Young Professionals Andrea Hansen, 37, sits for a portrait at Amici in downtown Des Moines. Zach Boyden-Holmes/Juice

Andrea Hansen, 37, sits for a portrait at Amici in downtown Des Moines. Zach Boyden-Holmes/Juice

‘Startup Boot Camp for Women’ pushes female entrepreneurship

Published on November 5th, 2013 | by Josh Hafner

Getting a startup business off the ground is tough, regardless of your gender. Yet female entrepreneurs may find it particularly difficult to take a first step down a trail paved by more men than women, says Jill Haverkamp, 31. She launched her own Des Moines marketing agency, On Pitch, in 2010.

“Being able to see other women who are doing it and talking to them and networking can be really helpful,” she said. “You go, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’”

Connecting budding female entrepreneurs with those who have gone before is one of the goals behind Drake University’s “Startup Boot Camp for Women,” a series of intensive workshop sessions planned for the next two weekends in Des Moines. The boot camp combines lectures from female leaders in Des Moines’ business world with intensive modules focused on areas like assessing startup ideas, building a sustainable business model and marketing well on a small budget.

Tom Swartwood, a professor of entrepreneurship at Drake and assistant director of the Buchanan Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, spent years helping small businesses get off the ground in the investment banking world in the ’80s and ’90s. Those experiences helped him formulate the first women’s startup camp at Drake in 2011.

“It has been and remains harder for women to raise money (for startup businesses),” he said. “I have had numerous women, including academics, tell me there is value to women leading women.”

Swartwood invited well-known names in Des Moines’ entrepreneurial scene like Connie Wimer of Business Publications Corporation and Charise Flynn of Dwolla to address boot campers in previous years. This year, Haverkamp will talk about startup marketing as one of several lecturers.

Businessweek reported this year that in Silicon Valley, the epicenter for U.S. tech startups, women founded just 3 percent of tech startups. Iowa experienced a 23 percent growth in the number of women-owned firms between 1997 and 2013, according to a study by American Express OPEN. That ranks it 49th among U.S. states for growth. First-ranked Georgia saw a growth of 111 percent during that time, according to the study.

Haverkamp called Iowa’s relatively poor climate for female entrepreneurs more of a mental hurdle than a physical one. “You put it in your head that you can’t do it because other people aren’t,” she said. “I don’t think being a woman limits your potential for being a business owner at all.”

Take Andrea Hansen, a full-time fundraiser for UnityPoint Health and a mother of two from Johnston who attended Drake’s first women’s startup boot camp at age 35. She arrived with an idea for a search and planning tool for organizing events. In September, she launched Venuefox with business partner Jerod Mollenhauer. She said the camp helped provide her with an invaluable network of women leaders and entrepreneurs that proved key to developing her startup business.

“It all started rolling after I took the startup boot camp,” she said.

Startup Boot Camp for Women

Week one: 5:30-9 p.m. Friday; 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday

Week two: 5:30-9 p.m. Nov. 15, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Nov. 16

Registration for the camp, which costs $125 with meals included, ends Thursday. Discounts are available for Drake staff and alumni.


About the Author

covers young professionals for The Des Moines Register. Josh can be reached at jhafner@registermedia.com or on Twitter via @joshhafner.



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