Shoe Retailer Puts Their Best Foot Forward
Iowa Running Company in Cedar Rapids is a finalist in Iowa's 2023 Open 4 Business Contest competing for a $20,000 grant to support business expansion.
Jim Dwyer and Clifton Trebil-Smith first met while working together at a specialty shoe store. Both had a passion for running and clicked immediately.
It was an “easy decision” to work together as co-owners of the Iowa Running Company. “It was one of those things where the stars aligned,” Clifton said. “We had the shared philosophy and run specialty. We had the same idea and approached each other.”
They both knew they wanted to open in The District: Czech Village & New Bohemia. “It’s the heartbeat of Cedar Rapids,” Clifton said. The district is full of small, locally owned businesses and close to running, walking and biking trails.
“We wanted to be down here because it was the main street district – a vibrant neighborhood with lots of walk-by traffic,” Jim said. “And the vibe matched our philosophy, mentality and what we envisioned our business becoming.”
Over the years the Iowa Running Company has seen an uptick in referrals from foot doctors and podiatrists. They hope to help a wider array of people as they expand into custom orthotics by investing in a 3D foot scanner. The 3D foot scan provides hard data that includes individual walking and running gait and pressure mapping to alleviate foot pain. Their local, in-person support also offers better guidance than the internet, where customers often get mixed messaging and end up ordering products that ultimately do not work. “We look at it as we are providing a service to the community,” Jim said. “How many people have to wear dress shoes and their feet hurt? A steel toe boot and their feet hurt.”
The Iowa Running Company has a heavy focus on personal relationships. “As cheesy as it sounds, we know our customers by name,” Jim said. “And I do feel in this day and age, with the technology we have, customer service is definitely a dying art. We get a lot of regulars that will stop in. And they don’t even stop in to buy anything but just to say ‘hi.’”
“The biggest thing is the customer service,” he continued. “And everything we do has community in mind in some form or another. Because if we aren’t constantly thinking about our community and giving back in time and financials, we have less of a chance to succeed.”
Competing in Iowa's Open 4 Business Pitch Contest
Iowa Running Company is among five finalists competing for a $20,000 grant in the 2023 Open 4 Business Pitch Contest. The Open 4 Business contest, hosted by Main Street Iowa, is a statewide entrepreneurial contest that provides funding for business expansion projects to small businesses located within a designated main street district in Iowa. The winner will be named after the pitch contest, taking place in Sioux City on August 1 and held in conjunction with the Iowa Downtown Conference. The event is a celebration of small businesses and includes short business pitches, business videos and check presentations to the winners. The five finalists were selected in June by a panel of judges after interviews with all applicants.
If named winner of the 2023 Open 4 Business contest, Iowa Running Company would use the grant funds to purchase the new 3D foot scanner.