G.I Warehouse named Iowa's best small business of 2019

Tiffany Van Zante (left) and Lana Pol (right) accept the small business of the year award from DMACC President Rob Denison.

DES MOINES — In 1972, Wayne Geeting started a trucking company in the small town of Pella. With a sixth grade education, he quickly expanded the small business — building a warehouse in nearby Knoxville just three years later — always living by the motto “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

Forty-seven years later, his daughter, Lana Pol, now president and head of the same small but now bigger business, accepted a prestigious award recognizing G.I. Warehouse as Iowa’s best small business of 2019.

The award ceremony, held on Sept. 10, honored six small business owners from around the state. It’s the seventh year the Des Moines Area Community College has recognized the best entrepreneurs and small business owners in the state for their influential impact on the Central Iowa economy.

Pol and her daughter, Tiffany Van Zante, accepted the award and thanked the four large tables of employees who showed up in support, calling them the backbone of their small business. Many of them have been with the company for decades — two in particular – since Pol was pregnant with Van Zante 35 years ago.

“They’ve been with us from the beginning,” said Zante, G.I. Warehouse Vice President. “They’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of our business, and they’re still with us, so to have that loyalty is just phenomenal. I want to say thank you for that.”

Van Zante is the third generation to take on the family business, a trucking and warehousing company that is still based out of Pella. Both Van Zante and her mom credit their small business’ success to their commitment to serving and giving back to the community.

“There are challenges every day, whether it’s new projects we’re working on for companies or whether it’s employees who need a handout or a leg up,” said Pol. “What we try to do in our business is make sure we’re being responsible and making great relationships with everybody that we touch, and we’re changing their lives also.”

Pol said the advantages of running a small business is knowing the community you serve. When the local high school or non-profit come calling, you dig into your pocketbook and give back.

Pol owns and runs a total of five small businesses now, including Mowbility Sales and Service, a lawn equipment dealer with locations in both Pella and Des Moines, and Odyssey Spas, which sells hot tubs and smokers in Pella. Van Zante heads up the newest business, Creative Inspirations, which specializes in embroidery work on promotional items for other businesses.

Both mother and daughter are very involved in groups that support small business, such as the National Federation of Independent Business, where they are both members of the Leadership Council. Pol thanked NFIB for pushing her to get out of her comfort zone to advocate for small business. For example, Pol testified in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Budget about how her businesses have benefited from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last year.

“NFIB is listening to small businesses, and they’re the voice of us,” said Pol. “If we can keep moving on and pushing on, it’s going to be for the better of America and the better of Iowa, so I strongly want to thank them for everything they’ve done for me and for the support. They’ve become such close friends in the past few years, they truly are family and friends.”

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