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.

Manufacturing & Biosciences

Creating the next big thing or a breakthrough in the medical industry? Submit your dream here.



Jim Braunschweig
Sioux City, IA
My Father, Son, and I design and build hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind boardgames/tailgate games called Flickboards. Our game has been proven to entertain kids as young as 4 years old to people 85+. They also double as wall decor for a person's fan-cave, bedroom, office, or business when not in use.
Currently there is no other product on the market like our Flickboards.

After participating in the University of Iowa's Venture School Program (Sioux City cohort) last October/November, during which we conducted over 60 customer discovery interviews with potential customers and business owners, we believe we have nearly perfected our product based on the feedback we received.

In the past 45 days we have acquired the University of Iowa's permission to use their logos/marks (making it an officially licensed product), have sold over 25 units in the past month with little to no advertising... basically just referrals and by word-of-mouth. If we would have had more teams (licenses) we actually could have sold double. We are currently in talks with several other businesses, college and professional sports teams, and other organizations about acquiring licenses and developing partnerships which can help us further scale the business.

Initially, we plan to continue promoting and selling the Flickboards as we have been: Online, sold and placed into businesses with high traffic areas such as sports bars, restaurants, and even hospital waiting rooms to increase their visibility. We also plan to attend craft shows, tailgates and other sporting events throughout 2016, but by this fall would like to get them into team shops and other select retail stores for point-of-purchase.
We need the money to help us further market and advertise our Flickboards, pay for the acquisition of more college and professional sports teams logo/mark licenses, and to help us produce more inventory to reduce the cost per board which would allow us to get Flickboards into team shops and other retail stores more easily.

Advertising is key for us though. We are now more confident than ever that people will buy them, but first they need to see them! :)

Thanks for your time and consideration. - Jim Braunschweig

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Help me make a difference

Aaron Hanson
The Compost Ninja
Ladora, IA
40% of the material headed to the landfill could be diverted. The Compost Ninja is a food waste diversion program aiming to divert organic food waste and turn it back into organically grown vegetables and nutrient rich compost to give back to our customers.
The Compost Ninja offers a complete sustainable service unlike any mechanism currently in place.

When our customers sign up they receive their collection unit, complete with a bio degradable bag and list on the top of the unit of things that can and can't be composted. We accept all organic food waste including meats, bones, dairy, paper towels, cardboard, toilet paper rolls and other bio degradable items.

We exchange the collection unit weekly with a fresh, sanitized unit. Each bucket is weighed upon switching them out. The customer earns points based on the wait of their bucket.

They will have the option to redeem their points for nutrient rich compost created from their food waste, or they can redeem them for fresh vegetables and fruits grown with their compost.

We make it easy for everyone to reap the benefits of composting, gardening fresh organic vegetables and helping our communities with little to no effort. The only thing the customer has to do is simply put items that can be composted into their kitchen collection bin and set it by the door to be exchanged every week instead of the trash can.

Our service is available to residences and small businesses in Linn, Johnson and Iowa counties currently. The Compost Ninja costs $25.00 monthly.

We project each customer of The Compost Ninja will divert around 500 lbs of material from the landfill every year.

We are taking food waste and turning it back into food, closing the loop.
We are applying for this money because we have recently seen an influx in business and we would like to invest more into our overhead to expand the business. We would use the money to stock up on pails, liners and lids as well as marketing and educational materials for customers and potential customers.

We have also had many schools reach out to be me part of our service. We will need to purchase equipment to handle the volume created by the schools.

We would like to expand from Linn, Johnson and Iowa counties to be able to serve the greater Eastern Iowa area.

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Iowa Distilling Company - From Iowa Grain to Your Glass.

Todd Dunkel
Iowa Distilling Company
Cumming, IA
Iowa Distilling Company is a 4 year old distillery in Cumming, Iowa. The distillery produces rum, whiskey, and vodka products; and continues to grow and expand its operations in Warren County, Iowa.
Iowa Distilling Company produces craft spirits products which are quite unique in their construction and composition. We produce true caribbean style rums, which are aged with bourbon traits. Our vodkas are produced using unique methods of filtration that are unmatched in the spirits industry. Our whiskeys, ranging from Bourbon to cinnamon whiskey are all constructed with traits which stand out from competing products. Iowa Distilling Company also custom manufactures products for its clients, and is seeing a constant growth in all facets of its diverse manufacturing business.

Our primary markets are retail and on-site alcoholic beverage sales, which is a 300 million dollar industry in Iowa alone. Our primary competition is the large spirits manufacturers from all over the globe. The very large manufacturers own dozens of brands and have much more muscle in the sales and marketing side of the beverage alcohol industry.

Our outstanding customer service, top-notch products, and strong consumer following set us apart form global brands. We continue to expand our product line in key markets, while increasing our sales in existing retail locations. Our creativity, work ethic, and ingenuity are key traits of the success of Iowa Distilling Company.
Iowa Distilling Company is applying for this grant to assist in expansion of our aged whiskey product line. The $10,000 grant money, if presented to Iowa Distilling Company, would be placed directly into aged whiskey manufacturing and Bourbon barrel storage.

The return on investment from the $10,000 grant would yield $135,000 in distillery revenue and $49,000 in tax revenue, in the first 2 years. This money would help us gain a boost in our aged whiskey product availability which is the fastest growing and most valuable beverage alcohol category today.

Thank you very much for considering our grant application! Cheers!
Todd E. Dunkel - President
Iowa Distilling Company

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Fresh from farm to your mouth with a pit stop in the freezer

Jenna King
Stickalicious Pops
Missouri Valley, IA
Stickalicious Pops makes gourmet ice pops by hand using local farm fresh ingredients. We are always fresh, fun, and delicious. By partnering with local farms we are able to introduce farmers to our customers and educate our customers on where their food comes from and help small farms grow.
We are the ONLY locally sourced gourmet ice pop company in Iowa and Nebraska. Our zany flavors like Basil Lime and Banana Berry Bliss keep our customers coming back for more and our commitment to purchase as many of our items from local sources keeps introducing them to new farms and small businesses in the community.

We started June of 2015 with $30 in our kitchen and as of now we have sold hundreds of pops during our "off season" (September-May), have created a loyal fan base that looks to us as their go to for healthy treats, and have grown so much that we are expanding to have a full time operation.

By the end of the month we will have our ice pops in Tomato Tomato (Omaha, Nebraska) and Egg Krate (Elkhorn,Iowa.) We have over 20 events on our calendar within the next 6 months and we are going full time starting June of 2016 with 6 farmer's markets every week plus festivals, fairs, and catering. We also have a line of pops available for fundraising.

We partner with local small farms to get as many ingredients as possible (berries, herbs, apples, pumpkins, ect) and will be starting a geothermal greenhouse program in the near future to grow lemons, limes, and pineapples. We try to keep the money we spend local to the midwest to support the communities that support us by using small businesses for our printing, marketing, and supply needs.
Our pops retail for $3-$4 each and each flavor makes a tasty profit!
The Dream Big Grow Here competition provides great exposure and will introduce us far beyond our organic reach. Should we win, we plan on using the funds to upgrade our cooler to cut down on dry ice costs and purchase a mobile cart to increase our sales by adding catering for parties, showers, and weddings, and purchasing land to build a geothermal greenhouse. We will also invest in professional labels and packaging to start selling at HyVee and hope to grow enough to hire seasonal help through Crossroads of Iowa to help increase production.

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CPAP BreATh Genesis (BAT=Brown Adipose Tissue, Genesis=to form)

Douglas Swain
Lyman Veterinary Clinic LLC
Griswold, IA
The primary aim of the invention is to induce cold thermogenesis, thus leading to increased brown adipose tissue activity and deposition in a comfortable, efficient way, as to increase caloric expenditure, thus aiding weight loss. A secondary goal is to reduce insulin resistance in Type II Diabetic...
The BreATh Genesis Company originated from experiences in my career as a mixed animal veterinarian. The company is dedicated to taking advantage of the human body’s physiologic response to cold therapy by creation of the CPAP BreATh Genesis. The invention reduces body mass and associated co-morbitities by brown fat induction. The methodology/invention encompasses breathing refrigerated air during deep sleep as to not induce a shiver reflex, stimulate BAT deposition/activity, increase caloric expenditure, produce distilled water product for humidification, and decrease condensation in the delivery tubing. The market for anti obesity therapies are widespread since 2/3 of the U.S. population is overweight or obese. Middle aged and African Americans should have the greatest need for a benign system of weight loss. Obesity related dietary supplements and weight loss pharmaceuticals have provided minimal efficacy for the obesity epidemic. Key factors for marketability include the ongoing prevalence of obesity and physicians’ continuing role in preventing disease. The key strategy for implementing this technology is an inability for other technologies to induce BAT comfortably. We will focus on the already established sleep apnea customer base and compare/contrast the widespread benefits to the associated co-morbitities of diabetes and cancer. We will focus on low cost manufacturing options and portray and American image in our company. We will cooperate with institutions for advancing the technology in an evidence-based way. The management will adhere to a honest and professional image and use their prior strengths as successful businessmen to perpetuate the company with a progressive, profit based approach.

The forecast for CPAP BreATh Genesis is encouraging looking at the current market. One should consider the following key factors:
• More than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese.
• Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
• The estimated annual medical cost of obesity was $147 billion in 2008 dollars; the medical cost for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
• Non-Hispanic blacks have the highest age-adjusted rates of obesity (47.8%) followed by Hispanics (42.5%), non-Hispanic whites (32.6%), and non-Hispanic Asians (10.8%).
• Obesity is higher among middle aged adults, 40-59 years old (39.5%) than among younger adults, age 20-39 (30.3%) or adults over 60 or above (35.4%).
• More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
• More than 1 in 20 adults are considered to have extreme obesity.
• 19 active ingredients in common weight loss supplements clinically show modest effects on body weight or decreased weight gain.
• The U.S. is currently the biggest single market for weight loss drugs.
• Even weight loss drugs that have made it to market have not done well.
• IMS Health, which tracks prescriptions, estimates combined sales of obesity drugs last year at only $173 million in the U.S..
• Till date there has been no “silver bullet” remedy for obesity.
• Analysts estimate that the potential market for obesity drugs range from $5-$10 billion in sales in three years.
• When overweight people (with an average weight of 225lbs) lose 7.5 % of their body weight (about 17 pounds or 4 inches of weight size), they improve their HDL “good” cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels by 20%. That’s nearly three times the benefit compared to percentage weight loss.
The main driver of growth will be the growing population of overweight and obese individuals needing technological intervention and the subsequent rise in the obesity-related co-morbities to put obesity at the forefront of the medical community.
The second largest driver will be the physicians’ efforts to delay disease progression thru the use of combination therapies. To date, no drug has achieved blockbuster status. This unmet need presents a large opportunity for technological developers to capture an unoccupied market space.

Competitors for brown fat induction:
• Hyperwear Cooling Vest
• Cool Fat Burner Vest
• Potentials such as an endoscopically placed implant, and various drug/stem cell technologies

The product disadvantages are apparent in the following:
All of the cooling vest technologies require the patients to endure cold thermogenesis while awake. This makes this a very unpleasant option. To induce brown fat you are placed in an uncomfortable vest that chills you. They claim that the ability to withstand cold therapy is something you work towards. Unfortunately, most of us are not willing to sacrifice discomfort for extra calorie burn. Secondly, human physiology dictates that appetite is stimulated during cold exposure. What keeps the person from overeating to compensate for the extra calorie burn? In one study, mice were exposed to a cold environment and were offered all the food they wanted; guess what, they showed BAT deposition but did not lose weight. They simply ate to compensate. Other medical devices are undergoing research and many are invasive. Implanting a medical device in your duodenum sounds extreme and unnatural.
CPAP BreATh Genesis will stand out in the market for the following reasons:
1. There is little discomfort in implementing cold thermogenesis because it is administered while sleeping.
2. The methodology is novel. From our independent patent search no identifiable patent described inducing cold thermogenesis by cooling inhalant air.
3. The methodology is non-invasive and will be viewed as natural.
4. The FDA approval shall proceed much more quickly than drug based therapies.

Benefits of CPAP BreATh Genesis

1. Induces cold thermogenesis in a long duration, comfortable fashion, that patients will use.
2. Induces cold thermogenesis without appetite stimulation.
3. Inherently produces distilled water product for end product humidification.
4. Eliminates the necessity to have heated delivery tubing to prevent rainout.
5. Increases BAT deposition/activity
6. Aids weight loss and prevents weight gain by increasing daily caloric expenditures
7. Decreases insulin resistance
With an initial seed start funding, the company will obtain workable prototypes, initiate clinical trials, strive toward FDA approval, and set up appropriate positions to produce and move product sales forward. Cost will always be a primary consideration in our decisions.

The purpose for establishing this business is multifaceted.
1. Establish a more advanced prototype that has dependability in clinical trials
2. Plan and initiate clinical trials to establish an evidence based scaffold to prepare and file for FDA approval.
3. Gain FDA approval for obesity and Type II Diabetes.
4. Establish manufacturing and distribution focusing on low cost production and global marketing.

A utility patent has already been filed and has patent pending status for which the fast review option has been expedited.

I am currently on my 3rd prototype and reducing the size of the hardware. I am using computerized 3D software and 3D printing (material deposition modeling) to create a usable countertop machine. I predict I will have a aesthetic countertop prototype within 1-2 mo. Some of the funds will aid with the development.
I have used my other prototypes for 4 months in conjunction with dietary management and exercise and have lost nearly 70 pounds, improved my hypertension to normal, and lowered my average blood glucose by 25 mg/dl. I urge you to review the brown fat literature; this technological avenue shows a real promise.

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From Farm to Shelf...Taking Iowa grown or produced products from concept to retail.

Rick Valentine
Valentine Food Company
indianola, IA
Valentine Food Company has utilized their time and resources to transform their facility from a commercial kitchen to a food production facility. VFC has developed a process and acquired the necessary equipment to take recipes, products or ideas through from concept to production.
Our business is based on the premise that people are in search of quality food products without preservatives and additives. Iowa has always had the reputation of being the "bread basket" of the world. Our products, through extensive testing of food preservation, are able to be produced with "clean" labels; meaning ingredient lists that you can not only pronounce, but know what they are. Since the concept has been in process, many different companies and products have surfaced expressing interest in our services. Surrounding states have similar types of businesses that are flourishing with health conscious products. Home grown, no preservative added food products are being sold with demand exceeding production capacities. I believe that Iowa is prime for this type of business considering the rise of small "hobby" farms and the migration of people to rural acreages. Our company is unique in that we are able to produce these products efficiently in a small batch setting. Allowing a wider variety of products to be brought to shelves economically.
I'm applying for this program due to the overwhelming interest in our small batch food production program. The equipment we have purchased thus far has gotten us into the market. We now need to purchase further production equipment to make our facility more efficient to be able to keep production costs down, therefore keeping the final product price within market demand. We also would like to expand our web presence to be able to offer a more robust marketplace for the products we produce to be located easily.

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Geri Wester
Victor, IA
When you have a product and want to send it out, what do you put it in? If you are working on home projects, and need to keep organized or move things, what do you put it in? When you go to the store and see products on the shelf, everything sold basically needs a package or bucket.
Affordable Buckets started out with two sizes of molds for plastic, open head buckets and lids in lots of colors and sizes with short lead times in small to large quantities. We are a web based company that sells across the United States and Canada, and Norway, but are not well known in Iowa. We help educate our customers on packaging to make good choices to match their products. Small to large customers, need small to large quantities in lots of colors with quick turnaround time to ship. There are only two major conglomerate companies in the industry left after buyouts, and they only sell truckloads, and have long lead times. Customers call us and tell us they can't even get a return phone call, so, "could we help them?" There are distributors, but the high minimum purchase quantities and lead times leave customers without any packaging to put their product in or even a chance to get started as a home based business. We like to learn our customer's story, and to help them grow. If we can help them grow, then I know we will be there to support them, too.
I am looking forward to a growing year. A pail printing/decorating machine has been put in place to help customers label their containers for market, and now Affordable Buckets will be able to quote truckload orders that were never able to be competitive without printing. There is a newer 5 gal pail and lid mold going into production that will be more efficient and price competitive in line with pricing the the top two companies offer their corporate customers. There will be more lid options such as tint plug and screw cap for paint. There will also be new molds for 2 sizes of rectangular molds with flip lids put into production to increase sales and customer choices.

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World's first functional biking apparel

Russell Drenth
Decorah, IA
Cyco-Bike is the world's first functional biking apparel company. Solar panels charge your mobile devices while you ride with reflective lighting built in for night riding. The gloves have reflective knuckle protectors for safe night riding along with removable sweat stripz.
Ask any bike rider who travels long distances, i.e. RAGBRAI, especially in remote areas, if they have had their cell phone batteries deplete. Ask that same rider if their hand signals are seen at night on a dark street. Ask any rider on a hot day if their back sweats more than their front (the air/wind hits the front and dissipates heat, while the back remains very hot.) Ask any motorist if they can truly see a bicycle rider at night from a distance.

Cyco-Bike has the answer to all of these issues. The bike jersey has solar panel capabilties to charge devices on the go, reflective el-wire lights up the sky at night and can be seen for miles while the back has a removable panel with mesh back. The gloves have reflective knuckle protectors for safety at night (hand signals can be seen,) removable sweat stripz to help wipe forehead and nose and tough grip palm helps grip the handlebars even when hands are sweating.

Cyco-Bike has innovative, one of a kind products, that solve problems in the market.

Market channels are through programs for store front retailers, websites and also private labeling. Production has been established and costs are very competitive. Additional streams of revenue exist by selling the solar panels and el-wire as separate "add-on" items. The customer may also buy the entire package at a special price. Cyco-Bike is also the only company building bike jerseys for big and tall, including up to size 5XB and 4XT. Till now, anyone who was big and tall couldn't find a bike jersey to fit, meaning many teams couldn't get jerseys for all riders.

Currently there are no other "functional" bike apparel companies in the market. Competition comes in the form of people trying to charge their devices through stationary solar panels on the bike, which doesn't offer versatility. El-wire is currently used on bikes, but it is not highly visible from behind. The most dangerous situation for a rider is a motorist from behind not seeing them. With el-wire positioned on the upper back, the Cyco-Bike rider can be seen for miles and is highly visible.

It is estimated that over 50 million bike riders exist in the USA alone. Over 10% of these riders are active and do long trips. This is the target audience not being reached by conventional bike clothing.
The funds would be used for production of the product, trade shows/advertising, and future product development.

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