Iowa City Downtown District honors influential women in the city

The Iowa City Downtown District is featuring a “Woman of Impact” on its social media pages every day this Women’s History Month to honor the women who have an influence downtown.


Grace Colton

Robyn Hepker is seen in her office after being honored as one of Iowa City Downtown District’s Women of Impact on Wednesday March 6 2019. ICDD is honoring one woman of impact for each day in March. (Grace Colton /The Daily Iowan)

Caleb McCullough, News Reporter

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Iowa City Downtown District is honoring an influential woman in the community on its social-media pages every day throughout March.

The Women of Impact campaign was launched by Betsy Potter, the Downtown District director of operations.

The program is a continuation of the Downtown District’s campaign to recruit more women-owned businesses downtown, an effort that the district began in February and March 2018.

“We know we have a large number of women-owned businesses,” Potter said. “And we have a unique setting in which they’re all very supportive of each other and everyone works together.”

When Women’s History Month rolled around this year, Potter said, the district wanted to honor the women who affected the area. This time, she said, the district wanted to expand the scope of its campaign beyond just women business owners.

“We decided to do the Women’s Month campaign and honor not only women-owned businesses but other women in downtown that make a significant impact,” Potter said.

The selected women include business owners, employees, volunteers, and even important customers in the Downtown District, Potter said.

The women were selected through a nomination process, she said. The district originally nominated five women for the campaign, and each nominated woman was able to nominate another woman to be featured. 

Robyn Hepker, the owner of Benson and Hepker Designs, was the featured Woman of Impact on March 4.

She is a graphic designer who does most of the design work for the district. She designed the logos for the Downtown District and the kiosks seen around downtown, and she said she does some design for the University of Iowa as well.

Hepker said she enjoys designing for the Downtown District, because its events are always exciting and large-scale. She referred to working on the Downtown Block Party, which included giant Jenga and sand volleyball courts in the street.

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“Anything I do for them cannot be boring, because they are so not boring,” Hepker said.

The efforts of the district to support women was important to the environment of the downtown, she said.

“I think women do like a more supportive environment, and I think a lot of support is important for women,” Hepker said.

Erin Pottebaum, the director of operations at Iowa City Area Development Group and MERGE, was the featured Woman of Impact on March 3.

“I was honored, first and foremost, because of the list of women that I was being honored with for the impact award,” she said.

The Downtown District’s social-media posts also noted Pottebaum’s work with 100+ Women Who Care, a philanthropy organization that holds quarterly charity events.

Pottebaum is the chair of the Hawkeye chapter of the organization. Every quarter, she said, the organization holds an event in which more than 100 women give $100 to a single charity, resulting in more than $10,000 in donations.

Pottebaum said she thinks recognizing women leaders in the community is an important way to promote inclusiveness.

“I think that it is important, because [the Downtown District’s] message is that empowered women empower other women,” Pottebaum said. “We’re truly an inclusive community, and knowing that we’ve got strong women leading our community is extremely important.”