Jason Merschman Helping To Shape Homemakers Future Business
Ever stop to think how often your family’s furniture is part of holiday gatherings, birthdays, and other milestones? More than a commodity, furniture is a starting point for priceless memories.
“It’s the table where you serve Thanksgiving dinner, and the couch where you open Christmas gifts,” said Jason Merschman, assistant vice president of Homemakers Furniture in Urbandale. “Furniture is a catalyst for important family moments.”
This is just as true today as when the Merschman family opened their Hubbell Avenue furniture store in 1974. As the business grew, Merschman’s grandfather purchased a former Parker Brothers board-game factory on the edge of Urbandale in 1985. Today, Homemakers Furniture includes 600,000 square feet of showroom, warehouses, and offices here.
Merschman began working for Homemakers when he was a kid. “I earned $5 an hour picking up trash and pulling weeds,” recalled Merschman, who grew up in Urbandale.
While he enjoyed the family business, he loved outdoor sports. After earning his outdoor recreation degree from the University of Northern Iowa in 2007, Merschman moved to Colorado, where he was a golf course employee and Winter Park Resort snow groomer.
“Those jobs taught me a lot,” said Merschman, 36, who moved back to Iowa in March 2011 to work at Homemakers, which has become one of America’s largest furniture retailers. “Always be welcoming, polite and helpful. Never forget that customers choose to come to your business.”
SOLAR POWERS SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS
This focus has helped Homemakers grow its customer base across Iowa and beyond. “We ship products daily across the country,” Merschman said. “Urbandale’s easy access to Interstates 35 and 80 is a huge advantage."
Urbandale is also a great place to work. “There are plenty of good restaurants, and there are lots of convenient stores, so it’s easy to run errands,” Merschman said.
Giving back to the community is important to Merschman, his family and colleagues. Thanks to Homemakers’ volunteer time off (VTO) program, team members support Trees Forever, the Animal Rescue League, the Blank Park Zoo and other local organizations.
Homemakers is also investing in one of the largest privately-owned solar panel installations in Iowa. “We’ll generate about 40 percent of our annual electrical needs,” said Merschman, who added that Homemakers recycled 450 tons of cardboard in 2020.
Merschman is excited about Urbandale’s Urban Loop growth. “We’ll continue to reinvest in the business to help Homemakers and the community
Matt Triplett Promotes Family's “One Stop Office Shop”
When the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 prompted many people to reassesses their careers, Matt Triplett wasn’t immune.
“I was doing consulting work for a healthcare information technology (IT) company and was flying every week to hospitals across the country,” said Triplett, 25, who lived in Kansas City at the time. “It was a great experience, but I missed working for a smaller, family-oriented company.”
Family and business have long been intertwined for Triplett, whose grandfather Dick Triplett founded Triplett Companies in 1973 to provide office supplies to local businesses. When Matt Triplett was growing up, his part-time jobs included filing paperwork and working with his family to bundle various print jobs. “Office supplies have been my life,” said Triplett, project coordinator of print and customer service for Triplett Companies in Urbandale.
As he reconsidered his career options, Triplett decided to return home. “All the changes of 2020 put things in perspective and reminded me there’s no place like Iowa,” said Triplett, who grew up in Urbandale. “I knew I wanted to live, work and raise a family in the Des Moines metro.”
THIRD-GENERATION BUSINESS CONTINUES TO THRIVE
Triplett also wanted to grow his career at his family’s business, which provides office supplies and office furniture, promotional items and apparel, and includes an in-house print shop. “We call this your ‘one-stop office shop,’ and we wear a lot of hats here,” said Triplett, who is the third generation of his family to work with Triplett Companies.
This legacy is no small achievement. Triplett Companies has surpassed the average life span of a typical family-owned business, which is 24 years, according to the SC Johnson School of Business at Cornell University. Triplett credits speedy deliveries and superior service with Triplett Companies’ longtime success. “We constantly look for ways to improve. Even something simple like a personalized promotional item that meets the customer’s needs can make such a big impact. It’s a great feeling to make someone’s day brighter.”
Triplett appreciates the resources available through the Urbandale Chamber of Commerce, including volunteer opportunities and the GenYP young professionals’ mentoring program. “I was matched with a marketing director who gives me another business perspective beyond office supplies,” he said. “This has been awesome.”
All this makes it easier for Triplett and the team at Triplett Companies help businesses across the Des Moines metro grow. “We’re committed to serving the local community for years to come.”
Chris Huseth grows his career in Urbandale's "Silicon Prairie"
While there are many job opportunities in information technology (IT), you don’t need a computer science degree to land a great IT career in Urbandale.
“I’ve been working in the same block in Urbandale for 14 years,” said Chris Huseth, 38, who earned his marketing degree from Iowa State University in 2006. “There are many opportunities right here in the ‘Silicon Prairie.’”
For the past five years, Huseth has worked for Launch IT, which specializes in custom software development. “We work with companies of all sizes in a variety of industries,” said Huseth, a senior account executive. “No two projects are alike.”
The company also supplies licensing and permitting software for government entities around the globe. Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, Huseth presented Launch IT’s technology solutions to top government officials in Jamaica. “As Launch IT’s business has grown worldwide, I’ve become more of a consultant, not just a software sales professional.”
“IOWA NICE” THRIVES IN URBANDALE
Urbandale offers an excellent place to grow a career and raise a family, said Huseth, who grew up in Sioux City. When he and his wife, Adria, were looking for a place to call home, they spent a year looking for the right house. “Urbandale has everything we wanted,” Huseth said. “It offers a small-town feel with lots of big-city amenities, like an excellent trail system.”
The Greenbelt Trail runs near the Huseth family’s backyard, making it easy to get to parks throughout the area. “I’m teaching my five-year-old son that not everyone has wonderful parks and trails in their neighborhood, and so it’s important to take care of them,” Huseth said.
Huseth also supports the business resources that help Urbandale thrive. “The Urbandale Chamber of Commerce is second to none, with all their events and educational seminars. There are plenty of opportunities to keep your finger on the pulse of the community and meet other young professionals.”
It’s easy to stay in touch, Huseth added. “Anytime I go to the grocery store or a restaurant, I run into someone I know.”
Huseth’s Launch IT colleagues appreciate these connections, too. “We work with a lot of foreign nationals, and they say that Iowa has the nicest people they’ve ever met,” Huseth said.
A growing community like Urbandale benefits Launch IT, which continues to expand into new markets, Huseth said. “I’m excited to see what the future holds. The sky’s the limit.”
Jana Wegner, CPA, Connects with the Urbandale Community
From every experience there’s an opportunity to learn and grow. Just ask Jana Wegner, who knows that progress takes place outside your comfort zone.
“When I moved to the Des Moines metro in 2014, I was excited to work with BerganKDV’s new office in Urbandale,” said Wegner, 32, CPA, an assurance manager with BerganKDV. “My husband and I wanted to find the right place to call home. That can be daunting, though, when you come from a small town.”
Wegner grew up in Harlan in western Iowa. She had heard good things about Urbandale. The more the Wegner's talked with friends and family who lived in Urbandale, the more comfortable they felt.
“Moving here seven years ago has opened up so many rewarding opportunities,” said Wegner, who appreciates the opportunity to grow her career in Urbandale and enjoy family life with her husband and two young daughters. “You can tailor your career to what you want.”
Urbandale offers the best of both worlds
BerganKDV is a professional services firm that offers customized business, financial and technology solutions. Wegner handles financial compliance projects such as audits and reviews for clients, in addition to offering consulting services. “Instead of just completing a year-end audit for the client, we get to know their business, learn about their challenges and discuss their goals for the future,” said Wegner, who works primarily with construction contractors.
Sometimes Wegner assists clients who are starting a new business. Other times she works with key decision makers in an established company that may not have a chief financial officer or controller on staff.
Some clients only need BerganKDV’s services periodically, while others meet with Wegner weekly or quarterly. “The consulting side of the business is so rewarding, because I know I’m helping people,” said Wegner, a University of Northern Iowa graduate. “Providing consulting services along with traditional CPA services has been a pleasant surprise I didn’t expect this early in my career.”
Supporting local businesses is important to Wegner, both through her work and her personal life. Her family enjoys dining at local restaurants and exploring the many parks and trails in Urbandale. “You get the best of both worlds here, because you have a lot of options for careers, entertainment and dining, but Urbandale still feels like a smaller community where people care about you."
This is important to Wegner, who appreciated being connected to the local community when she was growing up in Harlan. “I want my family to have that experience in Urbandale, too.”
Tractor Zoom Powers Data-Driven Decisions
When Kyle McMahon was growing up in Fairfield, he envisioned a career as a golf course designer or real estate developer, not an ag entrepreneur. Things changed, however, after he started working with the land transaction/private equity division of Summit Agricultural Group in 2013.
“I discovered a new world of ag business opportunities,” said McMahon, founder and CEO Tractor Zoom and Iron Comps in Urbandale.
McMahon traveled up to 125,000 miles a year across the Midwest, reviewing tracts of land for sale and attending 1,000+ land and equipment auctions. This sparked his interest in row-crop farming. When he wanted to buy a used Kinze 3600 planter, though, it wasn’t easy.
McMahon subscribed to more than 10 newspapers to check the classified ads. He bookmarked auction websites. He was frustrated by the lack of searchable, digital sites to find farm equipment auctions.
“I was headed to Wyoming for a snowmobile trip and called about 25 farmers during the drive,” McMahon said. “I asked if they had the same problem finding used farm equipment easily. They all said yes.”
He reasoned that farmers should have a searchable, online database, like CarGurus for the automotive market and Zillow for the real estate industry. In 2017, McMahon founded Tractor Zoom to bring this technology to the farm equipment auction world. Today, the company works with 460 auction companies to advertise their auctions across North America.
“We help people find and value farm machinery faster than ever,” said McMahon, whose company works with auctions in 47 states. “Monitoring the market in real time helps farmers make more profitable decisions.”
There's opportunity ahead
Growth defines Tractor Zoom, which tracks about $2 billion in farm equipment sales per year. After starting at a coworking space in West Des Moines, the company moved to an office in Urbandale in August 2019. “We’ll soon be doubling our size,” said McMahon, who noted that Tractor Zoom has 17 full-time employees.
Tractor Zoom will soon relocate from Justin Drive to a bigger office at 100th Street and Hickman Road. “Urbandale’s prime location makes it easier to recruit top talent,” McMahon said. “We also like easy access to Interstates 35 and 80 and amenities like the restaurants in the area.”
McMahon is interested in expanding Tractor Zoom into the heavy equipment/road construction market. “There’s a lot of opportunity ahead. We’re excited to hire great people who want to grow their career in Iowa.”
Danielle DeBoer Dreams Big In Urbandale
Walk into a school, big-box store or hospital with Danielle DeBoer, and you’ll never look at these buildings the same way again. The world takes on a whole new dimension through the eyes of a structural engineer.
“Everyone walks into a building and expects it to work,” said DeBoer, a structural project engineer with the IMEG Corp. in Urbandale. “Next time take a look up at the roof beams - that’s what I design along with steel, concrete, load paths and more to make sure buildings are structurally sound.”
IMEG’s design engineers specialize in high-performance buildings and infrastructure. “It’s inspiring to create spaces that can positively impact people for years to come,” said DeBoer, who focuses on K-12 school buildings, medical clinics and hospitals.
While DeBoer considered becoming an interior designer or architect, this Omaha native discovered that her creativity, math skills and problem-solving mindset were a good fit with engineering. After earning her engineering degree in 2013 from Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa, she began working with IMEG in the Quad Cities. She moved to Des Moines three years ago and has continued to grow her career with IMEG in Urbandale.
An avid bicyclist, DeBoer enjoyed designing the new park shelter by the bicycle path at the Walnut Creek Regional Park in Urbandale. She also appreciates Urbandale’s extensive trail system. “I can jump on the bike path and enjoy the ride,” said DeBoer, who has participated in RAGBRAI® across Iowa a few times.
Mentoring the next generation of Engineers
For someone who enjoys variety, Urbandale offers a great fit, DeBoer said. “I love working here. There’s an array of businesses and restaurants, and I’ve got easy access to everything I need.”
That includes the interstate system, which makes it convenient for DeBoer to meet with her clients across Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. “No two days are alike in my job,” she noted. “There are new buildings to design, new challenges to solve and new people to meet.”
Among those people are Des Moines-area high school students who participate in the ACE (architecture, construction and engineering) mentoring program. “I love being part of ACE, because I enjoy helping people learn,” DeBoer said.
Building potential motivates DeBoer. “In engineering, it takes a lot of people to build a building. Curiosity is key to understanding the big picture of how each structure will influence the surrounding area. This spirit helps create a community like Urbandale that’s free to think and dream big.”
Ted Gerber's Small-Town Roots Flourish in Urbandale
When Ted Gerber was growing up in the northwest Iowa town of Lester, his education didn’t stop at the classroom. Working with his dad’s residential plumbing and heating business sparked an interest that shaped Gerber’s career path.
“I had a shovel in my hand by the time I was 12 or 13,” said Gerber, 33, who helped his father install geothermal systems. “Many generations of my family have worked in construction and manufacturing, and this inspired me to major in construction engineering at Iowa State.
”An internship at Data Power Technology (DPT) Group connected Gerber with Urbandale, where he has worked for more than a decade. It wasn’t tough for Gerber to make the transition from his rural hometown (population 278) to a growing metro community. “I’ve met a lot of people with this same story,” said Gerber, a DPT Group sales engineer. “We agree that Urbandale feels like home.”
How do you describe your work to people who aren’t familiar with the DPT Group?
You know those big buildings you probably drive by every day, like offices, schools, hospitals, factories or data centers? We help design and sell the heating, cooling and electrical systems for these places across the Midwest. We keep the spaces where you work, live and play comfortable.
How do you contribute to your industry?
I love the people at the DPT Group and enjoy helping grow a small business to a mid-sized company. The DPT Group started 40 years ago with one person. Now we have around 60 employees and continue to expand. I also like to leave things better than I found them and enjoy passing on my knowledge to the next generation. Being in Urbandale makes it easy for me to access professional organizations like the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
What do you enjoy about Urbandale?
My wife, Lindsay, also comes from a fairly small community (Boone), so Urbandale’s small-town feel is a great fit for our family. Our kids range in age from 9 to 4, and we enjoy spending time outdoors at local parks, trails and golf courses.
How do you give back to the community?
We’re active in our church in Urbandale. This is a true community, where people care about their neighbors.
What excites you about the future?
There are so many opportunities to grow this community. I’m excited to be part of Urbandale for years to come.
Lindsey Lamair Finds Her Fire in Urbandale
It’s almost hard for her to believe, but Lindsey LaMair rarely ventured to Urbandale when she was growing up in West Des Moines.
“Our bubble didn’t go that far,” said LaMair, vice president of strategy for Webspec in Urbandale.
All that changed when she moved to Urbandale in 2018. “I used to live in downtown Des Moines and commuted to Urbandale. Moving here gave me a whole new city to explore.”
How did your career path lead you to Urbandale?
I started working for Webspec in 2013. We provide website solutions for clients in a range of industries, from small businesses and nonprofits to government agencies. We’ve tripled in size since I started. This creates so many opportunities and makes this feel like an entirely new place to work.
What do you enjoy about working and living in Urbandale?
Urbandale’s location is incredible. I love the short commute. We also have a lot of friends who live just up the street. I have a lot of family throughout the Des Moines metro, and Urbandale is so convenient. You can get anywhere in about 20 minutes.
Has shopping local taken on a new dimension during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Working for a small business like Webspec, which has just over 50 employees, has shown me the importance of buying local. Urbandale has a good mix of unique businesses. I love getting pet supplies at Bone-A-Patreat.
How do you contribute to your industry?
I started my career in a two-person digital marketing team. My interest in search engine optimization (SEO) has grown into a passion. I was honored to be a finalist for the Young Search Professional of the Year at the 2015 US Search Awards.
How do you give back to the community?
I was a competitive swimmer in high school and have a coaching background. I’ve taught yoga, barre and general fitness classes since 2016 at Power Life, where our motto is “find your fire.” When I’m passionate about something, I want to take it to the next level and share it with others.
What excites you about the future?
Our work at Webspec makes technology accessible, so more people can get where they need to go. Urbandale is also focused on creating access and opportunity for a wide range of people. There are so many things that checked all the boxes for me right here.