Webster City Part III: Four Women Who Inspire Me With Their Small Businesses

Disclaimer: Deb Brown, Executive Director of the Webster City Area Chamber of Commerce invited the North Iowa bloggers to spend a day in Webster City as part of the “Six Bloggers on a Saturday” tour in December 2014. All opinions are my own. Part I & Part II

Ever since the bloggers tour in December, I’ve wanted to return to Webster City. We all have. But Saturday worked well for Beth and I, so we returned for a morning visit. Back in December, Deb coordinated visits to 10+ small businesses within the span of seven hours. We connected with more people and places than I can fit into three blog posts, so I’ll continue to share a little at a time. This post is dedicated to four small business owners who inspire me with their creativity.

R Company

R Company Sara Photo
Tina Fey stated, “It took my three hours today to prepare for my role as human woman” while she hosted the 2015 Golden Globe Awards. I lifted my glass and replied, “I hear you, lady.” Sometimes I joke about writing a fashion blog. It would be terrible because all of my outfits would feature me rotating between my two favorite Raygun graphic tees and that one purple sweater I found for $5.

Sarah Hisler Kopriva owns and operates R Company, an “upscale resale” clothing shop. When we visited in December, she explained her desire to help all of her customers look and feel their best, regardless of age or socioeconomic status. Kopriva has a quick wit that kept me laughing. I appreciate how she aims to give customers her honest opinions when they seek her styling advice. If a certain piece doesn’t look or fit quite right, she’s not afraid provide frank feedback.

Together, Kopriva and Tina Poland, who owns the attached Phairytales Salon, help many young people choose affordable prom and winter dance dresses and prepare for the special occasions. Kopriva and Poland understand the reality that dances like prom can create stress for budget-conscious families or young people whose parents or guardians can’t be as present as they’d like to be.

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I have no hard feelings against fashion. In fact, I totally want to look like Taylor Swift, but can hardly match my pants to my shirt. If you see me wearing an outfit that fits well and does not include a Raygun t-shirt, it was probably the work of a female family member.

Before she passed away, my mom used to keep me on track by helping me coordinate matching outfits and forcing me to go shoe shopping. Kopriva and Poland remind me of the women in my life who took the time to help me shop for my wedding dress and pick out winter boots. I’d be a regular at R Company if I lived closer to Webster City.

If you visit R Company, use the owl-themed bathroom! The other decorations may change with the seasons, but the owls remain.

r company bathroom Collage

Relax the Bath
Denise Mendenhall crafts unique bath and body products from her studio in Fort Dodge, Iowa. She was kind enough to include examples of products in our bloggers tour goody bag, including her popular body butter.

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Bath & Body Works used to all I knew about scented body products. I’ve since become fond of handcrafted lotions and soaps and enjoy our locally-made options in North Iowa. These products feel gentler on our skin and we find the bar soaps last a long time.

On Saturday, Medenhall explained how she looks to the European market for trends. She described their stricter labeling standards and tries to follow suit by adding batch numbers and expiration dates to her products. While many of us are lucky enough to own one KitchenAid mixer, Mendenhall is the proud owner of at least five which she uses to whip-up body butters.

Relax the Bath

Mendenhall mentioned she’s one of only five artisans in Iowa that are members of the Hand Crafted Soap Makers Guild. She dedicates a separate space in her house to soap making and utilizes food grade oils in her products like sustainable palm oil and cupuacu butter. She works long days to meet demand and because she loves her art.

Besides body butter, some of the other products we admired were little bath bombs and colorful bars of soap that incorporated various swirls of colors and shapes. You can find Mendenhall’s products on her Facebook page or SOS Vintage in Webster City.

inTANDEM workspace
Before we visited inTANDEM, I’d never heard of  workspace sharing. Darcy Swon created this space out of a community need for an affordable place for small businesses and start-ups to meet.

Group

People can rent a whole office by the month or a workspace the day with access to inTANDEM’s wireless internet, coffee machine, furniture and bathrooms. Small fees apply for reserving conference rooms and utilizing the printer and copiers. Members are given their own keys so they can access the office at their convenience. Workspace sharing is also a helpful option for people who serve the greater North Iowa/Ames area and have to split their time in different cities.

What struck me most about this space was its contemporary vibe and bright colors. Swon researched colors that stimulate creativity and chose to paint bright orange and Nickelodeon green accent walls. We spent two hours chatting in the big conference room and kicked around blog ideas. As someone who thrives on bright colors, I did feel mentally energized.

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In Mason City, we don’t have a workspace sharing business like inTandem but we do have a lot of space. My friend Sara Broers recently wrote about reframing Mason City’s dead mall space as possibilities. We’re left with a big, dead mall on Federal Ave, an empty K-Mart on 4th, and a mostly empty Southbridge Mall. I like Broers’ encouragement to think outside the box instead of complaining.

I’m encouraged to see Sensory World open in the Southbridge Mall. It’s an indoor play place dedicated to families who have children with special needs. What if we continued to repurpose these empty spaces and consider them for purposes beyond only retail space? I think of indoor markets Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis, MN and NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and shared workspaces like inTANDEM.

What small businesses or start-ups are inspiring you right now? Do you have a favorite source for local bath and body products? 

wcbeth and jeni

Beth and I sent our greetings from the little sculpture park on our return visit.

8 Comments

  1. I love this post! You have such a talent for getting the story out and adding your own details that make it real. I loved the 3 (plus!) women who run these businesses and who are making a difference not only in Webster City but beyond. I love all of your posts about Webster City—-they really capture the day vividly.

  2. Yes!! I totally feel you on the mall thing. We need something there and all these ideas are so great and out of the box! I can’t wait to head back to Webster City, as they offer so many amazing stores to shop.

  3. I want to go back too! That body butter we received was amazing!

  4. It was such a pleasure to meet you and Beth Ann. The travels you and the other bloggers have sound like so much fun! Keep telling these stories, and people will want guided tours from you! I know I want to leave my studio and join you – and that says A LOT!

    Thank you for the kind words about my work although it is difficult for me to call it work when it is such a passion for me.

    I look forward to seeing you share your adventures with the rest of us who have become faithful readers!

    Denise Mendenhall
    Owner
    Relax the Bath

  5. Love this post! I love the humor and feel similar to you regarding fashion. I can put pieces together, but hate to shop because things rarely fit (you can appreciate being small stature too) and it takes time and gets frustrating! Love your enthusiasm for small businesses!

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