In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating the achievements of Iowa women. In this collection of stories, you’ll find inspiring tales of entrepreneurship, perseverance and innovation.
These inspirational stories feature restaurateurs to tech experts, communications and media professionals to agricultural workers, as well as employees in insurance, nonprofits, manufacturing, healthcare and more. While all these stories are unique, they all have one thing in common – they’re centered around women who make Iowa businesses thrive.
JenniferKathryn King - Founder of Invictus Media
“We are not a company that sits in an ivory tower that’s unreachable,” King said. “We understand what it’s like to be a small business whose future depends on offering an affordable and accessible option. We’re here to help you as we can.”
Kei-Che Randle - Founder of Songs to Enhance People Signing (STEPS) program
“It’s important that I continue to connect people, because I felt like I was so alone at the time when I wasn’t; I just didn’t have the resources,”
Jen Kranz & Kate Vigmostad - Co-owners of Volition Skate
“We’re excited to be the first roller skate shop in Iowa and we’re really proud to be women-owned,” said Kranz.
Jenny Quiner - Owner of Dogpatch Urban Gardens (DUG)
“Take in information, absorb, connect, to reach out to people and I see it as a benefit because it’s just allowed me to build a really strong community.”
Marianne & Rebecca Fons - Former owners of Winterset Iowa Theater
"The director of the John Wayne Birthplace Museum says when the marquee is lit, the Iowa Theater is the heartbeat of the community," Marianne said. "Its board is small and wants what's best for Winterset, plus we have a wonderful paid staff. This tiny nonprofit can do anything."
Lydia Hornung - Communications, Strategy, and Tour Services Manager for John Deere Des Moines Works
“John Deere really values an inclusive work environment where people from all over the world can come in and have a successful career — regardless of race or gender. I see a lot of women in leadership, for example, my boss, who is the factory manager, is a female who grew up outside of St. Louis. It’s a great environment, wonderful culture and one where I feel like I can accomplish my career objectives and not have to leave to do it,” said Lydia Hornung, communications, strategy, and tour services manager for John Deere Des Moines Works.
Erin Rollenhagen - Founder of Entrepreneurial Technologies
“I used to picture computer programmers as being guys in basements typing code on green screens,” said Erin Rollenhagen, founder of Entrepreneurial Technologies in Urbandale, Iowa. “Once I experienced and saw what those in the technology industry, and my home state, really did, it changed my perspective, career path and life.”
Megan McKay - Owner of Peace Tree Brewery
“I’ve been able to put down roots, reinvest in my community and make an impact in the town that has always been near and dear to my heart,” said Megan McKay, owner of Peace Tree Brewery.
Angela Harrington - Owner of Hotel Grinnell
“I would say that I am tenacious with a capital T,” said Hotel Grinnell owner Angela Harrington. “Once I set my mind to something, there has got to be a way.”
Photo via Rural Revival
Kate Zimmerman - Director of the Ringgold County Conservation Board in Mount Ayr
“The [Dragoon Trace] nature center is going to be a huge part of helping people understand, educate and inspire them to love wildlife and our habitat as much as I do,” said Kate Zimmerman, director of the Ringgold County Conservation Board in Mount Ayr, who is one of the main people responsible for the award-winning nature center. “It’s going to be here for years and years, hopefully inspiring future generations to become champions of the outdoors and help protect our wildlife.”
Erica Cole - Founder of No Limits
“Throughout this whole experience, it hasn’t been just about being an amputee,” Erica said. “It has been about seeing and overcoming challenges with accessibility and the stigma people with disabilities have. Long term, we want to help people with all sorts of disabilities take back control and feel normal again,” said Erica Cole, founder of No Limbits.
Andrea Gorsh - Founder and Owner of Kae Apothecary in Mt. Vernon
“I truly believe my mission in life is to bring people together. I wanted to create a place that feels safer than others; an environment for all walks of life,” said Andrea Gorsh, founder and owner of Kae Apothecary in Mt. Vernon.
Dwana Bradley - Editor-in-Chief of Urban Experience Magazine in Des Moines
“This magazine will make a huge impact on the state of Iowa,” said Dwana Bradley, editor-in-chief of Urban Experience Magazine. “There’s nothing else of the kind. It’s why we do what we do.”
Marji Guyler-Alaniz - Founder of FarmHer
“I had always thought I wanted to be a photographer, but never knew how to make that work,” said Marji Guyler-Alaniz, founder of FarmHer, which tells stories of women in agriculture. “I just wanted to capture and show women as part of agriculture because they’re not the people who are going to jump up and down and say, ‘Look what I do,’ they’re just going to do it.”
Lori Schaefer-Weaton - President of Agri-Industrial Plastics in Fairfield
“We are always thinking of ways to do things better and more efficiently,” said Lori Schaefer-Weaton, president of Agri-Industrial Plastics. “For the sake of our community, our employees and our customers — that is what drives to us to innovate.”
Rona Berinobis - Vice President of Inclusion Organization Development at Wellmark in Des Moines
“I jump at opportunities to roll up my sleeves and work with the community,” Berinobis said. “One of my favorite events to work on each year is the Iowa Asian Alliance’s annual Celebrasian. Our entire volunteer board works hard to make it a huge success.”
Dr. Keri Carstens - Global Crop Protection Regulatory Strategy Leader at Corteva Agriscience in Johnston
“As a person who grew up in Iowa and majored in something that was likely to take me away from the state, I thought it was amazing that there was a job opening in both my professional area and in my physical area. Finding a position that helps produce tools farmers need, but also protects the environment was a win-win in my book,” said Dr. Keri Carstens, a global crop protection regulatory strategy leader at Corteva Agriscience.
Alexis Fleener - Community Development Director of Southwest Iowa Planning Council (SWIPCO) and Co-founder of Shift ATL in Atlantic
“Atlantic is the biggest city in our region, and it felt like we were just kind of maintaining,” said Alexis Fleener, the community development director for SWIPCO, who eventually co-founded Shift ATL. “It was obvious to Jessie, Mackenzie and me that our town wasn’t really going for it, pushing the limits or taking risks. We decided then and there to change that.”
For more stories of inspirational female leaders in Iowa:
- Pressed to Innovate, Kristen Meeter, Co-owner of Pressed
- Locally Sourced, Phoebe Charles, Co-owner of Rodina
- Tea Time, Kristin Roach, Co-founder of Little Woods Herbal
- Quenching the Thirst of Mason City Beer Lovers, Molly Angstman, Co-owner and Founder of Fat Hill Brewing
- A New Script, A New Performance, Andrea Henley, Co-owner of Giving Tree Theater
- Cooking Up Community, Mindy Bergstrom, Owner of Cooks’ Emporium