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.

International Trade: Your First Step

Are you a small business owner who has always thought about engaging in international trade, but you’re just not sure where to begin? The thought of international trade can be overwhelming. The counselors at America’s SBDC Iowa can help you with a strong foundation to increase the outreach of your business. 

Where do I begin with exploring international trade? 

A good place to begin is to establish a solid business plan. A typical business plan has you put into words your business opportunity, products and services, marketing plan and market research, operational plan and how you will fund your business. With international trade, many aspects of your plan will need to be considered. How will you market your products? Will your pricing be different abroad, as you may need different packaging and product information? How will you ship your products? Your cash flow may change as collection methods may take longer, resulting in the need for additional operating capital. A sample business plan template can be found on our website:

Whether you are experienced in international trade or you are beginning to explore the idea, the counselors at America’s SBDC Iowa are ready to help! 

About America’s SBDC Iowa and the Author

Dave Biedenbach has nearly 30 years of finance and accounting experience, working for both private businesses and public organizations. He has been with the Iowa SBDC since January 2019 and serves as the Regional Director for the Iowa State University center that covers Boone, Marshall, Story and Hardin counties. Dave received his Bachelors of Business Administration degree, specializing in Finance, as well as his Masters of Accounting degree, from Iowa State University.

The team at America’s SBDC Iowa is a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration and stays informed about the latest federal, state and local programs for assisting small businesses. Our counselors are trained to assist with international trade questions, as well as connect you to resources. An appointment for confidential, no-cost business advising at one of our 15 regional centers across the state of Iowa can be requested on our website:

Reinventing Your Small Business to Survive COVID-19 — Blog Post from Iowa Western SBDC Director, Sue Pitts

There is a video of Simon Sinek and his team on YouTube where he talks to his team about pivoting their roles in his business. He talks about how COVID-19 is NOT unprecedented. That although very sudden and devastating, Covid-19 is not the first-time businesses have been challenged.

The Internet changed the way we shop, and when retailers didn’t respond, they closed.

Streaming services changed the way we watch movies, and when video stores didn’t respond, they closed.

Uber and Lift changed the way we get around town, and when cab and taxi companies didn’t respond, they suffered.

The businesses that did survive during those times, and many others, were businesses that were ready to respond and reinvent themselves. Uber didn’t kill taxi companies. Taxi companies did because they were unwilling to do business a different way.

This message is very relevant to our small businesses in Iowa. Businesses that start asking the question, “How are we going to change to get through this” instead of “how are we going to get through this “, are the businesses that will not only survive but will thrive and grow.

Since the middle of March our Iowa businesses have been in survival mode. They are applying for grants and frantically pulling financial information together.

It is time to start transitioning into reinvention mode and pivot your business to survive changes that are going to happen. We have seen many Iowa businesses already doing this. Restaurants are offering Family Meal options for pickup and delivery. Event planners are helping families plan online birthday parties and celebrations complete with drive by waves and present drop-offs. There are many other very creative ways businesses are reinventing themselves and thriving.

We are not certain what the future brings, but I think we can be certain that there is going to be a new normal and the path to that normal is not going to be fast. I think we also need to realize that this is not an unprecedented event that will not happen again. This or something else will happen again and we need to use this event as a lesson learned.

What should you be doing now? First and foremost, get your bookkeeping and financials up to date and devise a system to keep regular track of your bookkeeping. Software programs like QuickBooks Online (30% discount through SBDC) and are great solutions.

Secondly, as a small business you need to be ready to pivot at each stage of this crisis. What are the problems that you as a business can solve now? What new markets have emerged that you can serve now. A regular analysis of your business model using tools like Canvas Business Model is essential to your resilience in any disaster or crisis.

Our America’s SBDC Iowa state director, Lisa Shimkat, is leading our state SBDC to pivot to better serve our businesses and their reinvention. We are developing new programs and resources as we speak to serve our businesses in what will become our new normal.


About The SBDC and the Author
The Iowa SBDC provides no cost technical service and advice for Iowa Small Businesses and individuals looking to start a business. The 15 centers through out Iowa are run by small business experts and counselors who have the experience and expertise to confidently help on a number of topics

Sue Pitts, Regional Director for the Iowa Western SBDC in Council Bluffs has been in the position since 2004. Sue has become the state expert in Digital Marketing and Website Content. She teaches small businesses on these topics on the local level as well as at regional, state, and national conferences.

Pivoting Today for Opportunities Tomorrow Advice for Small Businesses during COVID-19

As locally, nationally and globally, people are utilizing practices such as physical distancing and staying in place, many small businesses are being disrupted. Whether it be because of industry shutdowns, employee inability to work, lack of access to customers, cancelled events and travel restrictions, supply chain interruptions, cash flow shortages or a variety of other factors, the way that small businesses do business has already undergone rapid changes and changes are certain to continue. For many, this means short-term or long-term pivoting in their business model to survive and to thrive moving into the future.

Here are 10 questions to help small business owners and their support teams think through options for change:

    1. What parts of your business model do you need to let go of for now?  
    2. What parts can you retain by making adjustments or being flexible? 
    3. How do you see your industry changing and what challenges and opportunities do those changes create locally, nationally or globally?
    4. What parts of your business model might you let go of permanently as your industry or your capacity changes?
    5. With what you are able and want to retain, is there new value that you can bring to your customers as their needs and wants are also changing?
    6. Are you able to identify needs and wants that you previously had not considered addressing but that you have – or could develop – the capacity to address?
    7. If you let go of particular parts of your business model, which of your needs go away?
    8. As you pivot your business model, what new needs do you pick up?
    9. Can you partner with other businesses – or take advantage of changes in other industries – to provide services and complete jobs that need to be done within your businesses and for your customers?
    10. What resources are available to assist you, ranging from financial assistance to advisory support to tools and online platforms for you to use?

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly every part of the small business community is thinking about what do we do now to get through this, for how long and what does the future hold?  In such times, it is vital to try to be proactive, analyzing and addressing not only challenges but also opportunities, to mitigate risks and to engage in hope for tomorrow’s successes.

For more resources to navigate during COVID-19, visit:


About America’s SBDC Iowa & the Author

Dr. Laurie Pieper is Amercia’s SBDC Iowa Tech Director. She leads the Rural Iowa Development Initiative and works with clients and resource partners around the state to develop opportunities for the successful commercialization of business technologies, products and services. Originally trained as an analytical philosopher, she has a Ph.D. from UCLA and has held faculty appointments at University of Oregon and Kansas State University.  Dr. Pieper was a business owner for many years and enjoys using her background in education and in entrepreneurship to help small businesses set and reach their goals.

America’s SBDC Iowa is an outreach program of Iowa State University’s Ivy College of Business and the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations. Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, America’s SBDC Iowa has 15 regional assistance centers located strategically across the state. Since program inception in 1981, the SBDC has helped Iowa businesses and entrepreneurs through no fee, confidential, customized, professional business counseling and practical, affordable training workshops. 

For more information on America’s SBDC Iowa programs or services, call (515) 294-2030 or visit,, or @IowaSBDC on Instagram and Twitter.