Reflections on Working at the University of Iowa SBDC From Paul Heath

Since the 1980s I have had the honor to work as regional director at the University of Iowa Small Business Development Center. The UI SBDC is part of a network of SBDCs in the state, as well as part of the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and the Tippie College of Business. As SBDC director, I get to:

  1. Help entrepreneurs realize their dream of business ownership
  2. Help business owners remain competitive in a complex, ever-changing global market
  3. Analyze and develop implementation ideas for different aspects of a client’s business that will help them determine goals and achieve success.

As an SBDC director, we are empowered to do what we feel will make the most impact for the client. We work on independent projects and are allowed the freedom to make choices as to which direction we want to guide the entrepreneur. Connecting with clients is my passion, as is scrambling to keep up with new technologies and business practices that can have a positive impact on the small business community. There is always something new to learn. Many entrepreneurs say that the hours they invest in their business do not feel like work because many are having fun in what they are doing. So it is for most SBDC directors – we find satisfaction through the success of others.

Small businesses are an important part of the Iowa economy, and the SBDC is a significant resource for helping entrepreneurs acquire the knowledge and skills they need to maximize their chances for success.

How the IEDA Helps Iowa Businesses Go Global

The Iowa Economic Development Authority’s (IEDA) International Trade Office (ITO) supports Iowa industries in being more innovative, competitive and profitable by assisting in the development or expansion of international markets for a company’s products and services. Our marketing managers provide a range of services including individual consultations, connections to IEDA’s global market representatives, educational seminars, access to trade shows/missions, financial assistance, in-house trainings, and multiple trade resources to enhance exporting knowledge.

But what does all that mean? Check out a few examples of how we have helped Iowa exporters:

Mexico Trade Mission: In February 2020, the ITO led a week-long trade mission to Monterrey and Mexico City that included sales managers from Iowa commercial companies and representatives from Iowa commodity groups. The companies’ primary goal was to find new distributors and customers in Mexico. The ITO’s in-country consultants and experts researched each company’s individual markets and products, identified potential customers, and arranged in-person meetings throughout the week.

Southeast Asia Virtual Matchmaking: International trade did not stop when the global pandemic hit – the ITO adapted to the new reality along with businesses around the world. The ITO transitioned to supporting Iowa companies with business development opportunities in a virtual setting. Through in-country partners and consultants, several Iowa companies are currently participating in virtual matchmaking services to find new business and partners in Southeast Asia. Companies receive an in-depth market research report specific to their industry, information on potential distributors/customers that have been researched and vetted, and virtual meeting invitations.  These services are available in over 30 global markets – contact us to learn more.

USMCA Training: In February 2021, the ITO hosted an online training by Mike Allocca, a nationally known expert in international trade compliance, who presented hands-on, applicable material on navigating the United States – Mexico – Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA) that went into effect on July 1, 2020. With SBA grant funding, we were able to provide this training free of charge to interested and eligible companies in Iowa. With Mexico and Canada accounting for 30 percent of Iowa exports last year, learning how to utilize the USMCA will help save the company and customer money on duty and customs charges.

While that’s just a glimpse into our work at the International Trade Office, our team is ready to help your company meet all of your international business needs. If you are an Iowa company that’s interested in increasing your sales through exporting, or you’ve been exporting for years but want to learn about additional opportunities, please contact us at

About the Author

Andrea Smith is the Marketing Manager for the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s International Trade Office.

Why You Should Consider Becoming a Targeted Small Business

The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) offers a program designed to help women, minorities, service-disabled veterans and individuals living with disabilities start or grow a small business in the state. Businesses with these profiles receive opportunities through the Targeted Small Business (TSB) program, including a listing in an online TSB directory, networking at exclusive events, introduction to key partners who aid with state purchasing and marketing materials and promotion as a Certified TSB. In the last quarter of 2020, 47 new businesses became part of the TSB directory which features nearly 900 businesses, including the following Greater Des Moines Partnership Members:

Find the entire list of new businesses here, and consider becoming part of the TSB funding program yourself!

What Does a TSB Look Like?

As mentioned above, a TSB must be one of four business profiles and fall into one of the category listings offered. From appraisal services and engineering to lawn care and public relations, you will find Targeted Small Businesses of all kinds in Greater Des Moines (DSM).

Qualifying Businesses

To become certified as a TSB or be eligible for a TSB loan — of up to $50,000 — your business must be located in Iowa and operating for a profit. Targeted Small Businesses must also make less than $4 million in gross income, computed as an average of the preceding three fiscal years. A TSB must also be majority owned, operated and managed by one of the four previously mentioned profiles.

Another benefit to becoming a TSB is being able to assist Iowa’s government in meeting its TSB goals. State government agencies must report quarterly TSB procurement goals and create spending projections. Unsure of whether your business would be considered? Find out what the state has purchased in recent fiscal years.

Elevating Diverse Businesses

The Partnership understands that creating and helping maintain opportunities for diverse businesses is key to continuing economic growth and vibrancy in the region. Through the IEDA TSB program, The Partnership’s Member businesses can help create a prospering business community. For its Members, The Partnership also offers Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) resources, as well as opportunities for inclusion in the #DSMlocal Buying Guide, Restaurant Guide and other buying guides for seasonal and event purchases.

Learn more from this 2020 Partnership Supplier Diversity webinar where speakers discuss diverse communities that want to know about the businesses they buy from and create their own supplier diversity purchasing goals. You can also find out about creating Supplier Diversity programs from IEDA Director Debi Durham’s “90 Ideas in 90 Minutes” presentation.

Greater Des Moines (DSM) welcomes diverse talent to the region. As one of the fastest growing business communities, inclusion and attracting diverse talent in the workplace is a key strategy of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Learn more here.

Find these tips useful? Learn more tricks on how to maximize the potential of your business through The Partnership’s Small Business Resources Hub.

About the Author

Jill Lippincott is the targeted small business (TSB) certification project manager at Iowa Economic Development Authority.

*This blog post originally appeared on the DSM Partnership website. The original blog post can be viewed here.