Midwest charm, the presence of all four seasons, a wealth of amenities – there are many reasons people love to call Iowa home. Near the top of the list, however, is its thriving entrepreneurial scene. The state broke records over the last two fiscal years for the number of new businesses registered with the Secretary of State’s Office. Over 33,330 registered in fiscal year 2022 alone. In 2017, Aaron Hall opened a bakery called The Local Crumb in Mount Vernon, a bedroom community near Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Home to Cornell College, the community has a quaint and flourishing Uptown District filled with several shops and is close to Palisades-Kepler State Park. While the real magic happens in his kitchen at the First Street Community Center, he sells his bread to restaurants, at local farmers markets and at pickup locations in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Mount Vernon.
Q: What made you want to start your business in Mount Vernon?
Aaron Hall (AH): The nice thing about Mount Vernon is that places you can find to rent are affordable and the cost of living is lower than many other places. There wasn’t really anyone doing what I envisioned the business to be. You look at other big cities, or more so in European countries, and there are bakeries everywhere ... and I guess that’s how I assumed that this business would survive – out of a type of necessity.
Q: How has your business grown since you started?
AH: It’s changed quite a bit, but it’s still kind of the same. I’m baking for a few more restaurants. I feel a little more stable. I’ve got a handful of accounts, which are consistent. I was nominated for a James Beard Award (in the spring of 2022), so I feel like that was one thing that put me on a few more people’s radar. On my website, there’s a little “contact me” page, and that’s always increasing all the time.
Q: Why would you recommend others launch a business in Iowa?
AH: People who live in Iowa are interested in supporting their neighbors. Not everywhere do people feel as interested to support what other people are up to.
Q: What advice would you give others looking to start a business?
AH: It’s good to just make it happen if you feel like you want to do it, but then make sure you have a business plan – put together all that stuff so you know how things move forward. There are a lot of grants out there, depending on what your business is. There’s a lot of information out there, whether it’s through the city or the state.
This story was developed for the 2023 ‘This is Iowa’ statewide guide published in partnership with Livability.