Thursday, November 5, 2015

Although Forbes has named Iowa one of the best places in the nation to do business, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Bloomberg News said in 2014 that African Americans and women in the state still struggle to succeed in business here.

To help turn the tide, the University of Iowa and UI Partners, part of the UI Office of Research and Economic Development, are sponsoring an Untraditional Startathon being offered Nov. 21 by the Iowa Black Business Coalition to benefit women-and minority-owned businesses.

The event will take place at GrandView College in Des Moines. Participants can register for a small fee at

Officials with the Iowa Black Business Coalition said the startathon is intended to provide women and minorities tools they need to overcome barriers in the business world.

“Some of the major barriers to entrepreneurship are things like lack of affordable child care, and for the low-income or rural, transportation,” said Ini Augustine, President of the Iowa Black Business Coalition. “It made me wonder how much potential remained unused because of these barriers.”

All that participants need is a business idea and a name. Participants will have access to mentors while attending break-out sessions geared to assist with business plans, social media marketing and navigating business structures.

“I feel like the Untraditional Startathon will be beneficial because it gives aspiring entrepreneurs like myself an opportunity to start,” said Shayla Williams of Des Moines. “Most of us just don't have the support or resources we need to pursue  entrepreneurship.”

The event will conclude with the InnovateHer Challenge, a business pitch contest sponsored by the SBA. The winner of the challenge will continue on to compete nationally for a share of $70,000 in prizes.

David Conrad, Assistant Vice President for Economic Development in the Office of Research and Economic Development, said UI Partners fully supports the Startathon.

“The University of Iowa and UI Partners are pleased to support this exciting day devoted to igniting new business startups, with particular encouragement for women and underrepresented groups,” Conrad said. “As Iowa has demonstrated again and again, we have many emerging entrepreneurs poised to do great things, and we want everyone with a great idea to succeed.”

The Iowa Black Business Coalition was founded to combat inequality in entrepreneurship and increase opportunities for minority-owned businesses in Iowa. Follow them on Twitter @IowaBlackBiz or find out more at

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development provides resources and support to researchers and scholars at the University of Iowa and to businesses across Iowa with the goal of forging new frontiers of discovery and innovation and promoting a culture of creativity that benefits the campus, the state, and the world. More at, and on Twitter: @DaretoDiscover