“Operating a productive and profitable business is one of the most important things one can do. Over time, profitable business activity is the base of our community through the direct and indirect funding of our families, communities, and society. Business is also an excellent way to channel individual and collective innovative, creative and entrepreneurial energy and effort.”
This is the grounding philosophy of Daniel Oh, President & CEO of AgCertain Industries, Inc., a food, agricultural, and bio-based manufacturing company, located in Ames, Boone, and Newton, Iowa.
The company is only three years old, yet Oh and his AgCertain team announced their expansion in the Boone Industrial Park in October 2022. For a company that could locate anywhere, he has again chosen Boone and Story counties to grow AgCertain.
As President & CEO, Oh believes profitability in a company is important and he spends much of his time focused on building AgCertain into an efficient company. But for Oh, operating a profitable business is also a way to contribute and give back. “Business can be a force for good, and Central Iowa has a growing and ever more connected business ecosystem that supports and sustains growing companies. As a community and region, we need to continue to grow highly engaged and profitable businesses to increase the stability that brings to our families and to create career opportunities that support employees being able to stay in the area as they seek greater responsibilities and roles.”
Oh views his work and company as one piece of a broader system. A community relies on businesses just as much as businesses rely on the community in which they reside. In every way, a business can only be as successful as those who are part of it. So, helping our communities grow in other ways including quality of life, interesting places to live and work, access to a strong educational and healthcare system, a healthy environment, all with economic vitality, is essential. The communities where AgCertain operates are all very focused in this manner.
This philosophy is long-tenured and dates back to the early beginnings of his business career. Oh grew up in Bloomington, Indiana, in an entrepreneurial family. His parents owned and operated a food focused retail store and wholesale business. He remembers growing up on the second floor above the store and working within the family business from an early age. After high school, Oh attended college at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
“I thought I should serve,” said Oh, reflecting on the decision and the sense of responsibility he felt. Oh’s father emigrated from Korea to attend college and met his mother while attending college in Illinois. “At the time I felt as though it was my responsibility as a citizen to give back to the country that had embraced my family.”
“The United States Army was my first exposure as an adult into the business world,” said Oh who pointed out that the military is essentially a large, self-sustaining organization.
He was an active-duty service member for fifteen years and reached the rank of major. He served overseas during Operation Desert Storm and was exposed to logistics, supply chain management, human resources, and operations during his time in the military. “I really enjoyed serving in the U.S. Army and learned many valuable life lessons; it felt like our efforts had a higher purpose.”
“Even before joining the Army, I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but as a young person, I did not really understand what being an entrepreneur really entailed.” At the age of 33, Oh stepped away from the military and attended the University of Chicago to pursue a Master of Business Administration degree. While at West Point, one of his key areas of study was economics, along with the typical required math, science, and engineering classes. At Chicago, he focused on finance, accounting and business strategy to be more prepared for a career in business.
Oh prefers to be involved in companies that provide essential goods and services in support of agriculture, life sciences and renewable energy, improving our environment, and supporting our communities. After graduation from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, he worked at a large management consulting firm with a focus on pharmaceuticals, at Eli Lilly & Company with a focus on finance and mergers and acquisitions, and at an agriculturally aligned consulting firm called Agri Business Group (ABG); all to learn more about how companies are built and operated while also assisting them to grow and improve their operations.
As part of ABG, he worked with one particular client in Iowa. In 2005, Oh assisted West Central Cooperative, now Landus, as they built a business plan for establishing a separate and independent Renewable Energy Group (REG), a company that would become a global producer and supplier of bio-based diesel, headquartered in Ames, Iowa.
After the spin-out was initially funded, Oh was offered a position to join the new company. He and his wife Lori moved their family across the Midwest where he joined REG in 2006 as Chief Financial Officer. After a year, he became Chief Operating Officer, then later the President and eventually the Chief Executive Officer, a position he would hold until his departure in 2017. “I really loved the experience, and the Team accomplished a lot,” said Oh.
“At my core, I am a builder, and immediately went to work building another business while hoping we would determine that the ideal location for our home office was to again be based in Ames.” That business became AgCertain Industries, Inc.; conceptualized in 2017, organized in 2018, and operational and delivering products and services in 2019. The company has been growing with the assistance of a strong local team and investment from Midwest Growth Partners, the Kemery family and the Oh family.
The base production asset came from a company known as KemX Global, a glycerin and vegetable oil refining company located in Boone, Iowa. In 2019, AgCertain purchased certain assets and hired some employees from the prior company and began operating as AgCertain Boone, LLC. Since then, a tremendous amount of improvement and investment has happened.
There is a growing need to know where goods come from and how they are specifically handled along the way. AgCertain is doing this within the food, agricultural and bio-systems space on a more integrated basis in terms of markets, traceability, production, logistics and supply chain management. Delivering agricultural certainty so people can be sure that what they are receiving is what they wanted and is as expected - in terms of food, feed, oleochemicals and related products - that is what AgCertain does.
Located in the Cultivation Corridor, AgCertain is at the center of agricultural innovation where science and technology converge to impact our nation. Local logistics are excellent with access to the Union Pacific railroad via the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad, Iowa Highway 30, Interstate 35, local warehousing and local packaging. The local education system, including area high schools, DMACC, and Iowa State University generate a well-trained community from which to hire. The business mind-set in the region is quick, efficient, no-nonsense, and focused in the right manner. Local government is supportive of growth that AgCertain strives to accomplish. And, the knowledge base in the region is ideal in terms of food, agricultural and bio-based systems activities.
AgCertain notes that the Boone refinery is “one of the most adaptable edible oil refiners in the industry producing Non-GMO, organic, high performance and conventional oils.” They are USDA Organic and Non-GMO verified and hold Kosher, Halal and Safe Quality Food (SQF) certifications.
The Boone facility’s adaptability and flexibility enhances its ability to support traceability for a wide variety of products that become ingredients for larger manufacturers, consumer packaged goods companies, and food producers. The process includes documenting the production, processing, and distribution of finished products and ingredients. This is particularly important for food products, and in AgCertain’s case, glycerin and edible oils such as vegetable, fruit and nut oils.
Expansion was always part of the plan for Oh, both in Boone and within the food, agricultural, and bio-based product industries. In June 2022, AgCertain announced its acquisition of Maytag Dairy Farms located in Newton, IA; the artisanal manufacturer and marketer of world-famous Maytag Blue Cheese, and other specialty food and beverage products.
In the press release, Oh said, “by combining our two Iowa-based companies, we are able to create deeper branding opportunities and expanded product sales opportunities for both organizations.” He also recognized their ability to leverage the talent of leadership and staff in both organizations to “provide a quicker growth trajectory,” an operational business mindset that was developed early on at West Point.
In October 2022, AgCertain celebrated their expansion in the Boone Industrial Park at an open-house event. Currently, in Boone, AgCertain occupies 120 acres of land, a footprint that could grow over time if the right conditions emerge. AgCertain has had an intern program every summer since its inception, and in 2023 plans to host another 20-25 interns across locations. Overall, AgCertain currently employs approximately 75 people.
In many ways, Oh has only been in business since 2000, but his entrepreneurial upbringing and sense of responsibility to community has formed his career trajectory from the beginning. Oh says that his ability to build and grow “AgCertain is a result of many people who have invested in me through their teaching, and worked together to build business that matters.”
Oh also owns and operates property in Ames and Bloomington, Indiana, through a business now known as OEI (Oh Enterprises & Investments). OEI was formed by the Oh Family back in 1996 to acquire and improve historic properties in Bloomington. In 2018, OEI expanded into Ames, IA. A large effort of OEI seeks to preserve history while turning historic properties into viable economic assets that support thriving downtown areas. Through business, OEI serves its communities in a manner likely to support entrepreneurs, local business, and downtown living.
The cycle of an economy is something that Oh often thinks about. By investing time, effort and capital in the community in which he lives, he and his family contribute to the vibrancy and economic development of that community. Dan and Lori raised their four children in Ames and enjoy being part of a college-town community.
For Oh, giving back to the community is a concept that has no end. It is a concept that was instilled in him from his parents early on and was reinforced during his training as a soldier. The profitability of a company is important as it provides stability, but defining and building a business that matters is equally as important.
He is a builder at heart, and this is something that he tries to do in many beneficial ways for his teams and communities, and that is never done alone. “The journey is building things that matter and serving people along the way.”
What is your favorite place in a city anywhere in the World? Take a (mental) walk there right now. What do you see? What do you like about it? Is it easy to get there? How do you feel when you are there? Why do you feel comfortable when you are there? Are you the only one there or are others enjoying it too? Do you like to meet you friends there?
These questions and others like them are critical when considering how to make a space where people want to go, spend time, and spend money. A place that is accessible, comfortable, useful, and sociable. The process of creating public space like this is called Placemaking. “Placemaking means creating places and focuses on transforming public spaces to strengthen the connections between people and these places.” 1 ” Placemaking shows that the creation of places transcends the material dimension and involves aspects such as sociability, uses, activities, access, connections, comfort, and image, to create bonds between people and a sense of place.” 
Fosters social interaction
 ArchDaily, Susanna Moreira
 Project for Public Spaces
Cycle Force Group
If you have ever purchased a bicycle, bicycle parts, or accessories online, it is highly possible that the order was processed by Cycle Force Group in Ames, Iowa. Founded in 1998, Cycle Force Group (CF) is a national distributor of bicycles, parts, accessories and so much more.
As of January 1, 2022, Cycle Force Group was purchased by Messingschlager GmbH, Europe’s leading supplier of bicycle parts and accessories. That acquisition established Messingschlager USA LLC (dba Cycle Force), headquartered in Ames. CF is now positioned to better compete in the United States cycling world with new European brands that will soon be part of the CF portfolio.
In 1998, the company was founded by Nyle Nims and Sue Cunningham in eastern Long Island. Like many small companies, the center of operations during the early years of the company was at a kitchen table. Their first customer was Sears & Roebuck whom they had a solid relationship with at their former company. That buyer left and went to an unknown company at the time, and asked Nyle and Sue if they would sell him bicycles, another unknown category for them. That unknown company was Amazon and began a decades long relationship as they continue to be their number one customer.
As the internet boomed, they expanded their distribution further online. Increased orders required additional shipping, and Nims and Cunningham quickly saw the challenges of shipping from the east coast to west coast. They eventually made the decision to relocate their company to Ames.
Nims is an Ames native and got his early entrepreneurial education from his father Daryl. Nims’ Sportsman was founded in 1951 and was a Downtown Ames staple, selling a wide assortment of sporting goods. In 1969, the business expanded beyond hunting and fishing to include Schwinn bicycles. The father/son team traveled Europe in search of manufacturing partners. Eventually, Nyle Nims went onto become president of Ross Bicycles, one of the largest bicycle companies in the United States before eventually starting CFG with Cunningham, who began her cycling career at Ross in New York.
With the recent acquisition by Messingschlager, Pat Cunnane was announced as the new Chief Executive Officer in November 2022, with Nims, Cunningham and Nyle’s three children, Matt, Chris, and Elizabeth, focusing on the operations in Ames. Cunnane is a recognized leader in the bicycle industry with decades of CEO experience.
Cycle Force Group offers a range of products that includes entry-level bikes for children, and most recently e-bikes. One of the areas they have always been interested in is high-end performance bicycles. Cycling is an international sport that is incredibly popular in Europe. It was recently announced that North America Cycles (a division of Cycle Force handling the independent bicycle dealer network) was awarded the exclusive U.S. distributor of a line of KTM Bicycles, a premium global cycling brand from Austria.
When thinking of bicycle companies in Ames, CF may not be one that immediately comes to mind. They have never been a public-facing company with a showroom for customers, yet their revenue is annually eight-figures. The customer base includes e-commerce fulfillment, big-box retail, independent bicycle retailers, large multi-sport retailers, consumer direct, premium, and promotional clients.
Through the years, the CF business model has evolved as quickly as the internet has. Just like Nyle followed his father, CF has grown into the next generation with his children. Matt Nims is tasked with sales and marketing, Chris Nims with navigating an ever-changing e-commerce market, and Elizabeth Brink with order fulfillment. They make up the CF management team along with Nyle and Sue who all report to Pat.
In 2020, CF experienced an influx in orders due to the pandemic when normal life shifted to activities at home and outdoors. During that time, they were processing over 3,000 orders a day and in April 2020, the company saw more than 40,000 orders. That year, they processed approximately half a million orders in all.
They are currently in the next evolution of bicycles: e-bikes. For a company that handled half a million orders, the move to e-bikes means less orders, but at higher prices and more complicated shipping, allowing the company to maintain the same revenue. One of their premier bicycle brands is HEAD, famous for gold medals in ski & grand slam titles in tennis. Known for cutting-edge design, engineering excellence and a passion for championing all sport, everywhere.
Whatever is next in bicycles, Messingschlager USA, dba Cycle Force, will be ready with the infrastructure they have in place. Growth has been in their DNA for almost 25 years and will continue to turn their wheels year after year allowing their employees the opportunity to flourish working in Ames, Iowa.
Cycle Force is located at 2105 SE 5th Street in Ames, Iowa
Ashley Redeker - Modern Dress
Ashley Redeker is the owner of Modern Dress, a bridal and boutique store in downtown Boone. Modern Dress celebrated 10 years in August 2022 and is one of the premier bridal stores in Central Iowa.
“I’ve always been interested in the bridal industry,” said Redeker when she presented at 1 Million Cups Ames in October. In high school, she worked at the bridal store that she eventually bought, but she did not jump into being an entrepreneur right away. After graduating from college, she worked for a production company that required a lot of travel. Although she enjoyed the experience, she ultimately wanted a career in Boone and purchased the bridal store.
Redeker understood early on that businesses evolve over time, so she rebranded the business Modern Dress to be able to include a diverse range of dress options. “I always had the vision that we would expand beyond bridal dresses, and I wanted the name to allow for that from the beginning.” Today, the business includes a full range of bridal and bridesmaid dresses, while also being a vibrant boutique store.
“The experience is really important to me and has been from the beginning. We are not high-pressure. We want people to make good decisions, feel good about it, and have it be a fun experience.” As a result, Redeker and her team of ten employees places an emphasis on quality over quantity of sales.
Part of that experience includes leveraging excitement through social media. The purchase of a wedding dress is a buzz-worthy moment for a bride with her family and friends. When a dress is purchased, each bride takes a picture at Modern Dress (without the dress, of course) and this Instagram post launches the celebration online.
On the boutique side of Modern Dress, Redeker and members of her team go live on Facebook each Wednesday as a way to build community and promote what is available on their Shopify store. Moving online was a pivot that Redeker had to embrace for Modern Dress in 2020 as the pandemic impacted the entire retail industry. Each week, with a casual drink in hand, her team goes live and uses it to reach potential customers. As a result, Redeker has become an incredible fashion resource for not only Boone, but beyond.
Modern Dress is located at 701 Story Street in Boone.
Nearly every night, you’ll find Della Viti, the Downtown Ames wine bar, full of both seasoned and novice wine connoisseurs. By its nature, understanding wine can be a bit complicated. Since 2014, owner Beth DeVries has made it her purpose to make wine accessible to understand and enjoy. As a result, she has built a loyal customer base for her business that is continuing to expand.
DeVries’ path to wine is not traditional. In fact, she admits that she knew very little about wine when she took over Della Viti. She is a trained research scientist with a degree in genetics from Iowa State University. For 13 years, she worked in product development of proteins and helped scale her research for business application. She was laid off during a corporate restructuring in 2013, which eventually launched her ownership in Della Viti. Today, she takes her scientific background and applies it to wine.
Della Viti is a self-service wine bar, an anomaly in the hospitality industry. The business model is convenient for customers as it allows them to sample smaller portions at a time in order to develop their palate. “My customers are able to experiment with different types of wine. They don’t need to purchase a full glass and this allows them to understand what they really like,” said DeVries.
DeVries works with eight distributors that bring in wine from across the world. On average, she estimates that she tastes fifteen to thirty different wines a week, which equates to sampling over 10,000 different wines over the past eight years. Like a scientist, she takes detailed notes of each one, and these notes help make purchasing decisions. She brings in over 500 cases a year.
When the wine enters Della Viti, they are organized for the customer by taste profile. For the consumer, when they find a profile that they enjoy; a California cabernet, for example, a similarly profiled wine is placed in the rack next to it, helping the customer with their next tasting.
“I think our customers enjoy finding out what they like and then they are equipped to branch out and explore.” When they do find the wine they love, a bottle can be purchased and taken home for enjoyment with family and friends.
Through her business, DeVries is always seeking ways to give back to the community that has supported her. Earlier this year, the Iowa Restaurant Association honored DeVries with the Restaurant Neighbor Philanthropy award, an honor that recognizes her charitable giving and volunteering. DeVries has donated wine to the Mary Greeley Medical Center’s Hope Gala, put together gift packages for the annual Boys & Girls Clubs gala, organized 5K charity runs, and regularly offers Della Viti as a meeting location to 100 Women Who Care, a local philanthropy group.
As her business evolved, DeVries has always had the ability to adjust. The pandemic was a prime example of this flexibility when she quickly pivoted to an online retail store. She continually embraces social media trends and has expanded her offerings at Della Viti to include food options. Her next venture will expand her presence on Main Street as she is preparing to open another business.
Della Viti is located at 323 Main Street.
This story is also featured in Issue 01 of Traction, a quarterly publication from the Ames Chamber of Commerce.
For 37 years, Frank Randall was a prominent figure in the Iowa State Athletics Department. Today, he is the owner of The Salon, a full-service hair salon located in the heart of Downtown Ames.
Randall arrived in Ames in 1970 as Iowa State University’s head athletic trainer where he worked with every athletic team. At the time, he had a host of responsibilities that included strength and conditioning testing, gameday treatments, and organizing travel plans. He was a pioneer in athletic injury prevention and helped develop a bilateral knee brace to help reduce injury that continues to be used by many schools. Additionally, Randall helped change the football helmet to a more rounded contour, which disperses the outside force rather than absorbing the force, helping to reduce head injuries.
In 1998, Randall transitioned away from the day-to-day responsibilities of athletic training when he became an assistant athletics director for operations, a title that he held until his retirement in 2007. He is a member of the Iowa State University Athletics Hall of Fame (2008) and continues to be honored within the athletics department. Each year, the Frank Randall Distinguished Athletic Training Student Award is given to the ISU athletic training student who exemplifies “dedication, work ethic, accountability and excellence in the field of athletic training.”
The transition to The Salon occurred in 2011 after his son, Alan Randall, graduated from cosmetology school. Frank and his wife purchased The Salon where they offer a full range of services that include haircuts and styling for all ages, coloring, and extensions. The Salon currently employs nine individuals including six stylists and three front desk receptionists.
The Salon is a social outlet for Frank, who admittedly does not get involved in the hair styling. His son, Alan, continues to be the creative director of the business, even while working in a salon in Colorado. “I just enjoy being around people because that’s all I’ve ever done.” He has full faith in his staff, including stylist Brandi Mcclish, who graduated from PCI Academy in Ames and started her career with The Salon. “Working at The Salon feels like family. We are all in it together to give our clients our best. We are all focused on the same thing and that just feels good!”