New enterprise hits all the right notes

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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

Offering an eclectic mix of professional services has already paid off for new business owners Naomi Tegeler Hulteng and Casey Hulteng. In addition to building a client base looking for music, photography and graphic design assistance, the couple has cleared the first hurdle to a possible $20,000 grant. They recently edged out five other companies for a regional Main Street Open 4 Business award worth $8,000. They’ll compete for the bigger prize later this month.

The name of the couple’s new business is Rockadot. It’s located in the front half of the Carnes Brothers Music building, downtown Elkader, and offers a full range of graphic design work (business cards, banners, signs, billboards, logos and so on) as well as professional photography, guitar lessons and music/recording assistance. John Carnes has moved his business to the rear of the building.

“We really like having him around,” said Naomi with genuine affection and respect for the town’s music legend. “He’s super helpful and full of knowledge about the building and also about all sorts of things we’re interested in like gear, music, recording, running a business and so on.”

For Naomi and Casey, moving to Elkader is something they’ve discussed since getting married in 2008. She’s a local girl—her parents are Pam and George Tegeler—who’s been ready to move back here for several years. Casey is from Montana but fell in love with the area on trips to the Northeast Iowa to visit Naomi’s family. 

“Prior to Elkader, we were living in the Cedar Rapids-Marion area,” Naomi said. “I had quit my job at a marketing company doing graphic design and photography, and (had gone) onto business for myself. It was going quite well and nothing was holding us back from trying to move to Elkader. So we literally started walking into businesses downtown asking them if they wanted to sell us their building.”

Their persistent pavement pounding paid off: They were told that the Carnes Brothers building had previously been listed. After checking with John, they learned that it was off the market but still available.

“It was a perfect match,” said Naomi, “because John wasn’t quite ready to walk away from his recording studio upstairs or his business. So we agreed to rent him a back room in the store and allow him to use the recording studio when he needs to.”

The couple has transformed a portion of the building’s second level into living quarters. They’re especially pleased with their work on converting a storage room into their bedroom. The space has a large window that looks out over the Turkey River.

“We’re busy making it our own,” Naomi continued. “We’ve got some crazy paint colors and are finishing up the woodwork, and stuff like that.”

They’re also working on the storefront, which they’ve filled with colorful, comfy and unique pieces including a white faux leather sofa, an old trunk painted turquoise and set on legs to serve as an accent table and an old cabinet-style TV that Naomi has painted chartreuse.

“We hope to redo the flooring and paint and spruce it up a bit to go along with our style but that’ll come in time,” Naomi added. “We’re also in the planning stages of redoing the façade.”

Though most things are going quite well for the couple, Naomi admits running a business has challenges. At the top of her list is “learning when to stop working.”

“It’s easy to keep working after 5 p.m. because what we do for work is also what we do for fun,” Naomi continued. “So it’s hard to shift gears and make time for our projects or to simply just get away from the computer screen.” She also confessed to being challenged by “backend stuff” like bookwork and administrative duties. Still, the freedom to pursue their creative interests and develop relationships with clients more than offsets the challenges of small business ownership.

Naomi is one of many artists involved in the upcoming Art in the Park event (August 22-23 in Elkader). She volunteered design time to create a printed program for that event.

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