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2023 Open 4 Business Pitch Contest Finalists Announced

July 17, 2023

Main Street Iowa has named five finalists in their annual Open 4 Business Pitch Contest, which will be held Tuesday, August 1 in conjunction with the 2023 Iowa Downtown Conference. The pitch contest will be held at the RE/MAX City Centre in Sioux City - just a short walk from the Conference headquarters.  Each of the five finalists will pitch their business idea live to a panel of judges and the winner will receive a $20,000 grant.

The Open 4 Business program encourages business development in designated Main Street Iowa districts around the state. Each applicant completed an online application and submitted a video pitch about how they would invest the Open 4 Business grant funds to help expand and grow their business.

The five finalists are:

Cedar Rapids: Iowa Running Company
Iowa Running Company co-owners Jim Dwyer and Clifton Trebil-Smith opened their specialty running store in the New Bohemia/Czech Village District of Cedar Rapids in March 2017. The Iowa Running Company has seen an increase in referrals from local podiatrists and foot doctors and would like to better serve those customers. If named the 2023 Open 4 Business winner, they would use grant funds to purchase a 3D foot scanner. The 3D foot scanner will enable the store to provide orthotics customized to each customer, using data that includes pressure mapping and walking/running gaits to eliminate pain. Their local, in-person support is more comprehensive than the internet, where customers often get mixed messaging and end up ordering products that ultimately do not work.

Read more here.

Keokuk: Tangles Salon
Tarla Price has been the owner of Tangles Salon in Keokuk for the past 25 years. She recently remodeled a historic two-story building in town and plans to expand her business by adding a retail boutique, more stylists and another aesthetician to her salon. If named the winner of the 2023 Open 4 Business Pitch Contest, Tarla plans to use the funds to purchase salon equipment, including LED lamps, HydraFacial machines, LED beds, foot massagers and custom styling stations. For the boutique side, funds will be used to purchase clothing, home goods, security cameras and furniture for displays and reception area.

Read more here.

Mount Vernon: Glyn Mawr Winery – The Local
Glyn Mawr Winery – The Local opened their brick and mortar, local hangout in Mt. Vernon in 2019. The establishment offers a place for community members to gather and have a good time, whether that be relaxing with a glass of wine or participating in The Local’s various events, including bingo and trivia nights, the monthly book club or even the 5K Wine Run. The Local hosts over 50 private events per year, including wedding rehearsal dinners, baby showers and parties. Their customers’ biggest request is fresh food items. If named the 2023 Open 4 Business winner, grant funds would be used to purchase a custom, 12-foot food trailer that would be permanently located on The Local’s patio, as well as a pager system to notify customers when their food is ready.

Read more here.

Ottumwa: Heron Kross
Saving family heirlooms and historical documents is a passion for the small business, Heron Kross, in Ottumwa. Heron Kross is currently the only privately owned paper conservatory within a 200-mile radius in Ottumwa. It also houses a vintage storefront and an antique paper press. If awarded the 2023 Open 4 Business grant, owner Erin Naylor would purchase items to expand her paper conservatory, including adjustable lab tables, a microscope, tools for paper mending and repair. She would also purchase a ductless fume hood, enabling her to safely use chemicals to treat damaged paper items she currently cannot accept. Heron Kross would also use grant funds to hire a social media specialist, graphic designer and local videographer to beef up her website and online presence and purchase printmaking supplies to begin offering workshops.

Read more here.

West Branch: The Serving Café
After 2020, Jennifer Walker knew she wanted to put open a café similar to one her mother had owned in West Branch. The Serving Café began dishing out meals in June 2021 using fresh, locally sourced ingredients in a small building, which was quickly bursting at the seams. Jennifer is now in the final stages of renovating a historic gas station down the street from The Serving Café – doubling their space, offering outdoor seating and a drive through. The Serving Café is only one mile off Interstate-80 and just down the street from the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum – a perfect location for growth. If named the winner of the 2023 Open 4 Business Grant, The Serving Café would use the funds to purchase equipment to meet the demands of a new drive through, including espresso machine and a BlendTec Nitro Blender and a Nitro Cold Brew dispenser to bring more trending drinks to the menu.

Read more here.

The Iowa Downtown Conference is the premier statewide conference for downtown revitalization professionals and volunteers from Iowa and neighboring states to network and learn how a strong downtown can be a major stimulator for economic activity. Learn more and register here.