LEMARS — Wollmuth Insurance won a regional award for new businesses and a $ 5,000 prize on November 18 from the BIG Challenge in LeMars.
Sibley’s independent insurance office was one of the five finalists for the contractor program and was recognized for its rapid expansion and status as the only Spanish-speaking agency in N’West Iowa.
The BIG Challenge is a collaboration between regional development groups to build, innovate and develop emerging stores and businesses in the region.
The other four finalists did not leave empty-handed. A second prize of $ 2,500 went to Midwest Designs of Sheldon. In third, Hardly General of Moville, who won $ 1,500. The other two finalists, Friedrechsen Meat Company of Sutherland and Lovechatas of Sioux City, each received $ 500.
The squad gathered Thursday night at the Willow Creek Golf Course in LeMars for a pitch and question-and-answer competition. A panel of judges chose Wollmuth Insurance as the award-winning 2021 company to drive its initial growth.
Shari Wollmuth started out on her own after a career with major national insurance agencies. The Sibley native knew she could bring her small town know-how and personal touch if she opened a freelance office, which she did in April.
She said the one-on-one conversations she has with local clients are what sets her office apart.
“I’m getting to know them and their backgrounds and see if there are any gaps that need to be filled,” Wollmuth said. “We take a look at what they need, what they lack and make sure they’re covered. I mean, that’s what insurance is for.
Wollmuth Insurance offers plans through various providers, although its primary connection is through Nationwide. The owner said she is proud of the range of coverage she offers to individuals and businesses, from heavy machinery and motorcycles to large area and tenant insurance.
Wollmuth said her experience in the colossal corporate sector in her industry has enabled her to be an effective agent, while her local roots make her a fighter for her clients.
“You can call me day or night. You don’t have to call a 1-800 number and talk to someone in Tennessee. I’m here, she said.
The company’s other business card is its investment in Hispanic N’West Iowans. Wollmuth said a quarter of its business comes from Spanish speakers who otherwise would not have a place to cover themselves nearby.
Right after the opening, she hired Alicia Ordonez as the office’s Spanish translator. This decision was cited by the judges of the BIG Challenge as one of the main reasons for awarding the top prize to Wollmuth Insurance.
“We are growing up in Sibley. To see Hispanics in our area, we welcome them. We want to educate them and make sure they are doing the right thing and that they are protected, ”Wollmuth said.
The $ 5,000 will be used to expand the company’s offices to a satellite location in a city yet to be decided.
Sheldon’s business at Thursday’s event began at Brittany Maassen’s house last winter. Midwest Designs makes hair accessories, specializing in headbands, which Maassen all makes by hand in her spare time.
Even as a part-time substitute teacher and full-time mother to three young boys, Maassen said she always finds a way to keep up with demand by shipping inventory from coast to coast.
“I do this during naps and when they go to sleep,” she said. “Right now it’s part-time, but sometimes with the kids they have to go to daycare so I can always keep up with things.”
Maassen began making headbands as a hobby, dissatisfied with the retail offerings she could find. She taught herself how to sew with video tutorials, and she quickly did more for her friends, family, and possibly hordes of orders on her business website.
She single-handedly operates Midwest Designs from her home in Sheldon, making 50 to 100 items per week.
“Rough calculations – I made over 4,000 handmade products in 11 months,” Maassen said.
The businesswoman said she knows dress trends can change quickly, so she’s expanding her repertoire to include scrunchies and other products to complement her iconic headbands.
“It has become something more than I ever thought it would be,” she said.
Friedrechsen meat company
Will and Macey Friedrechsen are passionate about supporting their small town of Sutherland. Will has his own interest in butchery, graduating with an animal science degree from Iowa State University in Ames, and Macey comes from a family of entrepreneurs.
These factors together prompted the young couple to found Friedrechsen Meat Company earlier this year. Once a prime spot on the city’s main road opened up, the Friedrechsens seized the opportunity.
“We had been talking about setting up a meat locker for a few years. After everything that happened with COVID, we decided if we were going to do it, we better do it, ”said Will.
He and Macey explained that there is no custom slaughterhouse near the southern community of O’Brien County.
With plenty of more exotic cows, pigs and beasts available in the area, it should be a smart business move to open the meat locker in the rural area.
“We really wanted to bring another business to Sutherland,” he said. “We love the community. We love their support. They are incredibly supportive of everything and we just thought this would be a great place to start a business. It happened to be my hometown.
The Friedrechsens are expanding the building at 410 E. Southern St. and renovating the existing structure and plan to open next year.
In addition to the three companies from N’West Iowa, the BIG Challenge had two finalists from Woodbury County.
Hardly General is an event center and shared shopping space in Moville. Owner Marissa Molland said her town of 1,700 has many small businesses, but many are not big enough to warrant a storefront. Its place fills this gap.
“It gives sellers a brick and mortar feel without the expense,” Molland said.
When used as a pop-up market, the storefront can be a venue for almost any gathering. Molland cited yoga classes, photography sessions, and corporate meetings as examples, although party gatherings are his most common clientele.
“I like to say that all you need is a cake to come and host an event in our space,” she said.
Sioux City was also represented at the BIG Challenge with Lovechatas, led by Barnabe Mendoza.
Like Maassen and the Friedrechsens, the Mendoza business started as a hobby that got out of hand.
He said he started Lovechatas when he couldn’t find a Spanish-style sweetened milk drink version he liked nearby.
After taking months to get the perfect recipe at home, he started selling in and around Sioux City.
“The goal one day is to be around the world, but right now it’s just out of Woodbury County,” Mendoza said.