Meet SILT executive director, Fearless Focus replay, going into business with a loved one
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MAY 1, 2023
Good morning and happy May! (I’m biased, but it’s the best month of the year).

Thanks to everyone who joined us last week for our Fearless Focus discussion! If you missed it, you can catch a video replay below.

Also this week, we’re sharing a profile about Breanna Horsey, who is the new executive director of the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust, and we’re running a guest column that features tips for running a successful business with a loved one by Wells Fargo regional banking director Laura Howe.

Have a great week!

– Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

Meet Breanna Horsey, executive director, Sustainable Iowa Land Trust
Sustainable Iowa Land Trust executive director Breanna Horsey. Contributed photo.
Despite spending a lot of time outdoors as a child, growing up in the "chemical plant region" of Texas meant Breanna Horsey had no awareness of environmental issues or impact.

"In those regions, it's not something they talk about," she said.

It wasn’t until she lived in Houston after high school, working in the oil and gas industry, and when Hurricane Rita caused major flooding, that conversations around climate change really started to become a presence in her life, she said.

"I started to learn so much more about climate change and the impact that humans are having on the earth. That's what drove me to want to be part of the change," Horsey said.

She eventually met her husband, Tim, a native Iowan, moved to Storm Lake in her late 20s, and began to learn more about the effects that agriculture has on soil. After spending time at home with their daughter for a few years, she decided to go to Buena Vista University and major in environmental science.

Horsey said she had taken a few community college courses back in Texas, but said college wasn’t really an option for her growing up. Part of her decision to go back to school while in her 30s was to be an example of what women are capable of for her daughter. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2020, and her master’s in 2022.

Before being hired as executive director of the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust earlier this year, Horsey had worked as a data analyst, an urban conservationist and executive director of Storm Lake United.

SILT is a statewide organization based in West Branch that strives to preserve Iowa farmland for sustainable table food farming by making sure future generations of Iowans have access to affordable farmland and the food it can grow.

The following conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Before you started at SILT, you worked as the executive director of Storm Lake’s chamber of commerce. What lessons did you take from your time there that you’re bringing into your role now?

Specifically, outreach with member businesses and donors, and finding that connection between what people are passionate about and how we can use that to connect them with something that will leave their legacy or match their donation to a cause. With economic development, you have to understand the needs of the community in order to serve them. That's applicable to SILT and where we're targeting our outreach to. We want to be a resource. We want people to come to us and we want to be a resource to landowners. Finding where that desire is and where we can serve is the first priority.

What drew you to SILT?

I love the outreach aspect. I love connecting with people that are passionate, and I love being part of the solution. I have a real desire to gain fulfillment in my career because as a family, we want to relocate. With a daughter that's in fourth grade, I was looking for a role that would be my 10-year plan. And in order to give 10 years of your life to an organization, for me, it has to have meaning. And I got that with SILT. [The Horseys are looking to relocate to either the Des Moines or Iowa City area this summer.]

Agriculture is a male-dominated industry, and yet SILT has majority women on staff. Speak to the power of that.

SILT wants to represent the parts of Iowa that lack representation in agriculture. Not just women, but minorities, or people that can't afford typical farmland. Our team of women has shown what can happen when we come together and work together to push an effort forward. Our founder was a woman. We have a lot of female representation on our board. It's very refreshing to see, and I think that's more common in nonprofits because of our heart and our determination to be advocates in society. A lot of what we do is advocate for those around us.

When I talked with SILT founder Suzan Erem a few years ago, she spoke at length about the numerous barriers she faced in getting SILT up and running. Do you find that an organization like SILT still struggles to be taken seriously in the agriculture industry here in the state?

There's a challenge in Iowa in not appearing like we are fighting against conventional farmers. We want to work with conventional farmers. We're not trying to take anyone's land. We're trying to preserve farmland for growing food. And I think that's one area where we can really shine, working with existing farmers to parcel off small pieces of property. And as a nonprofit, we don't have unlimited funds for advertising and marketing.

What's one thing that you're really enjoying right now?

I'm really enjoying traveling a lot. Our family has a goal of making it to all seven continents. Last year, we visited Eastern Africa. We went to Kenya and Uganda. Travel is an important part of our lives.

I'm also really enjoying audiobooks and podcasts that are relevant to my role. I feel like I'm learning, while spending a lot of time on the road until I relocate, and completely immersing myself in all of that.

Are there any that you’d recommend?

Right now I’m reading "What Your Food Ate." And I think that it speaks volumes to why [SILT’s] mission is what it is and how it affects everyone. Our soil affects what our food contains. For that reason, we should be preserving land to grow food locally and doing it in a way that’s healthy for the soil and the food.

What is your favorite place in the state to spend time outdoors in?

Fishing at Bankston Creek [near Dyersville]. We like camping and being outside and we found this neat spot where we always catch a bunch of trout. When the bugs aren’t terrible, it's very enjoyable.

Going into business with your loved one? Here are 4 tips for starting and running a successful business together
For nearly all small business owners, business ownership is a labor of love. Yet running a business with your loved one can bring on additional challenges that may take all the romance out of a relationship.

The challenges that face a typical business owner – working 24/7, operating on tight budgets, and wearing many hats – are often intensified when a spouse or significant other is a business partner. Yet many couples have achieved success both personally and professionally working together, which can offer lessons to all small business owners.  

For National Small Business Week (April 30 to May 6), here are four tips that every pair who run a business together can put in place to help ensure their entrepreneurial partnership is as successful as their romantic one:

Define roles and responsibilities
It’s important to define roles and responsibilities in every business partnership, particularly for couples who operate a business together. The old saying "opposites attract" can often mean that each person brings a unique set of skills and strengths to a relationship, something that should be harnessed in a business partnership.

As you’re developing your business plan, take time to identify your respective strengths and passions, and divvy up the business operations from there.

For example, if you’re highly organized and love crunching numbers, and your partner is more energized working with people, it probably makes sense for you to run the books while they manage customer relations and new business efforts.

Make sure to clearly outline and document the agreed-upon company structure, responsibilities for each role and each individual’s ownership stake. Commit to regularly revisiting your business plan to ensure the structure is still working and company goals and objectives are being met; adjust roles as needed.

Create a financial plan and long-term strategy
Money and cash flow issues can certainly create havoc in a relationship and for business owners. When you’re running a business together, it’s important to be on the same page when it comes to financing the business and expectations for revenues.

Make financial decisions early on and strategically, such as how much of your personal finances (if any) you might use to start or run the business, if you’ll tap into savings accounts, cut on living expenses, or maybe have one partner keep a part-time job. Whatever the options are, be prepared to have a solid financial strategy as part of your business plan.

Also, one area of business operations that is frequently overlooked is the exit strategy. Winding down is a crucial stage of the business life cycle and something that should be addressed early on. This is especially true when owning a business with your loved one, as emotions can sometimes get in the way of tough business decisions.

While it’s uncomfortable to think about things going south, an exit strategy will lay out a clear process to follow if an unfortunate situation occurs. This strategy should outline what will happen if one partner decides to leave the business to pursue other opportunities, or there is a need to close the business for other reasons. Whether the business is sold to an external buyer or liquidated, a business banker or tax adviser can help establish a plan that works for you.

In the headlines
In a recent Corridor Business Journal article, Iowa City Area Business Partnership CEO Kim Casko said part of her decision to leave the organization is because of burnout. In an interview, she said she didn’t realize she was burning out until she experienced physical symptoms. "My throat would get tight and I’d have chest pains for a good part of 2022 and I just kept ignoring it," she said. "I attributed it to everything else, and it wasn’t until I had a break over the holidays and those things went away and when I came back to work, they reappeared." As she looks for a new position, Casko is now reexamining how to work in a way that’s healthy.

States that have enacted abortion bans saw a 10.5% drop in applicants for 2023 obstetrics and gynecology residencies from the previous year, according to new data. That decline carries a potential long-term impact on the availability of doctors to care for pregnant people and deliver babies because they often choose to stay and work where they're trained.

Mattel has introduced a Barbie doll representing a person with Down syndrome, as part of its Fashionistas line, which aims to offer kids more diverse representations of beauty and fight stigmas around disabilities.

For the first time, the pope will allow women to vote at an influential global meeting of bishops in October. In the past, women have only been allowed to attend the gathering as observers. The U.S.-based Women's Ordination Conference, which advocates for women priests, has called the reform "a significant crack in the stained glass ceiling." "For years Vatican representatives and bishops resisted, moving the goalpost with every synod as to why women were not allowed to vote," the group wrote on Twitter. "The unspoken reason was always sexism."

Citing "decorum" rules, the Montana House of Representatives censured Rep. Zooey Zephyr, who is a trans woman, for criticizing lawmakers who passed a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for trans children. Zephyr will still be able to vote and participate in committees, but not discuss proposals and amendments under consideration in the full House.

Last week in Des Moines, runner Nikki Hiltz became the first openly nonbinary athlete to win the women's Grand Blue Mile race. The victory comes amid a series of bills targeting transgender youths at the Statehouse, which Hiltz denounced on social media and in interviews. "It meant more being in a state where there is so much hateful legislation and to meet queer people in the community that were just so grateful and thankful I was here," they said.

Worth checking out
Women who earn more than their husbands share what their marriages are really like (Buzzfeed News). After years of IVF, I’m pregnant: What I’d like other women struggling to become mothers to know (Today). ChatGPT will change housework (The Atlantic). Rosalind Franklin’s role in DNA discovery gets a new twist (Associated Press). Why you should plan your own Mother’s Day (The Double Shift). Women are almost half of lieutenant governors. Could it pave the way to higher office? (The 19th).
Watch a replay of our Fearless Focus event about leadership
Watch a conversation with Iowa Women's Hall of Fame honorees about women in leadership.

Dianne Bystrom, director emerita, Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, Iowa State University
Christine Hensley, retired Des Moines City Council member
Mary O’Keefe, retired chief marketing officer, Principal Financial Group; owner, A&E Balm Co.
Mary Swander, artistic director, Swander Woman Productions; executive director, AgArts
Deborah Turner, board member, League of Women Voters
Be fearless with us
At its core, Fearless exists to help empower Iowa women to succeed in work and life. We believe that everyone has a story to share and that we cannot progress as a society unless we know about one another. We share stories through featuring women in our reporting, featuring guest contributions and speakers at our events.

We are always looking for new stories to share and people to feature. Get in touch with us!

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