By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
BETTENDORF — Lourdes Catholic School teacher Jane Volden’s Voweletics program has moved on in competition for the Dream Big Grow Here business grant program. The University of Northern Iowa Regional Business Center announced Volden is one of 30 finalists.
A pitch-off event held in conjunction with EntreFEST is scheduled May 21 in Iowa City to determine the six industry winners of $5,000. The winners will compete in a second pitch-off that evening for the $10,000 grand prize business grant.
Votes were taken online during February, resulting in 1.3 million page views. The site attracted more than 100,000 total users, roughly half from Iowa, according to a press release from Dream Big Grow Here. The other half came from all the other states in the nation. In addition to online traffic, the web portal logged 75,665 votes and 2,700 comments of support for Iowa small business owners statewide.
“We are proud to have such a successful program that really highlights our tremendous Iowa business community to a national audience,” stated program lead Rob Williams. “We will be working with every entrant in the program to help each of them fulfill their business startup or expansion dreams. After reviewing each of our 119 dream applications, I can say without hesitation that Iowa is in good hands with all of these innovators and entrepreneurs.”
Voweletics competed in the retail/wholesale division of the contest. Volden said Voweletics receives two months of free business counseling from state organizations to promote successful businesses for the state of Iowa. “This is super exciting,” she said. The program also receives statewide news promotion. She appreciates the support she received for the competition and notes that Voweletics continues to reach out to schools. “We are trying to spread the word regarding excellent student test results and accelerated learning,” Volden said.
Children learn to read through phonics, which is fine, Volden said. But they often struggle with how to pronounce vowels, which can have many different sounds. So she developed Voweletics.
The program “attacks the hardest part of reading,” which is learning the correct vowel sounds.
It simplifies “the process of using a systematic approach,” Volden said. By using color-coded charts to map vowel patterns and vowels sounds, “the variety of lessons teach successful word decoding.” The program also engages learners by using memorable materials such as songs, characters and more.
“The students learn to look for patterns all the time once they learn Voweletics,” Volden said. The program offers various worksheets for learners at different paces. Parents receive information weekly so they understand what is being taught and can work with their children.
She is working with local nonprofit organization links to provide a “give back” from the e-commerce home sales of Voweletics. “We are trying to find an organization where we can make a difference in literacy not only for the student, but possibly the parent. We are setting up connections to help us to meet our mission statement of “helping your child to read helps another child in need.”
Thanks to the competition, Volden said she is sending information this week to three schools – a Catholic school in Illinois, a Catholic school in Louisiana and a private charter school. Three sales to the home market also have been made. Some online voters wanted to know how to make a purchase, she said. Volden has met with a video professional to enhance the product page on the website to clearly show what a lesson looks like and the depth of Voweletics as a product.
Dream Big Grow Here is sponsored by a mix of private and public sector agencies including the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa Farm Bureau Renew Rural Iowa, Advance Iowa, VentureNet Iowa, Iowa Bankers Association, IASourceLink and Veridian Credit Union. Dream Big Grow Here is a program of UNI Business and Community Services.
For more information about the Dream Big Grow Here program, visit www.DreamBigGrowHere.com.