The business of doing business for UI grads

Iowa alumni showcase their craft as entrepreneurs.


By Sarah Stortz

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Over the span of many generations, many UI graduates take it upon themselves to start their own businesses as the field of entrepreneurship grows.

After graduating in 2013, University of Iowa alumni Kevonte Martin-Manley started his own clothing brand known as TwoStar.With more than 48,000 alumni now having a renowned education they can utilize in the real world, several of them have started their own companies.

Martin-Manley graduated from the UI Tippie College of Business. The 2017 U.S. News & World Report ranked the business school as the 21st best public business school in the nation.

Martin-Manley said his business, has progressed in the past four years — from starting a website to expanding the marketing team and growing larger in size.

He said his drive to start this brand was to represent those he felt are undervalued in society.

“We all have different challenges and obstacles so the TwoStar mindset inspires people,” he said. “It was also started for me to have a business of my own when I graduated [from] college.”

Martin-Manley said his time in the Tippie College has helped shape into the entrepreneur that he is today.

“Attending Iowa helped my business skills because I learned to network with people and broaden my horizon,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to learn from both the university staff and students. The relationships from Iowa have really helped me as a businessman.”

Currently, Martin-Manley said he plans to grow TwoStar into a more global scale.

Jeff Kueter, the president of Iowa Alumni Association, said members of the organization are trying to spread a business mindset to current students.

One of these new ideas they started last fall was the Hawkeye Business Development Group, which started last fall. The group began as an effort to help those located in the Chicago area to develop their business ideas and grow as entrepreneurs.

Keuter said he credits Iowa’s quality of education as the driving force for entrepreneurs.

“I always say that our school raises leaders,” he said. “It raises people to communicate and act. The Tippie College has exceptional faculty, outstanding students, and is highly supported by graduates … It’s highly engaged in all levels, this combination sets Tippie apart from other business schools.”

Keuter said alumni do not necessarily need a degree from Tippie to start their own business.

The neat part about Iowa’s business, Keuter said, is coming across all types of people in the business world such as lawyers, doctors, and engineers.

Sara Stuefen, owner of Sara E. Stuefen, DDS PC, started her own dentistry in Vinton, Iowa.

Stuefen earned her D.D.S. when she graduated in 2010 from the UI College of Dentistry. She started a business shortly after graduating because she said she didn’t want to apply to other dentists’ facilities.

“I did want to be in the business part of the practice. I had a little entrepreneurial bug to take on,” she said.

She takes on more work than what a normal dentist would do. During the day hours, Stuefen typically deals with checkups. Outside of those hours, Stuefen additionally handles employee relations, bookkeeping, and hiring prospective workers.

UI alum Jerilyn Smith, the co-owner of SmithVision in Plymouth, Minnesota, used her B.B.A in accounting to help start an optometry with her husband.

Smith said she handles the business aspects of the organization, such as the administrative work and banking. Meanwhile, her husband, optometrist Grant Smith, works with patients for their medical needs, she said.

“I remember it being a very scary time. You have to trust that the economy will encourage you, along with the community,” she said. “It’s not an easy step to take, but it was very rewarding.”

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