Startup Storm reigns in future entrepreneurs

by Grant Rodgers

When entrepreneurs see problems they naturally work to find solutions, so senior and student body president Macy Koch demonstrated true entrepreneur spirit by taking a risk and planning “Startup Storm.”

The event, which was held on Saturday, April 16, featured Des Moines area speakers with startup experience and aimed to both inspire and inform students on the experience of starting a business. According to Koch, she organized the event partly out of frustration.

“We don’t offer courses or events that are more focused on starting your own business or creating that entrepreneurial culture,” Koch said. “I know that Iowa State, Iowa and Drake all do that within their curriculum or as external groups or organizations or just parts of the college that encourages this drive to create something.”

For the first time holding such an event on campus, Koch says she found the turnout to be encouraging.

“A lot of the students that were there were students who I maybe wouldn’t have thought were interested or surprised me that they were coming to the event, which is great,” Koch said.

Those students who turned out had the opportunity to hear from five Des Moines-based entrepreneurs including: Simpson alumnae Donni Alley, president and creative director at Alley Design Solutions, Inc., Ben Milne, CEO and Co-Founder of Dwolla, Christian Renaud CEO of the Athena Project, Geoff Wood, COO at Silicon Prairie News and Nathan Wright, founder of Lava Row.

According to Alley, who opened her business three years ago, learning about entrepreneurship will prove helpful for students of all interests. This type of education becomes even more important considering the realities of the current job market.

“The economy now is so different from the economy I graduated in,” Alley said. “It’s important to consider that while seniors are out there looking for jobs, if those jobs don’t come immediately, it’s good to know that they could take their own ambition and entrepreneurial spirit to create their own thing.”

Whether graduates work in the startup world or for more established corporations, however, Alley maintains that fostering an entrepreneurial spirit remains essential.

“The idea of the entrepreneurial spirit is so important,” Alley said. “No matter what type of career you go into, that entrepreneurial spirit will carry you, whether or not you are in a startup or trying to be a leader within the environment you are working in.”

The event featured not only the opportunity to seek advice from experienced entrepreneurs, but to network as well. As junior Joe Sorenson said, the event also offered an opportunity every student should take advantage of: practice.

“It was a great time for students to come out and talk to business professionals to expand their network and their ability to communicate in a professional setting,” Sorenson said.

With Koch graduating in May, the future of similar events on campus currently is uncertain, however both Koch and students who attended view Startup Storm as a strong foundation for future growth.

“I would love to have this event continue to happen, continue to grow and maybe five years down the road the college could have a week devoted to startup businesses or entrepreneurial events,” Koch said.