2019-09-12 01:25:57

Lana Pol and her daughter’s small business was named the best small business of 2019

In 1974, Wayne Geeting started a trucking company in the small town of Pella. With a sixth grade education, he quickly expanded the small business – building a warehouse in nearby Knoxville just three years later – always living by the motto “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” 47 years later, his daughter Lana, now president and head of the same small, but now bigger business, accepted a prestigious award recognizing G.I. Warehouse as Iowa’s best small business of 2019.

Lana Pol and Tiffany Van Zante accept DMACC’s Small Business of the Year Award from President Rob Denison.

The award ceremony, held on September 10, honored 6 small business owners from around the state. It’s the 7th year that DMACC, the Des Moines Area Community College, has recognized the best entrepreneurs and small business owners in Iowa for their influential impact on the Central Iowa economy.

Lana and her daughter, Tiffany Van Zante, accepted the award and thanked the four large tables of employees who showed up in support, calling them the backbone of their small business. Many of them have been with the company for decades – two in particular – since Lana was pregnant with Tiffany 35 years ago.

“They’ve been with us from the beginning. They’ve seen the good the bad and the ugly of our business and they’re still with us so to have that loyalty is just phenomenal. I want to say thank you for that,” said G.I. Warehouse Vice President Tiffany Van Zante.

Lana and Tiffany with their husbands, Merrill and Jeff, plus Tiffany’s twin daughters and brother, Tom Pol, with Mowbility store manager Andy Edwards and his children.

Van Zante is the third generation to take on the family business, a trucking and warehousing company that is still based out of Pella. Both Tiffany and her mom credit their small business’ success to their commitment to serving and giving back to the community.

“There are challenges every day whether it’s new projects we’re working on for companies or whether it’s employees who need a handout or a leg up. What we try to do in our business is make sure we’re being responsible and making great relationships with everybody that we touch and we’re changing their lives also,” said Pol.

Lana and Tiffany’s employees aren’t just workers – they consider them friends and family.

Pol said the advantages of running a small business is that you know the community you serve and when the local high school or non-profit come calling, you dig into your pocketbook and give back. Lana owns and runs a total of five small businesses now, including Mowbility Sales and Service, a lawn equipment dealer with locations in both Pella and Des Moines, and Spa Odyssey, which sells hot tubs and smokers in Pella. Tiffany heads up the newest business, Creative Inspirations, which specializes in embroidery work on promotional items for other businesses.

Lana goes over inventory at Odyssey Spas in Pella.

Van Zante is strongly committed to making sure her three kids, all under the age of 5, become the fourth generation to take over the family business. However, it’s rare. Figures from the Conway Center for Small Business show that just 12% of family-owned businesses survive into the third generation and just 3% into the fourth generation. Both mother and daughter are very involved in groups that support small business, such as NFIB, where they are both members of the Leadership Council. Lana thanked NFIB for pushing her to get out of her comfort zone to advocate for small business, such as last year when she testified in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Budget about how her businesses have benefited from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

 Lana and her three brothers pose with family in the early days of Geetings, Inc.

“NFIB is listening to small businesses and they’re the voice of us. If we can keep moving on and pushing on it’s going to be for the better of America and the better of Iowa so I strongly want to thank them for everything they’ve done for me and for the support. They’ve become such close friends in the past few years, they truly are family and friends.”

NFIB members support Tiffany and Lana at DMACC’s Small Business Awards.

Lana ended her acceptance speech with a nod to the man who started the small business that has now grown to five with more than 50 employees. Lana told the crowd of 300 that her father Wayne taught her a strong work ethic, how to treat her employees with respect and to not be greedy.

Wayne Geetings poses by one of his first trailers, circa 1974.

“When I was little I remember stepping into his shoes and thinking, wow he’s got big feet and big shoes! Well now here I am a business owner and I’ve stepped into his shoes and what I realized is I will never fill them. I’m so thankful for the lessons he’s taught me and the legacy that’s going to live on after 47 years and I hope will live on through my children. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not blessed he was in my life and taught me what he did and I’m hoping my children will be able to continue with that legacy and serving our customers with quality one customer at a time.”

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