A diverse group of small businesses have been awarded funding from the Winneshiek County Development, Inc. business-plan competition called Biz Booster Challenge.

Those awarded funding by the eight-member WCDI judging team are:

• Open Decorah - Owner Ross Hadley is establishing a co-working environment on the second and third floors of The Good Foot building at 128 W. Water St. in downtown Decorah. Co-working refers to a shared work environment by representatives of different businesses.

Open Decorah will be focusing on bringing in businesses such as sales, marketing, social media, advertising, graphic design and other business support roles. The monetary award was to assist with paying for technology. Award amount: $2,500.

• River Root Farm - Owners Mike Bollinger and Katie Prochaska. The family-owned organic vegetable farm and seed operation recently moved from along the Upper Iowa River northeast of Decorah to a Locust Road site within the city of Decorah.

There are four main components of the business: Seedling/transplant sales; high-tunnel production/extended season vegetable; seed production; and microgreens. The monetary award was to assist with the purchase of a mobile refrigeration unit. Award amount: $2,500.

• Al's County Meat Locker - Owners Al and Cathy Boeckenheuer. The business at 2420 200 St., Calmar, provides custom pork and venison processing and plans to add a retail sales area to offer pork and beef products, smoked meat, sausages, cheese, spices and rubs.

Al's County Meat Locker is an integral part of the regional hunting tourism trade as they accept deer for processing during the hunting season. The monetary award was to assist with the purchase of packaging and labeling equipment. Award amount: $2,400.

• Corbin Group Modern Marketing - Owner Carolyn Corbin of Decorah. The startup helps businesses and communities with communication, growing market share, saving energy and sustainability. The monetary award was to assist in marketing the startup of the business that was formed in the summer of this year. Award amount: $1,000.

• The Dirt Farm - Owner Trevor Madsen, 3195 River Road, Decorah. The business raises and sells gourmet and medicinal mushrooms, mushroom growing kits, mushroom spawn, finished vermicompost and 100 percent recycled potting soil mixture. The monetary award was to assist in purchasing basic supplies to increase his mushroom-growing capacity sooner. Award amount: $1,000.


"I am so pleased that we have been able to award all the applicants that made presentations in the Biz Booster competition," said WCDI board president and Biz Booster judge Nina Taylor.

"All of these applicants will certainly provide an impact in Decorah and Winneshiek County, and the community will certainly have much to look forward to as these businesses grow. It has been a privilege to hear and learn about these new ventures."

"That's fantastic," said The Dirt Farm owner Madsen when learning his business had been funded. "This award is going to provide a huge boost to my projects. The consumable supplies I'll be purchasing will go a long way toward helping me create some positive cash flow in the near future- and the award should keep on giving as I reinvest the profits into my business."

Another award winner, Carolyn Corbin of the Corbin Group, said, "Wow. I am humbled and also thrilled. I want to give special thanks to your review board for their dedication, time and general good will."

Winners Al and Cathy Boeckenheuer added, "We are most appreciative and grateful for being awarded this funding. This will definitely help us financially reach our goal. We are very excited about expanding our Al's Country Meat Locker business."

Biz Booster Challenge judges include Taylor, president of the WCDI Board of Directors; Rich Leake, retired professor of management at Luther College; Rich Gaard, retired Decorah High School teacher; Ken Vande Berg, retired economic development director at Northeast Iowa Community College; Ben Grimstad, Decorah Bank & Trust president; Cindy Simpson, Bank of the West branch manager; Kerri Johanningmeier of Johanningmeier Stone; and Benji Nichols of Inspire(d) Media and a former contest winner.

"It's interesting that three out of the five winners in the Biz Booster contest were food-production related businesses," said WCDI Director Randy Uhl. "That shows how growth keeps occurring in local-food production in Winneshiek County."

The business-plan competition is designed to motivate small area businesses to improve the overall quality of their business plans, and to show tangible support for such efforts.