Friday, October 13, 2023

Looking at the big picture, Martell Bell knows he faces long odds at winning many of the pitch competitions through the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC). Still, he keeps showing up.

There is plenty of worth to his business, and Bell is extremely proud of Ignite Consulting, which delivers STEM education to middle school and high school students in interactive ways. That’s why receiving the graduate Student Startup of the Year Award is meaningful. He will be recognized Oct. 20 at the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Honors event.

“I’m competing (in pitch competitions) against so many people doing things like eradicating diseases and discovering new diabetes treatments,” Bell said. “For me, this award validates that the work I’m doing is worth it and it lets me know I’m in the right spot and doing what I should be doing. It makes those long nights a little easier.”

Bell doesn’t complain about butting heads with successful Iowa JPEC medical technology companies that are deservedly making headlines. Instead, he embraces the opportunity to learn from others. He knows that regardless of business type, at Iowa JPEC, he exists and evolves in an entrepreneurial setting where the focus is on collaboration, not competition.

“It is amazing to be in the same room and learn from people who are doing those kinds of things,” Bell said. “To be in that environment and see I’m in the same realm as those people and I get to grow with them is the most valuable thing JPEC has been able to provide me.”

Bell is proof of what can be accomplished by following his mantra of simply showing up.

“That is the key difference between people who are successful and people who don’t achieve things they aspire to do,” Bell said., “Showing up is 90% of the battle, and that is the biggest thing I advise people to do.”

A first-generation college student from Robbins, Illinois, Bell continues to show up as he pursues a PhD in mechanical engineering. He is also finding better ways to grow Ignite Consulting, recently partnering with Transitions Lab University Preparatory School, where he will work with children from India and Dubai.

Bell enrolled at the University of Iowa in 2015, graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering in December 2019 and a master’s in mechanical engineering in 2022. His entrepreneurial seed was planted when he was 8 and he sold Nike Air Jordan basketball shoes at summer camp. From the ages of 9-14, Bell worked at a candy store in a remodeled laundry room of his house. More recently, he has had ideas for a healthcare company and a speaker series.

Bell is part of the Upward Bound program in Cedar Rapids and at the University of Iowa. He has spoken at workshops and assisted with events with the organization Leaders, Believers, Achievers. He is at his client limit for Ignite Consulting, so he has turned to Iowa JPEC to help guide his next steps.  

Bell has completed the Graduate/Faculty/Staff Incubator multiple times (including in the summer of 2023), as well as other Iowa JPEC incubators and accelerators, including the Innovation Challenge pitch competition.

“As long as you keep showing up and stay consistent, more opportunities pop up,” Bell said. “What is going to define me is how consistently and authentically I show up.”

Graduate student startup OF THE YEAR    
2023 Martell Bell Ignite Consulting
2022 Kelsey Dawes Relevant Methylomics
2021 Anthony Piscopo, David Christianson Hawkeye Surgical Lighting
2020 Jaison Marks CartilaGen