UI conference supports Iowa's minority and women entrepreneurs
Friday, November 6, 2015

Although Forbes magazine has named Iowa one of the best places in the nation to do business, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Bloomberg News said in 2014 that African Americans and women in the state still struggle to succeed in business here.

To help change that, the University of Iowa and UI Partners, part of the UI Office of Research and Economic Development, are sponsoring an Untraditional Startathon being offered Nov. 21 by the Iowa Black Business Coalition to benefit women- and minority-owned businesses.

The event will take place at Grand View University in Des Moines. Participants can register at www.iowablackbusiness.com/startathon.

David Conrad, assistant vice president for economic development in the Office of Research and Economic Development, says UI Partners fully supports the Startathon.

“The University of Iowa and UI Partners are pleased to support this exciting day devoted to igniting new business startups, with particular encouragement for women and underrepresented groups,” Conrad says. “As Iowa has demonstrated again and again, we have many emerging entrepreneurs poised to do great things, and we want everyone with a great idea to succeed.”

Officials with the Iowa Black Business Coalition say the Startathon is intended to provide women and minorities with the tools they need to overcome obstacles in the business world.

“Some of the major barriers to entrepreneurship are things like lack of affordable child care, and for the low-income or rural, transportation,” says Ini Augustine, president of the Iowa Black Business Coalition. “It made me wonder how much potential remained unused because of these barriers.”

All that participants need is a business idea and a name. Participants will have access to mentors and will attending break-out sessions geared toward assisting with business plans, social media marketing, and navigating business structures.

“I feel like the Untraditional Startathon will be beneficial because it gives aspiring entrepreneurs like myself an opportunity to start,” says Shayla Williams, of Des Moines. “Most of us just don't have the support or resources  we need to pursue  entrepreneurship.”

The event will conclude with the InnovateHer Challenge, a business-pitch contest sponsored by the SBA. The winner of the challenge will continue on to compete nationally for a share of $70,000 in prizes.