Exciting Times Ahead

Director’s Notes from Tim Putnam

Pappajohn Center Director Tim Putnam

With everything we’ve been hearing and reading in the news and on social media, it can be hard to be optimistic about the future. But if you look beyond the headlines and take the time to watch and listen to what people are doing around you, you’ll see some really amazing things happening!

Here at the NIACC Pappajohn Center we have the privilege of helping aspiring entrepreneurs turn their ideas and dreams into actionable plans that, in many cases, lead to these dreams coming true (although let’s not forget to acknowledge the hard work, persistence, and perspiration that makes all this happen as well). So why am I optimistic about the future? Let me recap a few things we’ve been a part of and things I’ve observed.

• Innovation Roadshow: In October, the NIACC Pappajohn Accelerator delivered the Innovation Roadshow, hosted by Sukup Manufacturing Co. The roadshow brought business leaders, professionals, and leading innovators in North Iowa together to share how they are moving their companies forward and creating value for their customers and employees. (Stay tuned for an upcoming series of posts recapping this event)

• NIACC Marketplace: In November we celebrate Global Entrepreneurship week, and we like to place the spotlight on a handful of the entrepreneurs we have worked with or are currently working with. During this week we host the Marketplace event on the NIACC campus to give the opportunity to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and some of our new start-up businesses to learn how to better market and promote their products and services. What I enjoy the most is when we have students who have been through our Entrepreneur for a Day program and the Youth Entrepreneurial Academy take us up on our offer to set up a booth to test the market viability of their new venture.

• River City Renaissance Project: Now this is what has me the most excited and, as the saying goes, the voters have spoken! I’ve lived in North Iowa since 1993 and this is the first time to my recollection that the community has worked together to get a positive outcome on a ballot measure. While there’s much work to be done, probably the most important step was to get a favorable vote. In the entrepreneurial world we would call this a version of customer discovery to find out what the level of support of this project really is in the community. For the vote to pass by 76%, I would say this project has a lot of traction.

  Why I also like this is that it demonstrates how an idea becomes a reality, or in this case starts to become a reality. As I mentioned earlier, we talk to a lot of people about their ideas and dreams, but you have to do more than just talk. One of the best first steps an entrepreneur can take is not to go out raising money but rather to build a qualified team around the idea. The Renaissance idea went from being one person’s good idea to getting traction with Mason City officials as well as a number of other people and organizations, and then on to being put on the November 9th ballot.

While there are a number of other reasons to be excited for the future of North Iowa, these three examples are on the top of my list.