EntreFest! Announces $10,000 Dream Big, Grow Here Winner

EntreFest! Announces $10,000 Dream Big, Grow Here Winner

More than 300 people gathered at the Hotel at Kirkwood in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, March 7th to attend the Dream Big, Grow Here pitch off event and to celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship in Iowa at the sixth annual EntreFest! conference.

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 then encourage friends, customers and other business owners to vote for them. Wildly popular, 225 Iowa companies competed in one of ten regional contests online 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 at the podium 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 stood at the podium to accept 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.”
[Pictured right: Tom Molhulland of Molhulland Grocery, Lt Governor Kim Reynolds, and John Sorenson of the Iowa Bankers Association].

Now in its second year, the Dream Big, Grow Here contest has awarded over $100,000 in business cash 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 ten 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.””

Other Dream Big, Grow Here winners included second place winner Deri Fehr of EDU Instruments of Terril, Iowa ($1,000) and third place winner Nikole and Jon Benson of Tug’s Daycare and Preschool of Mason City ($500). Other statewide finalists included WW Homestead Diary of Waukon, The Chicken Sisters of Lamoni, Cryogen Design of Marshalltown, {made} of Burlington, The Depot Family Restaurant of New Virginia, Ready to Go In America of Iowa City, and Recycle Rite of Cedar Falls. More than 225 companies from 66 counties competed in a Dream Big Grow Here contest in 2012.

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, Iowa Farm Bureau 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.

Dream Big, Grow Here statewide pitch off is held in conjunction with EntreFest!, an Iowa conference for entrepreneurs and small business owners, which travels to different parts of Iowa each year. This year’s EntreFest! was held at the Kirkwood Hotel in Cedar Rapids on March 7th and 8th attracting hundreds of entrepreneurs, small business owners, and intrapreneurs. “The Kirkwood Hotel offered the perfect backdrop for our event”, noted Andy Steen of Seed Here & EntreFest! 2012 event manager. “The Kirkwood Hotel is the only four diamond hotel owned by a community college in the country, offering a great example on entrepreneurial thinking inside an educational institution.”

For more information on Dream Big, Grow Here or EntreFest!, please contact Maureen Collins-Williams, director Entrepreneurship Outreach at the University of Northern Iowa at 319-273-4327 or Andy Stoll, Seed Here.

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