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2017-04-21 / Features


A year of growth, change and another award nomination
By Cindy Kujala
HTF Interim Editor

VIRGINIA – It must be an honor to be nominated for a prestigious award. And no doubt winning such an award must be thrilling, humbling, satisfying and many other things. To business owners large and small all across our region, the Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards are considered prestigious and an honor to win.

Back in 2009 in the early days of Hometown Focus, HTF owners Jeff and Scott Asbach not only were nominated for a “Labo” award, but they won the award for Entrepreneurial Vision. The two of them—Jeff and Scott—saw and created something born of a vision they had. That vision became what we all now know as Hometown Focus—a place of sharing the stories of our lives, our families, our communities, our events, our travels and so much more.

As all of us here at HTF, along with all of our readers, contributors, advertisers, supporters and everyone else who is a part of HTF, celebrate the 9th anniversary of HTF, our leaders have been honored with a second Labo award nomination!

While we have been busily toiling away each week producing the HTF vision created by Jeff and Scott almost a decade ago, they haven’t sat on their laurels and been content with that which they created as it has grown to be a much-loved, one-of-a-kind newspaper that so many in our communities across the Iron Range have come to rely on and look forward to each and every week.

Jeff and Scott still had more creativity to share. Their new business, started in January 2013, is Discover MN, the free mobile app that is northern Minnesota’s directory—The Yellow Pages of the Northland, if you will. That new business is now being recognized with another Labo Entrepreneurial Success award nomination.

“The Discover MN app completes and connects our multi-media platform/network to our print and online editions for advertisers, mirroring their advertisements and marketing in all media,” the partners shared. “The number of downloads in both the Apple App Store for iPhone and the Google Play Store for Android devices continues to grow. The renewal rate is high by area businesses represented in the Discover MN app and is confirmation [of the app’s popularity].”

Next week (Wednesday, April 26), the 25th annual Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards winners will be announced at a luncheon at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. There are 15 nominees in the Emerging Entrepreneur category. There are a similar number of nominees in the Micro Entrepreneur, Established Entrepreneur and Mature Entrepreneur award categories, as well as six nominees in the Environmentally Engaged Entrepreneur Award category.

Jeff, Scott, Sue Froehlingsdorf and their

HTF team created and developed Discover

MN, a free mobile app, connecting northern Minnesota communities with readers and viewers worldwide for mobile app users of smartphones and tablets.

Mobile Man, the Discovery

MN mascot, was born about the same time.

He is a regular fixture on the cover of HTF and readers and mobile users can follow his antics and adventures through the free app and win cash and prizes.

“We have over a thousand businesses within the Discovery MN app,” Jeff and Scott shared. “Mobile has grown so fast that it’s now the leading digital platform with total activity on smartphones and tablets accounting for two-thirds of digital media time spent, and smartphone apps alone now capture roughly half of digital media time.”

Marketing, as well as continuing to be innovative and progressive, have been key to the success of the Discovery MN app. It targets a broad spectrum, including retail, professional services, education, travel, community calendar, food, realty, resorts, health, locally-made products and more. And it’s both easy to use and attractive.

“We share our success and the continued growth of our multi-media network through the efforts, dedication and commitment from our HTF team, carriers, contributors, advertisers, subscribers, readers and viewers for growing community with us in a sustainable way,” the partners said.

Each year of life brings changes with it. The same goes for businesses. As we reach the 9th anniversary of HTF, I can’t help but think of the change this past year has brought. For each of the past anniversaries, the first and only editor of HTF— Jean Cole—wrote the anniversary story. Sometimes that anniversary story focused on the founders of HTF; other times it focused on the multitude of contributors and supporters we’re blessed to have; still other times Jean would wax eloquently on why we love the Iron Range, our communities, our neighbors.

As our readers know, in January of this year Jean retired as HTF editor. She had another important mission to pursue, offering her time, assistance and friendship to a long-time friend who had received a cancer diagnosis. We’ve missed her steady presence and the thoughtful guidance she always provided.

But we carry on. Some days we do that with a certain amount of strength and determination. Other days or weeks bring more challenges as we learn and grow and work to be innovators ourselves. But through it all, we seek to continue the vision Jeff and Scott had that was both entrepreneurial and community-minded in spirit.

Our desire is to keep finding new and interesting stories, topics, and ideas to share with all of our readers. A big part of that is through our contributors, photographers, columnists and those who provide us with news of community events and happenings.

We’re grateful for all of the contributors who have shared interesting stories, photos, tattoos, mystery items and more with us so far this year. We hope you’ll continue contributing. If you haven’t yet contributed to HTF this year, we hope you’ll do so in the near future.

We have more story ideas floating around here than we can possibly manage on our own. Around every corner, we see something interesting. Down every road, there’s a photo to be taken. In every conversation, the spark of another story idea is ignited. What’s lacking, of course, is the time to pursue all that we want to share.


I’m sure HTF readers share many of

the same interests we have. I know HTF readers have story ideas that we haven’t even thought of yet. We encourage you to share. Week in and week out, HTF is here to publish your community news, events, stories, articles, recipes, photos and more.

Here are a few of the main topics coming up:

• May 5: Wedding Edition

• May 12: Fishing Opener and Mother’s Day

• May 19: The Traveling Sauna

• May 26: Mining Edition

Please consider sharing an article on one or more of these topics. And always remember—other topics are welcome, too!


Whether it’s a standalone photo or photos to accompany your written submission, we LOVE to share your photos. And, we can post your video on our website and Facebook page, too.


written submission can be 300 words (a short news brief) to 3,000 words (a long history piece or personal essay, for instance). We have no hard and fast rules here. Don’t sweat the small stuff (punctuation, grammar, etc.), as we edit carefully. See p. 30 for more information on being a contributor.

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