Kids Zone by DSM Inflatables will open a retail entertainment venue for kids in Cedar Rapids' Lindale Mall, featuring a rotating assortment of the company's inflatable attractions. CREDIT DSM INFLATABLES
Des Moines entrepreneur Arthur McCarthy was scouting Iowa City-area locations for a new indoor inflatables playhouse when Lindale Mall representatives alerted him to an opportunity too good to pass up.

"Des Moines already had plenty of places for kids and families to go for playing and parties," said Mr. McCarthy, who has rented out inflatable equipment for events for several years and dipped his toe in the mall playhouse market partnering with Hop-A-Lot, which took over an empty storefront at Des Moines' Merle Hay Mall in 2017. "This area needs more attractions for kids, so when this came up, we jumped on it."

Kids Zone will hold a grand opening Feb. 15, spilling out into part of the food court for the festivities, which have already attracted the attention of 1,278 guests on Facebook.
"The mall is expecting at least 500 people to show up that day, so it might be crazy," Mr. McCarthy said. "I think that shows you people are pretty excited."

Kids Zone will be open daily from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Play time is unlimited, with weekday prices set at $6, and Friday and weekend play costing $9.

Mr. McCarthy said Kids Zone will offer between six and 10 rotating inflatable attractions, from bounce houses for younger customers to obstacle courses for teens. The venue is also available for private parties to be held in the mall's former Younkers location with prices ranging from $199 to $249 depending on party size and number of inflatable units.

DSM Inflatables units will be available for rent for private events around the Corridor as well, he said.

"We are really excited to have the activity this is going to bring - something for the whole family to participate in," said Lindale Mall Marketing Director Lia Pontarelli. "We were all surprised when [Mr. McCarthy] explained how cheap this would be to participate in. We were like, wow, because we all know kids love inflatables and this is a great way to entertain them and bring the family together."
Para2In the CBJ: Things are heating up for one Corridor startup 
Sara Gotch, founder of Gnarly Pepper. CREDIT ADAM MOORE 
Sara Gotch, the founder of Gnarly Pepper, has learned many lessons on her entrepreneurial journey, but one of the most important was also among the simplest: Don't be afraid to ask for help.

"I was kind of prideful about being on this road alone, but I've learned it's OK to ask for a hand," said Ms. Gotch, who recently received a major one, courtesy of Canadian dairy giant Agropur.

As one of just four entrepreneurs selected to participate in Agropur's second-annual Inno Accel accelerator this past fall, Ms. Gotch received expert assistance and support needed to take her already successful line of healthier condiment and dip blends to the next level.

Now the Cedar Rapids resident is asking for help again, reaching out to investors for the first time, in hopes of bringing a new product, Gnarly Pepper Like Mayo, to store shelves nationwide.
The ready-to eat-product tastes like mayonnaise, but saves 1,200 calories a cup over the real thing thanks to a bit of chemistry and a special sauce - Greek yogurt, to be exact.

"I definitely hope to be on shelves across America in five years," said Ms. Gotch, who already markets spice blends intended to be mixed with Greek yogurt online and in more than 20 regional Hy-Vee stores. "I'd love to gain access to huge distribution outlets, like Whole Foods. I think there's a lot of life to [Like Mayo], and I'm super excited to see what happens."

"If I can attach my brand to the idea of the healthiest mayonnaise in the world, I think I've got a good shot," she added.

Read the full members-only story in this week's print or digital editions of the CBJ. 
Corridor foodies can sample the wares from 20 Cedar Rapids restaurants later this month as part of the eighth-annual Cedar Rapids Restaurant Week.

The Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance this week announced the roster of restaurants selected to participate in the event kicking off Feb. 21.

"We are pleased to produce Cedar Rapids Restaurant Week again in 2020," said Doug Neumann, executive director at the Economic Alliance, in a release. "We understand Restaurant Week is extremely impactful to local restaurants, especially during the month of February. We anticipate that Restaurant Week patrons will be appreciative of the diversity of restaurants and cuisine options and proudly support local restaurants."

Throughout the nine days of the event, food lovers will be treated to limited time dishes at specialty prices. Diners can make reservations or stop in at a participating restaurant and request the special Restaurant Week menu. 
All selected restaurants completed an application process and were chosen based on specific criteria, including being locally owned and operated, their ability to attend and be highlighted at the week's preview event, Fork & Knife Feast, their ability to provide a specialty menu for Restaurant Week and status as an Economic Alliance member.
As a preview to the nine days of local restaurant love, a ticketed event called Fork & Knife Feast will take place one night prior to Restaurant Week's launch on Feb. 20 from 6-8:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Smulekoff's Warehouse in downtown Cedar Rapids, 411 Sixth Avenue SE.
Fork & Knife Feast  will feature all the participating Restaurant Week restaurants and offer attendees samples of their culinary and drink concoctions. Tickets are  $50 in advance and $60 at the door, if available.
pitchCBJ Podcasts: Nate Kaeding talks with Mark Nolte

Mark Nolte, best known for his seven years leading the Iowa City Area Development Group (ICAD), is in the midst of a transition. 

After more than a decade of successfully driving local economic development, helping to keep companies like ACT in the region, and connecting startups and next-stage companies to capital, Mr. Nolte has joined North Liberty-based Moxie, serving as president of the company's new manufacturing enterprise - a venture that will make Moxie one of just a handful of companies assembling solar panels in the U.S. And he is mulling a return to one of his first passions, politics, with a potential gubernatorial bid in 2022.

"[Moxie CEO Jason Hall] floated the idea one day at coffee, and I kept thinking about it, and it just seemed like the time was right," he said of the recent move.

Mark joined Nate Kaeding in the CBJ's North Liberty studios to discuss how his early successes and failures drove his career, his long commitment to community service, and what's in store for the future.

Listen to Nate and Mark's conversation in the latest episode of Real Success with Nate Kaeding, presented by MidWestOne Bank, and subscribe to the series wherever you listen to podcasts).
Para5Consulting: Six ways to foster resourcefulness at work
In this week's consulting spotlight, Greg Dardis of Dardis Communications explains how cultivating the ability to tinker, tweak and problem solve on the spot can advance a company.

The highest praise you can give entrepreneurs is to call them resourceful.

Sure, it's good to be industrious, intuitive, bold.

But resourcefulness is that rare quality where it all comes together - someone smart and scrappy and inventive enough to stare at something sideways until she spots the flicker of a solution. A resourceful person can take the status quo and reimagine or rejig it.

Iowans are naturally resourceful. Growing up on a farm cultivates it. You make the most of what you've got. You find a way to fix whatever's broken. You tinker and tweak.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos credits his grandfather for modeling resourcefulness. Bezos spent his childhood summers at Pop's ranch in "the middle of nowhere," where he solved any problem that came his way. Not only would his grandpa fix broken machinery, but he also did his own veterinary work. He made needles by hand to suture his cattle. He'd heat up a piece of wire with a blowtorch, pound it flat, sharpen it and then drill a hole into it.

"He would take on major projects that he didn't know how to do and then figure out how to do them," Bezos recalled.

The value of that kind of experimental problem solving influenced Bezos' approach to parenting. He let his children play with knives at age 4 and power tools at 7. Better to have a kid with nine fingers, he quipped, than a resource-less kid.

The work we do at Dardis Communications, at its essence, is training in resourcefulness. We teach businesspeople to make the most of what they've got by how they dress themselves, present themselves and express themselves. We teach them to think on their feet, to make the best impression by leveraging their smarts and experience.

Here are six ways to foster resourcefulness at work:

1. Be open minded. Consider a wide range of possibilities, thinking outside the box.

Read the full column at
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Stocks Corridor Stocks  
Short-Term Event Planner      

Feb. 7
First Friday Coffee Connections, by Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, 7:30-8:30 a.m., Corridor Equipment Rental, 680 Meade Drive, Ste. 1, North Liberty. Free. For more information, visit

Feb. 10
Coralville Roundtable, by Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, noon-1 p.m., Vesta, 849 Quarry Road, Coralville. Members are invited to network and keep up to date with chamber and community events. Free. For information, call (319) 337-9637.

Feb. 11
Hiawatha Business Summit, Hiawatha Economic Development Corp., the city of Hiawatha and the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, 8-9 a.m., Honkamp Krueger & Co. PC, 1751 Boyson Road, Hiawatha. Learn more about the city of Hiawatha's distinction as a Home Base Iowa community and what that means for veterans and your business in 2020. Free. To register, visit

Small Business Lunch Roundtable, by SCORE of East Central Iowa, noon-1 p.m., Granite City Food & Brewery, 4755 First Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids. Join this networking opportunity for those in business and those thinking about starting a business. Free. To register, visit

VERV Auto Ribbon Cutting, by Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, 4 p.m., VERV Auto, 230 Sugar Creek Lane, Ste. 200, North Liberty. Free. For more information, visit
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University leaders have determined there's not enough evidence to pursue charges stemming from allegations that University of Iowa marching band members were targets of abuse during last season's football game at Iowa State University.  Members of the Hawkeye Marching Band allege that they were subjected to racial slurs and other verbal abuse as well as sexual harassment during the Sept. 14 contest.  Iowa Board of Regents President Mike Richards said in a news release Wednesday that the two universities' presidents, lawyers and police chiefs had discussed the investigation and decided not to seek charges.

Amazon on Thursday said its first fulfillment center in the state of Iowa is expected to open later in 2020.  The site, which has been known as Project BlueJay, in Bondurant is projected to bring 1,000 fulltime jobs to the state.  "We are delighted to be opening our first Iowa fulfillment center in the city of Bondurant and look forward to creating 1,000 new, full-time jobs with Amazon's $15 minimum wage and industry-leading benefits," said Alicia Boler Davis, Amazon's vice president of global customer fulfillment. "The site will help us continue to serve customers with great delivery options and we appreciate the strong support from local and state leaders."  The company said employees at the 645,000 square-foot-facility will pick, pack and ship small items including books, electronics and toys. Read the full story here.

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Your KCRG-TV9 First Alert Forecast

Full sunshine is in place this afternoon. Since the wind will be light, it'll feel pretty decent as highs climb to around 30. Clouds gradually return tonight and may squeeze out scattered flurries tomorrow afternoon through early tomorrow night. Highs again reach to about 30 on Friday. The weekend starts with quiet weather, as we'll have partial sunshine and highs in the 20s on Saturday. A storm system affects the state Sunday, with the brunt getting northern Iowa. Wet snow with some accumulation is possible there, while a chance of a rain/snow mix exists over southern Iowa.