Highlighting Inspiring Women: She adds to the vibrancy of McGregor's business community

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Brenda Boeke, Café McGregor

Cathy Corpian, Cathy’s Office

Cinnamon Blood, Lasting Image Fun Photos Studio

Gina Russell (nail tech), Genna Welch (stylist), Julie Lorenz (stylist), Milena Rajkovic (makeup artist, brows) of Creative Enz Salon & Spa. Not pictured Kayla Vorwald (stylist) and Kathy Slater (massage).

Crystal Scarff, INKspiration Tattoo

Dianna Berry, Mind Your Body

Katie Ruff, By the Spoonful

Monica Tiffany, Grizzly's Chainsaw Carving

Nancy Krapfl, Navy Rose & Co,

Jennifer and Louise White, Paper Moon

Throughout March, which is Women’s History Month, the North Iowa Times will publish a series of articles highlighting local women. Whether it's through their careers, hobbies, volunteer efforts or unique personalities, these women have become an inspiration to others. Here is the sixth—and final—article, featuring the female business owners of McGregor.

 

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

“It’s a small town, but it has big things to offer.”

To Brenda Boeke, her hometown of McGregor—the place where she’s run her business, Café McGregor, since 2013—may be small, but it’s also mighty, boasting the scenic beauty of the Mississippi River, a rich history and kind, hardworking people. 

More surprisingly, it’s also a hotbed of female entrepreneurship, with a dozen women-led and run businesses adding to the vibrancy of McGregor’s business community. Still more women, either with their husbands or other partners, have taken active leadership roles in many of the city’s other businesses.

The female-led businesses cover a broad, unique range, from antiques at Chris Jamesen’s Old Time Shoppe to books, gifts, friendly cats and even friendlier owners, Louise and Jennifer White, at Paper Moon. Sandy Kirby provides hair care at Kirby’s Creations, while Cinnamon Blood offers old-time photo portraits at The Lasting Image Fun Photos Studio.

Even more unique is the journey each woman took to realize her business dreams.

For some, business ownership was an opportunity to fully express their creativity, be it on skin, hair or pieces of wood.

Crystal Scarff, for example, translated a life-long love for drawing into INKspiration Tattoo. She specializes in realism and has become known for her portrait work.

“I do everything,” she said, “but I enjoy the realistic things. Those are the ones I get really excited about.”

After taking a chainsaw carving class over the summer, Monica Tiffany turned her newfound hobby into Grizzly’s Chainsaw Carving, through which she’ll sell wooden bears and other creations.

“Chainsaw carving is an art form you take and make your own,” she explained. “When I started, I didn’t even have a chainsaw. Now, I have six.” 

Growing up, Genna Welch, who owns Creative Enz Salon and Spa, always enjoyed doing her own hair. In 12 years, she’s gone from a solo venture to a popular full-service salon and spa, which offers everything from cuts, colors and up-dos to makeup, massage and nail services.

“It’s about making people feel confident about themselves, making them feel special, and giving them a great experience,” she said. “It makes you feel good to look good.”

But Welch doesn’t do it alone. Five other women rent space at Creative Enz, helping to offer those services. In a way, they’re each a small business owner.

“Everybody’s independent and we have our own expertise, but we work well together,” Genna said. “It’s nice because they pay a flat rent and don’t have to worry about outside expenses. They can make their own schedules.”

For Nancy Krapfl, owner of Navy Rose & Co., inspiration from her mother pushed her to add clothing to the shop’s collection of primitive decor, candles and other gifts.

“She was not afraid to try anything, to start a new style,” Nancy remarked. “I was inspired by her love of clothing.”

Dianna Berry, meanwhile, began massage therapy after her son contracted meningitis. A class that focused on lymphatic drainage massage gave her the “first glimmer of hope.” Within four months, he was back on track, but Dianna continued to learn. Fifteen years ago, she opened Mind Your Body, sharing the knowledge she’s gained in not only massage, but areas like reflexology, sound healing, aroma therapy and more.

“I learned all the avenues, from the eastern philosophy to the west,” she said. “I weave philosophies together to create the best healing environment for [a person’s] body.”

Dianna recently started the Midwest School of Ancient Healing, to provide even more teaching opportunities.

“I love teaching the most,” she said. “That’s what I do with every person who comes here. 

After years of running restaurants, Brenda, of Café McGregor, saw a need in the community when she started her business five years ago.

“I’d run cafés before, and I missed that family feel, so I started it again,” she noted. “And I love cooking and people. The food business gets stuck in you.”

With its beautiful flowers, bright decor and home cooking, she said Café McGregor has a “flare for the different.”

“I’m not a follower,” she added.

Cathy Corpian, too, saw a need in the community when she began offering bookkeeping and answering services through Cathy’s Office in 1992.

She came to be a business owner later in life, after going back to school at age 35.

“It was scary,” she admitted. “I’d never been that good of a student, but it was the best thing I ever did.”

For over 25 years, she’s enjoyed the challenge of bookkeeping, making sense of the facts and figures.

Opening a business wasn’t in Katie Ruff’s original plans. The By the Spoonful owner recalled taking an entrepreneurship course in college, wondering why it was even necessary. 

However, several years down the road, with McGregor’s Top Shelf up for sale and Katie looking for a new career challenge, she decided to give entrepreneurship a try.

Now, five years in, her business offers locally- and Iowa-made foods, beers and wines; freezer meals, coffee drinks and more. She hopes to offer cooking classes soon.

“I’m more confident in what I’m doing,” she said. “I know the direction I want to go and how to get there.”

Taking advice from long-time local businessman Roger Halvorson, she said that means not being afraid to change.

“I’ve added freezer meals because I saw a need. People were coming in year-round for a latte or coffee drink, so I saw that need,” she explained. “That was not the goal, but now it’s a strong part of my business. Cooking school had always been the plan, so it’s taken me five years to get to where I want to be.”

“Trends change, so you have to adapt to stay relevant,” she added.

Crystal agreed, noting that, along with practicing her tattooing skills, she’s also kept her “eyes open for what people like.”

“Different is good,” she said.

When the July 19 tornado destroyed the building that housed INKspiration, Crystal wasn’t afraid to start over, opening several months later in a new McGregor location.

“I love McGregor. I know everybody and I love the river,” she said. “I would’ve built my own place if I had to.”

Crystal, along with many of the other women business owners, encouraged others to take risks, especially when starting and operating a business.

“Be brave with whatever you want to do,” shared Nancy, from Navy Rose.

You’re going to make mistakes, said Cathy, but it’s important to learn those lessons.

“You just have to go for it. You have to push yourself,” she said.

The first step is always the hardest, Brenda noted. When things seem like they’re not going to work out, she said it’s important to remain patient, keep trying and stay optimistic.

“Stay the course,” Katie advised. “There’s a lot of late nights and early mornings and feeling misunderstood. That’s the nature of the lifestyle, but it’s very rewarding. I’ve never been happier working 60 hours per week.”

The women said, even though it can be difficult, it’s also important to ask for and accept help from family, friends and fellow community members.

“I was scared, taking that risk, but I had a lot of family support,” Genna said. “When I started the big business, I was pretty confident because I had a great team with me to make it successful.”

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do what’s best for you, though.

Dianna said she’s been happiest and most successful when she lives her own truth.

“That’s really all we can be. Be who you are, be truthful to yourself,” she said. There will never be another person like you. Be you, and the rest falls into place.”

“Have confidence in your decisions,” Crystal added. “You know what’s best.”

Loving what you do, and sharing that passion, also goes a long way, Monica said. In a town like McGregor, it’s also easy to pull inspiration from others, she quipped.

“I think its great there are so many female-led businesses in McGregor,” she said. “I think you can take inspiration from others that have done it and use that as motivation for your own venture.”

McGregor’s history also plays a role, Katie commented: “There have always been independently-owned businesses. A lot of unique things happened here. Maybe they left that behind and it translates still today.”

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