Open dialog begins
Café Dodici was full of people Thursday morning at an “open coffee” to learn more about what they could do to start a dialogue with entrepreneurs in Washington and Washington County.
This was one of 20 different open coffees happening this week in seven counties as part of the Iowa Creative Corridor Creative Week, said David Tominsky.
Tominsky is a technical recruiter and entrepreneur community builder from Cedar Rapids. He spoke to the group about what the concept for open coffee is.
“What open coffee is, I come with little expectations,” Tominsky said. “It’s just a way for entrepreneurs to come together and talk about what’s going on in the community and ways we can help each other out.”
He said entrepreneurs are already coming together in Iowa to create and sell their product. Tominsky used Paul Kongshaug as an example. Konshaug has created his own rewards care program called BlendCard, which he launched recently.
Tominsky said open coffees help entrepreneurs get the word out about their product. He said people should think about what businesses they would like to see come to Washington and what could add to the value of the town.
He proposed that a small group of people start having open coffee meetings on a biweekly basis.
“There are a lot of different ways to grow a business,” Tominsky said. “In my opinion open coffee is the start.”
Harold Frakes, who lives west of Brighton, found out about the open coffee on Facebook. Frakes is an entrepreneur himself. He owns Dutch Creek Gardens with his wife. They grow organic vegetables and over 200 varieties of day lilies, and raise alpacas for their wool. He is interested in bringing a variety of businesses back to the Washington area.
“I wish we had more retail outlets and would like to buy something made in America,” Frakes said. “Now if you want to buy clothing you have to travel out of town. When I first lived here there were clothing stores downtown in the square, but now we have a lot of service industry things.”
Frakes said he would continue to attend open coffee hours and would like to become more involved in reaching out to entrepreneurs.
Debbie Stanton, director of the Washington Free Public Library, attended the open coffee. She liked the idea of having an open coffee to help create a dialogue between entrepreneurs and community members.
“I think it’s a fabulous idea,” she said. “Like Ed Raber said, these kinds of things are already happening in town but not formally. This is a good opportunity for them to come together and bring their ideas forth.”
When asked what businesses she would like to see come to Washington, she said that was a hard question.
“I think that’s hard because you can’t really speak for the community,” Stanton said. “Other people will have different ideas about what they would like to see downtown.”
Raber, director of the Washington Economic Development Group (WEDG), said the purpose of the open coffee was to get the word out and create a space for people to come together to network. He isn’t sure what will happen with the open coffees but hopes it starts happening more.