Sen. Ernst Rolls Dough and Talks Small Business

Date: August 30, 2019

Sen. Joni Ernst completes NFIB's Small Business Challenge in Winterset.

This isn’t the first time Senator Joni Ernst has put on a hairnet. To save money for college, the freshman senator worked the biscuit line at Hardees in rural Iowa, but it was donuts that she made in Winterset for NFIB’s Small Business Challenge.



Thursday morning, Senator Ernst worked side by side with small business owner Marica Sparks at her Winterset shop, The Bakery Unlimited. The idea behind the Small Business Challenge is for members of Congress to work at an NFIB member business to see what the experience is really like. They quickly learn that a small business owner takes on nearly every role at the company, and that a small business isn’t just a smaller version of a big corporation. Using fresh Red Delicious apples, which were first farmed just a few blocks away in Winterset, Marcia showed Sen. Ernst how to make her famous apple fritters. Marcia nudged her to put in extra cinnamon and scolded the Senator when she put too much dough on the scale. After a few slow starts, the Senator got the hang of the process and soon had a full sheet of fritters ready to go in the oven.

“Oh man, that looks delicious!”




Sen. Joni Ernst rolls out apple fritters at The Bakery Unlimited in Winterset.


While the fritters baked, Marica told Sen. Ernst about her biggest challenge as a small business owner: finding and hiring good employees. Marcia said that especially in rural Iowa, finding reliable workers who show up and stay more than a few months is nearly impossible, even though she pays well above minimum wage. Sen. Ernst nodded as Marcia told her story, telling the small business owner that she’s not alone.

“Iowa is one of those states and I hear from employers all across the state, whether they are small businesses or large manufacturers that we really are short workers. So I would love to see a change in the way we do business. Let’s streamline and modernize our immigration,” Ernst said.

Senator Ernst is working on legislation that aims to help fix Marcia’s employment problems. She’s the co-sponsor of Senate Bill 2416, called the EMPOWERS Act of 2019, which would give states the option to apply for and receive temporary waivers. The waivers would allow states like Iowa to experiment with new ways to implement federal assistance programs for families in need. 

“There are a number of workers who once they start earning too much they lose federal benefits and then they will just stop coming to work,” Ernst says, “If we can find a way to ease people up out of poverty and not punish them for doing better that would be a way to go.”


Sen. Joni Ernst sits down with NFIB members to discuss small business issues.


Senator Ernst also sat down with NFIB members to talk about the other things she’s doing in Washington D.C. to help small business. Members told her their concerns about the House’s passage of a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and another that would require them to file their personal information with the federal government called the Corporate Transparency Act. Small business owners told Sen. Ernst that while they appreciate the idea behind the bill, which is to stop terrorists, the only thing it really accomplishes is wasting small business owners time and resources on burdensome paperwork. 


Sen. Joni Ernst displays the apple fritters she made at The Bakery Unlimited in Winterset.


After about an hour, the apple fritters came out of the oven and everyone enjoyed the hot and delicious pastry. Marcia declared the morning a success, telling Senator Ernst that she was hired.



Related Content: Small Business News | Iowa

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