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Eager Entrepreneur? Excel in This City in Iowa

Ames and Story County communities provide excellent support for startups.

By Kim Madlom on May 26, 2021

Ames, Story County, IA
Jon Baade/Performance Livestock Analytics

Operating a successful restaurant is no small feat, but entrepreneur Ryan Newstrom is meeting that challenge in downtown Ames, IA, the centerpiece of a region that attracts and nurtures startups.>

Opened in June 2019 in an old train depot, Cornbred Barbecue serves barbecue based on award-winning recipes Newstrom developed while in competitions around the country. For Newstrom, competing was a way to test and hone his barbecue skills to open a restaurant.>

His team, Big T’z Q Cru, earned more than 250 awards and 35 grand championships, was named Iowa BBQ Team of the Year four times and beat out 6,500 teams to earn the National Brisket Champion title.>

In 2015, Newstrom began operating a barbecue food truck – taking another step toward his goal of opening a restaurant.

When the train depot became available, he began the detailed process of planning a restaurant in that space. “It’s been going great ever since,” he says, noting the pandemic brought its challenges.

He says the community’s embrace and support of entrepreneurs helped him navigate those challenges, and strong partners, such as the Ames Chamber of Commerce, stepped up to assist.

“They offered subsidized gift certificates to help small businesses, and we sold a tremendous amount of those to help get us through the tough times,” Newstrom says. “That created a strong injection of capital when cash was very tight.”

Before embarking on his entrepreneurship path, Newstrom was a music teacher and a community planner with Story County. Now, he runs a popular restaurant with approximately 60 employees.

Ames, Story County, IA
Jon Baade/Performance Livestock Analytics

Ag Startup’s Success Sparks Acquisition in Ames, IA

Growing up in agriculture put Dane Kuper on the path to entrepreneurship. He saw how farmers needed quality information and data to better care for the health of their animals.

Kuper is the co-founder, with Dustin Balsley, of Ames-based Performance Livestock Analytics, a technology company that simplifies data and analytics for the livestock industry. Their startup was acquired by Zoetis, one of the nation’s leading animal health companies.

Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines, vaccines and diagnostic products, which are complemented by biodevices, genetic tests and precision livestock farming.

The acquisition of Performance Livestock will help Zoetis accelerate progress in precision livestock farming and improve producers’ operations sustainability.

Performance Livestock Analytics will continue operations at the Iowa State University Research Park.

“Our digital platform changes how livestock producers manage their business. Real-time, accurate data allows producers to make better management decisions to help boost efficiency and profitability,” Kuper says.

“Both our culture and vision align well with Zoetis. Now, as part of Zoetis, we will be better positioned to provide practical technology solutions to improve livestock health and sustainability for our customers.”

Kuper grew up on a hog farm in Osage. After graduating from Iowa State University, he sold crop insurance and then worked in data analytics for a California company before returning to Iowa to start Performance Livestock.

The company enlisted the Ag Startup Engine’s (ASE) help, created by the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University, to support budding innovators. ASE helps ag startups like Performance Agriculture succeed by connecting them with mentorship and financial support.

Ames, Story County, IA
Jeff Adkins

Story County Supports Innovation

ASE is one of many players in the impressive Ames/Story County startup ecosystem. Entrepreneurs have access to the Ames Seed Capital Fund, a private pool of investment funds to provide equity financing for business startups and expansions in the region.

The Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, located in Iowa State University’s Research Park, is a catalyst that brings together the people and ideas necessary to launch and grow successful enterprises.

The center provides assistance and resources throughout the entire process of launching a new venture.

The Research Park is also home to the StartUp Factory, a yearlong, intensive program that provides entrepreneurs with training, resources and access to business mentors, advisers and investors.

Startup Ames is an initiative that brings together local entrepreneurs to support one another in creating fertile ground to launch new businesses in Ames.

Learn more about Ames and Story County by checking out the latest edition of Livability Ames/Story County, Iowa.

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