Corridor Native Fall 2018

samanthakollasch

Homegrown Businesses in the Corridor Fall 2018

INNOVATIVE

Kinze Manufacturing steers

ahead of the curve

TINY BUT MIGHTY

Shellsburg popcorn company

bursts on national scene

BORN OF NECESSITY

BeraTek creates own products,

molds other entrepreneurs

GIFT BLISS

Online wedding registry

offers local experiences

WINNING FORMULA

Engineer finds success in swine

confinement industry


FROM THE EDITOR

Fall 2018

Chief Executive Officer & Publisher

John F. Lohman

Vice President

Aspen N. Lohman

Chief Operating Officer &

Associate Publisher

Andrea Rhoades

Magazine & Special Projects Editor

Angela Holmes

Writers

Steve Gravelle

Angela Holmes

Jennie Morton

Emery Styron

Photographers

Brian Draeger

Angela Holmes

Emery Styron

Graphic Design Manager

Becky Lyons

Graphic Designer

Julia Druckmiller

Magazine Media Consultant

Judith Cobb

CBJ Editor

Adam Moore

CBJ Media Consultants

Lauren Fletcher

Kelly Meyer

It only takes a spark

Whether it’s a manufacturer distributing products around the globe or

a small startup still finding its footing, all companies begin with an

entrepreneur’s idea. And often that idea is initially developed in a basement,

garage or small shop.

Kinze Manufacturing in Williamsburg – one

of the largest privately held agricultural equipment

manufacturers in North America – is no

different in its humble beginnings. At age 21,

Jon Kinzenbaw had an idea to make farming

easier and started a welding company in 1965

in Ladora.

His ideas kept coming and within a decade,

he moved his operations to a highly visible

location just off Interstate 80, where Kinze remains

headquartered on a 30-acre site. While

he remains Kinze’s CEO and chairman of the board, his daughter, Susanne

Veatch, runs the day-to-day operations as the company’s president,

carrying on his values and innovation.

Gerald Beranek also had ideas on how to make life – especially parenting

– easier. When his wife, Randi, was expecting their first child in

2014, he came up with a gadget to safely place a baby monitor near

the infant’s crib.

He created VueSee with equipment in his garage and took the product

to market. Sparked by its success, Beranek left his stable engineering

job and went without a paycheck for three years while building up BeraTek

Industries, which focuses on product and contract development.

Since starting BeraTek in 2014, Beranek has been named CBJ’s Entrepreneur

of the Year in 2016 and a Forty Under 40 recipient in 2017.

This type of entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the Corridor.

Check out these and other inspiring stories on the pages that follow.

Who knows – maybe you will have the next great idea.

Event & Social Media Marketing Manager

Ashley Levitt

Events Assistant

Tracey Godon

Event Media Consultant

Rhonda Roskos

Marketing & Distribution Manager

Jean Suckow

Contents are registered to Corridor Media Group.

Reproductions or other use, in whole or in part, of

the contents of the publication without permission

is strictly prohibited.

2345 Landon Rd., Ste. 100

North Liberty, IA 52317

(319) 665-NEWS (6397)

www.corridorbusiness.com

Angela Holmes, Editor

HOMEGROWN

in the Corridor

Corridor Native features

businesses in the 7-county

Corridor region

Benton, Linn, Jones,

Iowa, Johnson, Cedar

and Washington

ON THE COVER

Susanne Veatch,

Kinze Manufacturing

president and chief

marketing officer, is the

second generation of

the Kinzenbaw family to

lead the company her

father, Jon Kinzenbaw,

started in 1965.

2 CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018


CONTENTS

INNOVATIVE

FAMILY

Kinze Manufacturing steers

ahead of the curve

14

20 GIFT

BLISS

5

TINY

BUT

MIGHTY

10

BORN OF

NECESSITY

24

WINNING

FORMULA

CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018 3


TALENT

ENRICHMENT

MARKETING

DIGITAL

IMAGING

TECHNOLOGY

SERVICES

What’s

cool about

Leverage?

Tim Guenther

Founder/CEO

Clickstop & Leverage

This year, for the sixth time, Clickstop

has made the list of top “Coolest Places

to Work” in the Corridor, and for the

second time, taken the prize of “Coolest

of the Cool” overall. And because

Leverage is comprised of the same

entrepreneurial employees that power

the brands of Clickstop, this award

belongs to Leverage too. But the award

isn’t what makes Leverage so cool.

What’s cool is the fact that Leverage

wasn’t formed in hopes of finding

success, rather, it was formed because

of success. We are here to share

Clickstop’s recipe for results with the

Corridor and beyond.

Specifically, Leverage helps create

meaningful strategies to drive employee

and customer engagement through

marketing, talent enrichment, digital

imaging, and technology services. We

provide the tools, resources, expertise,

and elbow grease to bring those

strategies to life.

As your partner, we want nothing more

than to see you succeed. And we are

willing to say and do the hard things in

order to get the right results. Your wins

are our wins.

We empower growth by implementing

and executing best practices learned

through our own real-life experiences.

This includes being named a Fastest

Growing Company for 9 of the last 10

years and a Coolest Place to Work for

the last 6 years.

We want to know “what does

success look like for you?” Together

we’ll craft your roadmap to sustained

prosperity. We drive the bus, you sit

shotgun, and together we’ll navigate the

road to measurable results.

When you partner with Leverage,

we become an extension of your

business; and your business becomes

an extension of Clickstop. And that’s a

pretty cool opportunity for all.

Feel that spark? We feel

it too. Let’s get started on

something great together.

LeverageGrowth.com 4 CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL •800.838.3450

2018


Shellsburg

popcorn

company

explodes

on national

scene

STORY AND PHOTOS

BY ANGELA HOLMES

CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018 5


Gene Mealhow is the “guy who likes

to do things first.” When he ventured

into organic farming in the 1980s, the

seldom-used concept resulted in Mealhow’s

unofficial title as the “Weed

Farmer of Benton County.”

Now, as consumers grow more

health-conscious and curious about the origins

of their food, Mealhow’s methods are paying off.

His Shellsburg-based company, Tiny But Mighty

Popcorn, has become a staple in natural grocery

stores nationwide.

Tiny But Mighty Popcorn’s heirloom popcorn

is available in bags of popped corn, microwavable

pouches and the mainstay – unpopped kernels.

The products are on the shelves of area Hy-Vee

and Fareway stores, Natural Grocers in Cedar Rapids

and New Pioneer Food Co-op stores in Iowa

City, Coralville and Cedar Rapids. The company’s

biggest client is Whole Foods, which stocks the

popcorn in all of its stores across the nation.

“We have now hired a sales team to work with

corporate to do the deals,” said Mealhow, more

commonly known as “Farmer Gene.”

That’s quite a feat for a centuries-old seed that

was once moments away from being popped

into extinction.

HISTORY OF THE HEIRLOOM SEED

The unique pointy popcorn seed that grows irregularly

on tiny ears was discovered in Iowa by

Samuel Kelty in the 1800s. It is unclear whether

he found the seed in the wild or traded it with

Native Americans.

Fast-forward three generations when Samuel’s

great-great-great-grandson, Richard Kelty, returned

home to Benton County from the Army. Just as

his mother was about to pop the last of the kernels,

Richard grabbed the small jar and eventually

planted them.

With the crop, he started K&K Popcorn (Kelty

and Kramer), a modest, yet respectable, business

in Urbana.

PAGE 5: Gene and Lynn Mealhow stand by the

headquarters of Tiny But Mighty Popcorn in an

old farrowing barn on their Shellsburg farm.

TOP: The heirloom popcorn grows on tiny,

three-inch cobs and is distinctive by its pointy

kernels and irregular rows.

ABOVE: Gene Mealhow adjusts the settings on

his digital corn sorter.

I have the best popcorn

in the world.

Farmer Gene (Gene Mealhow), Tiny But Mighty Popcorn

6 CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018


Gene Mealhow

checks the crop

of his unique

heirloom popcorn

at his Shellsburg

farm where he also

grows squash and

tomatoes that are

sold to Corridor

restaurants.

Meanwhile, Mealhow was honing his rockstar

skills as a drummer in a band in the early

1980s. He also worked on the family farm

near Shellsburg, taking care of the hogs in the

farrowing barn, or as he calls it, the “maternity

ward.” When his dad got out of farming in

1989, he bought 33 acres and began his foray

into organic farming.

PRACTICING WHAT HE PREACHED

In the early 1990s Mealhow was using biological

farming techniques he learned from Midwestern

BioAg, a Wisconsin-based company

with an office in Monticello. He joined the

company as a consultant to “spread the word.”

Richard Kelty became one of his clients at

the urging of Kelty’s son, Brett, who told Mealhow

his dad was “having a hard time with his

popcorn crop.”

After conducting a soil test, Mealhow implemented

a program cutting nitrogen in half and

increasing calcium and other nutrients. Under the

program, Kelty’s crop went from 400 pounds per

acre in the early 1990s to 1,000 pounds by 1994.

When Kelty was ready to retire in the late

1990s, Mealhow and his wife, Lynn, bought

K&K Popcorn, securing the rights to the seed.

The Mealhows planted the seed at their Shellsburg

farm and converted their farrowing barn

into the business’ office and processing facility.

They grow and test the seeds, while they contract

farmers to grow the product.

“You need a certain kind of grower; it’s a

food product, not just grain,” Mealhow said.

“A lot more work goes into it; everything has

to be meticulous.”

They start growers with 30-50 acres and increase

their load as they feel more comfortable

with them. Currently, their two growers, from

Cascade and Quasqueton, grow about 100-200

acres each.

The corn is stored in large grain bins on the

Mealhows’ farm until it is ready to be sent to

Rural Route 1 Popcorn in Livingston, Wisconsin,

where it is processed and packaged.

Early this August, 800,000 pounds of corn

was stored in the bins, and Mealhow expected another

200,000 pounds to come in the fall harvest.

FOOT IN THE DOOR

After changing the company’s name to Tiny But

Mighty, the Mealhows wanted to expand their

customer base. While they enjoyed a steady

business of sending out products from Shellsburg

and selling popcorn in area grocery stores,

their big break came a few years ago when they

entered the Whole Foods market.

Mealhow first tried to get into Whole Foods

by sending samples to eight of the company’s 11

regions. After that impersonal approach didn’t

work, he called stores, ready to tell his story to

anybody who picked up the phone.

CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018 7


When he reached a manager at a Chicago

store, he said, “I have the best popcorn in the

world.” The intrigued manager told Mealhow to

send him three cases. If they sold, he would order

more; if they didn’t, Mealhow would have to buy

them back.

Within 10 days, the manager called Mealhow

back, requesting more popcorn because it had

sold out. Mealhow delivered the cases himself

and offered to do presentations in the store – a

personal touch that paid off.

“Customers couldn’t believe the farmer was in

the store selling the product,” he said.

Eventually, Mealhow scored a meeting with

Whole Foods’ representatives, and now Tiny But

Mighty products are available in all 11 regions

nationwide.

Even with this success, the Mealhows haven’t

let their guard down.

“It’s a constant thing to keep it out there,”

Farmer Gene said. CN

Tiny But Mighty Popcorn

3282 62nd St.

Shellsburg, IA 52332

tinybutmightyfoods.com

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8 CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018


Venture and Equity Funds in Iowa

(Listed alphabetically)

RANK

Company

Address Contact Person Contact Information Intended projects

1

AAVIN Equity Partners

1245 First Ave. SE

Cedar Rapids, IA 52402

James Thorp

(319) 247-1072; fax (319) 363-9519

jthorp@aavin.com

www.aavin.com

Growth financing, ownership changes, buy-outs and recapitalizations

2

Ag Ventures Alliance

2009 Fourth St. SW, Ste. 1

Mason City, IA 50401

- -

(641) 494-2368 or (866) 260-5775; fax

(641) 423-2642

jconway@agventuresalliance.com

www.agventuresalliance.com

Value-added agricultural ventures with at least partial farmer ownership

3

Ames Seed Capital LLC

304 Main St.

Ames, IA 50010

Ron Hallenbeck

(515) 232-2310

ron@ameschamber.com

http://amesseedcapital.com/

Focus on Story County early-stage startups with business and proof of

concept determined

4

CMA Ventures

2600 Grand Ave. Ste. 300

Des Moines, IA 50312

- -

(515) 309-3018

info@cipco.net

www.cmaventures.net

Invest in seed, early-stage and growth-stage business that require funding

to develop product or to accelerate growth

5

Corridor Angel Investors

415 12th Ave. SE

Cedar Rapids, IA 52401

Aaron Horn

(319) 382-5128

aaron@newbo.co

https://newbo.co

Early-stage, Iowa-connected companies

6

FIN Capital

8345 University Blvd., Ste. F

Clive, IA 50325

Megan Milligan

(515) 282-0940

mmilligan@theiowacenter.org

http://the iowacenter.org/get-started/fincapital/

A network of professional women committed to investing in companies with

strong leadership, unique solutions, scalability and a clear exit strategy

7

Iowa Corn Opportunities LLC

5505 NW 88th St., Ste. 100

Johnston, IA 50131

- -

(515) 225-9242 ; fax (515) 225-0781

bjones@iowacornopportunities.com

www.iowacornopportunities.com

Investment is available in seed and growth stage opportunities, particularly

those related to Midwest agriculture broadly and the corn industry

specifically

8

Iowa Seed Fund II LLC

230 Second St. SE, Ste. 212

Cedar Rapids, IA 52401

Curt Nelson

(319) 369-4955; fax (319) 832-1481

cnelson@edcinc.org

www.edcinc.org

Invests in early-stage scalable interstate commerce businesses

headquartered in Iowa

9

Next Level Ventures

666 Walnut St., Ste. 1280

Des Moines, IA 50309

Craig Ibsen

(515) 369-2600

info@nextlevelvc.com

www.nextlevelvc.com

Iowa businesses that can scale rapidly and operate in the advanced

manufacturing, biosciences and information technology sectors

10

Plains Angels

700 Locust St., Ste. 100

Des Moines, IA 50309

Mike Colwell

(515) 259-0380

mike@plainsangels.com

www.plainsangels.com

Invests in early-stage businesses that have a large market opportunity,

market traction and ability to scale

11

Red Cedar

200 State St., Ste. 202A

Cedar Falls, IA 50613

Danny Laudick

(319) 553-6921

https://redcedarcv.com/

Early-stage companies and technology startups from around the Cedar

Valley

12

Rural Vitality Funds II

5400 University Ave.

West Des Moines, IA 50266

Adam Koppes

(800) 254-9670; fax (515) 225-5577

akoppes@insidefb.com

www.renewruraliowa.com

Biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, agricultural tech and software

companies in early or growth stages in rural Iowa

13

Wellmark Venture Capital Funds - UNI

Business & Community Services, Ste. 128

Cedar Falls, IA 50614

Randy

Pilkington

(319) 273-5732; fax (319) 273-5733

jpec@uni.edu

www.jpec.org

Iowa-based, for-profit corporation engaged in IT, educational technology,

advanced manufacturing, technology-related industries, medical or surgical

advancements and more

14

Wellmark Venture Capital Funds-NIACC

500 College Drive

Mason City, IA 50401

Tim Putnam

(641) 422-4111; fax (641) 422-4129

tim.putnam@niacc.edu

www.niacc.edu/pappajohn

All growth types except for retail and professional

15

Wellmark Venture Capital Funds-UI

108 Pappajohn Business Building., Ste.

160

Iowa City, IA 52242

Paul Heath

(319) 335-3742; fax (319) 353-2445

paul-heath@uiowa.edu

www.iowajpec.org

Source: Staff research. Some funds were not included because they did not respond to requests for information.

Note: Entries may be edited for length and clarity.

All types other than retail and professional services

CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018 9


BORN of NECESSITY

“It’s a lot easier

now just to get it online

and start selling stuff.”

Gerald Beranek

BeraTek, founder and CEO


BeraTek creates own products,

molds other entrepreneurs

BY STEVE GRAVELLE

PHOTOS BRIAN DRAEGER

Gerald Beranek picks up a

simple plastic box from

the table in BeraTek Industries’

conference room.

When affixed to the wall

with a peel-and-stick adhesive, the simple

plastic box holds colored markers

and erasers for the room’s whiteboards.

“It came from our need,” explained

Beranek, BeraTek’s founder and CEO.

“We needed some holders in here, so

we designed one. In 10 minutes, we designed

one and 3-D printed these. We

were selling them on Amazon to prove it

out, and people were buying 10 or 20 at

a time. We thought, ‘Holy cow, we can’t

keep doing this with 3-D printing.’ We

started to make a mold and now it’s all

[injection] molded.”

That’s a typical development cycle for

products created in BeraTek Industries’

nondescript brick building on a light-industrial

backstreet in southeast Cedar Rapids.

The approach has fueled the growth of

the company, which now has 12 employees,

and helped develop a profitable niche

in bringing others’ ideas to market.

“Our contract [product development]

side last year grew 400 percent, and the

product side grew 150 percent,” Beranek

said. “Last year was just about keeping up.

This year, it might have slowed up a little

bit. We’re getting our feet back under us.”

BABY CHANGES EVERYTHING

Beranek, 33, launched BeraTek in 2014,

four years out of the University of Iowa

with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical

engineering. While working at CIVCO

in Coralville and Schneider Electric in

Cedar Rapids, Beranek bought his own

3-D printer and computer numerical

control (CNC) milling machine, and installed

them in the garage at his North

Liberty home.

BeraTek’s first big success came as Beranek

and his wife, Randi, prepared for

their first child, born in 2014.

PAGE 10: Gerald Beranek works

on a project at BeraTek Industries

in southeast Cedar Rapids.

RIGHT: A shelf holding

whiteboard markers and erasers

attached to the wall with peeland-stick

adhesive is one of

BeraTek’s inventions.

CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018 11


“I just hopped on the computer,

and 10 minutes later I had a design.

Gerald Beranek

BeraTek, Founder

and CEO

“We were trying to put the baby monitor somewhere, and the

best place to put it was right on the crib,” he recalled.

But Google searches turned up accounts of infants strangled by

loose monitor cords. Beranek thought a simple plastic holder could

securely hold a camera while keeping its cord safely out of reach.

“I just hopped on the computer, and 10 minutes later I had a

design,” he said.

The result, VuSee, mounts with peel-and-stick adhesive to a wall

or other surface. The camera cord winds around the base of the

mount. Beranek took some of first VueSees to a consumer product

trade show shortly after it was developed.

“It was my first time ever trying to sell a product, and it was funny,”

he said. “The new parents didn’t understand it: ‘Why do I need

that?’ The parents who were on their second child were jumping for

joy: ‘I’m tired of stacking books behind this thing to get that view.’”

VuSee found a ready market via Amazon, where it still enjoys

healthy sales. It’s also sold through stores in the Buybuy Baby

chain, although “usually we don’t push into stores, because retail’s

tough,” Beranek said. “It’s a lot easier now just to get it online and

start selling stuff.”

JUMP TO INJECTION MOLDING

Applying computer-assisted design (CAD) and CNC machining,

Beranek made early VuSee models on the 3-D printer, with e-commerce

revenues funding the jump to injected-molded plastic. Injection

molding, done in-house, is cheaper to produce but requires a

substantial initial investment in mold design and tooling.

Other BeraTek products followed a similar pattern. There’s a

holder to securely mount Amazon’s Echo Dot digital assistant, and

another that holds a Scrub Daddy kitchen-sink sponge. The Café

Wall Caddy organizes instant-brew coffee cups, and another device

holds yogurt cups inside a refrigerator.

“These products aren’t life-changing,” Beranek said. “But they’re

just 10 minutes with the CAD.”

VuSee, a self-adhesive shelf

for baby monitors, is one

of BeraTek’s top-selling

products. The plastic holder

can securely hold a camera

while keeping its cord out of

reach from the baby.

BERATEK ON PAGE 30

12


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CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018 13


INNOVATIVE

Kinze

Manufacturing

steers ahead

of the curve

BY ANGELA HOLMES

PHOTOS BRIAN DRAEGER

Susanne Veatch, Kinze Manufacturing

president and chief marketing officer,

carries on the values her father, Jon

Kinzenbaw, set when he started the

company in 1965.

Although much has changed in the agriculture

and manufacturing industries since

1965 when Jon Kinzenbaw opened a small

welding shop, the core values of his business

remain the same.

The welding shop evolved into Kinze

Manufacturing, one of the largest privately

held agricultural equipment manufacturers

in North America. Based in Williamsburg,

Kinze continues to innovate based on the

needs of its primary customer base – farmers.

“We still rub shoulders with farmers and

dealers; that doesn’t change with technology,”

said Kinzenbaw’s daughter, Susanne

Veatch, who has served as Kinze Manufacturing’s

president and chief marketing officer

since 2016. “He founded the company on

five core values [integrity, customer focus,

excellence, innovation and mutual respect]

and that’s how we define our culture.”

KEEPING AHEAD OF THE TIMES

Ever since Kinzenbaw built the first auger-unloading

grain wagon in 1967, innovation

has always been a trademark of Kinze’s

business model. He has been named inventor

on 19 issued patents, including his most

well-known product – the rear-fold planter

introduced in 1975.

“Dad created solutions for farmers,”

Veatch said. “We all bring different things

to the table.”

Kinzenbaw isn’t the only one who comes

up with ideas, however. The company encourages

ideas from employees, dealers and

farmers, and even has a “Submit Your Idea”

section on its website.

14 CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018


“Kinze’s goal is to

have the most userfriendly

electronics

in the industry

that are easy to

operate.”

Kinze Manufacturing

2172 M Ave.

Williamsburg, IA 52361

www.kinze.com

Susanne Veatch

President and

Chief Marketing Officer

Kinze Manufacturing

The stacked grain cart display

at Kinze Manufacturing in

Williamsburg is quite a sight

for drivers on Interstate 80.

CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018 15


When Jon Kinzenbaw

started Kinze Welding

in Ladora in 1965

at age 21, he likely

didn’t realize how

influential his company

and innovations

would become

in the agriculture

and manufacturing

industries.

The finishing touches

are put on a 1051

single auger grain

cart at the Kinze

Manufacturing plant

in Williamsburg.

16 CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018


CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018 17


While competitors like John Deere manufacture a wide variety

of products such for agriculture, lawn and garden, construction

and forestry, Kinze focuses on planters, tillage equipment

and grain carts.

“Our goal isn’t to be an all-solutions provider,” Veatch said.

“We are always looking for opportunities that make sense.”

In 2014, the company opened Kinze Electronics in North

Liberty to develop easy-to-use displays, as well as hardware,

software and user interfaces for planter electronics. The first two

products, the Blue Vantage planter display and the Blue Drive

electric drive, will be available for the 2019 planting season on

certain configurations of the Kinze 3660 and 4900 planters.

Other row-mapping devices exist, but Kinze’s goal is to

have the most user-friendly electronics in the industry.

The staff in North Liberty is a mixture of professionals with

an agriculture background and from other industries such as

aviation and HVAC, providing an outside-the-box

perspective, Veatch said.

“Technology is the future,” she said. “Planters

are no longer just a mechanical piece of equipment.

They need simple-to-use technology in a

complex environment.”

In the current lull of the ag industry, Kinze has

also had to innovate in the way it runs its business.

The new Mach Till hybrid-horizontal tillage equipment

that shreds residue in the fall and prepares

the seedbed in spring at higher speeds is a result of

that innovation.

“A year-and-a-half ago the tillage line came out

of meeting on how to adjust to the market,” Veatch

said. “Farmers need to want to put a Kinze planter

and Mach Till behind their tractor to make them

most successful.”

“We created a five-year strategy and when we

added tillage, we focused on the segment of the tillage

market that is growing,” she added, noting the

product expansion was requested by Kinze dealers

to better serve their customers.

DRAWING TALENT IN TOUGH MARKET

Even though the cyclical agriculture industry is currently

in a down cycle, it is still a challenge to find

skilled employees.

Most of Kinze’s 550 employees live in nearby

Williamsburg and Marengo, but some travel from

up to 60 miles away. The company attracts employees

from engineering schools at University of Iowa,

Iowa State University, University of Colorado and

South Dakota State.

“We need to have an environment with contagious

energy where people want to work in this

tight job market,” Veatch said. “Once we get them

here to experience Kinze, they are sold.”

As it continues to be difficult to attract employees

into manufacturing, Kinze works with

area educational institutions to expose youth to

the industry.

The Williamsburg School District partners with

the local Kirkwood Community College center to

offer more technology-based courses.

KINZE ON PAGE 31

18 CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018


PAGE 18: The

workbench from

Jon Kinzenbaw’s

garage in Ladora on

display at the Kinze

Innovation Center on

the main campus in

Williamsburg.

RIGHT: Chris Riley

powder coats a piece

of equipment in the

painting booth. The

majority of Kinze’s

equipment is

painted its signature

shade of blue.

Jon Kinzenbaw has

been named inventor

on 19 issued patents,

including his most

well-known product –

the rear-fold planter

introduced in 1975.

CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018 19


Gift

Bliss

20 CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018


Tallis Strub (left)

and Kaitlin

Byers created

MarryMyCity, an

online gift registry

that offers local

experiences, as

an alternative to

registries at bigbox

stores.

Online wedding registry

aims to draw couples closer

BY JENNIE MORTON

PHOTOS BRIAN DRAEGER

Tired of buying impersonal wedding gifts like wood

bowls and shower curtains, two Corridor women

have created a more meaningful shopping option

for wedding guests. MarryMyCity, an online gift

registry that offers local experiences, is the brainchild

of Kaitlin Byers and Tallis Strub.

The women formed a friendship as ImpactCR board members.

While commiserating about attending 62 weddings over

a two-year stretch, the pair wondered if there was an alternative

to registries at big-box stores.

“Statistically, the majority of couples are marrying in their

late 20s rather than right out of college. They are also more

likely to be living together, which means they already have basic

household items,” Byers explained. “Wedding guests want

to purchase something that will help the couple build their

relationship in a way an avocado slicer or spatulas can’t.”

MarryMyCity, with its emphasis on bonding experiences

rather than consumer goods, complements to a traditional

registry. The platform organizes gifts into four categories: food

and drink, arts and culture, health and wellness and active adventures.

Now guests have the option to purchase pans or theater

tickets with equal ease.

“This is not just a millennial trend,” Strub clarified. “Some

of our most successful registries come from second marriages.

These couples already have established careers and homes.

Even if they would prefer no gifts, they know their guests are

going to insist. The experience packages on MarryMyCity are a

great alternative.”

AGILE MINDSET

Byers, who serves as CEO, and Strub, who functions as COO,

attended Venture School through the University of Iowa’s John

Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center. After fine-tuning the viability

of their business model, they adopted an agile mindset.

CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018 21


They secured funding from the Proof of Commercial Relevance

program through Iowa Economic Development to hire

a website developer. In 2016, they anonymously launched the

online registry at Byers’ own wedding. The options sold out

quickly and other couples began reaching out to start their

own registry.

Byers and Strub vet all vendor applications to ensure they

have a pool of diverse gift options. They currently partner with

80 small businesses. Packages for beer and wine, art and cooking

classes and show tickets are some of the most popular.

“We offer vendors an open-ended contract rather than a

subscription. We also won’t remove their package if it hasn’t

sold within a certain period. We provide a simple 80/20 split

and minimal credit card fees. Once their information is on our

site, the vendor simply enjoys the free exposure until they need

to ship a gift,” Strub explained.

CORRIDOR AND BEYOND

MarryMyCity currently serves three communities: Cedar Rapids,

Iowa City and Des Moines. Byers and Strub have found

success in connecting with vendors by attending events like

One Million Cups, soliciting referrals from wedding couples

and working with chambers of commerce.

“Iowans have some of the largest weddings in the country

with an average of over 200 guests, yet many small companies

have been pushed out of the gifting market. MarryMyCity can

introduce them to local guests as well as those who are traveling

from out of the area or another state,” Byers said.

Des Moines is MarryMyCity’s testing grounds for expansion.

The online registry is scalable, so the pair is fine-tuning

the right mechanisms to build vendor relationships in new locations

and create brand awareness outside of the Corridor.

Strub’s recent move to Des Moines has been instrumental in

adding 20 vendors to MarryMyCity’s options.

“We are also excited to be expanding to Madison and Kansas

City in the coming months. We are even testing a wedding

in Austin, Texas. But there is plenty of room to grow right here

in Iowa and we have many towns on our radar,” Strub said.

PLANNING THE FUTURE

MarryMyCity is also looking into the possibility of combination

packages that include options from multiple vendors,

such as a restaurant and a brewery from the same neighborhood.

A feature where couples can build their own experience

packages is forthcoming as well.

More than two years in, Bryers and Strub are energized by

the potential to develop a national footprint yet remain focused

on the Iowa roots that helped their idea blossom.

“You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable with a

startup. You have to be OK with not knowing how to do something

but then figuring it out,” Byers explained. “You also have

to remain focused and committed because not every idea or

decision is going to work out. It’s all about setting goals and

always working toward them.” CN

Wedding guests want to

purchase something that

will help the couple build

their relationship in a

way an avocado slicer or

spatulas can’t.”

Kaitlin Byers, CEO, MarryMyCity

22 CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018


Kaitlin Byers and Tallis

Strub are testing the

Des Moines market for

their online wedding

registry, MarryMyCity.

Marry My City

https://marrymycity.com

1606 Greens Way Ct NE

Cedar Rapids IA 52402

319-362-3200

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www.kimwilkerson.com

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CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018 23


WINNING FORMULA

Engineer finds success in

swine confinement industry

STORY AND PHOTOS BY EMERY STYRON

24 CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018


It’s much easier to keep an

existing customer happy than to

go find a new customer.

Chris Harmsen, Owner, Precisions Structures Inc.

CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018 25


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Cedar Rapids MICRO Loan Program

www.ecicog.org/micro.html

Kirkwood Small Business

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iowa-city-coralville

“Ag is so volatile. Within a year,

you can be doing half of what

you were doing – and in another

year, one-sixth,” said Precision

Structures Inc. owner Chris

Harmsen, who manages to keep

a serene outlook despite the ever-changing

market forces that

whipsaw the swine industry.

It’s not just because of the view of peaceful, green farm

fields outside his office window at the edge of Wellman.

The business model Harmsen has honed in 20 years of

building swine confinements across an eight-state Midwest

territory also lets him sleep at night.

PSI puts up about 100 buildings a year and on any given

week, has several hundred people at work at 30 job sites

in the region. The vast majority of those are not PSI employees,

but subcontractors doing the concrete, electrical,

carpentry and insulation work on the buildings. That arrangement

allows Harmsen to expand or contract his business

as demand fluctuates. It also leaves him free to focus

on building a strong staff to handle sales, estimating, project

management, warehousing, service and installation of

feed and water systems.

HIRING THE RIGHT PEOPLE

The staff now numbers 70 but the 6-foot-8-inch Clinton-area

native and former North Dakota State University

basketball player was employee No. 4 when he went to

work for PSI founder Claude Greiner in 1998. He used his

engineering and operations skills to help grow the business

and jumped at the opportunity to buy it in 2010.

“Our people are what makes it click.,” Harmsen said.

“We work hard to take care of them. They work hard to

take care of our customers and subcontractors.”

It’s been “a real interesting process,” to manage the

challenges of growing a small company, he said. He likes

an analogy in the book “Good to Great” that compares a

company to a school bus.

“The first thing you have to do is get the right people on

the bus. Once you figure out who should be on the bus,

then you determine what seat they should be in,” he said.

“If we can hire capable, motivated people, we try to find a

place in the business that’s the best fit for them.”

26 CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018


PAGE 24: Chris Harmsen explains a watering system installed

in a hog confinement near Wellman.

TOP LEFT: A cornfield is visible beyond the blades of a

ventilation fan in a hog confinement under construction by PSI.

“The first thing you

have to do is get the

right people on the

bus. Once you figure

out who should be

on the bus, then you

determine what seat

they should be in.”

Chris Harmsen

Owner, Precisions Structures Inc.

TOP RIGHT AND LOWER LEFT: Most building materials

for PSI projects are delivered directly from suppliers to the

construction sites, but PSI does stock and warehouse PCV

pipe, electric motors and other components for water and feed

systems it installs in the structures.

CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018 27


Precision Structures

Incorporated, of

Wellman, built

this modern pig

production unit at

Delta Gilt Farm in

southeast Missouri.

PHOTO / PSI

Nicole and Chris

Harmsen provide a

family atmosphere

at PSI.

Ag’s volatility provides an opportunity to

shift people around to find that best fit.

“A market that’s hot now may be cool in six

months and something else may be hot. That

offers a lot of opportunity for cross-training,”

he said.

NURTURING RELATIONSHIPS

Looking at the bigger picture, he sees PSI’s

role as “basically helping family farms grow

and be profitable.”

“Families still in farming have had to become

larger and more business-like units. They are

selling products at the same price they’ve been

at for many decades. The only way to have more

money is through volume and efficiency. They

need to rely on support companies like ours to

be the professional option they need to become

more professional themselves.”

Having grown up on a family farm, Harmsen

enjoys the multi-generational relationships that

are the heart of PSI’s business. Nurturing those

relationships has powered PSI’s growth.

“It’s key that we take care of them and make

them happy. It’s much easier to keep an existing

customer happy than to go find a new customer,”

he said.

Keeping customers happy includes service

after the sale. With 2,000-3,000 existing facilities,

“things break,” so service employees are on

call seven days a week.

“If a feed system or a watering system goes out,

it’s urgent that it gets up and running,” he said.

A GROWING ‘FAMILY’

Harmsen and his wife, Nicole, lived for eightand-a-half

years in the house where the Greiners

started the business in 1983. They have

three children, 16, 14 and 12, who all work at

PSI around school activities.

“It’s like the way I grew up on the farm. I

wanted the kids to be involved in some way,”

Chris said.

Five years ago, the family moved to the south

edge of Wellman, freeing the house up for office

space. Existing buildings were connected to

the house and the former two-bay garage was

remodeled into a conference room that seats 14,

but the kitchen where Nicole prepared family

meals remained intact. She now uses it to fix

lunch for the whole staff on Fridays.

Nicole also works in the office, where Chris

notes, “She has a way of making sure everyone’s

happy and taken care of, sort of mothering the

people around here that we care about.”

In 2015, the Harmsens purchased Keith’s

Parts & Service, a grain storage and handling

equipment company, to broaden PSI’s

base. PSI leases the Keith facility south of

Ainsworth. The grain business is on a smaller

scale, covering an area within an hour or two

from Wellman.

“We hope to grow it,” Harmsen said.

Those aren’t words he takes lightly.

“When we say we’re going to do something,

we do it. It sounds like a simple thing, but it’s

something we live by.” CN

Precision Structures Inc.

1204 First Ave. N.

Wellman, IA 52356

www.precisionstructures-inc.com

28 CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018


Veronica Tessler, Owner, Yotopia Frozen Yogurt

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CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018 29


“Our contract side last year grew 400 percent,

and the product side grew 150 percent.

Gerald Beranek

BeraTek, founder

and CEO

Sokreth Luongvan

and Nink Baccam

work on the injection

molding machine at

BeraTek Industries.

BERATEK

FROM PAGE 13

MOLDING NEW ENTREPRENEURS

Soon after the company launched, a wouldbe

entrepreneur brought in his idea for what

became the repour Winesaver, a bottle stopper

that blocks oxygen to preserve the aroma

and flavor of an unfinished bottle of wine.

“He had a very crude prototype,” Beranek

recalled. “We actually designed his entire

product specifically for manufacturing at

high volume. He’s truly gone from nothing

and now we’re running 100,000 units a

month. He’s one of our bigger customers.”

To encourage clients to manufacture their

products at BeraTek, the firm offers a million-piece

guarantee.

“They own the molds, they can take them

wherever they want,” Beranek said. “We’ll

actually make sure that mold is in top running

shape for the first million parts. But as

soon as they take it out of here, there’s no

more warranty.”

Beranek said BeraTek’s production costs are

competitive with cheap offshore competition.

“We’ve looked at, ‘Let’s see what these

would cost. Let’s ship the molds to China

and see their per-unit costs,’” he said. “And

they can’t even touch what we can do. It was

40 to 50 percent more than what we can do

– without tariffs.”

DEVOTED TO COMPANY

FROM START

Beranek’s priorities for the next year or so

are to establish BeraTek’s consumer products

under the new Storage Theory brand

while boosting awareness of the company’s

contract development, production and marketing

services.

“BeraTek, that’s our contract side,” he

said. “Storage Theory will be our product

brand, the consumer-facing side.”

Marketing might seem a stretch for a company

built on product design, planning and

development, but it’s really just another case

of applied experience.

“We already do the marketing for our own

products, so it’s a natural for us to do it for

our customers,” Beranek said. “We haven’t

had too many people do it, because if you’re

an inventor or an entrepreneur, it’s hard

to justify spending money on marketing.

Whereas we know we have to spend to make

money and marketing’s tough when you’re

new in the business.”

Beranek said he went without a paycheck

for three years after starting BeraTek.

“I knew I wouldn’t do it if I had a backup,”

he said. “Because my backup as an engineer

was alright.”

But applying his engineering knowledge

helped BeraTek find its unique niche.

“I knew I liked to design things and solve

problems,” Beranek said. CN

30


MANUFACTURING IN IOWA

Employs 13.3%

of the workforce

210,600

manufacturing

employees (2016)

$68,080 average

annual compensation

Accounts for 18.3%

of total state output

$10.34 billion in

manufactured goods

exports

$32.65 billion in

total manufacturing

output (2016)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau

KINZE

FROM PAGE 18

“We then bring various classes to

Kinze for tours so they can realize there

are careers in manufacturing that enable

people to earn a great living,” Veatch said.

An internship program gives college

students an entire year to hone their

skills, benefiting both the student and

the company.

STILL FAMILY-OWNED

AND OPERATED

When Jon Kinzenbaw started Kinze

Welding in Ladora at age 21, he likely

didn’t realize how influential his company

and innovations would become in the

agriculture and manufacturing industries.

The operation moved to Williamsburg

in 1975 when Kinze introduced

the rear-fold planter, skyrocketing the

company’s growth trajectory. The corporate

headquarters and production

plants remain in the high-profile location

along Interstate 80, as well as an innovation

center which opened in 2013.

Kinze Europe UAB is located in Vilnius,

Lithuania, and Kinze Electronics in

North Liberty.

Kinze remains privately-owned by

the Kinzenbaw family, a strategy that

allows the company to quickly make decisions

without going through layers of

leaders and stockholders.

“At the end of the day, we want to

make the final decisions; nobody else

has to weigh in,” Veatch said.

Neither Veatch or her brother, Jonathan,

were pressured to join the family

business while they were growing up.

While Jonathan wasn’t interested in

joining Kinze and works for Pioneer in

Des Moines, Veatch always had a soft

spot for the big blue machinery.

“I loved the business growing up,”

she said. “In the summer, I loved coming

out here and watching my dad work.

It’s all I’ve ever known. I’m very passionate

about it.”

Kinzenbaw welcomed his daughter

into the business, but he wanted her to

work at another organization first. So, after

she graduated from Iowa State University

with a degree in business, she worked

for Caterpillar as a systems analyst for

four years before joining Kinze in 2005.

“Working for a very large company

gave me a greater appreciation of a

smaller, privately held business,” she

said. “Ideas can come from anywhere;

we’re a flat company. We, as owners,

love what we do.” CN

Kinze Manufacturing’s

corporate office facility built

in 2010 is part of a 30-acre

campus that includes the

Kinze Innovation Center

and manufacturing facilities

just off Interstate 80 near

Williamsburg.

CORRIDOR NATIVE FALL 2018 31


Corridor Business Journal

2345 Landon Road, Ste. 100

North Liberty, IA 52317

325 East Washington Street Iowa City, IA 52240 319-337-9637 www.iowacityarea.com

Affiliated with the National Association of Home Builders & Home Builders Association of Iowa

Iowa Va ley Habitat for Humanity

2017 GIVING GUIDE

egional Philanthropic Opportunities

“The best way to find

yourself is to lose yourself in

the service of others.”

Mahatma Gandhi

PRESENTING SPONSOR

THE GREATER IOWA CITY AREA HOME BUILDERS ASSOCIATION I www.iowacityhomes.com

Student Built House

Groundbreaking

Tell Your Story

A Passion for Growth

Celebrating Our New Office

Vocational Training Council Chair, Aaron McGlynn with Cabinet Works, welcomes everyone to the groundbreaking.

A ceremonial groundbreaking was held Thursday, June

28, 2018 at 3:00 pm a the site of a future home of Reach

AUGUST 2018

Check the Calendar of Events

at www.iowacityhomes.com

for more information!

2018

Remodelers Council

Board Meeting

AUGUST 7TH NOON - 1:00 PM

IC HBA Conference Room

Women’s Council Build Day

AUGUST 30TH

Iowa Va ley Habitat for Humanity

Katie Lammers Women Build

924 N Governor St, Iowa City

IC/CR Fall Mixer

AUGUST 30TH 6:00 - 8:00 PM

The Hotel Kirkwood

7725 Kirkwood Blvd SW

Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

Membership Committee

Membership Drive

SEPTEMBER 6TH NOON - 2:00 PM

IC HBA Conference Room

for Your Potential clients. The home is being built at

1881 Dickenson Lane in Iowa City by local students.

IC Area HBA Build Day

SEPTEMBER 7TH

lifestyle

munity

business

chnology

425 E. Oakdale Blvd. - Suite 101 - Coralville - 319.338.4100

www.WattsGroup.com

The groundbreaking is the beginning of a new project

put on by our Vocational Training Council. The

council organizes workforce development projects in

the greater Iowa City area. Students participating in

the program learn an important skill set, earn college

credit, and help give back to the community.

Partner with the Corridor Business Journal to design your own custom magazine.

North

Liberty

NORTH LIBERTY

We were excited to have Governor Kim Reynolds at

the groundbreaking as well as many other elected

officials and members of the IC Area HBA, Vocational

Training Council, the student and their parents.

The project includes 13 students of all different ages

building a home for a local non-profit organization

called Reach for Your Potential. RFYP supplies

housing for adults with disabilities. This project

also partners with Kirkwood Community College,

allowing each student working on the house to

receive two hours of construction credits. Members

of the Homebuilders Association are paying for the

college credits, and students will also complete their

10 hours of OSHA certification.

STUDENT BUILD PAGE 4

Dr. Mick Starcevich,

outgoing President of

Kirkwood Community

College, talks about

the valuable skills the

students are learning.

Governor Kim Reynolds

talks about everything

we are doing right

for students and

homeowners in Iowa City.

Katie Lammers Women Build

924 N Governor St, Iowa City

September Membership

Meeting

SEPTEMBER 13TH 6:00 - 8:00 PM

Hawkeye Ready Mix

3375 Klein Rd, Iowa City

Remodelers Social

SEPTEMBER 18TH 6:00 - 8:00 PM

Water Concepts

214 Southgate Ave, Iowa City

Board of Directors Meeting

SEPTEMBER 20TH NOON - 1:00 PM

IC HBA Conference Room

2012 - 2013 PROGRESS REPORT

GREATER IOWA CITY AREA HBA

Remodelers Council

Build Day

OCTOBER 25TH

Iowa Va ley Habitat for Humanity

Katie Lammers Women Build

924 N Governor St, Iowa City

MEMBERSHIP

on advancing

WOMEN’S

DIRECTORY

LEADERSHIP

PO BOX 3396 11 S. GILBERT ST. IOWA CITY, IA 52244-3396 PHONE: 319-351-5333 FAX: 319-358-2443 WWW.IOWACITYHOMES.COM

exhilaration.

inspiration.

momentum.

results.

CORALVILLE

Official 2015 Cedar Rapids Area Activities Guide

MARION

MT. VERNON

LINN COUNTY

HIAWATHA

IOWA CITY

Visit www.corridorbusiness.com/custom-publications

to view the most recently published magazines.

For more information contact Andrea Rhoades at

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