Scale DSM, Iowa Innovation Dashboard, Alquist 3D
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Business Record innovationIOWA Weekly | December 15, 2022
First Scale DSM accelerator cohort graduates 9 small business owners
By Sarah Bogaards | Staff Writer
The participants of the first Scale DSM Minority Business Accelerator completed the program on Tuesday with a graduation ceremony at the Greater Des Moines Partnership office in downtown Des Moines. Photo courtesy Greater Des Moines Partnership
Tech takeaway
The "Tech takeaway" is a new feature in the innovationIOWA newsletter that will summarize the topic of the main story and offer insight into the Business Record’s reporting. Feedback and story ideas can be sent to Sarah Bogaards at

The Scale DSM Minority Business Accelerator, a program of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, launched in June to help diverse small businesses owners scale their businesses, and the first cohort of business owners completed the program on Tuesday. The origin of the program is a report done in partnership with Bâton Global assessing needs and gaps for diverse business owners in the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The seven-month educational program uses the Streetwise MBA curriculum from Boston-based nonprofit Interise.

— Sarah Bogaards, staff writer
Scaling and growing look different for every small business, and the path to achieving each company’s version of growth varies, too.

The continued hurdles of access to capital, resources and information among diverse business owners led to the creation of the Scale DSM Minority Business Accelerator, which targets educational gaps to propel entrepreneurs beyond the startup phase.

"We found out that there are a number of minority-owned businesses that have passed the startup phase," said Juan Pablo Sanchez, the Partnership’s director of inclusive business strategies. "They had been operating for years already, but for some reason they couldn't scale, so they needed help in knowledge as well."

The seven-month, tuition-free program is one of the first efforts to come out of the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s broader Inclusive Business Strategies Initiative aiming to "define pathways for existing resources to build inclusive, sustainable entrepreneur-centric economies."

Sanchez started leading the initiative and working to launch the accelerator program after starting his role in January. The initiative’s efforts have been guided by a report released in September assessing barriers and opportunities in the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem based on feedback from focus groups of diverse small business owners and entrepreneur support organizations.

The nine business owners who participated in Scale DSM’s first cohort marked their completion of the program on Tuesday with a ceremony held at the Partnership. The graduates of the first cohort are:

  • Jasmine Brooks, Brooks Homes.
  • Shelana Laing, Smile Labs VIP LLC.
  • Lily Okech, Cleaning for Hope.
  • Monica Reyes, Inmobiliaria Inc.
  • Isabel Contreras, La Michoacana.
  • Latha Kumar, Zamoris Solutions Inc.
  • Andres Rodriguez, Cotofos Auto Services.
  • Stephen Stegall, Golden Heart Senior Care.
  • Vince Collis, Title Fight.

"We had such a dynamic and very good group of business owners because they are all not only business owners but community leaders in their areas as well," Sanchez said.

Jasmine Brooks, CEO of Brooks Homes and one of Scale DSM’s first graduates, is building her residential homebuilding business with an "underground mission" to create equity in the building and development sector.

She started Brooks Homes with her husband in 2017, inspired by a lifetime of seeing her dad work in the resale sector of real estate after moving back to Des Moines when her grandmother’s life savings were stolen by a contractor.

"As I got married and had my first child, I kind of had that same moment [as my dad] of I don't know that clocking in at a 9-to-5 every single day is going to build generational wealth," Brooks said.

Brooks Homes has built homes each year since it started, but five years in, Brooks named capital as the company’s top obstacle to growth.

Since the business is newer and smaller, the loans they need from banks to fund new construction have often been only available based on the Brookses’ personal credit scores, which puts them in a position of financial risk. Brooks said avoiding that translates to fewer projects and makes Brooks Homes more likely to be overlooked when they are competing for projects with larger counterparts that have more revenue and companies that go back generations.

"Our strategy has really been to tap into the smaller local banks, who we can have personal one-on-one relationships with. … Using that strategy, we have made a little bit of headway to where our lending power is more but it still is backed by our personal names," Brooks said.

Sanchez said every business faces some challenges around capital, but the barriers remain higher for entrepreneurs of color or immigrant entrepreneurs.

"They know how to do their business; some of them are professionals coming from other countries," he said. "They have the knowledge [and] they have the experience, so capital is one of the hardest barriers to start something here."

Brooks said she is coming away from Scale DSM with more knowledge, including about capital and funding opportunities, but also relationships.

"The thing that I gained that I wasn't really expecting is that there were also a number of other Black and brown business owners who are going through the same thing and now we have that network and that support," she said.

Two more cohorts of Scale DSM are planned for 2023 and 2024, Sanchez said. With the graduates of the first cohort referring other business owners, he hopes to have 14 to 16 business owners participating in next year’s program.

Brooks said she has also felt a need for mentorship, especially mentors who will be "equity partners" for entrepreneurs of color. But she is also seeking more ways to be a mentor and build up equity by pursuing her doctorate in business and entrepreneurship at Iowa State University.

"My purpose in even applying to get my Ph.D. in business and entrepreneurship is so that not only I can scale my business better, but I can also do the research to see what changes need to be made for other Black and brown businesses," she said.

From her father’s journey to her own, Brooks is striving to take down barriers to generational wealth for entrepreneurs in the building industry and across the community.

"That's where all of this started from is wanting to be able to give back to a community that we grew up in and practically raised us, so we're not going to give up on that dream of being able to give back," she said.

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DM Partnership, Clay & Milk launch Iowa Innovation Dashboard
This graph shows the rate of new entrepreneurs in Iowa for each year from 1998 to 2021. The rate measures the percentage of the population that starts a business in Iowa and captures all new businesses. Graphic courtesy of Iowa Innovation Dashboard
The Greater Des Moines Partnership and local digital news publication Clay & Milk have announced the launch of the Iowa Innovation Dashboard, a tool created to measure entrepreneurial activity across Iowa.

The dashboard shows measurements of business density, survival rate, research, investment capital and demographics regarding entrepreneurship in Iowa, according to a news release. Locally, Clay & Milk, BioConnect Iowa, the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Iowa secretary of state’s office provided data for the dashboard. Other data sources include the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

"We strongly believe that Iowa’s entrepreneurial community is better when we have data and transparency around key business indicators," Diana Wright, startup community builder for the Partnership, said in a prepared statement. "Prior to the Iowa Innovation Dashboard, the data wasn’t easily accessible and where does one start? This project is the starting point. We know entrepreneurs create value in many ways. Data storytelling can be a powerful tool to better understand entrepreneurship in Iowa."

The dashboard shows that since 2008, the year with the most investment capital deals made by Iowa firms is 2021 with 81 deals. There were 69 deals in 2020 and 58 in 2022 as of Oct. 31.

The rate of new entrepreneurs measures the percentage of the population that starts a new business in Iowa. In both 2019 and 2020, 0.31% of the population started a new business, marking an uptick from 2013 to 2017 when a lower percentage of the population was starting new businesses. The rate dropped again in 2021 to 0.22%.

The Partnership and Clay & Milk plan to update the dashboard twice a year, with plans to add new metrics in future iterations, the news release said.

The dashboard is available to view at

How will Hawkeye Surgical Lighting use the $100K prize from the InnoVenture Challenge to help the company grow?

"Before launching our first product, we need to finalize our company branding and marketing materials. Additionally, securing further intellectual property is important to the future development of our company. The funds from the InnoVenture Iowa Challenge will be used to further develop our intellectual property portfolio and create marketing materials for our initial launch. This will be instrumental in helping our company achieve sustainable growth once in the marketplace," said Manny Ray, chief operating officer, Hawkeye Surgical Lighting.

— Sarah Bogaards, staff writer

Iowa’s West Coast Initiative partners with Iowa JPEC on Venture Mentoring Service
The University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC) has joined with Iowa’s West Coast Initiative in northwest Iowa to strengthen and extend the reach of its Venture Mentoring Service program. According to a news release, Iowa JPEC is reaching out to serve previously underserved areas of Iowa, including Plymouth, Monona and Woodbury counties, which work together as part of Iowa’s West Coast Initiative. The partnership will allow Iowa’s West Coast Initiative to help recruit entrepreneurs and mentors who will apply for the VMS program, the release said. "Iowa’s West Coast Initiative is committed to building a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in northwest Iowa and connecting entrepreneurs to resources to help them succeed," Jesse Hinrichs, entrepreneurial community navigator for Iowa’s West Coast Initiative, said in the release. "This partnership with the University of Iowa and the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center provides a valuable resource to entrepreneurs and small businesses in our area, while enhancing the reach of the program." The VMS program is in its second year after the five John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers statewide started piloting the program in the fall of 2021 working with entrepreneurs in their regions. The centers received a grant in 2021 from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to establish a mentoring program for entrepreneurs. The centers work with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to implement its VMS model that is licensed and used by more than 100 organizations to mentor entrepreneurs. More information about the statewide VMS program is available at this link.

Alquist 3D announces first on-site housing project in Iowa, new 3D printing curriculum
Alquist 3D, an Iowa-based 3D printing construction company, announced Wednesday the kickoff of its first on-site 3D-printed homes in Iowa. The project will be a partnership between Alquist, the Muscatine Center for Social Action and the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine to build 10 single-family homes in Muscatine, according to a news release. The first home will be printed in 2023. "As an Iowa-based company we are proud to be partnering with a vision-forward community like Muscatine to bring this exciting technology to Iowa," CEO Zachary Mannheimer said in the release. The Muscatine Center for Social Action and the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine received an Iowa HOME Grant of $1.8 million earlier this month to put toward the project. Upon completion, the printed homes will be sold by Muscatine Center for Social Action and its partners, with preference to local community educators, first-time homebuyers and those who earn 80% or less of the median income. Profits from the sales of the homes will go toward future community housing initiatives. Alquist also announced a new 3D concrete printing curriculum that will be taught at Muscatine Community College in 2023. Students will have the opportunity to visit the houses as they are being printed and gain first hand experience.

VizyPay announces promotions for new employee development department
Waukee-based payments company VizyPay announced Tuesday two promotions to build out its new Learning and Development Department. Alex Schaffer, bottom picture, will move into the role of director of learning and development and Marj Chaffin, top picture, is being promoted to principal trainer. With hiring planned for 2023, the pair will be responsible for training new hires, creating educational materials and building out VizyPay’s employee development processes for new and existing team members. "All new employees go through an onboarding process that introduces them to the payments industry and VizyPay called ‘Vizonian University.’ My goal with this department is not only to build out Vizonian University, but also create resources to continue developing our employees and sales partners past their initial training period," Schaeffer said in a prepared statement. A focus of Schaffer’s new role will be moving the training coursework from the customer relationship management platform and building out a learning management system to house the virtual training. Schaffer started as a talent acquisition specialist with VizyPay two years ago, the release said. Chaffin will lead new hires through orientation and work one-on-one with them to ensure they are comfortable with the basics of the payments industry. Chaffin joined VizyPay shortly after it was founded in 2017.

Other news:
- Cybersecurity startup to launch interactive escape room game (Corridor Business Journal)
- Adaptive clothing brand No Limbits raises $1.4 million seed round (
Clay & Milk)
- Fusion breakthrough is a milestone for climate, clean energy (Associated Press)


The 10 most promising breakthrough innovations of 2022

THE ATLANTIC: The Atlantic has revealed its inaugural 10 Breakthroughs of the Year. The accomplishments span every station of life, from birth to death, and every component, from our cells to the stars. They include a drug that revives the organs of dead animals; an embryo created without sperm or egg; a telescope to see the universe’s first moments; and an AI that conjures award-winning art. One theme of this year’s list is the principle of "twin ideas" — the tendency for major breakthroughs to have more than one author. The telegraph was invented by Charles Wheatstone and Samuel Morse in the same year, 1837, and patents for the telephone were filed by Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell on the same day in 1876. Accordingly, many of this year’s breakthroughs are group efforts rather than individual awards. We didn’t just get one mind-blowing generative AI app this year; we got several in the span of a few months. We didn’t just get one "unheard-of" cancer breakthrough; we got several in one year. In this golden age of new vaccine technology, many different companies are building off the success of the COVID shots to deliver new antiviral weaponry for humankind.

IN OTHER NEWS: Iowa has lost 6.8 inches of its topsoil since 1850, according to the USDA, with projections that the layer of "black gold" Iowa is known for will be gone in about 60 years (AGFUNDER NEWS). The oldest known DNA, extracted from the soil in the northernmost part of Greenland, has been used to discover what the landscape of the now-Arctic desert contained 2 million years ago (ASSOCIATED PRESS).
A park for all abilities
By Sarah Bogaards | Staff Writer

On a windy day in November, Ric Jurgens and Bob Myers, former CEOs of Hy-Vee and Casey’s, respectively, pointed out the features of the future Athene North Shore Recreation Area at Easter Lake Park that will make visiting the park easier for all visitors, including veterans and people with accessibility needs.

Wide concrete pathways and large mats laid over the sand will allow people using wheelchairs or other mobility assistance to navigate the park and beach. Swimming, fishing, rowing and boating will be made accessible through adaptive ramps, docks and boats.

After construction of the recreation area is complete in 2024, Easter Lake will have completed $23.2 million in renovations since 2018 in various parts of the park.

Read more
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Jan 26: 2023 Greater Des Moines Partnership Annual Dinner - Featuring Erik Weihenmayer
The Greater Des Moines Partnership has announced that its 2023 Annual Dinner will feature Erik Weihenmayer as the headline speaker. Weihenmayer is one of the most celebrated and accomplished athletes in the world. In 2001, he became the only blind person in history to climb Mount Everest. When he stood on the top of Carstensz Pyramid in 2008, he completed his quest to climb all of the Seven Summits -- the tallest peak on each of the seven continents.

WHEN: Reception 5-6:30 p.m.; Dinner and program 6:30-9 p.m.
WHERE: Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center, 833 Fifth Ave., Des Moines
Register on the event page

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