116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Gazette panel to talk about action items for small businesses
By Michael Chevy Castranova, - The Gazette
Sep. 1, 2022 5:00 am, Updated: Sep. 1, 2022 2:04 pm
A couple months ago, I spoke with Sydney Rieckhoff while she was participating in the 10,000 Small Businesses Summit in Washington, D.C., put on by Goldman Sachs.
The Almost Famous Popcorn CEO told me during our phone chat she’d been making it a point to attend every session — every single one — of the two-day event, so as not to miss any ideas or suggestions that might help her own retail business, which has storefronts in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines.
Speakers at the event included a diverse group — business owners from a wide range of sectors as well as politicians, including former President George W. Bush.
One of her key takeaways, she told me — from her lengthy list of “action items” — came from Alli Webb, fashion consultant and founder of Drybar, a blowout-only hair fashion chain.
Rieckhoff planned a complete branding audit of her business upon her return home — “from the logo (out front) to the bathroom,” everything that is customer-facing “should feel like you.”
Sounds like more work, right? But if you run a small business, you already know that — strategizing to keep the lights on and employees and customers happy is never ending. Almost like Sisyphus continuously pushing that enormous boulder up a steep hill for all eternity. (Note: The boulder pushing actually was punishment from Zeus for Sisyphus’ overall deviousness, but we’ll skip that part of the analogy.)
And you also know operating a small business, be that in retail or otherwise and as owner or manager, hasn’t gotten easier in recent years. That laundry list also can seem almost Sisyphean: You’ve faced inflation; an ongoing labor shortage, which has been significant here in Iowa long before the pandemic; the pandemic itself and its disruptions to customer traffic; training needs; merchandise challenges caused by supply chain snags; and many more boulders of varying sizes.
Come Sept. 27, we’re going to talk about all that.
The Gazette’s next Business Breakfast panel of the year, “A Small Business Tool Kit for 2023,” will bring together a group of people who know small business first hand. We’ll talk about lessons learned and challenges — and opportunities — for which we can be prepared.
Our panelists, all of whom know about growth during challenging times, will include:
- Sydney Rieckhoff, who’ll share the other insights she gathered in Washington this past July and how the ideas she brought home are working out.
- Paul Andreasen, Saucy Focaccia founder and owner — His Cedar Rapids-based company expanded once more this past June, opening the Breakfast Bar by Saucy Focaccia, at Peck’s Landing on Blairs Ferry Road NE.
- Kymberly Stevenson, Targeted Small Business Development Program manager with the Iowa Economic Development Authority — The program is to help “women, individuals with minority status, service-connected disabled veterans and individuals with disabilities overcome some of the hurdles to start or grow a small business in Iowa,” according to its website.
- Robin Walenta, CEO of West Music — The Coralville-headquartered group bought 119-year-old Griggs Music in Davenport in July.
The live discussion will be free, but you must register ahead of time. Go to https://bit.ly/3PWvmEP to register.
Oh, and the generally accepted moral from the tale of Sisyphus?
Small business people know this, too: Keep pushing.
Growth for the future
And stick around after our business panel. Starting at around 10 a.m. also on The Gazette website you’ll be able to watch four interviews in our 2022 “Spotlight on …” series.
This third batch focuses on “Growth for the Future,” and acknowledges — and celebrates — accomplishments of businesses and organizations in the Corridor.
These recorded interviews will be with:
- BAE Systems — In 2020 BAE agreed to Collins Aerospace’s military GPS business from United Technologies, before its planned merger with Raytheon Co. In addition, BAE said it would retain about 675 jobs here in Cedar Rapids. Luke Bishop, director of engineering for BAE’s Navigation and Sensor Systems, talked with me about those decisions — as well as how it has continued to bring business to the Corridor.
- Big Grove — The brewer has continued to grow since that first venue in Solon, to locations in Iowa City, Des Moines and, ultimately, in Cedar Rapids as part of the $81.5 million First and First West development. Co-founder Matt Swift spoke with Gazette reporter Izabela Zaluska about his company’s plans.
- CommUnity Crisis Service and Foundation 2 — When the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline said it would begin using a simple 988 call-in number, CommUnity Crisis Service and Foundation 2 agreed to the goal of helping to respond to all call and texts with 30 seconds. Sarah Nelson and Drew Martel of those not-for-profits spoke with Gazette reporter Grace King about their life-saving work.
- Inteconnex — The Better Business Bureau joined with The Gazette in speaking with Marc Meyer, co-owner of commercial security systems provider Inteconnex. The company has expanded in Iowa and into Nebraska and Colorado. Bobby Hansen, regional director for the BBB’s Cedar Rapids office, and I spoke with Meyer about the company’s plans.
Join us. As you can see, there is a lot to talk about.
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