Small-town design service makes big impact

Cori Peterson sat down for his sixth-grade programming class at South Winneshiek School and his interest in computer coding and programming was instantaneous. 
“I often compare my experience to someone that can pick up an instrument and just play it,” said the Iroc Web Design Services owner. “I sat down at the computer and understood what the code did and how it worked.” 
Working part-time as a radio announcer at KDEC in Decorah in 1994, Peterson also attended NICC, where he said he tried to “take all the computer courses I could.” Eventually he was offered full-time employment at the radio station, left computers behind and began his 15-year career in radio. Known to his fans as “Cori Waters-Waters on Water Street,” Peterson spent 10 years at KDEC and five years at KVIK before rejuvenating his love for computers and programming.
During his time at KDEC, the station consulted with a company to design a website, but prices were high; a website was considered a “luxury item” at the time. Peterson took it upon himself to create the website for free. He then began making websites for local businesses. Soon after – on Jan. 1, 2002 – Iroc Web Design Services was born. 
As for the company name, “It’s Cori backwards!” said Peterson. 
Iroc was formed in Peterson’s home, then moved to its current brick-and-mortar location in downtown Calmar. The company is quickly approaching its 20th milestone and has grown to manage over 250 clients. 

Full service branding development
“Iroc Web Design Services specializes in the design, development, maintenance and hosting of websites,” said Peterson. “We also offer graphic design and branding development – everything from logo and packaging design to business card and brochure design.” A professional design service, he added, offers critical business advantages that “do it yourself” web templates and logos cannot provide.
Iroc said it aims to create well-developed brands that impact what viewers think of, visualize and feel when they hear the business name. The company notes it is important to establish these guidelines early, as you’re determining how your business will be seen by the public. 
A brand is a visual representation of a business, with arguably the most important part being the logo. 
“A personally-designed logo or website is invaluable,” said Iroc Graphic Designer Alison Elsbernd. “The alternative is to use a pre-built option which does not capture your company’s personality.” She noted that using a templated option for logo or website design may be problematic in that adjustments to your wants and needs may be costly and complicated.
“We work hand-in-hand with our clients to understand the company’s goals and vision. Together we build brands and websites that change with the business as it grows,” Elsbernd said. 
While Iroc serves predominantly midwestern businesses, the nature of their industry allows for working remotely. Iroc staff members serve companies worldwide without ever leaving northeast Iowa. 

An Iroc success story
Iroc has seen many success stories in its two decades of service. “We have been fortunate to work with great entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations and companies,” said Elsbernd. But one client comes to mind when considering recent exponential growth. While not Iroc’s biggest or most well-known client, Skräp Work owner Dawn Backes had been selling her one-of-a-kind reclaimed wood pieces on Etsy and had developed a great fan base. 
Backes sought to leave Etsy behind and take complete control of her Ridgeway-based business. She reached out to Iroc in 2019 for guidance. 
“We designed, developed and launched a completely customized e-commerce website that allows her (Backes) to sell directly to her customers,” said Elsbernd. “The use of social media, e-mail marketing, placement in area stores and word-of-mouth advertising has resulted in this little business exploding.” 
Elsbernd reiterated Peterson’s statement that Iroc strives to give clients the tools to succeed. “Our main goal is to help our clients succeed, no matter what their goals may be.” 
Peterson said Iroc has seen recent business growth despite the COVID-19 pandemic. 
“I feel that may be contributed to the fact that businesses, now more than ever, realize how important their websites are,” he said. 
Peterson also indicated that years of experience and conducting business properly has supported Iroc’s success. 
“A business like ours is built heavily on reputation and referrals. You have to be honest, fair, respectful, hardworking and have a passion to help people,” he noted.
Those characteristics shone through when Iroc was awarded the 2014 Winneshiek County Pioneer Award (recognizing outstanding contribution to the economic well-being of the county) and the 2015 Iowa Tourism Award for Outstanding Website (Fairfield Convention & Visitors Bureau).
Despite being a rural-based small business, Peterson said he’s been privileged to find staff who desire to live in a small town and also possess the right skillset to make Iroc successful. Peterson said that because technology is ever-changing, the Iroc staff are “constantly striving to keep up with trends and give our clients the best product possible.” 
“Mostly,” he added, “we are proud of the relationships we’ve built with our clients and our work to help businesses become established and experience growth.”
Owner Cori Peterson grew up in the northeastern Iowa area, and he and wife Jen currently reside in Calmar. They have two children, Trevor (27), Cedar Falls, and Jordan (13) a seventh grader at South Winneshiek School. 

Iroc Web Design Services is located at 114 N. Maryville St. in Calmar. They are open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact Cori Peterson or designer Alison Elsbernd at 563-379-3444 or visit www.irocwebs.com.

Kayla Thompson is one of the newest members of the Driftless Journal/Decorah Newspapers team, where she serves as a graphic designer and copy editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism from Winona State University. Thompson resides in Rushford, Minn. Her home is full of plants, pets and good vibes.