While many businesses are realizing the potential of work-from-home following the COVID-19 outbreak, Brad Elliot and Burton Murphy were early adopters of  “remote work” with their Mount Ayr-based business, Podium Ink. The duo’s ability to create top-notch marketing designs with a global business reach while focusing on the vitality of their 1,700-person hometown has earned them Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa (RRI) Entrepreneur Award.

Up until 2006, Elliot and Murphy had been working full-time and freelance jobs as graphic designers with Elliot located in Kansas City and Murphy in Des Moines. Realizing they often did not have face-to-face interaction with their coastal clients gave them the inspiration and freedom they needed to build their own business back home. Podium Ink, which specializes in everything from apparel, vehicle wraps, custom logos and marketing swag, has accrued clients as close as Mount Ayr to as far away as Australia. Their projects have included school spirit apparel, charter bus wraps for midwestern colleges, race car wraps and racing suit designs for NASCAR drivers and even concert advertisements for big-name country star Blake Shelton.

 “There’s a wide range of things we’ve been able to accomplish and work with over the years whether it’s the diner down the street or a global restaurant. Our versatility and willingness to do a project of any size is something that’s been unique to our business,” said Elliot.

Podium Ink’s success has allowed it to also offer employment to seven full-time employees as well as internships for local high school and college students. “Being close to family and friends and the environment you’re used to, it made the transition easier to build what we wanted in our vision—to do our dream job in our dream area and bring in local employees who grew up here as well,” said Murphy.

It’s this commitment to the community that continues to impress Jodi Geist, director of the Ringgold County Development Corporation. From offering internship opportunities to working with Iowa Workforce Development, she sees Podium Ink as a great example of what can be created right in the heart of small-town Iowa. “In a rural area, it’s difficult to find businesses to come to Ringgold County, so having Podium Ink show people in the county they can create a business here is really important,” she says.

With many ag businesses and farmers also using Podium Ink’s design services, Iowa Farm Bureau Regional Manager Tim Prunty and Ringgold County Farm Bureau President Ryan Bailey both agree the business is a huge asset for the rural community. “For this area, it’s very important to have these small businesses start up because it adds employment and economic value to the region,” said Prunty. “These local guys that come back to the community keep it going.”

RRI is an Iowa Farm Bureau initiative that supports new and existing businesses through education, mentoring and financial resources. Since its inception, RRI has helped create more than $125M in economic impact for rural communities. For more information about RRI and upcoming business seminars, visit http://programs.iowafarmbureau.com/RRI