Three Iowa Small Businesses and a Non-Profit Recognized Nationally

Three Iowa Small Businesses and a Non-Profit Recognized Nationally

By Lea Hensel, UNI Business and Community Services

Happy National Small Business Week! Each year, the Small Business Administration takes the first week of May to celebrate the 26 million small businesses that strengthen our communities throughout America. And since it started in 1963, one of the highlights is awarding small businesses in each state for their work. Upon learning about the four awardees this year, one trend stuck out to me about each – it’s more than just the business. Each person recognized has played a large role not only in growing their business/organization but they strongly support community development whether that be economically, financially or simply time which makes it very easy to be proud of those that are representing Iowa this year.

And without further ado, the four Iowa winners for the 2017 National Small Business Week.

Iowa Small Business Person of the Year- Ben Puck –  Puck Custom Enterprises – Manning, IA

What started out as pumping and hauling liquid manure to bring in some extra revenue in the late 1970’s turned Ben Puck into an entrepreneur when he started Ben Puck Pumping in 1998 which would eventually become Puck Custom Enterprises. Today, the company designs, builds and sells manure management equipment and employs 60 staff. Which is quite an increase from 2013 when the company won the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) Renew Rural Iowa Entrepreneur Award and employed 30. 

Puck Custom Enterprises is no stranger to awards from the Renew Rural Iowa Leader Award mentioned above to receiving the Governor’s Volunteer Award last year so we congratulate Puck and Puck Custom Enterprises on their contributions throughout their community. Puck will represent Iowa during the the National Small Business Week ceremonies held in Washington DC where he will compete for the National Small Business Person of the Year Award.

Iowa SBA Women in Business Champion of the Year- Michelle DeClerck, President Conference Event Management – West Des Moines, IA

We were thrilled to see DeClerck selected as the Women in Business Champion of the Year. You may remember reading about her accomplishments last fall in when she was the entrepreneur highlighted that month (see Entrepreneur Spotlight – Michelle DeClerck, Conference Event Management). Aside from founding Conference Event Management 13 years ago, DeClerck is a strong advocate for women through her activity in numerous organizations that support women business owners and provide mentoring to young women. Congratulations to DeClerck and her continual efforts throughout her community.

Iowa SBA Minority Business Champion of the Year- Deidre DeJear, President – Caleo Enterprises – Des Moines, IA

DeJear seems to embody what I mentioned at the beginning about community development. Caleo Enterprises works with small businesses on developing their marketing strategies, but over the last four years she has been working on the United Way of Central Iowa’s Financial Capability project and has developed its Financial Capability Network which works to give low-income individuals and families access to mainstream financial systems and projects and to increase their financial management and skills. This project has helped over 20,000 people annually! Many other ventures are in progress for DeJear as she develops programs to support financial and business education for low-income to moderate-income individuals in Central Iowa and is working on a project to strengthen the financial capability of African American’s in Iowa. DeJear is definitely making an impact throughout the state and deserves the recognition for her efforts. Congratulations!

Iowa SBA Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year- Veterans in Agriculture Board

Veterans in Agriculture is another we’re familiar with here at IASourceLink as they were featured in our 9 Resources for Veteran Small Business Owners article last July. Located here in Iowa, the non-profit organization with a mission to empower veterans to thrive in agriculture which they do by assisting military veterans in growing, developing and succeeding as farmers and agribusiness leaders throughout the state.

Their website boasts resources to help on both sides of hiring veterans – Hiring Heroes connects employers to military service members and Find a Veteran helps citizens find area farming veterans that are selling directly to consumers.

You can read a bit more about the awardees from the SBA release but please join us in congratulating all of the winners!

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