed to be relatable to be a success. We find that if we are able to sell between 100-120 people a day, we will be profitable. We've done an extensive business plan with our local SBA representative. We do need people without allergies to buy from us, as well. And we believe that can be achieved, because our food is good. Allergy free has come a long way in just the five years we have lived this way. Our market size is around 150,000, including the suburban area and surrounding small towns.
The main reason we did this was family. Our own, which has Celiac and other food allergens...to all the others, who just feel left out. This has felt like a mission, and when you're doing something for the greater good, it feels right. But like any venture, the investment is a bit scary. While we have some of our own money and taken loans, the Dream Big grant would allow us to have more operating capital to purchase more equipment, such as a more efficient POS system as well as a music system.

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Furniture Re-do & Gifts - Cresco, Iowa

Nancy Henry
Furniture Re-do & Gifts
Cresco, IA
We call ourselves "2 Chicks In A Barn" We are a unique one of a kind gift shop offering re-purposed & new gifts. Offering furniture upholstery, caning, and furniture painting. Recycling old items into something new, beautiful, and usable.
Our small business started out in our homes then on to a garage and in 3 years we have re-purpose a small barn into our work shop and gift shop. This is truly a dream come true. Best friends from high school who always talked of owning a business together finally did it. At the age of 50 we quit our jobs, juggling home, kids, and grandkids and went for our dream! We are very creative, unique, and one of a kind (not only in our work but our personalities) We take much pleasure in creating neat useful beautiful items out of what would have ended up in the dump. We also do upholstery and caning that is in great demand!
We have grown so much in our 3 years we out grew our space and we tried so hard to buy an building in town but we we could not get the support of our local banks. With the constant demand for our upholstery services we need to purchase another industrial upholstery sewing machine and other small equipment so we can keep up with all the work coming our way. Because we are in the country but on a state hwy we need better signs (advertising) on the hwy and in town so customers can find us. The two of us have used every last dime we had to get the business going and only borrowed what was needed to get the barn usable. We did not even pay ourselves for the first couple years. We have started something good here and we are self motivated, determined, and dreaming big!

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Embracing You!

Wendy Klein
Bella Ragazza LLC
Burlington, IA
Bella Ragazza is a full service lingerie and foundation garment boutique, catering to all women of every age and size. Encouraging women to embrace what they have: their curves, size and inner and outer beauty.
My dream is to be a destination lingerie store focusing on the hard to fit women. Full busted, full figured women and women who have gone through breast cancer treatment do not have the variety of options as much as other women. My dream is to provide them with not only well fitting, supportive and fashionable undergarments and lingerie, but to also give them the boutique shopping experience they may not otherwise have. Bella Ragazza provides a one on one personal fitting with a trained fit specialist. We have created a beautiful boutique setting that is relaxing and welcoming. We strive to bring a personal and comfortable environment to every woman’s shopping experience.
Bella Ragazza (Beautiful Girl) opened in October of 2014 in Downtown Burlington, Iowa. Since then I have taken the time to listen to the concerns of these women and what they are looking for. Solutions are the common motivator for these women. Whether it is the full figured women, the full-busted women, mastectomy patient or elderly women with mobility issues, they all are looking for a solution to their foundation garment needs. My dream, of owning a lingerie boutique, changed when I started working with these women. Their frustration in finding lingerie became my focus and I was determined to find a solution.
The lingerie industry has made great gains in the design and construction of today’s foundation garments. Providing expanded sizing in cup and band has enabled the industry to connect with the full figured/full busted women. The industry has created superb fit, maximum support, and fashion forward designs enabling women of all sizes to have more choices.
Bella Ragazza is the only lingerie boutique in our surrounding area and has a reach of at least 30-50 miles. Women come from all over to shop in the boutique and get personally fitted. Word of mouth has been a primary driver in spreading the word about Bella Ragazza. One of my goals is to create a website and utilize social media to spread the word about Bella Ragazza and the unique service we provide. By utilizing these sources I will be able to reach even more women and spread the word that Bella Ragazza has the answer for the hard to fit women.
My dream was to own my own boutique. Today my dream is so much more than that. I want women to know that there is a place for them. I want them to know that they don’t have to travel hours or shop online only. I want women to throw away their frustrations because department stores don’t carry their size. I want women to feel empowered and beautiful. I want to build friendships with the women I work with. I want them to walk in and know that this is their store. I want them to have lingerie that fits, supports, empowers and makes them feel sexy and beautiful. I want them all to feel like a Bella Ragazza.
I have been around small business owners my whole life and always had a dream of owning my own business someday. It took several years and a life change that actually put me in the position to really go after my dream. I personally have always loved lingerie and foundation garments. My mother always told me growing up, "Wendy, every girl needs a good bra that fits". So when the moment came, I knew I wanted to own a lingerie store. At first it was more directed at lingerie, sleepwear, shape wear, lounge wear and foundation garments. When I began working with these women a repeated scenario kept coming up. The full figured/full busted woman had become frustrated and defeated thinking that there was nothing available for them that would really fit them. My heart went out to these women who walked in my door with a defeated look on their face because they were sure I wouldn't have anything that would fit. As I began to fit these full figured beautiful women and saw the happiness and smiles they had on their faces when I was able to put them into a well fitting supportive garment, I knew I had found my calling. Or when I did my first mastectomy fitting and we both cried because she said she finally felt like a whole women again. These are the experiences that make me love what I do. These are the reasons I know I am fulfilling a need. For these women it is not just a piece of clothing but life and attitude changing.
When I began this journey I used my personal savings to open the boutique. I felt that being personally vested was important to my success. I have operated on my initial investment and revolve any profit back into the boutique. I have not borrowed any capital for this venture and would rather grow slow than owe. At the beginning I had equal stock in various lines. As I move forward I am transitioning my efforts to build the lingerie and foundation garment lines. I have slowly added to my foundation garments one bra at a time. There are at least 210 bra sizes with 140 of them being the most frequently fitted. Because every woman is shaped different and every foundation garment fits different it can be a challenge to find the right fit when you don't have a full run in a particular bra. To achieve a proper fit, it is important to be able to move up or down in band and cup sizes when doing a fitting.
Because of my limited operating capital I do not always have the available sizes to work with. When this happens special orders are required. In most cases I will order several options to try and make sure we get the right fit. These special orders, with special orders being over 50% of current sales, can take up to 8 weeks leaving the customer disappointed and waiting.
The Dream Big Grow Here program would allow me to expand my cup and band sizes as well as increase the mastectomy and soft cup lines. By increasing my inventory I have the tools that I need to provide women a positive and proper fitting experience. I would also be able to expand my demographic reach by creating a website, increasing social media utilization and spreading the word to even more women.

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On Trend, On Main Street, Online

Lisa Richter
LBL is a small dynamic clothing store for women in the Cedar Valley and beyond. Opened in 2009, it has a customer base of 3000+. LBL offers fashions from New York to LA at reasonable prices, defining our niche in Main Street retail. LBL style is current fashion with personal service.
LBL is an on trend contemporary women’s fashion boutique in Cedar Falls, providing new fashion, accessories, along with wigs and hair pieces for fashion styling, and for compassionate care of women dealing with hair loss issues, all at an affordable price. LBL occupies a unique niche because our price point embraces woman of all ages. LBL style arrives from small independent fashion houses all across the United States. Going to market several times per year in Chicago, Las Vegas, and LA keeps the fashion fresh and follows the latest trends. Fashion forward at an affordable price drives a growing Main Street business with a customer base of diverse women throughout the Cedar Valley, Iowa, and the tri-state area.
Founded in 2009, LBL, owned by me, Lisa Richter, the 2nd generation in the retail fashion business, with a family history of stylish fashion in Northeast Iowa for over 40 years. I learned the business working with my parents as they grew their retail clothing business, Saxony, from one to three locations. I left Iowa to work as a runway model in Europe and eventually returned to assist in the family stores. Commitment to family, customers, and good fashion are part of the guiding principles of my growing business. LBL has global perspective with a local service style.
A successful business begins with good product, knowledgeable well trained staff, and an understanding of the marketplace. Working in the fashion industry since I was a teenager, I learned about quality on all levels and learned the business from the ground up by serving in every capacity, from maintenance to store layout, from buying at market to re-stocking merchandise, and from modeling to one-on-one consultations, attention to detail, whether price, quality, or service, separates LBL from the competition. Very few young entrepreneurs can draw on 40 years in women’s fashion, I have been living a lifelong apprenticeship in the fashion industry.
I grew up in retail fashion, unpacking clothes, steaming merchandise, and finally selling on the retail floor. I left Iowa to model in Europe, based in Milan, where I was eventually a house model for Prada, and a runway model for Giorgio Armani among many. Fashion work beyond the design houses of Milan brought me back to the US as a Sales Rep for several wholesale companies. Returning to Iowa, I joined the family business, Saxony, when my mother was battling breast cancer and I needed to help with the stores.
Later, wanting to express my own voice and vision, I opened LBL and dedicated the business to providing exciting fashion to women of all ages at a reasonable price point; women need and want to look good, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to do it.
LBL has grown its business the old fashioned way, keeping costs under control and providing excellent customer service. Annual growth since opening in 2009 ranges from 7% to 25%. Our mailing list has over 3,000 customers, with over 35% of them from other areas of Iowa and beyond. We regularly ship to customers outside our Cedar Valley base as the result of our regular use of social media, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Facebook has proven valuable to us, and with over 10,000 likes, our presence there is growing.
Also, I love developing my staff into the next generation of fashion professionals. Although part-time, my staff are exposed to buying at national and regional markets, and attend product knowledge seminars. Investing time in my staff pays rich dividends to my customers and likewise to my business.
LBL will launch a new fully integrated retail website at the end of the 1st Quarter 2016. Demand for online sales is increasing steadily, and the e-commerce site is the next natural extension of LBL. The grant winnings will be used to bring a full time person to assist the management of the online store, LOVELBL.com. Running a successful business requires delegation, and this will aid that process. Cedar Falls/Waterloo has a metropolitan population of over 150,000 people and is a regional shopping destination for tens of thousands more who visit Cedar Falls on a regular basis. Tapping into that additional market beyond the regional borders is the goal of LOVELBL.com our new e-commerce website.

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Cinnamon -N- Sage Healthy Fast Food Restaurant

robin brown
Cinnamon -N- Sage
Eldridge, IA
All healthy food. Fast, fresh and delicious with drive thru
It's an under-served market in this area. It's small, but growing quickly. We intend to fill the void. We have been operating out of the largest, local farmers market and our customers want us to provide them with other options. We are unique in that we intend to have a drive thru and a full menu that is truly healthy. the majority of our food is plant based, though we do offer protein in the form of lean animal products. Vegans and vegetarians will be comfortable ordering from our menu and be confident that they will be receiving tasty food done well. We will also accommodate all fad diets and grow with the trends. Currently, we have no direct competition, but we have enough indirect competition to indicate a market. There is one truly farm to table restaurant in the area. It is an upscale, sit down restaurant. We also source from local growers and supplier, and, we are considered more upscale. The competing restaurant does not claim to be healthy and doesn't focus on that aspect of the farm to table movement. Several places do claim to serve "fresh" food and they do use fresh produce. Even McDonald's uses fresh lettuce and tomatoes for their salads and sandwiches that call for lettuce and tomato. Our guests will soon realize that all of our product is fresh and handcrafted in house, or locally. We cannot make balsamic vinegar, for example, but have a local supplier. Many of the ethnic restaurants in the area are healthier by default, but they do not monopolize on that aspect in their advertising and promotion. We will also be offering premade meals that people only have to heat and eat. People are VERY excited about this.
We have been offered two opportunities to partner with other businesses so we can offer our food to the public on a daily basis rather than rely solely upon the farmers market. One of those opportunities is in a juice bar and conscious cafe and requires no start up costs. It is simply a profit sharing agreement. The other one is in a wellness center. This one does require some start up costs. We have the funds to cover those, but we are running low. In order to keep both of these places stocked and staffed as well as keep the heat and eat meals and catering jobs that we get up and running, one of us needs to quit the job that we have now. It would be better if two of us could quit. This means that it is time for Cinnamon -N- Sage to start paying wages. I will be quitting my other job first, and am only asking $12,000 a year until we are all being paid and are bringing in enough for me to get a raise. Most, or all of the money received from this grant will be used as a cushion in case the first few months are rocky. Some of it could be used for licenses and unexpected expenses

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