Photography by Brittany/Brittany Todd.
Photography by Brittany/Brittany Todd.
More than 100 people recently attended the second annual Winneshiek Idea House and Trout Tank, in support of local entrepreneurs.

Featured speaker Kayla Koether of Iowa State Extension kicked off the event this year, speaking about resilient rural communities and the future of the Iowa Food Hub – an innovative organization working to connect farmers, families and food grown close to home.

Attendees spent the remainder of the first hour exploring ways to invest time and resources locally, including investing in self and neighborhood, investing in land and local farmers, local investment clubs and self-directed IRAs.

After a “Munch and Mingle” time featuring catering by Dug Road Inn, attendees settled down for Trout Tank, Winneshiek County’s friendly version of the popular television show “Shark Tank,” emceed by Toby Cain. After an explanatory – and hilarious – skit featuring Ellen Rockne and Dale Kittleson (Aqua and Fina), Steve McCargar and Ben Gardner took the stage to present for Waving Grains Cooperative Bakery. This 25-year-old bakery recently converted to a consumer cooperative ownership model and is looking to expand its market with a community supported bakery (CSB) program.

Next, Clara Muggli-Toyloy of Oak & Olive Flowers took the stage to share her idea for a local flower bouquet subscription. She plans to grow flowers in yards across the Decorah area — and received many offers of space from attendees.

Elsa McCargar and Conor Murphy with The Wilders Way shared their plan to launch a wilderness immersion program starting this spring with two offerings, “Tending the Wild” and “Into the Woods.” In addition to looking for participants, they put out a call for collaborators to teach future program offerings.

Lastly, Ellen Rockne, owner of The Lingonberry, a new event venue on Water Street in Decorah, shared her vision for The Lingonberry as a gathering place and her plans to finish a commercial kitchen and add performance lighting to take the space to the next level. She asked attendees to buy The Lingonberry t-shirts to help her market the space.

After each presentation, attendees had an opportunity to ask clarifying questions and offer their support in real time. Over 40 attendees pledged support ranging from buying preferred shares in Waving Grains Cooperative Bakery, to offering to help build a local flower cooler, to signing up for wilderness immersion programs, to buying The Lingonberry t-shirts (and promptly putting them on). The evening ended with a networking time to allow attendees to connect with the entrepreneurs, continue munching and marvel at the generous spirit present in the space.

Winneshiek Idea House is organized by Kristin Eggen, Stephanie Fromm, Tabita Green and Liz Rog, and is sponsored by Winneshiek County Development Inc. and America’s SBDC Iowa.