Success Stories

Glory Welding

Simon Rodrigues grows business with focused marketing

Simon Rodrigues is a recent graduate of the NIACC Pappajohn Center’s Launch & Grow Your Business program. Launch & Grow prepares prospective business owners to successfully launch new ventures and assists existing business owners grow or otherwise deal with change. Simon came in with deep experience in welding but learned that running a business is more than technical expertise in the service offered. The discipline of working through the operational details and operational budget was essential to go live.

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Glory Welding“As a welder, I immediately understood the production time and consumables required for a particular welding job. Those were variable costs in my operating budget. It required more planning and helped me to think through all the fixed costs like rent, insurance and basic equipment necessary before I could do job one. These fixed costs are there regardless of how many customers or projects I have. When you’re an employee, these are the employer’s problem. When you’re the business owner you can’t ignore the fixed costs or the time to ramp-up sales with marketing,” Simon explains.

“With the help of friends, I’ve kept my start-up and fixed costs low. And I’ve focused on a different market than my day job. This allowed me to start my business part-time.”

One of the key things Launch & Grow focuses on is solving a problem for a clearly defined customer. Selling to everyone almost never works. Offering a solution for a customer’s problem does work for most small businesses. Keeping a customer is less expensive than constantly getting new customers. Knowing this, Simon looked for customers in a position to deliver repeat projects. “If I keep them happy, they’ll be back,” Simon concludes.

“In brainstorming with my NIACC businesses coaches, I identified the architectural and construction industry as a repeat buyer of custom architectural, decorative or ornamental iron and steel work. I’ve landed some good projects building custom railings and stairs. These show off my craftsmanship and attention to detail and satisfy my artistic side. They also work on the business side. The construction industry needs parts built to specifications, but on time and on budget is also important because my work eventually gets incorporated into final building.”

Simon concludes, “I do a variety of on-demand work including repairs and fabrication. I need some of the repeat, volume jobs to make the numbers work. Fabricating for the architectural market is great. I love that people see and touch my craftsmanship every day. The Pappajohn Center and Small Business Development Center helped me understand how I solve problems for customers. Architects and building contractors need a welder to build custom details that can deliver the fabricated steel to realize their vision. I can see the growth in my business as a result.”

Glory Welding, in Mason City, Iowa, offers customer welding and steel fabrication. Owner, Simon Rodrigues works in a variety of metals and welding techniques and offers more than ten years’ of welding experience.

Sarah Novacek, President & Owner, Legacy Logistics Freight, Inc.

Nominee for the Iowa SBDC Deb Dalziel Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Sarah Novacek is building a multi-million dollar logistics business from humble beginnings as the newly-wed wife of a kid from a truck-driving family, just trying to help her husband find loads and get paid. Her ah-hah moment was wondering, “How do truckers do it who don’t have a wife or girlfriend?” That led to offering her service to other independent truckers. Flash forward ten years.

She’s grown from an adjunct of the in-law’s trucking business, to a solo broker operating out of an in-home basement office, to now a corporation with more than $2.5 million in annual revenues serving national brand name food companies like Jennie-O, Hormel, Michael Foods and more.

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2015 saw major advancements including:

  • 100%+ revenue growth;
  • transition from a “doing business as” (DBA) structure to a new corporate entity to accommodate future growth; and
  • moving into professional office space within the North Iowa John Pappajohn Business Incubator.

The changes and growth of the last eighteen months are a direct result of Sarah’s coaching from the North Iowa SBDC counselors, Brook Boehmler and Daniel Winegarden.

Sarah explains, “Working with the SBDC has changed our lives. Literally. They’ve helped us grow a good idea into a great company with a focused message and vision. I’m a hard worker but didn’t always think like an entrepreneur. The SBDC helped me understand that for my corporate customers and the truckers with whom we place customer loads my rural work ethic is an advantage. I didn’t grow up rich or connected. I know the life of a trucker. I’m married to one. As a load broker, understanding the process and problems that can arise for everyone involved is critical. You don’t need a fancy degree to be successful. I am a business owner and now I think like one. My job isn’t to do everything; it is to see that everything gets done. And, it’s not who you know, but who you get to know. I work with corporate executive clients and self-employed truckers by treating each of them well but also being direct when necessary. My coaches have my back. Brook Boehmler knows marketing and support systems. Dan Winegarden makes complex strategy and corporate finance seem simple and obvious. We’ve gotten so much better at telling our story and our unique advantages and it shows in sales. The SBDC is a big part of our success. Maybe the biggest thing is they believe we can do it. They’re advisors, sounding boards, and cheerleaders. We’ve been exposed to other entrepreneurs and you know what? If they can do it, so can I. The financial success provides jobs for four people and allowed us to buy a new, bigger home to hold a growing family.”

Legacy has never lost a corporate client and continues to add clients and new volume from existing clients. Combine this with the overall revenue growth and profitability and it’s a significant measure of customer satisfaction.

Dan Winegarden relates, “Sarah sees the value they add to the community and region. Her brokerage plays a critical role in moving our high value industrial output to market, contributing to the economic success of not only her own company, but all those involved in the food chain. She’s positioned Legacy to scale with systems that allow employees to deliver consistent quality service with all the appropriate and necessary documentation for compliance and payment. It’s a smart business that plays to Sarah’s strengths in dealing with people, but it’s also a business that requires attention to detail. Legacy Logistics handles personalities and documentation equally well.”

Sarah explains, “I wanted to own my own business since college in 2001 introduced me to a bigger vision of opportunity. I married into a family of over-the-road independent truckers. My new husband and father-in-law were both small business owners, but I immediately saw the limits of their business. There was no good way to grow the business. It was capital intensive because of the expense of the trucks. It was labor limited because there are only so many hours in a day that drivers are allowed to operate a truck. And it required active management of cash flow with high fuel expenses and the time delay between when a load is delivered and when shipping clients pay. Somebody had to first acquire a load and then do the follow-up paperwork to prove timely delivery and get paid by the shipper. If that somebody was driving a truck full-time the office work tended to suffer.”

Sarah continues, “My new husband, Brian, had grown up in the front lines of the transportation logistics industry. He had hard experience in driving, accounting, payroll, dispatching, collections and more. He’d dealt with problematic shippers, receivers and drivers and knew the excuses. While Brian knew the drivers, I learned the logistics business facing the shippers as my key customer. Drivers are necessary but not sufficient. No loads from the shippers? Then, nothing for drivers to do. Shippers were the indispensable relationship. I learned how to cultivate, acquire and sustain relationships with profitable shippers.”

Ambition counts for a lot. “Brian and I agreed when first married that we wanted our own businesses that let each of us do what we do well. Controlling our own time was a motivator in our ‘5 Year Plan.’ I suggested that we didn’t have to own the trucks. So long as we controlled the shipper relationship, we could place the loads and fulfill the contracts by brokering loads to other drivers. It was what I was already doing for ABC Trucking but now I could see the path to a larger scale. I became a broker.”

Sarah turned the key on her new business in 2006. “A Fortune 100 food company shipper was my first client. I began brokering loads for Jennie-O turkeys to multiple trucking companies and not just ABC Trucking.”

Legacy Logistics rapidly grew into a multimillion dollar business in just a few short years. Gross income in 2006 (year 1) was $198,657. In 2014 Legacy Logistics grossed over $2,747,377. The company is almost 14X larger in seven years. Sarah now has multiple national food company clients. She grew the company right through the Great Recession by focusing on food company clients. “People have to eat,” Sarah explains the logic of her strategic focus.

This year Legacy incorporated as the scale of the business grew and Sarah had more need of a liability firewall between the business and personal assets. Sarah is responsible for leadership and management, especially getting, growing and keeping shippers, the lifeblood of the company. Mary Novacek is the controller. She can help with dispatching and customer service and is Sarah’s back-up. The company is 100% female-owned and managed.

Another area of SBDC assistance for Legacy Logistics is guidance on registering as a Targeted Small Business (TSB) as a female-owned and managed company. Many government procurement contracts require a set-aside for some share of the contract spending to go through targeted small businesses. TSB status is a point of service differentiation and competitive advantage in a male-ownership dominated industry. This is one of Sarah’s growth strategies going forward as many of her current customers do business with federal and state governments.

Legacy Logistics outgrew the humble home-office setting. It now operates from the John Pappajohn Business Incubator, a co-working space operated by Sarah’s alma mater, North Iowa Community College (NIACC) and its John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center. The incubator provides both a professional working environment and the business coaching assistance of the SBDC. Sarah concludes, “John Pappajohn is a billion dollar venture capitalist from Iowa who helps fund support services for younger entrepreneurs, like myself, in five centers throughout Iowa. He started in a family grocery store while going to school at NIACC. It’s not where you started that counts. It’s what you build on that foundation.”

Tony Halsted, Hoover’s Hatchery, Rudd IA

Nominee for the Iowa SBDC Neil Smith Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Tony Halsted never intended to come back to the family business. He’d grown up working the incubators and packing chicks. Thanks to the family business, Tony had a college education and a perfectly great career in business development and information technology for a national financial services company. But plans change. Tony’s father was killed in an automobile accident, leaving his aging mother to run the hatchery. A couple of potential succession plans outside the family never quite materialized. Tony realized if Mom was ever going to retire, he’d have to step-up.

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In 2011, Tony came back to a 70-year old family company with a very traditional hatchery business model. Hoover’s sold day-old chicks to elevators and feed stores and their customers primarily through a paper mail order catalog, phone orders and some regional delivery trucks where the drivers were also the sales representatives to the local dealer. There was a lot right about the company, especially a reputation for great service and strong personal connections with dealers and reliable employees from Rudd, Iowa and the surrounding rural communities. The company had talent, real revenues and a base of productive assets. But there were also challenges.

The business was Mom’s, Mary Halsted’s, retirement annuity. Could it also be Tony’s future income? To do both meant growing the business without alienating current customers.

One of Tony’s first visits was to the North Iowa Small Business Development Center and then Director, Ted Bair. Ted worked with Mary and Tony to explain debt and equity options in developing a succession plan and started the planning process. One of Ted’s SBDC dictums is plan to plan. That’s what Tony did with Ted’s coaching. It’s worth mentioning that Mary had consulted with the North Iowa SBDC as far back as Rich Petersen, advice that was reflected in the good things Tony was counting on as his foundation for growth.

Tony worked the plan and applied his business school education and recognized that nationally customers were changing with a growing urban backyard chicken market, but that the suppliers, the hatcheries, were all pretty much like Hoover’s, with aging owners and aging business models. Tony sensed opportunity.

He wanted to get away from just selling a commodity so he entered into an exclusive genetic licensing agreement for a red-feathered meat chicken that looks like a traditional Rhode Island Red layer (egg laying hen) and a black foot, black feather chicken for the Asian immigrant market. Armed with the proprietary Red Rangers and Black Asians, Tony needed to reach the new customers.

He built a website with a simple online shopping cart for less than $1,000. Hoover’s was now an “online business.” That didn’t mean anyone else knew, especially those target customers, so he marketed extensively on social media, including Facebook and Pinterest. Hoover’s became the expert on backyard chickens and used visuals to sell the lifestyle, not just chicks. It worked. Hoover’s moved up Google page rankings from buried twelve pages deep to third on the first page. (And the first two served big commercial layers, not Tony’s market.) Within eighteen months, sales were up thirty percent (30%). And the growth came from new customers, not cannibalizing the traditional dealer base and revenue stream.

In 2013 Hoover’s efforts in social media were recognized by the Iowa Dream Big, Grow Here contest as state runner-up. As part of the regional contest, Tony met North Iowa SBDC business coach, Dan Winegarden, NIACC’s Director of Business Acceleration. Dan helped prepare Tony for the state contest, but together they saw the potential to change the audience of the growth story, to address investors.

Now the problem was production capacity. Working with the North Iowa SBDC, Tony presented their capital needs and growth strategy to key community banks. With debt financing secured, Hoover’s added-on, bought additional used incubators, and even contracted out production to other hatcheries that were less effective marketers but had excess production capacity.

Tony reorganized shipping to capture new economies of scale. Every week hundreds of thousands of chicks fly out of Minneapolis via the U.S. Postal service.

The work to plan and finance a workable succession plan continued behind the scenes with the North Iowa SBDC. Not all the opportunities panned out with the usual buyer vs. seller issues of structuring (asset vs. stock) and valuation. For both the client and the SBDC consultant a lot of work was below the surface creating the conditions of success. Hoover’s story just kept getting better so the Halsted’s negotiating leverage kept increasing. With the help of SBDC and Pappajohn Staff in Mason City, Tony developed a business plan and used forecasting models to project the growth and tell the vision for the company. They helped Tony realize the succession plan to buy his mother out with partners.

Dan arranged a meeting with and helped prep Tony for a key angel investor for growth equity. The angel’s initial reaction was, “My wife will shoot me if I take on a new project,” but Tony’s story was just too good to resist. It wasn’t just a growth company, but a growth industry niche. Tony arranged new debt and equity investors to buy-out his Mom and provide for her retirement. It meant sharing ownership with outside investors, but the investors brought synergistic knowledge, connections and resources to the table. It was the classic entrepreneurial lesson. It’s better to own a smaller share of a much bigger, growing enterprise, than all of a smaller, stagnant business.

From 2011 to 2015, four short years, Tony led the reincarnation of a fine but stagnant regional family business into a growth company, serving a national market and partnered with national players.

  • Employee growth, from 32 employees to 72
  • Revenue grew by 3X in four years, more than 70% year-over-year revenue growth with eight figure results, and is on track to be 4X in 2016
  • Physical facilities 200% larger than in 2011 and with 400% greater production capacity
  • New national contracts with Ace Hardware and Tractor Supply Store
  • Simultaneously, new dealers were attracted to the traditional business lines by Hoover’s success in new lines and the exclusive offerings like Red Rangers.
  • An investor group led by Steve Weiss assures access to capital for growth and animal nutrition and marketing depth.

Tony is now lead owner, post purchase from his Mom, Mary, and CEO (up from COO). Mary continues to consult to assure a smooth transfer of her traditional relationships. Hoover’s is a standout example of rural business growth, serving new distant customers both through an online B2C (business-to-consumer) model and through new strategic B2B (business-to-business) relationships. All this was accomplished without destroying the foundation of traditional dealers.

Tony Halsted and Hoover’s continue to work with the North Iowa SBDC including both Director Brook Boehmler and Dan Winegarden. The story isn’t over. Tony says, “I am beyond privileged to work with the North Iowa SBDC team and I let everyone know.”

The impact on the community cannot be overstated. Forty new jobs in a small rural community like Rudd (population 370), is a huge economic win. Successful entrepreneurs create opportunity and benefits far beyond their own family. Twenty Iowa farms support Hoovers Hatchery with eggs for hatching and those families also benefit. Feed mills and other agricultural businesses enjoy the new production demand. Tony’s strategic vision and tactical execution are stellar. His prior corporate experience in business development using the power of information technology, transferred exceptionally well to his own company. He’s grown revenue, managed the human resources needs of an expanding company, improved margins and profitability, raised both debt and equity, and established relationships with strategic partners. Tony has been the exemplar of a great SBDC client. He is coachable and action oriented. No matter how great the advice and assistance, execution and business judgment fall on the client. Tony delivers. He is most deserving of recognition as the Neil Smith Iowa SBDC Entrepreneur of the Year.

Dumont Insurance Agent Wins Statewide Woman Entrepreneur Award

Shelly Zimmerman, now owner and principal agent at Harrison-Thornburgh Insurance of Dumont in Butler County is the 2015 Iowa Small Business Development Centers’ Deb Dalziel Woman Entrepreneur Achievement Award winner. This statewide award recognizes women who have significantly improved or changed their own personal situation, thus having an impact on others around them. Zimmerman will be honored at a State Capitol breakfast reception with state legislators and leaders on March 5.

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Shelly ZimmermanZimmerman completed the purchase of the independent insurance agency from her long-time employer in 2014. This business succession keeps a main street professional office in Dumont, sustaining client access and continuing a local tradition of professional service. She successfully expanded her clientele and hired additional staff.

Zimmerman, a long-time resident, is active in Dumont civic life. She had a great opportunity to buy the agency from her retiring employer.

Zimmerman’s bank, First Security of Dumont, referred her to the NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and its North Iowa Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to work through the buyout business plan and make sure the numbers would cash flow or work.

Zimmerman relates, “The North Iowa SBDC provided me with important business projections and solid financial data to reinforce my purchase decision.  The assistance I received from Daniel Winegarden was invaluable in drafting the focused business plan needed to obtain the financing to purchase Harrison-Thornburgh Insurance.  I’m grateful to have had a resource with such a high level of knowledge and expertise to use as a sounding board when making tough business decisions.”

Right up front in planning Zimmerman identified her desire to help the community, “It’s important to Dumont to keep professional services local and main street offices thriving.” Shelly was committed to sustaining her business in her community and not just letting the business fade away or move away. She understands the importance to the local economy of sustaining key professional services.

Daniel Winegarden, NIACC Pappajohn Center’s Director of Business Acceleration and an SBDC business coach shares, “Shelly is a joy to work with. Her experience as an insurance agent perfectly prepared her for the buyout plan. She crafted a win-win for the prior owner’s retirement, her own advancement and the success of her community. She already knew the agency’s clients and their needs. We worked to assemble a detailed month-by-month financial forecast based on the history of the agency. From that Shelly knew exactly what new business was necessary every year to make the purchase price and purchase loan work. It’s rewarding to see a client’s success and it means Dumont keeps a community leader as a new business owner.”

State elected officials representing Dumont and Shelly Zimmerman note Zimmerman’s award.

State Senator Amanda Ragan said, “I am very proud of Shelly Zimmerman for being selected to receive the Deb Dalziel Woman Entrepreneur Achievement Award.  Her achievement as a businesswoman in rural Iowa is very significant and a tribute to her efforts to improve her community and the lives of its citizens.”

Rep. Linda Upmeyer remarked, “Shelly is a perfect example of successful entrepreneurs in small, rural Iowa communities.  She demonstrates why we need to ensure these business leaders have access to many opportunities.  I look forward to following her continued success.”

The NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and its North Iowa Small Business Development Center offer business counseling services to current and prospective business owners. Services help area residents create new business start-ups, grow or reinvigorate existing business, and transfer or acquire businesses with planned successions. Shelly Zimmerman is a perfect example of a successful business succession.

Iowa PowderCraft, LLC

John and Colleen Thompson, Owners
306 14th Ave. South
Clear Lake, IA 50428
641.357.4445 /

12 Steps for Aspiring Entrepreneurs or How to Create a Million $ Company Overnight

John and Colleen Thompson are doing it right at Iowa PowderCraft, a new business in Clear Lake, Iowa. Iowa PowderCraft provides metal finishing services, including media blasting (surface preparation) and powder coating — a form of dry paint that is electrostatically bonded to and baked onto metal for greater durability and longer lasting finishes than wet spray paint. The Thompsons opened in December 2013 after completing the NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center’s Launch & Grow program. In seven months they’ve grown from three employees to fourteen. They’re cash flow positive. Learn from their example:

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  1. Ask for help earlier rather than later. Start at the NIACC Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center. Develop a plan to plan. The biggest source of risk is entrepreneurs don’t know what they don’t know. Learn from others who have “been there and done that.”
  2. Research before opening the doors. Interview and visit similar businesses that will not be direct competitors. Learn from others what to do and what not to do.
  3. Launch & Grow — write the business plan. Launch & Grow works. This ten week program yields a business plan incorporating the research in the format banks and investors expect to see. The business plan is essential to get financing and as an ongoing management tool.
  4. Build a strong banking relationship. Banks want to get repaid. Your forward looking financial projections (the numbers) should be based on real world experience of peers. Give the bank or investors confidence you can make the numbers come true.
  5. Clear, consistent, professional branding. Send a unified message with your brand. Carry your branding across all paper, web, buildings and vehicles and especially activities.
  6. Professional, fulfilling facilities and operations. What you do in practice must be consistent with the image conveyed by the branding. Caring for your team and the facility in which the work is done is vital. A great business plan is of little value without a great team working in a quality environment to bring the plan to life.
  7. Sales don’t happen by magic. Making quality stuff is hard. Selling is harder still. Customers don’t all show up day-one. Sales require pre-loading the marketing funnel and constant work. Prospective customers don’t all say, “Yes,” on the first approach. Plan for the resulting ramp-up and invest in marketing that leads to sales.
  8. Be Persistent. Owners need the fortitude to hear, “No,” and keep going, and even come back to hear, “No,” multiple times before getting to, “Yes.” Being an entrepreneur is hard work and emotionally challenging. Be prepared. Customers are harder bosses than most employers.
  9. Compete on more than price. Successful companies sell something more than low prices. Define your unique value proposition in terms customers will value. Don’t be a commodity.
  10. Remember owners get paid last. In that ramp-up period before cash-flow positive and break-even, employees get paid before owners.
  11. Know what you’re good at — and what you’re not. Owners should be able to do almost any aspect of the work. But focus your personal time and efforts on those things that make the biggest impact on long-term success. An entrepreneur must learn new tricks, but be careful assigning to yourself things you hate to do or for which expertise is essential. Hire, contract or partner for essential expertise you don’t like or can’t do. Hire experts smarter or more experienced than you to cover what you don’t do well.
  12. Work for things beyond the bottom line. Give back to the community and world. Be involved in the community. Join the Chamber of Commerce and contribute time, not just money to improving the community and connecting with customers.

Owning a small business is hard work. John and Colleen know that there has to be a reason beyond the “bottom line” to keep them pushing ahead. For them it’s their desire to be an asset to the community and lift the lives of the people who work for them. Business isn’t done in a vacuum. It’s not just for profit. Business owners have a unique opportunity to add value to the community through the support of local businesses, community efforts, and by investing in the lives of their team. When things get tough, and they will in business ownership, keep your eye on the bigger goal (purpose).

Iowa PowderCraft’s owners are an overnight success because they worked for more than two years in advance of opening to develop a workable plan. In the last seven months they’ve worked the plan to deliver on the promise. The results? Ahead of plan. Rapidly growing revenues and operations. Cash flow positive. Adding jobs. It doesn’t happen by magic. Success is a result of planning, hard work and working smart.


Duggan Tax Service

Mary Duggan, CPA and Owner
20 Ninth Street, NE
Mason City, IA 50401 (Cerro Gordo County)
641.423.4431 or 641.424.6197

Description of the Business

Most people don’t enjoy spending their valuable free time preparing their income tax returns or doing the bookkeeping for their small business. Mary Duggan, owner of Duggan Tax Service, offers the solutions for these problems plus two additional precious commodities – time and peace of mind. In January 2007, Duggan acquired the existing client base of Jess Harris Tax Service (a very reputable business in North Iowa) after Harris retired from a 30 year career with the Internal Revenue Service and 17 years in private tax practice. Prior to opening Duggan Tax Service, Mary worked for several other local accounting firms.

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SBDC Approach

Duggan was referred to the North Iowa Area SBDC by her banker after her business start-up loan was declined due to her poor credit. The North Iowa Area SBDC was able to help Duggan develop a business plan and also look for alternative sources of funding.

Duggan was informed of the NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) Revolving Loan Fund opportunity. The NIACC JPEC was awarded a Rural Enterprise Grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development to create the revolving loan fund. The program is designed to assist with new business development or the expansion of existing businesses. In March 2007, Duggan Tax Service received $10,000 in funding from NIACC JPEC Revolving Loan Fund.

Results of SBDC Assistance

Since Duggan’s first visit to the North Iowa Area SBDC, she has completed a very thorough business plan and received funding to advance her business. With the acquisition of Jess Harris Tax Service, another much needed accounting business will thrive in North Iowa. Mary has also graciously offered to mentor other aspiring entrepreneurs and several referrals have been made by the North Iowa Area SBDC to Duggan Tax Service as start-up entrepreneurs are searching for an accountant to assist them in developing their bookkeeping system. Ultimately, the North Iowa Area SBDC provided Duggan an opportunity to reinstate her CPA designation that had lapsed due to personal issues and fulfill her dream of opening her own business.

Quote from Client

The guidance and support I have received from the NIACC JPEC and SBDC has been invaluable throughout the acquisition process. The loan allows me to start my business with a strong financial foundation.” – Mary Duggan

Latham Hi-Tech Hybrids LLC

Description of the Business:

Corn is big business in Iowa, but high technology corn is becoming an even bigger business. Third generation seedman John, along with wife Shannon and brother Chris Latham seized an opportunity to begin supplying corn seed with multiple traits to farmers across the upper Midwest and formed Latham Hi-Tech Hybrids in 2004. With a motto of “brings world-class technology home,” they have become one of Iowa’s fastest growing family-owned seed companies. In April 2006, the Lathams turned to the SBDC of North Iowa for help accelerating and preparing financially for rapid growth.

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SBDC Approach:

In Mason City, the SBDC is housed inside the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center on the North Iowa Community College Campus. This setting offers huge opportunities for collaboration with other JPEC members, including the North Iowa Business Accelerator, Iowa Workforce Development, North Iowa Venture Capital Fund and Wellmark Community Venture Fund. By utilizing all the assets at its disposal, Ted Bair, the SBDC Director was able to help John, Shannon and Chris Latham refine all aspects of their business plan- marketing, financial and operations. He also critiqued and helped them prepare their presentation for the Venture Network of Iowa and submission of their business plan to the statewide Pappajohn Business Plan Competition contest.

Results from SBDC Assistance:

    • Successfully penetrating a five state region
    • Met sales plan for 2006; exceeding plan in 2007 (years run Sept to Sept) with continuing triple digit percentage increases.
    • Presented to the Venture Network of Iowa, drawing the interest of Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors
    • Placed 3rd out of 87 entrants statewide in the Pappajohn Business Plan Competition, winning a $10,000 prize
    • Awarded $100,000 in funding from the Wellmark Community Venture Fund
    • Accelerated hiring plan. On track to add at least 1 new sales pro-rep employee every other month in 2007 with ultimate goal of 45 employees by 2010 earning in excess of $75,000 annually.

Quote from Client:

We faced the same problems every new company faces. Although, we had the background, the connections and the education to be successful, we needed to supplement it with the skill and experience of the North Iowa SBDC in the Pappajohn Center at NIACC. We were given access to capital sources and to a network of specialists that shaved years off the execution of our business plan. No one did the work for us, but because of the NIACC-JPEC SBDC, the work we did was much more effective.” John Latham, President, Latham Hi-Tech Hybrids LLC, Sheffield, Franklin County, Iowa

Northside Auto Repair, Inc.

Adam Roberts, President

Northside Auto Repair, Inc. is an S-Corporation formed in December of 2009 and recently completed its first quarter of business ending March 31st, 2010.

Northside is a full service auto and truck repair business operated and managed by Adam Roberts, a certified auto mechanic with many years of experience as the high volume technical mechanic for a multi-location auto dealer in North Iowa.  Mr. Roberts also has a pheasant raising business for game farms and initially entered FastTrac® training at our Center to develop his business model to full time from a hobby.  During his involvement with FastTrac®, he decided the time was right to consider opening his own auto repair business and began the process of creating a plan for that to happen.  Adam and his wife Dawn (CFO of Stellar Industries in Garner, Iowa) then focused on working with myself and the FastTrac curriculum in creating Northside Auto Repair, Inc.

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Adam Pam Roberts

Business was initiated and the business has performed very well, exceeding forecasts in revenue and profitability and was capitalized by Adam personally.  He had sufficient tools and some equipment to open and immediately purchased two lifts to modify the location in Garner to meet his needs.  Currently he is renting the location with an option to purchase and likely his wife Dawn will form a LLC to purchase the building and property and lease to Northside. Volume growth has created the need for occasional independent contractor labor within the first quarter of 2010 and Adam and our SBDC Center are initiating a process of determining the impact of adding a full-time employee at this time.  We are meeting on a constant basis, reviewing financial progress, comparing current activity to forecasts and looking for opportunities to grow the business.

“Ted Bair and the resources of the Small Business Development Center at NIACC have been very helpful in the forming and validating of my business venture”- Adam Roberts, President of Northside Auto Repair, Inc.

Owens Family Concessions LLC.

Owen’s Family Concessions LLC is a certified and licensed business founded in February of 2012 by its owner Mike Owens of Leland, Iowa.  OFC LLC provides concession services/products for special events (Civic and Private) as well as Fairs and Fundraisers in North Central Iowa Region.
Mike and his family are located in Winnebago County at 40862 160th Avenue, Leland, Iowa and can be reached at 641-590-0207 or by email at

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OwenIn December of 2011 Mike Owens contacted the SBDC of North Central Iowa at NIACC requesting help in forming a business entity to provide concession services.  Mr. Owens had some limited previous experience providing concessions to special events in his role as Scoutmaster for his local Boy Scout Troop.  Having been recently laid-off from his job, Mr. Owens saw a potential opportunity to develop a business around providing concessions, but lacked business experience and sought help from our Center to help with starting this venture.

Several sessions took place with the client as he refined his concept, began forming operational guidelines and identified start-up-costs. In February of 2012 Mr. Owens formed his Limited Liability Company (Owens Family Concessions LLC) and we began the search for funding his company in preparation for launch.  Preparing financial forecasts based upon research data, food cost analysis, overhead projections, we were able to outline goals and objectives financially and presented to his bank for funding his start-up-costs.  Bank agreed to the request for trailer funding and along with funds provided by NIACC Nano-loan fund for additional equipment and working capital, Mr. Owens was ready for business.
Mike also started our 10 week boot camp for new businesses ( FastTrac ) in April of 2012 and graduated with a completed business plan and much more confidence and validation his project would be successful.  While Mike attended these sessions he was securing events for Spring/Summer/Fall events.

Mike and his family completed their first calendar year in business providing concession services for  events  with sales exceeding .  Mike has been an excellent example of a entrepreneur with passion and knowledge of what he wants his business to look like.  Mr. Owens represents opportunity through adversity ( job loss ) by creating a service business benefiting others while creating value and wealth for his family.

North Central Mechanical Services Company, Mason City

Nathan Bartels began his career as an apprentice heating and air conditioning specialist the summer before completing college at North Iowa Area Community College. During the next 12 years he completed his heating and air conditioning certification while working first for Comfort Inc. and then for Mechanical Air Systems.

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Nathan and 2 employeesWhile he was gaining experience working for others, Nathan’s level of confidence in managing and operating his own company increased and he decided he’d like to start his own business. Good customer relations and providing excellent outcomes for clients validated his feeling that he would be successful implementing his personal vision and work ethic within his own company.

Barriers for Nathan to move forward with forming his own company included amassing adequate capital necessary to provide the type of service that customers in North Iowa demand. Nathan began to formulate his business plan and accumulate the necessary tools and cash to launch his own company.

Knowing that he needed additional help, Nathan contacted Ted Bair, Regional Director of the North Iowa Area Small Business Development Center (SBDC), to evaluate his business plan, help determine cash flow needs, and discover options for financing of additional capital needs such as a larger service vehicle and starting inventory. While meeting with Ted, Nathan secured the services of an attorney and formed an “S” Corporation, to provide the legal structure of his business. He also initiated discussions with U.S. Bank for financing.

North Central Mechanical Services Company opened for business on August 18, 2010 with the help of an SBA-guaranteed loan and a guaranteed credit card, both through U.S. Bank in Mason City. Nathan also obtained a truck loan from a dealer offering internal financing, plus he personally invested tools and cash into the business. The company provides commercial and residential heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration parts and services within 50 miles of Mason City.

Ted and Nathan at business

Praising the business advice and assistance he received from the SBDC, Nathan says, “Ted Bair and the SBDC have been very helpful in validating my concept and pulling all of this together, and I look forward to our continued relationship on a monthly basis to assess progress and also fulfill the SBA Community Express Action Plan.”

Nathan’s great reputation and good customer relations skills helped his company to grow quickly and in 2011, with additional advice from the SBDC, he was able to move his business from his home to a building the company purchased with additional financing from U.S. Bank. He has also purchased additional equipment, more service trucks, and added five full-time positions, all to better serve his customers.

In 2011 the company had a 250 percent increase in sales over its 2010 figures and it is projected to do even better in 2012. And as Nathan grows his business further, he knows he can go back to the SBDC for more great advice.