Simpson, City of Indianola to Encourage Business Start-ups

Simpson College students will be invited to make their business dreams a reality under an exciting new collaborative venture launched by the college, the Indianola Development Association and Indianola Municipal Utilities.

The working title of the project is the Indianola + Simpson College Entrepreneurial Development Initiative. The goal is to bring together mentors, students and existing businesses to create a business incubator for new enterprises, products and services.

“We are all very excited about the potential for this project,” Simpson President John Byrd said. “We believe the partnership will benefit Indianola and Simpson College in both the short and long term by nurturing and growing ideas that are beneficial to everyone.”

Jerry Kelley, a former mayor of Indianola and now executive director of the city’s development association, said the Indianola economy could reap great dividends.

“We want to grow our own new businesses in Indianola, and Simpson College is home to an entire group of potential entrepreneurs who we hope will find support for their efforts here and some day choose to locate their businesses here,” he said. ‘What we are doing is called ‘economic gardening.’ What grows here will stay here.”

The development group’s office will be temporarily housed on the Simpson College campus until a permanent location is selected.

The project gained an unexpected boost when entrepreneur Chris Draper, who has been a part of the Des Moines-based Start Up City, agreed to lead the project. He has substantial experience in managing start-ups, and has more than 70 projects ready to go.

“Great companies are builtby great teams,” he said. “We have plenty of innovative technologists in our state, but we have not always focused on supporting the enablers of innovation companies.  Simpson’s back yard is home to an unprecedented convergence of community, technology, and connectivity.

“The world has seen the job creating power of partnerships like Stanford-Berkeley-San Francisco, or Harvard-MIT-Boston.  By learning from their successes, without replicating their restrictions, I am excited to see Simpson and the city of Indianola creating the key ingredient for enabling generations of innovative companies here in the Metro.”

In their latest book, That Used to be Us, authors Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum suggest that “innovation launch pads of the 21st Century” will be “cities and towns that combine a university, and educated populace, a dynamic business community, and the fastest broadband connections on Earth.”

Todd Kielkopf, general manager of the Indianola Municipal Utilities, said the business incubator “addresses a need to nurture how technology, talent and ideas assimilate into our distinct business community.”

The initiative will integrate the Indianola area, and surrounding communities, with the greater Des Moines metro tech economy.

The project will help position Indianola “as one of several complimentary Des Moines metro locations for businesses seeking to thrive in the 21st century economy,” he said.

More than 25 Simpson students have already agreed to work on their senior Capstone Projects through the new initiative. A Simpson College faculty member will supervise students, who will receive academic credit for their work.

Draper said the project will benefit students by finding the right team of mentors and experts to help them, including expertise on campus.

“By engaging students in real-world problems, allowing them to own their successes and responsibilities, they will begin to see that their classes actually feature lessons learned instead of paths to follow,” he said.  “While we expect that many students will grow their own jobs because of this program, and many of those jobs will remain in our communities, the greatest benefit that Simpson students will realize because of this program is that each day provides a lifetime of opportunity.”

Kelley said the partnership has been discussed for several months.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for several interested groups to work together to grow our own businesses,” he said.

For more information, contact Jerry Kelley, 515-961-1611, or Chris Draper, 515-210-0214.