Posts Tagged: entrepreneur

Sum of Your Business: “Happy” Joe Whitty

HappyJoeTacoPizza

Sum of Your Business: “Happy” Joe Whitty
Intro and interview by Benji Nichols • Originally published in the Spring 2016 Inspire(d)

MannyMaryAnn_NEWForeword: While this story has just come out in our Spring 2016 issue, the news of losing Decorah’s Manny Madrigal has also just reached us. Manny, whom owned and ran the Decorah Happy Joe’s with his Wife Mary Ann and family for many years, was a one of a kind. He was well known in Decorah, played a mean game of pool, and worked out almost everyday. He will be missed in the Decorah Community and at Happy Joe’s. Our condolences to the entire Madrigal Family.
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If you grew up anywhere near a Happy Joe’s Pizza restaurant, chances are you either hosted or attended at least one of their epic birthday parties, with the honking of Bombay horns, the singing, the fire engine siren, and a birthday ice cream sundae presented in full glory with a candle (and cherry alongside the wafer cookie) perfectly placed on top. The elaborate performance may not have caused tears of joy to the younger birthday boy or girl every time, but the festive atmosphere definitely lent itself to a happy experience. And the formula (to this day) is not an accident. It – happiness – was one of the key selling points to the “crazy idea” that Joe Whitty took from nothing to the now multi-generational, franchised restaurant that invented the taco pizza (something we’re pretty big fans of at Inspire(d) HQ!).

Just west of Minot, North Dakota, in the sprawling Midwestern plains, Lawrence Joe Whitty was born the middle of five children. The family lived on a farm just outside of Des Lacs, milking cows, farming, and living in a typical farmhouse – void of modern plumbing and heated entirely by a wood stove. From a young age, Joe and his siblings learned the meaning of hard work, dedication, hospitality, and determination. And at eight years of age, Joe fell into a coma due to spinal meningitis and wasn’t given long to live. Nothing short of miracles and stubborn dedication led to his recovery – and appreciation of the life he was given. It’s a telling tale of Joe’s ability to overcome life’s challenges. The ups and downs of entrepreneurship are enough to give most people rough days, even years – add to that losing not one, but two wives to cancer, and you’ll begin to see the depths of Joe’s tenacity. This ability to survive – and thrive – is likely one of the reasons Joe has made giving back to the community, and especially handicapped and special needs children, a big part of the business.

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A huge thank you to the Madrigal family of the Decorah Happy Joe’s for helping put this story together.

A love for connecting with every customer who walked in the door (or drove up!) started early for Joe – age 18 – when he bought and operated his first restaurant in Minot, North Dakota: The Keg Drive-In. He also learned how to make work – the place where you spend most of your waking hours – as fun as possible. The Keg didn’t last forever, but it did give Joe an even bigger love for being your own boss and making people happy. As his young family grew, Joe worked as a baker, which eventually led to a series of jobs in Davenport, Iowa (one baking for nuns!), and finally to managing two Shakey’s pizza parlors. Joe saw the fast rise that pizza was making – and the idea of a pizza – and – ice cream store was hatched.

Today, at age 78, Joe continues to oversee Happy Joe’s business – with over 50 franchises and stores in seven states – while enjoying a little more time for retirement projects. His passion and sense of family continue on in the business with son Larry as the president of Happy Joe’s, and daughter Kristel serving as marketing director. Yet Joe Whitty can still be found often in one of the many Happy Joe’s restaurants – from Davenport to Gilbert, Arizona – greeting friends and talking to guests, and he’s still a driving force in the Happy Joe’s Kids Foundation which focuses on outreach to children with special needs.

HappyJoeThe Basics:
Name: Lawrence Joe Whitty aka “Happy” Joe Whitty
Age: 78
Business: Happy Joes Pizza & Ice Cream
Years in Business: 43
(The first Happy Joe’s opened in November of 1972 in the East Village of Davenport, Iowa)

Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss?

In 1956 when I was 18, I bought the Keg Drive-in in Minot. I also met my wife Sandie there. The Keg only lasted a couple years, and then I went on to be a commercial baker – we eventually had the opportunity to move to Davenport, where I also baked for Mercy Hospital and the Catholic Nuns – that’s where I really got my pizza crust down – the nuns loved my pizza. When I managed a Shakey’s pizza parlor in Davenport, families were always coming in for pizza and then going down the street for ice cream afterwards. That’s where my idea for a pizza and ice cream place came from – I knew what I wanted to do.

I had wanted to be in business for myself for forever – I saw people doing it, and I was working for people who were doing it. They were driving nice cars and living in nice houses, and here I was working away for them. I decided to do it for myself.

What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

When you walk over and open up the door with that key – it’s your place. You go out and clear the driveway – it’s yours. You spend your whole life getting to that point. And of course the customers – good ones and “bad” ones. I’ve always taken time to talk to my customers, and it’s fun to hear how much people love the pizza and parties, etc. But I take as much or more time to hear the complaints – those are how you learn. If somebody isn’t happy or things aren’t right – I’ll stand on my head and whistle “Dixie,” – free ice cream cones, whatever it takes to make it right. Those often become our best customers, happy customers, because you make it right.

How about the worst?

The hardest part for me was maybe working too close with friends at times. Having to hold friends to business or franchise agreements or ending up in court. That can hurt, but you find your way through it, and you have to protect your original business interest and everyone else that has invested in it.

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Was there ever a hurdle where you just thought, “I can’t do this?” How did you overcome it?

I had six banks turn me down for a loan to open my own place before I was able to convince someone. My friends thought I was crazy with the pizza and ice cream idea. It wasn’t until I showed up at Jim Schrader’s office at the Davenport Bank & Trust with my brass horn and yelled this huge birthday announcement for him, honking the horn, getting everyone to sing and laugh – I had no idea when his birthday was, but it got attention. The president came over and said “Good God, get this guy a loan so he’ll get out of here!” But it worked… I still had no idea if the idea would work, but we had the loan!

When we got ready to open the first Happy Joe’s, I invited a local Catholic Priest, Father Hoenig, to come bless the store. It was also at this time that I told the Big Guy upstairs that I’d take him as my partner – and I did. And I agreed that regardless whether things worked or not, I’d make sure we gave back to the community, and to those in need. When my first wife, Sandie, passed away all of a sudden from cancer – she was always right beside me in the business and such – I started pulling an empty chair up in my meetings. I’d get looks and asked who that was for, and I’d say it was for the Big Guy.

Another one of the first hurdles was coming up with a name we could trademark. I have a good lawyer friend, Bob Van Vooren, who helped us – we looked at all sorts of names with Joe in them, but were having a tough time. My then 11-year-old daughter (Julie) came down the stairs one morning and said, “If you’re going to have pizza and ice cream, and fun birthday parties, and all these happy things – why not call it Happy Joe’s?” That was it.

When the store took off, people noticed and loved the concept – I had people asking in the first year if they could franchise – I didn’t even know if I could spell franchise. But, after a nice couple had come in several times and asked me about the possibility, I told them I didn’t have the money or the agreements set up. They wrote me a check for $500 that night and said they wanted to be the first to franchise. I went out and collected every franchise agreement I could get my hands on – had a typist help me combine all the parts I liked and took it to my lawyer, who said, “Joe, this looks pretty good!”

We ran with it from there, and had franchises going in the next couple years. I had a lot of good help through it – always good help.

PizzaBoxes

Any mentors/role models you look to/have looked to?

When I built out the first store I had so much help from friends and other businesses. People extended bills, personal friends helped put the store together and paint and such, along my friend and lawyer Bob Van Vooren. I was so thankful for all their help, so I put their names up on the windows as free advertisements – I just wanted to give them thanks. Bob came in after I’d done that and nervously said, “Joe! You have to take my name off there – it isn’t even legal for me to advertise.” (as a lawyer). So I took the “Van” off of “Van Vooren” and figured he could get away with it. I couldn’t have done it without all of those people – and several of my friends – life long friends – came from running the business.

What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started?

I’ve often said if I had any more education I wouldn’t have ever opened the store – not enough start up money, the location, our crazy pizzas with sauerkraut and things, and having ice cream too. Nobody was doing that, but I said, hey I want to do this. Originally I only wanted one store – a place to support my family.

But, a little more education sure would have been helpful at times. Maybe if I had gotten to go to college I would have been able to do a few more things myself. I had to hire good people to fill the slots where I couldn’t do it.

How do you manage your life/work balance?

My family was always involved in the business. I used to tell my kids “Hey, I don’t have any money, but I do have hours, how many do you want?” The members of my family were part owners in everything we did through that – they waited tables, washed dishes, you name it. After I lost my first wife, Sandie – well, it was hire a babysitter or have them at the store! I figured it was better to have them at the store. My kids were getting checks from me as young teenagers. They also came along with me all over the country in our RV as we opened new franchises and did celebrations. We also had a lot of fun along the way – and now some of them run the company!

What keeps you inspired? Any quotes that keep you going?

Joe_KidBack when I was a Shakey’s manager, you know, checking on tables, talking to people, we still had the piano and banjo players back then. I had a gal come to the door one evening and look in. She asked if we would mind if her son could come in and listen for a bit – but that her son got a little loud when he was excited – he had special needs. Well, I had plenty of regular customers who got loud when they were excited, so what’d I care!? I of course told her to come in and enjoy – I treated them great, and her son really enjoyed himself. I wondered to myself how many other kids out there were at home – not able, or whose parents were hesitant to just take them out?

As soon as I had my own place going I knew I wanted to close the shop at least one day a year, just to invite children with special needs for a party – and treat them like royalty. And we did that our first year – it was great, and became a regular part of our business. As soon as you do something good like that, people take notice – we had newspaper write-ups, which I sometimes even got questioned on. You know, if everyone did things like this it wouldn’t be so noteworthy – there’s a lesson there.

We love it. We just had 1400 children participate in our Happy Joe’s parties at the i-Wireless Center from all over. I see some of these children year to year and they are so great – some kid came up to me this year, and I’m in my straw hat, smiling – and he says ‘Look! He’s still livin’!” another told me “I’ve got a complaint Happy Joe – you need to make the parties last longer!”

We also found that workers with special needs or disabilities could often find valuable places on our teams. Many are capable, and willing, and often help attitudes that bring a team together in the store. This just started because I wanted to make sure we showed a little care to these people – those kids belong to all of us you know, not just their parents. That’s what its all about.

Horn

Joe Whitty is also the author of “Not Your Average Joe”, a personal memoir of his life and the story of Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream. You can find out more about Happy Joe’s and the Happy Joe’s Kids Foundation at www.happyjoes.com or www.happyjoeskids.org

“Everyone has a dream. Not everyone is lucky enough to see theirs come true. Give credit to success where it is due, and always remember that with success comes responsibility. Whenever you have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life for the better, take it! Because, ultimately, the biggest difference, you’ll discover, will be in your own life.” – Happy Joe Whitty from “Not Your Average Joe”

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Benji Nichols celebrated countless birthdays as a kid at Happy Joe’s in Decorah, and to this day enjoys a taco pizza like nobodies business. He’s inspired by Joe Whitty’s life story, business spirit, and ability to overcome.

Sum of Your Business: Peter Awad

“Slow Hustle: Life as an entrepreneur is about making both slowness and hustle a priority. Get good at both. Efficient at both. Talented at both. Obsessed with both.” – Peter Awad
SlowHustle

Introduction/Interview by Aryn Henning Nichols • Photos courtesy Peter Awad • Originally posted in the Spring 2015 Inspire(d)

PeterHeadshotPeter Awad is a man of mystery. At least, it might appear that way to the casual observer. He and his wife, Melissa, live with their four children in little Decorah, Iowa, yet every day, Peter does business with folks across the world. What’s the business? High-end/high-performance car parts – sold on the Internet – through his 15-year-old company, Import Auto Performance. That would be enough to keep anyone super busy, but Peter was also a founding partner in the blogging venture, GoodBlogs – a community blogging software that “combines the innovation of crowd-sourced content with the power of content marketing.” Throw in a fourth child, all while he and his family set off on a 10 month adventure across the country, a little sleep here and there, and what’s the goal? That’s the hard part – exploring the buzz phrase that’s on everyone’s lips, but no one knows how to manage: the life/work balance.

AwadFamily1

Peter with his amazingly beautiful family (from left): wife, Melissa, baby Ayers, Summit, Brighton, and Wyndsor.
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To simultaneously counter AND add to that struggle, Peter recently launched yet another company – a super cool podcast called Slow Hustle – that chronicles life as an entrepreneur.

“Business is hard. It’s fun, exciting, crazy and also stressful, depressing, debilitating. It’s the ultimate of roller coasters,” he writes at slowhustle.com. “After talking with dozens and dozens of entrepreneurs, I realized I am not the only one feeling these extreme emotions. They are actually universal and seemingly part of the entrepreneurs’ handbook (which doesn’t exist).”

PodcastScreenshotPeter interviews entrepreneurs from all over – the list includes people like Mendel Kurland, evangelist at Godaddy; Willie Morris from Faithbox (pictured at right); and Rand Fishkin, founder of SEO company, Moz. The fun, funny, and motivating conversations cut to the core of those roller coaster emotions, highlighting what has worked and what hasn’t for these business-owners. Peter’s hope is that the podcast will help others with their own struggles as entrepreneurs, salespeople, household managers, etc. Because life is short, and choosing to be your own boss means you’re in control of it. But take it from Peter – sometimes you just gotta slow your hustle.

Check out and subscribe to the Slow Hustle podcast at slowhustle.com.

ImportAuto

Other links:
iapdirect.com
www.goodblogs.com

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THE BASICS:
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Name: Peter Awad
Age: 34
Business: Slow Hustle/Import Auto Performance/GoodBlogs
Years in Business: 15 Years

GoodBlogsTell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss?
It happened by accident while in College. I was studying to be a Mechanical Engineer, working at an engineering internship and in my spare time started selling auto parts online out of my bedroom. I didn’t have any money so I would sell products and then have them rush shipped to me so I could ship them to my customers. It was one heck of a way to build up some funds so I could hold an actual inventory. Stressful but necessary.

What’s the best thing about being your own boss?
Having seemingly unlimited options of how to create value and increase revenue for your company and family.

How about the worst?
Having seemingly unlimited options of how to create value and increase revenue for your company and family. You read that right and it’s not a typo. The biggest pro is also the biggest con. Sometimes its tough to stay focused because of it. Sometimes it’s amazingly stressful. If you have the skin for it, it can also be amazingly fulfilling and rewarding.

Was there ever a hurdle where you just thought, “I can’t do this?” How did you overcome it?
Quite often. The key is having clarity and to do so, it’s a must to remove emotions from the scenario. Clarity paired with taking time to step back to see the bigger picture will allow you to come up with creative ways to overcome huge obstacles. The bonus? Big obstacles commonly allow for growth and innovation. You’ll hear this as a business owner (or prospective owner) and think “that’s baloney” but it’s the truth. Our darkest days are when we are forced to think more creatively than we ever have to when it’s easy peasy.

Any mentors/role models you look to/have looked to?
Lots. Without mentors (who have all become good friends) I’d have a difficult time gaining a different perspective. It’s important to have mentors in all walks of life: Younger, Older, different industries, etc. Creative ideas and solutions come from those you least expect because they don’t have the industry baggage you do. They say “why not?” when you say “no way. that’s not possible.”

What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started?
Sheesh. Where do I begin? How about: Entrepreneurship is manic-depressive. It’s ubiquitous. If you find an Entrepreneur that says his days are always even keel, have him call me. We’ll bottle his secret sauce and retire.

Some days you’ll feel like you are crushing it. Everything is going right and falling in to place perfectly. The next day the business feels like it’s crushing you. Could be back-to-back days, weeks or months. Either way, it happens and you simply find ways to deal with it best.

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How do you manage your life/work balance?
I’ve decided it doesn’t exist. Work is part of life and life is part of work. The best ways to manage is to have clear guidelines that you follow. For example: Knowing that once you leave work, you put your phone in airplane mode from dinnertime until the kids go to bed. That way you’ll have undisturbed quality time with the family. Or taking a long lunch and enjoying a nice lunch, walk and/or book. Will you succeed every time? Absolutely, not. All you can do is put systems in place and have accountability partners that can help to keep you on track.

What keeps you inspired? Any quotes that keep you going?
Freedom from cubicles. Flexible hours. Watching my kids grow up and wanting to spend as much time as I can with them. Solving problems others haven’t solved before. Creating, innovating and helping others do the same.

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”
–Abraham Lincoln

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We’re excited to be hosting a new, regular Q&A section in Inspire(d): Sum of Your Business, featuring entrepreneurs in the Driftless Region. Our readers have asked to learn more about people who have started their own businesses, how they’ve done, and how they’ve done it! We thought that sounded like a great idea. Who knows – maybe you’ll even be Inspire(d) to create a business yourself!

Trust Your Crazy Ideas: Danielle Ameling + Iron Leaf Press

TrustCrazyIdeasCover

Trust Your Crazy Ideas print by Danielle Ameling, of Iron Leaf Press

By Aryn Henning Nichols • Originally published in the Fall 2013 Inspire(d)

Ossian, Iowa, native Danielle Ameling trusted her crazy idea and started her letterpress and design business, Iron Leaf Press. Turns out, it’s a winner.

Everybody knows we love a good entrepreneur around here. Starting a business is… dare we say… inspiring!

It’s damn hard too.

The first step is, obviously, a really great idea. The next? A really great plan.

So to help build a fire under everyone’s collective bums, many cities and states are hosting business plan contests. To enter, you submit your great idea, all laid out and ready to go in a plan that says “I could start this tomorrow”. Winnings range from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars to more abstract – but equally helpful – booty like free rent and business consulting.

IronLeafPress_danielleSuch was the case for Ossian native Danielle Ameling (pictured at right – photo by Michael Wagler). Her business, Iron Leaf Press, won free rent for two years – plus support services and a utility stipend – through the 2013 Project Bright Idea Business Plan Contest.

Project Bright Idea was created by a group of volunteers partnering with Lisbon-based Moon Eye Ventures. It was created to encourage regional entrepreneurs to take the leap and get their plans on paper, with a goal of luring new startups to fill in vacant downtown buildings in Mount Vernon and Lisbon.

Iron Leaf Press, a custom design and letterpress studio – in business since 2011 (although Danielle started printmaking in 2007) – has now set up shop in the grand prize: a completely renovated, 1,000-square-foot historical building in downtown Lisbon, Iowa. Danielle has moved in her three presses – the Nolan proof press, a Kelsey 6”x10” tabletop platen press, and a Chandler and Price 10”x15” platen press – and has been busy making all sorts of cool stuff from invitations to posters to packaging to business cards. The only real printing stipulation: It should be flat. In addition, Iron Leaf Press provides graphic design and branding services. It’s a business that’s been a long time in the making for Danielle.

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Above photo by Studio eM Photography

After graduating from South Winn High School in 2005 and from Grand View University in Des Moines summa cum laude with a degree in graphic design in 2009, Danielle worked at Main Street Iowa, then as a graphic designer at Cedar Rapids-based RuffaloCODY. But she had other ideas in the works. Really great ideas. (Remember: That’s the first step.)

“I’ve always been crafting, painting, and drawing since I was a kid,” she writes. “I really enjoyed drawing lettering in particular and that eventually led me to graphic design.” Which eventually led her to printmaking which then led her to letterpress and finally to Iron Leaf Press.

We caught up with Danielle via email this summer (2013). In between runs on the press and helping run her boyfriend’s fiancée’s farmers market beignet stand, Sweet Dee’s (for which she developed the branding), she managed to share some of what’s inspiring her now and some strategies for starting a new business and entering a business plan contest yourself.

Interested in doing just that? Check out the listings at the end of the article for some business plan contests in the tri-state area.

Q&A with Danielle Ameling, founder of Iron Leaf Press

What’s inspiring you right now?
Everything and anything really. I particularly enjoy vintage typography and illustrations, especially vintage packaging. I usually get inspired by my surroundings and friends. At one point I decided I was going to host a show called “Fun with Paper” (a la Sheldon Cooper) after trying to describe the difference between text and cover weight paper to a group of friends (paper nerd!). A lot of the greeting cards come about from off the cuff comments in these discussions. (ed. note: one of her cards reads: “sh*t happens when you party naked”.)

I also am a member of both the Ladies of Letterpress and the Amalgamated Printer’s Association. Both groups have some amazing printers and I continually am inspired by the work that they put together.

View More: http://jenmadigan.pass.us/ironleafpress

Photo by Jen Madigan Photography

Why letterpress?
Letterpress, for me, is a way to be creative not only in the design, but in the production. I like being able to work with clients on special projects – those that have a very personal impact. I also really enjoy the challenges of working through production. Using antique printing presses can create their own challenges, but I like being able to have that control over the end product.

I create the majority of my greeting cards using hand-set type, which is a challenge in itself. Each letter is a separate piece of metal or wood type and must be locked in place or the type will be “pied,” meaning the type will fall and have to be re-set. It really makes me appreciate how much skill and craftsmanship went into printing in the past.

Beyond all of that, the machinery related to the printing field (especially those in the late 19th century) are amazing feats of engineering and technology. It’s amazing to know that I can produce these items with this antique machinery, and currently all of my equipment runs on NO electricity (other than my computer). Everything is human powered.

shithappens

Photo by Jen Madigan Photography

You’re kind of a jack-of-all trades, design-wise. What else do you do? (Or should we ask what DON’T you do?!)
🙂 I do work on a lot of different projects. The main projects I focus on are commercial and social stationery including invitations, notecards, business cards, packaging, posters, and greeting cards. I also do logos and branding. I can print on most things, as long as they are flat, so there are many options out there – I’ve even printed on boxes and gift bags before.

In addition to the custom and commercial work I do, I have a line of greeting cards and paper goods that I sell online, at art/craft shows, and in select retailers.

I have some experience doing email and web design (I take care of those for Iron Leaf Press) but that’s really the only design area that I don’t do a ton of work in –I’ve always been more of a print designer.

Out of all that, what’s your favorite?
I think my favorite projects are the ones where I get a chance to really connect with the recipient. Hearing the story on how a couple met for a wedding invite or how someone is looking for a gift to celebrate a promotion, etc. – the stories behind the pieces are always fun for me.

Tell us about the business plan contest process.
I had participated in the Dream Big, Grow Here regional contest back in the fall (run by University of Northern Iowa’s MyEntre.Net). I didn’t end up winning, but that helped propel me forward into pursuing Iron Leaf Press more full time. I had been on the lookout for a larger studio space to add some larger equipment and heard about Project Bright Idea in Lisbon. Each applicant had to provide a detailed business plan (prior to winning this space, everything was in a small room in my second-floor apartment). The committee met and reviewed the applicants (I wasn’t privy to this part of the process so I’m not sure all of what happened behind the scenes). Eventually Moon Eye Ventures wanted to meet with me and discuss my business plan and goals. I met with them a few additional times and they ended up choosing me for this space.

View More: http://jenmadigan.pass.us/ironleafpress

Photo by Jen Madigan Photography

Advice to others who want to start their own business? How about others who want to enter a business plan contest?
Keep your chin up and keep moving forward. Throughout this process I kept asking myself if I was crazy – especially once I bought my largest press that weighs in at over 1500 lbs – but I bought it anyway. If you believe in your business and it is a passion, you will find ways to make it work.

Also be sure to surround yourself with people that love and support you with your crazy ideas. My family and boyfriend and friends have been extremely supportive and that makes a huge difference. Meeting with other business owners is a great resource as well. They know the type of things you are working through and often have ways to help you grow.

Specifically with business plan contests, plan your business like you are going to win. Make your plan show exactly how you are going to use the winnings and how it fits into your overall goals. Be confidant, but humble. For someone to “buy into” your business, they are just as much buying into your personality and demeanor.

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Aryn Henning Nichols is also a paper and print nerd. Wouldn’t it be fun to print Inspire(d) all old-school? Okay, maybe just one. Okay, maybe just one cover. Oh wait! No need; it’s already done. You can buy those at ironleafpress.com! Seriously, folks: trust your crazy ideas!

P.S. Danielle says the Printer’s Hall in Mt Pleasant, Iowa, is worth a visit for any print inclined folks. “It has some amazing printing equipment, including a machine that lines paper – that’s all it does (in the past it would do mostly ledgers) but it looks similar to a giant weaving loom.” The old Ossian Bee printing press is also there, as well as the lock up for the last front page it printed for the Bee. “It runs off a steam engine and is a wild machine.”

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Got a Great Idea? Make a Plan. And WIN!
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Dream Big, Grow Here / NE Iowa Business Network
Deadline: Current contest deadline has passed, but stay tuned and start planning for the next round!
www.dreambiggrowhere.com
This is a grant contest is open only to Iowans.  Dreamers compete online for votes for a shot to win a $5,000 regional grant, and then become eligible to further compete for a chance to win a $10,000 grand prize to be announced at EntreFEST 2015.

Wisconsin Govenor’s Business Plan Contest
Deadline: 2015 deadline has passed, but stay tuned and start planning for the next round!
www.govsbizplancontest.com
The mission of the Governor’s Business Plan Contest is to encourage entrepreneurs in the creation, startup and early-growth stages of high-tech businesses in Wisconsin. Finalists will share in more than $100,000 in seed capital and in-kind services. Since its inception in 2004, nearly 2,300 entries have been received and about $1.5 million in cash and services have been awarded.

The John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers Iowa Business Plan Competition
Deadline: June 20, 2015
www.iowabusinessplancompetition.com
The plan must be an original idea for a business in operation for four years or less or have not yet reached cash flow positive financial status. The principal business operations of the business must be located in Iowa. One Grand Prize Winner will receive $25,000 and, in addition, recognition of their work on the website for the competition. ($15,000 for Second Prize and $10,000 for Third Prize.)

The Minnesota Cup
Deadline: May 8, 2015
mncup.org
Since 2005, the Minnesota Cup has attracted over 7,000 entries and is now the largest new venture competition in the country. This program is for Minnesota’s entrepreneurs, inventors and small business people. It is for those individuals or early stage businesses that are pursuing their dreams and working on their breakthrough business idea. Prizes range from $5,000 to $40,000.