The top five businesses in the Dream Big, Grow Here grant competition were announced this morning.
They include: Afton Fitness Center, Podium Ink of Mount Ayr, Upper Crust Culinary Creations of Creston, Sew and Sew of Lamoni and She-Nae’s Rescued and Renewed of Creston. The top vote-getter was Afton Fitness Center with 2,811 votes.
“It was a very close race,” said Wayne Pantini, Union County Development Association (UCDA) executive director. “During the last half hour of the voting period, the businesses in fourth, fifth and sixth kept switching back and fourth. But, She-Nae’s ended up edging out Play Posse (of Mount Ayr) by one vote.
“This competition really has shown the power of social media and the amount of exposure businesses can get with an online presence.”
These top five businesses will now compete in a regional pitchoff event — slated Nov. 12 at Lakeside Casino — for a chance at winning $5,000 toward their dream.
“The pitchoff will have five judges,” Pantini said. “The judges will have backgrounds in marketing and finance. Each business will have five minutes to pitch their idea and the panel will judge them on what they will use the money for, how that business idea will have a regional impact and proven sustainability of the idea.”
The pitchoff event is not open to the public.
The winner of the regional contest will then advance to a state competition slated for spring 2014 where winners will have a chance to win an additional $10,000.
Upper Crust’s “dream” is to expand their business plan to offer frozen meals and desserts to go. The grant money would be used to replace a 1960s-style freezer — that currently has the door held closed with a ratchet strap — with two larger, more energy-efficient freezers.
Meanwhile, She-Nae’s would use the grant money to extend its marketing area by advertising to cities near Creston. Also, the business is currently located in an industrial building that is not climate controlled.
“We need heat in order to stay open during the winter and capture holiday shopping season,” said co-owner Sheila O’Riley.