Blog crowned winner of Invest in She – Des Moines

Jun 09, 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.

With words of wisdom from past Invest in She grand prize winners and successful business owners Megan McKay of Peace Tree Brewing Company and Elizabeth Caven of UpCraft Club, six women entrepreneurs presented their start-ups at the second annual “Invest In She – Des Moines” pitch competition. 

The competition, hosted by Iowa Women Lead Change (IWLC) at Drake University’s Olmsted Center, invited women business owners from across the state to compete for $30,000 from local investors.

“The caliber of women-owned businesses who applied for the event and the polish of our final six entrepreneur contestants speaks volumes about the quality of female entrepreneurism in Central Iowa and across the state,” says Tiffany O’Donnell, chief operating officer of Iowa Women Lead Change (IWLC), who served as event emcee and worked with the entrepreneurs to prep for their live pitches. “We were also incredibly impressed by the knowledge, insight, and commitment provided by our Des Moines investors.” 

Of the six women-owned businesses, investors chose to distribute $30,000 of support in the following denominations:

  • Susan Brown,, Inc - $12,000
  • Becky Herman, Iowa Cricket Farmer - $9,000
  • Allison Davidson-Motoyama, Dona Bela Shreds - $4,000
  • Heather Hassebroek, Bublins - $2,500
  • Steph Jessen, Mo' Goodness Foods - $1,500
  • Lyssa Wade, Veggie Thumper - $1,000

The big winner of Invest in She – Des Moines was, Inc., a family-owned business represented by Susan Brown. 

It was invaluable to “have the opportunity to get feedback from professionals that have experience and are willing to share their experience and help to lead us in the right direction,” said Ms. Brown. “The questions from investors were attempting to dive deeper and that’s what I expected.” In addition to being the big winner of the shark tank-like competition, Ms. Brown connected with her fellow entrepreneurs. “I feel like we spent a short amount of time together and we got close very quickly. We all felt the power of women supporting women.”

The Invest in She – Des Moines investors included:

  • Becky Gibson, VP & Senior Relationship Manager at Wells Fargo Bank
  • Brian Day, Director of Digital Payments Strategy at TMG 
  • Camille Urban, Attorney at Brown Winnick
  • Jay Larsen, Regional VP at Nationwide
  • Lynn Schreder, Past President of National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) of Iowa & Owner of KHI Solutions
  • Melissa Ness, COO at Aureon HR

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.

Invest in She investors understand the boost that a women-only pitch competition can bring to start-ups.

“It is important to provide a forum where we can raise awareness and support of the increasing population of women-owned businesses,” said Melissa Ness, COO of Aureon HR. “Aureon and other organizations have invested and supported me in achieving my career goals and success. The Invest in She program provides me the opportunity to support other females in reaching their career aspirations and goals.”

Investor Lynn Schreder, past president of NAWBO Iowa, echoes those sentiments. “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