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Cedar Rapids screen printer pivots to screen print face masks

Bimm Ridder Sportswear, a Cedar Rapids-based screen printing business, has announced the launch of custom branded face masks to provide businesses with an opportunity to get their brands in front of customers while complying with public health recommendations.

The company has been a long-time provider of apparel and headwear for Minor and Major League sports teams, including baseball. This year, however, with COVID-19 affecting the baseball season, Bimm Ridder’s revenue stream was impacted significantly. 

For co-owner, Gary Ficken, this is not the first time he and the company have weathered challenges. In 2008, a historical flood ravaged downtown Cedar Rapids, where Bimm Ridder operates. Ficken helped to rally the city’s business owners and participated on a task force that led to the recovery and rebuilding of Cedar Rapids’ small businesses.

“When we faced the flood of 2008, we thought that was a disaster,” said Ficken. “COVID-19 makes the flood seem like a picnic. This pandemic essentially stopped all events for which we supply apparel. We had to think of something that used our capabilities and that is in need during this time. These masks are a way to keep our employees working, and at the same time, provide a customized item that businesses need to purchase anyway.” 

The customizable face masks are 3-ply, with 4-way stretch ear loops. They come in a few color combinations and can be custom screen printed with a business’ logo. Bimm Ridder can accommodate any order size from small to large volume.

Cedar Rapids screen printer pivots to screen print face masks | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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