Rewarding rural development

Rural life has its advantages and many people yearn to live there or return there, which was the case of Lu Ann Scheiferdecker, a Cambridge resident and Corn Belt Energy member. But like many, she was faced with leaving a lucrative business in an urban area, for a life in the country that offered little in her career field.

Scheiferdecker’s own ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit has allowed her to achieve her dream. She decided to start her own rural business with the intent of having local and corporate clients. Her business plan is so good, that she recently won an award to aid her in establishing Lu Ann’s Specialties.

The product is a combination of quality goodies, targeted at corporate gift-giving.

“Companies are really interested,” says Scheiferdecker, noting that they want some “bang for their buck” as the saying goes. “Greasy chocolate chip cookies are not ingratiating,” she says, nor is a hat with a company logo. She wants to provide quality, so the company is remembered.

There is nothing imported in the gift box, in fact, four of the six products are made in Illinois. There are Swedish-style rusks from a Galva bakery, a coffee blend made in Kewanee, homemade jams from Indiana, a cookbook created by a Michigan lady but published in Iowa, a Scandanavian ceramic horse ornament and a Smorgas Tray made by a potter in a Bishop Hill studio.

“Everything in the package is for breakfast or a coffee break,” says Scheiferdecker. And when the goodies are gone, there are meaningful collectibles – not just crumbs.

With a plan to help support small businesses in Illinois, as well as fund her rural existence, Scheiferdecker presented her innovative ideas with 21 other budding entrepreneurs to the University of Illinois Extension’s Henry and Stark Counties Fast Pitch Competition.

Scheiferdecker won the retail group competition, netting her $5,000 in cash, business consultation from the Midwest IP Institute and $25,000 in advertising from Regional Media.

She knows exactly where the money will be spent.

“The money they gave me is going right back into the community.”