Monday, January 22, 2024

January is National Mentoring Month and the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC) celebrates its many mentors. The following story appeared in Iowa JPEC's FY23 Annual Report.  

Martha Carney wished she had a mentor when starting her two businesses. Steve Davis received plenty of assistance from the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC) and didn’t hesitate to give back when asked.

Carney and Davis are two of 65 mentors who assist with the University of Iowa Venture Mentoring Service that completed its second year. The model uses the Team Mentoring methodology licensed from the MIT Venture Mentoring Service that links entrepreneurial ventures with experienced mentors.

In 2022-23, Iowa JPEC’s program included 65 mentors and 22 ventures, up from 20 mentors and 10 ventures when the program began in October of 2021.

“I’m a recovered entrepreneur and there is nothing like the gratification of owning, starting, and growing your own business,” said Carney. “It’s not easy. But once you’re an entrepreneur, you’re always an entrepreneur, and you always want to help.”

Carney lives in Naperville, Illinois, but will soon split residency between Iowa City, Iowa and Palm Springs, California. Davis grew up in a suburb of Milwaukee and attended the University of Iowa, where he competed in gymnastics. As an undergraduate majoring in engineering, Davis approached Iowa JPEC with a business idea. The idea became Bios::Neos, a North Liberty-based company that produces custom software for genomics research.

“We are extremely grateful to Iowa JPEC, so whenever there is a request for help, or a way to make a positive impact, we try to do it,” Davis said.

A current beneficiary of the Iowa VMS program is Ned Bowden, a professor in the University of Iowa department of chemistry. Bowden developed a sulfur-based fertilizer that can increase harvest yields of crops (especially corn) by nearly 6%. He is expanding operations of the company Harvest Increase Agriculture, and has thrived being involved with a four-person mentor team through Iowa VMS.

“The contacts (Iowa VMS) throws at us has been very helpful,” Bowden said. “We also receive valuable feedback about what we should be doing and what we shouldn’t worry about.”

As of June 1, 2023, 95% of VMS ventures have raised capital and/or grants and 47% have generated revenue.  

Iowa JPEC launched the Venture Mentoring Service in 2021 alongside John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers at Drake University, Iowa State University, North Iowa Area Community College, and the University of Northern Iowa, thanks in part to a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

If you are interested in being a mentor for Iowa JPEC, contact Jeralyn Westercamp, economic development manager.