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Mason City Business Wins 3rd Place in Statewide Entrepreneur Contest

MASON CITY – Mason City business owners received third place in the annual Dream Big Grow Here contest. Nikole and Jon Benson of Tug’s Daycare and Preschool of Mason City received $500 for winning third place in this statewide competition. They previously won $5,000 in November during the regional competition.

Their dream is to add a 1,000 square foot addition to include a sick room, gymnasium, computer area, three class rooms and two restrooms, which would enable them to serve 60 more children.

Winners were announced March 7 at the Hotel at Kirkwood in Cedar Rapids.

Dream Big Grow Here is an annual statewide contest for entrepreneurs and small business owners to win cash to start or grow an Iowa business. To participate, small business owners simply upload their ‘dreams’ during a regional contest administered by their local economic development corporation (EDC).  They encourage friends, customers and other business owners to vote for them.  Wildly popular, 225 Iowa companies competed in one of 10 regional contests at in 2012, attracting more than 100,000 supporters, 150,000 visits, 550,000 page views and tens of thousands of online votes and comments. Each regional contest winner received $5,000 cash and a chance to win another $10,000 cash award at EntreFest! on March 7th.

Celebrity emcee for the Dream Big Grow Here pitch off was Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds. “Community, local economy, giving back,” she said during contestant presentations. “These are words that we just keep hearing over and over again throughout these presentations; no matter who wins, these are outstanding Iowa businesses, every one”.

The winner of this year’s Dream Big Grow Here pitch off event was Tom Molhulland of Molhulland Grocery in Malvern, Iowa, population 1,150 people.  “We had to fight to make it,” explains Tom. “We got there as the last finalist, thanks to a lot of help from a lot of friends.” His voice shook slightly as he accepted Thursday night’s award from John Sorenson of the Iowa Bankers Association, “this grant will mean so much for my business in our rural community, Thank you.”

Now in its second year, the Dream Big Grow Here contest has awarded more than $100,000 to Iowa entrepreneurs. “We are cultivating a spirit of celebrating entrepreneurs, both through the Dream Big Grow Here contests and the Entrefest! conference,” said Maureen Collins-Williams, Director of Entrepreneurship outreach for the University of Northern Iowa. “This year, seven of the 10 Dream Big Grow Here finalists were from communities with fewer than 20,000 population. We were surprised and very pleased at the response from rural communities.  Increasing awareness and support of entrepreneurship in rural Iowa is critical to long term economic health in the state.”

The second place winner was Deri Fehr of EDU Instruments of Terril, Iowa ($1,000).
A long list of regional and state sponsors collaborate to provide the contests and cash awards for Dream Big Grow Here.  In addition to the University of Northern Iowa, state sponsors include the Iowa Bankers Association, Renew Rural Iowa, Delta Dental, VentureNet, the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the Community Vitality Center and the Technology Association of Iowa.  Ten regional hosts manage and match contest winnings for each contest.

In North Central Iowa, the regional host and sponsors included: NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center; North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corporation; Charles City Area Development Corporation; Forest City Economic Development; Franklin County Development Association; Hancock County Development Corporation; Mitchell County Economic Development; and Winnebago-Worth Counties Betterment Council.

The national NACCE Innovation Award winning NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center provides college level courses and degree programs in entrepreneurship, as well as comprehensive consulting services for business start-ups, existing industries and owner transitions in the North Iowa region.   Space is available for start-up businesses in the North Iowa Business Incubator. For more information, contact the NIACC JPEC at 641-422-4111.

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