Katie Wold of Three on the Tree has been named the December 2019 Entrepreneur of the Month by the NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and the North Iowa Area SBDC.
Three on the Tree is a coffee shop in downtown Mason City, opened by Wold under the umbrella of her creative retail space Market 124. Over the last 13 years, her vision has evolved and grown to encompass a successful paint-your-own-pottery studio (Turtle Creek Pottery), coffee shop (Three on the Tree), and retail location (Market 124) under the same roof in a historic building in downtown Mason City.
Wold's focus is on helping local small business owners and creators, creating new opportunities in downtown Mason City, and building a space for North Iowans to come together.
The combined three businesses are an example of how young entrepreneurs are creatively revitalizing the traditional retail model. Wold has developed a business model using three interlocking businesses that fulfill a specific mission: support artists and local producers by providing a permanent space to sell their products, support local small businesses by providing rental and communal space, and create experiential gathering spaces in the heart of downtown Mason City.
Wold is an artist and her journey to entrepreneurship was inspired by the problem that many artists face: the difficulty of selling your creations. Many venues for artists are annual events or one-time occasions, and long-term locations for creators are few and far between.
“It was important for me to be downtown. The center of the community needs to be the heart of the community, something that’s lacking in modern life," Wold said. "We’ve been able to be a part of the progression of downtown as it comes back to being the heart of the community. Restoring our historic buildings is a part of that process.”
Market 124 opened in Mason City in May 2012. The concept of many vendors under one roof allows small businesses in North Iowa to get into the Mason City retail market without all the overhead costs. Several of Mason City’s small businesses got their start selling in Market 124; Otto’s Oasis and Grandma Sugar’s Cupcakes are both North Iowa businesses who began in Market 124, established a customer base, grew, and eventually moved on and out to their own locations.
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Extensive renovations on the second floor have created eight rental spaces for small businesses and solo entrepreneurs to build their own endeavors. Market 124 also incorporated Turtle Creek Pottery, a paint your own pottery studio nestled into a corner of the building.
“The old model of retail doesn’t work anymore,” Katie explained. “The retail is important, but the experience of doing something with your friends or family, or even just for yourself, is therapeutic. We all need that creative time.”
Turtle Creek Pottery has been operating side-by-side with Market 124 since the beginning. In 2019, Turtle Creek moved to its new location next door – a private space with large light-filled windows.
With Turtle Creek Pottery moving to a new location and an empty space in Market 124 to fill, Wold opened Three on the Tree, a cozy coffee shop with a car theme in homage to the building’s original purpose. Three on the Tree is a continuation of the Mason City independently owned coffee shop, Beanzy’s.
Wold had thought for years that adding a coffee shop would be a great fit for Market 124, but she was reluctant to compete against Mason City’s two existing independently owned coffee shops, both of which were located downtown. Then, the owners of Beanzy’s approached her – they were ready to be bought out and hoped Wold was interested in the opportunity. Three on the Tree opened in September 2019.
Wold also serves on several boards, including the NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center advisory board, the Mason City Chamber of Commerce board, and the Main Street Mason City board (serving three years as vice president).
She has also served as a pitch competition judge for the Youth Entrepreneurial Academy (a summer entrepreneurship camp run by the NIACC Pappajohn Center), and is committed to serving as a business mentor through the North Iowa Mentor Network.
Wold was recognized as Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2019 Pappajohn Entrepreneur Gala.
Every month, the Pappajohn Center recognizes the North Iowa entrepreneurs who make our region a success. To self-nominate or nominate a business, visit the Pappajohn Center website at www.niacc.edu/pappajohn/entrepreneur-of-the-month/.