Frond Design Studio takes top honors at Invest in She - Corridor

Jun 14, 2016


Molly Altorfer

Molly Altorfer is the co-director of communications and marketing for IWLC. She has previously worked as a freelance writer and served as Assistant Vice President for Communications and Marketing at Mount Mercy University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication studies and political science from Gustavus Adolphus College and a Master of Arts in Communications and Journalism from Kent State University. Molly is an avid golfer and self-confessed news junkie. She and her husband have two daughters; Molly views her work with IWLC as making the world a better place for them.

Six Iowa women-owned businesses netted a total of $40,000 from local power investors at Invest in She – Corridor last Thursday night at The Kirkwood Hotel and Event Center. The third-year event, hosted by Iowa Women Lead Change (IWLC), celebrated female entrepreneurism in Iowa with kickoff remarks by Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Association (IEDA).

“In the Creative Corridor, you dream big. And then you make big things happen,” said Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA). “Iowa has not fared well in growth and clout of women entrepreneurs.” But Durham noted several initiatives, including IWLC’s EPIC Corporate Challenge, which brings together public and private entities to advance women’s leadership and development in corporations.

“This is not just a gender equality issue, it is an economic issue,” said Ms. Durham. “More than 50% of Iowa’s population is women and over 80% of Iowa women are in the work force. Women are largest emerging market in the world. By 2028 women will control close to 75% of discretionary income in the world; and that is a game-changer. We are in the midst of transformational change in Iowa across all sectors. 2016 will be breakout year for women entrepreneurs in Iowa. We will see women’s voices loud and clear.”

“These six women-owned businesses were inspiring,” says Diane Ramsey, CEO of IWLC. “We were very impressed by the caliber of businesses that were represented, as well as the knowledge, insight, and commitment provided by our investors.”

Of the six women-owned businesses, investors chose to distribute $40,000 of support in the following denominations:

  • Michelle Owens & Stephanie Brandenburg, Frond Design Studios - $15,000
  • Lesley Triplett, Dumpling Darling - $12,000
  • Emily Roberts, Western Wise, LLC - $7,000
  • Melissa Sheehy, Balanced Fitness & Health - $2,500
  • Katriece Ray, PartWhere - $2,000
  • Dr. Allison Poss, Girls With Ideas - $1,500

“I didn’t really know what to expect but I became pretty energized by the crowd and all of the support we’ve received has just exceeded my expectations. All of the questions and preparation was a great reminder as to why we’re here and why we’re passionate about our business,” said Stephanie Brandenberg of Frond Design Studios. “The questions that we were asked reassured me that we’re moving in the right direction,” said Michelle Owens of Frond Design Studios.

Former Invest in She – Corridor winner Elizabeth Caven, founder of UpCraft Club, spoke at the event about her experiences winning the Small Business Administration’s InnovateHER national competition and being selected for the elite start-up accelerator 500 Startups in San Francisco, where she has spent the last several months working to scale her business.

“It doesn’t really matter where you’re from or if you’re a woman or any other circumstances,” said Caven. “Start-ups are hard and most start-ups fail, so any start-up founder has an uphill battle.” Of the opportunity to join 500 Startups, Caven said, “I love thinking about complex business problems. You have to surround yourself with people who can help you think differently, but then you also have to filter out all the opinions that you hear and just choose a direction and go.”

The 2016 Invest in She – Corridor investors included:

  • Dennis Henderson, Founder – Ready Wireless, LLC
  • Gilda & Barry Boyer, Entrepreneurs
  • Heidi Parkhurst, Sr. Resident Director – Merrill Lynch
  • Kate Wallace & Landis Wiley, Owner & V.P. – The Wallace Group
  • Kevin Collins, Nyemaster Goode 
  • Lura McBride, President & CEO – Van Meter, Inc.
  • Lynn Schreder, NAWBO Iowa
  • Ravi Patel, Principal & President – Hawkeye Hotels 

The presenting sponsor for the Invest in She – Corridor program was Guaranty Bank, an organization historically committed to furthering women-owned businesses and women leaders in the Corridor.

IWLC began hosting Invest in She events in 2014 in Cedar Rapids and in 2015 in Des Moines as a result of staggering statistics released by the American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. The most recent 2016 report revealed that Iowa ranks 30th in the nation for cumulative growth in the number of female firms, revenue and employment. This represents a jump from last place in the 2014 report.

Investor Lynn Schreder, past president of NAWBO Iowa, believes that hosting a women-only pitch competition can positively influence the entrepreneurs competing for services, as well as inspire would-be entrepreneurs. “Women instinctively see the world and our communities through a different lens than our male counterparts. Having an event just for women encourages our ideas, our dreams and our entrepreneurial spirit.”

For more information about Invest in She visit