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EntreFest! announces $10,000 'Dream Big Grow Here' winner

Contact: 

Maureen Collins-Williams, director of UNI Regional Business Center, 319-236-8123, Maureen.collins-williams@uni.edu

Stacey Christensen, Office of University Relations, 319-273-6728, stacey.christensen@uni.edu

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- More than 300 people gathered at the Hotel Kirkwood in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, March 7 to attend the Dream Big, Grow Here pitch off event and to celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship in Iowa at the sixth annual EntreFest! Conference.

Dream Big, Grow Here is an annual statewide contest for entrepreneurs and small business owners to win cash to start or grow an Iowa business. This year's event was emceed by Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. To participate, small business owners simply upload their 'dreams' during a regional contest administered by their local economic development corporation. They then encourage friends, customers and other business owners to vote for them. Each regional contest winner received $5,000 cash and a chance to win another $10,000 cash award at EntreFest! on March 7.

The winner of this year's Dream Big, Grow Here pitch off event was Tom Molhulland of Molhulland Grocery in Malvern, Iowa. "We had to fight to make it,” explains Tom. "We got there as the last finalist, thanks to a lot of help from a lot of friends. This grant will mean so much for my business in our rural community."

Now in its second year, the Dream Big, Grow Here contest has awarded more than $100,000 in business cash to Iowa entrepreneurs. "We are cultivating a spirit of celebrating entrepreneurs, both through the Dream Big Grow Here contests and the EntreFest! conference," said Maureen Collins-Williams, director of entrepreneurship outreach for the University of Northern Iowa. "This year, seven of the 10 Dream Big, Grow Here finalists were from communities with fewer than 20,000 population. We were surprised and very pleased at the response from rural communities.  Increasing awareness and support of entrepreneurship in rural Iowa is critical to long term economic health in the state."

Other Dream Big, Grow Here winners included second-place winner Deri Fehr of EDU Instruments of Terril, Iowa ($1,000) and third-place winner Nikole and Jon Benson of Tug's Daycare and Preschool of Mason City ($500). Other statewide finalists included WW Homestead Dairy of Waukon, The Chicken Sisters of Lamoni, Cryogen Design of Marshalltown, {made} of Burlington, The Depot Family Restaurant of New Virginia, Ready to Go In America of Iowa City, and Recycle Rite of Cedar Falls.  More than 225 companies from 66 counties competed in a Dream Big Grow Here contest in 2012.  For a complete list of contestants and videos from the regional contests, visit www.DreamBigGrowHere.com

A long list of regional and state sponsors collaborate to provide the contests and cash awards for Dream Big, Grow Here.  In addition to the University of Northern Iowa, state sponsors include the Iowa Bankers Association, Renew Rural Iowa, Delta Dental, VentureNet, the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the Community Vitality Center and the Technology Association of Iowa.  Host sites can be found at www.dreambiggrowhere.com.

For more information on Dream Big, Grow Here or EntreFest!, please contact Collins-Williams, at 319-273-4327 or Maureen.Collins-Williams@uni.edu or Andy Stoll at Seed Here at Andy.Stoll@seedhere.org