Shoe idea takes home grand prize in QC business competition

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One woman let her shoe idea walk her toward thousands of dollars in prizes from a business competition.

After dozens of area entrepreneurs submitted their business ideas to the Quad Cities Fast Pitch contest, 20 had the opportunity to present them to a panel of judges on Saturday, April 5, 2014. The semi-finalists were categorized into manufacturing/industrial, web/technology, retail/service, and restaurant/entertainment.

The winner, Tess Harris from Tess Harriss Designs, said she entered the contest to get some exposure to her business. Originally from Moline, Harriss said she left the country for a while, but came back to the Quad Cities because most of her customers were there.

“We’ve just relocated from the United Kingdom, where I started making shoes primarily for brides,” Harriss said. “The business took off so well in the UK but most of our customers for some reason were in the United States, so we came back to… try to build our business up.”

Harriss said she’s happy to be back home.

“For the first couple of years in the UK I was fine, but you start to get homesick as the Quad Cities calls you back,” she said. “There’s just something about this area and it’s just been really growing over the last few years.”

The grand prize winner took home $5,000 cash and thousands of dollars worth of in-kind business services. Three category semi-finalists got $1,000 cash and in-kind services.

The contest’s cash prize is sponsored by the Riverboat Development Authority.

The event was emceed by News 8’s Denise Hnytka. It was a joint effort between several partners including the Iowa and Illinois Small Business Development Centers, the University of Illinois Extension, Iowa State University Extension, Ignite Quad Cities, WQAD, Augustana College, and the economic development departments from Davenport, Bettendorf, Rock Island, and Moline.