Customer commitment drives Women’s Business Center Entrepreneurs of the Year

Connie Kirkpatrick, co-owner of RCK Creations & More, in Alda, Nebraska, is always looking for new ideas that will appeal to current and prospective customers.

Her commitment to customers and her drive to grow the business has led the Center for Rural Affairs to name Connie and her husband, Roger, as the 2017 Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) Women’s Business Center Entrepreneurs of the Year. They were recognized at an award ceremony on March 9 in Red Cloud, Nebraska.

The Women’s Business Center Entrepreneur of the Year Award is presented annually to an individual or individuals who have utilized the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project Women’s Business Center services and are successfully operating and growing their business. The award exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit so crucial to women-owned businesses and the rural Nebraska communities they call home.

In 2009, Connie and Roger started their home-based, glass etching and clothing alteration business. With a little bit of help from the Center for Rural Affairs, and a lot of hard work from the couple, their business has been growing ever since.

Along with etching, the Kirkpatricks’ business offers sandblasting services. Top-selling products include rocks, flower pots, coffee mugs, and wine glasses. And, people drive from other states to have Connie alter their wedding gowns and prom dresses, as well as create original designs.

With the help of a REAP loan to purchase equipment, RCK Creations & More has expanded, and the couple converted rooms in their house to storage, fitting rooms, and sewing space. They are also working to expand the etching part of their business by purchasing a better laser to replace the one they’ve had for the last 10 years.

“We are enjoying steady growth year after year, and we’ve outgrown much of our work space and are looking to add a room to our existing unfinished space,” said Connie. “Roger and myself are putting in over 12 hours per day including most weekends, so we are looking at hiring another person or finding an intern/trainee to ease the load on each of us to give us some time away from the shop.”

“Connie had already established herself as an expert seamstress. She had been sewing for years, doing alterations and special projects,” said Dena Beck, former senior project leader and south central loan specialist for the Center for Rural Affairs.

In 2014, the couple obtained land to build on for their new storefront, which opened in Alda in June 2015, with an added service of RV storage.

Connie and Roger continue to take advantage of Women’s Business Center trainings and one-on-one business counseling provided by Center for Rural Affairs staff, and are exploring new products and markets.

“It was a surprise to find out we won the award,” said Connie. “It is very humbling to know our hard work is being recognized.”

Feature photo: Former Women's Business Center Director Monica Braun (left) presents Connie and Roger Kirkpatrick with the Women's Business Center Entrepreneurs of the Year Award at an award dinner in Red Cloud in March. | Photo by Rhea Landholm