Thursday, November 11, 2021

Kimm Harris is one of many women thriving within Iowa JPEC whose accomplishments will be celebrated during Women Entrepreneurship Week from Nov. 8-14.

Harris is an associate professor with the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, teaching business consulting, a capstone course for juniors and seniors. She is responsible for Startup Games, IdeaStorm and works with Mandela Washington Fellows. 

Prior to joining Iowa JPEC, Harris worked for the Cedar Rapids Branch of TLS and advanced through sales and marketing ranks to become head of one of CCH Computax’s largest processing centers within three years. Employee-turned-entrepreneur, Harris acquired assets to start IPC of Iowa Inc., in 1993, a company that created software solutions for CPAs, accountants, attorneys and other business professionals. Harris earned undergraduate and MBA degrees from the University of Iowa.

What challenges did you overcome during your career?
At that time there were not as many opportunities for women entrepreneurs to connect with other women entrepreneurs. I don’t know if I even knew another woman entrepreneur other than my realtor. The difference between when I started and now is that at least there are resources. If you want to find a woman entrepreneur, you can.

The challenges still exist for women who are in industries or businesses that are not typically seen as women-owned. That’s a challenge for anybody in any kind of an industry where you are not the typical. I experienced that many times as I would be in a board room or meeting.

What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs?
There are many benefits to having relationships with people, whether it is business or personal. Explore things you never thought about doing. Network, connect, and help others succeed. Say yes to opportunities. Even if you aren’t ready, you’ll figure it out. Have fun, enjoy the moments, and when you don’t, pay attention, learn, and move on. 

What are keys that have led to your success?
Understanding what my strengths are and doing my best to see how they fit with whatever it is I’m doing. If it’s running a business, knowing what I’m good at and knowing what I would like to have someone else do. Helping my customers and helping employees be everything they can be made me feel good. Finding ways to use their strengths and skills and let them see all they are capable of.

It is important to listen to yourself about what should I be doing now. It’s that quiet voice in the background going, ‘Maybe I should explore that. Maybe I should go to that meeting and meet that person.’ When it keeps repeating, take advantage of it.

What would you consider a professional highlight?
Being here at Iowa JPEC. All of those previous experiences led me to have a better understanding of entrepreneurship and business overall. Now I am able to share that with students and clients in the consulting course while constantly learning new stuff. Now is my highlight.

How has being involved with Iowa JPEC helped you grow?
I got involved with Iowa JPEC when I started teaching my one class. I saw the first Venture School was available and I participated as my partners and I were considering investing in another startup. I learned a lot about the opportunity we were looking at and we chose not to go ahead with it because of what I learned. Little did I know at that time, I would be an instructor in Venture School. Take those opportunities, you do not know where they are going to go. 

Being involved with the Mandela Washington Fellows has allowed me to grow my understanding of international business and the importance of global entrepreneurship. It led to a trip to Kenya and working with women entrepreneurs there.  

Wow, everyone here helps me to grow. A new program we started in Spring 2021 called Game Changer has allowed me to develop abilities in design thinking, including becoming certified. Iowa JPEC allows you to utilize the entrepreneurial mindset — you are offered different opportunities to innovate and explore — they walk their talk.