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Statewide competition looking for Iowa small businesses wanting to expand

The state will award one small business more than $28,000
Published: Feb. 9, 2021 at 9:25 PM CST
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - The state opened applications for a competition that is looking to help small businesses that want to expand.

The Open 4 Business program awards more than $28,000 to one small business in the state that wants to grow and expand. Business owners, though, need to move through a couple of stages before getting to that point.

Dubuque Main Street is running the local portion of the competition. Dan LoBianco, the group’s executive director, said it does not take much for businesses to apply.

“What the business does is give us at Dubuque Main Street, by the end of this month, by February 26, a one-page summary of their expansion efforts, so it is not a real complicated first step,” LoBianco said.

LoBianco said eligible businesses must be located around the Main Street area. A panel of judges will interview the applicants during the first week of March and a local winner will win a $500 grant. That small business will also move on to the state competition. Out of those that make it there, five finalists will earn $8,000 each and the winner will get an additional $20,000.

LoBianco said this year, because of the pandemic, they are looking to help as many entrepreneurs as possible.

”To celebrate those businesses that are still being aggressive, that still know they need to take that business to the next level and to switch their business model a little bit towards the pandemic is crucial to us,” LoBianco said.

Irving Pulido and Travis Olson are two Dubuque business partners who are actually thinking about expanding their service. Pulido and Olson met five years ago at a supplement shop.

“We got to know each other, really hit it off as far as being buddies, laughing, and we would just hang out together,” Pulido said.

After bonding over their shared passion for fitness and health, they decided they wanted to open a wellness center in Dubuque together. That’s how Be One Wellness was born. Pulido and Olson offer access to machines like infra-red sauna and cryotherapy, and massage and relaxation therapy.

Even though they help their customers feel more relaxed, the process of opening their shop was anything but relaxing.

“People thought we were crazy, like, ‘You guys are going to open up a place when everything is shut down right now?’,” Pulido said. “But we took a chance on it and it has paid off so far.”

Despite being a fairly new business, the partners are already thinking about their next steps.

“We have so many ideas to grow this into and that is how we kind of got to know each other with the same vision of opening this up,” Olson said.

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