Three North Iowa entrepreneurs took home wins from the 2022 University of Iowa Venture School Launch Day which was held Thursday, June 9, 2022. Five finalists from across the state of Iowa competed in the pitch competition, held at EntreFEST, a two-day entrepreneurial conference held in Iowa City, IA. This year, three of the five finalists were graduates of the North Iowa Venture School program hosted by the NIACC Pappajohn Center. Billie Asmus of Silicone Studios (Hampton, IA) won the Third Place prize of $5,000. Dr. Tara Nichols of Maters of Comfort (Mason City, IA) and Josh Jeske of TerraForm Tillage (Eldora, IA) each took home an Honorable Mention prize of $1,500.
All three entrepreneurs are graduates of the Venture School program at the NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center. The NIACC Pappajohn Center Venture School class is led by Candi Karsjens, Director of the Pappajohn Center and certified NSF i-Corps instructor.
Billie Asmus, founder of Silicone Studios, participated in the Fall 2021 NIACC Venture School. Silicone Studios is an innovative company that creates reusable silicone paint tray liners and lids. By providing reusable painting supplies, it helps cut overall cost and time to the consumer when completing projects while also reducing landfill waste and build-up.
Dr. Tara Nichols, founder of Maters of Comfort, participated in the Spring 2022 NIACC Venture School. Maters of Comfort is private practice pain management and a prototype for other Advance Practice Nurses interested in going into private practice. The focus is on three principles: maximizing comfort, improving function, and maintaining safety. These principles are achieved by establishing a clinician-patient relationship, developing a shared understanding of pain, and maximizing non-opiod treatment options.
Josh Jeske, founder of Terraform Tillage, participated in the Spring 2022 NIACC Venture School. Terraform Tillage provides innovative and sustainably focused technologies to farmers. By integrating their proprietary systems, farmers can expect to increase their operational efficiency while mitigating environmental impacts.
Candi Karsjens, Director of the NIACC Pappajohn Center, said, “EntreFest is such a great culminating event to celebrate the best Venture School graduates and really celebrates the spirit and culture of entrepreneurship in Iowa. Our participants did a fantastic job pitching their business ideas and representing North Iowa and the culture of entrepreneurship of our region.”
North Iowa entrepreneurs continue to perform well at the statewide competition. In 2020, Jayson Ryner of ReEnvision Ag took home First Place. In 2021, Zach Smith of The Stock Cropper took home First Place, and Nate Julseth of Nate’s Powder Coating took home First Runner-Up.