MASON CITY, Iowa – The 2019 Pappajohn Entrepreneur Gala celebrated North Iowa’s entrepreneurs on October 29, 2019 at a special recognition event at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City. Entrepreneurs and businesses across North Iowa were invited to apply for four awards categories: Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, the Innovation Award, and Business of the Year. Twelve finalists were named, and the winners were announced at the gala. In attendance at the gala was distinguished guest Governor Kim Reynolds. The keynote address was delivered by Gary Schoeniger, co-author of “Who Owns the Ice House?”.
John K. and Luise V. Hanson were honored with the Legacy Award (posthumous). The Legacy Award recognizes an entrepreneur who has made significant contributions to North Iowa through their vision, passion, and leadership. The award was accepted on their behalf by their children John V. Hanson and Mary Jo Boman.
Scott Soifer of McSoifer’s Inc. (Charles City, IA) received Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Scott Soifer is the owner and president of McSoifer’s, Inc., which operates twelve McDonald’s restaurants in northeast and north central Iowa, employing 600 hardworking crew members. Scott began his entrepreneurial journey at a young age, cleaning tables and mowing the lawn at McDonald’s – he credits the experience for teaching him the importance of hard work, giving back to the community, and creating a community within the workplace.
Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalists also included Derek Balsley (The Art of Education University; Osage, IA) and Julia Dannen (D & S Services; Mason City, IA).
The judging committee awarded a special recognition to student entrepreneur Samantha Schupanitz (Mason City, IA) for her business, Sami’s Sock Monkeys. Sami Schipanitz founded Sami’s Sock Monkeys in her senior year at Mason City High School while attending the Youth Entrepreneurial Academy (YEA). Sami has been collecting and crafting sock monkeys since she was 9 years old. YEA showed her how to turn her passion into a business that specializes in personalized, one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted products.
Derek Balsley of The Art of Education University (Osage, IA) received Entrepreneur of the Year. Derek Balsley co-founded The Art of Education University in Osage with his wife, Jessica Balsley. Derek is the dreamer in their partnership, taking AOEU from free blog to accredited university in seven short years. The Art of Education University is the first non-religious graduate university in the state of Iowa in over 50 years and has become the largest provider of professional development for art teachers around the world.
Entrepreneur of the Year finalists also included Eric Kingland (Kingland Construction Services; Forest City, IA) and Toby Welsh (Midwest Duct Works; Ventura, IA).
The EZ Manufacturing, founded by Bruce and Connie Goddard (Charles City, IA), received the Innovation Award. EZ Manufacturing was founded in 2016 when Bruce Goddard invented the Bale Storm Processor. The Bale Storm Processor is the only rear-attached straw bale processor on the market, and is capable of completely changing the way livestock owners care for their cattle. In Summer 2019, EZ Manufacturing signed a licensing agreement with Kelly Ryan Equipment to manufacture and distribute the Bale Storm Processor nationwide. EZ Manufacturing is thriving by focusing on their core values: creating innovative, safe, efficient, and functional ways to help fellow farmers.
Innovation Award finalists also included Avance USA & Hartwood Hospitality Innovations Corp. (Jennifer Andrade; Gilbert Starples) and Kingland Systems (Clear Lake, IA).
Kingland (Clear Lake, IA) received Business of the Year. Kingland develops and manages AI-powered software solutions that help organizations discover and use their data to create a complete view of the people, places, and entities that can affect business outcomes and organizational growth. Kingland was founded in Clear Lake in 1992 and has been helping their global clients discover new ways to securely grow their business and protect their reputation for over 25 years.
Business of the Year finalists also included The Art of Education University (Jessica and Derek Balsley; Osage, IA) and Cabin Coffee Co. (Brad and Angie Barber; Clear Lake, IA).
The NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center is the expert in rural business innovation and success. In partnership with North Iowa’s Small Business Development Center, together we provide tools, support, and resources to Iowa’s entrepreneurs. We counsel both new and existing local businesses, from Main Street to industry leaders. We’re growing Iowa’s entrepreneurial culture through grade school initiatives, college and community programs, and business training and development. Contact the NIACC Pappajohn Center at 641-422-4111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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