Business + …Your Passion

Iowa State Student Startups Celebrate The End of the CYstarters’ 10-week Program

By Diana Wright, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship

Jake Oswald, a recent graduate in landscape architecture from Iowa State University, delivers his pitch at the CYstarters Celebration event on July 28, 2017. Jake is from Oseola, Iowa.

Business + Landscape Architecture

Meet Jake Oswald, a recent graduate from Iowa State University in Landscape Architecture. Shortly before becoming a college grad, Jake was selected to participate in the 10–week student accelerator at Iowa State, called CYstarters. The program is designed for students and recent graduates at Iowa State to intern for their own business. This is the second year of the program with 12 newpreneurs now a part of the CYstarters’ community.

Jake came into the program with a vastly different idea than what he presented to the crowd of 90+ supporters at the CYstarters’ Celebration finale event this past Friday. His original idea? To bring rammed earth building technologies to the Midwest. By way of California, Jake had the chance to conduct thorough market research with the few companies using this age-old technique to construct commercial and residential buildings in the United States.

Shortly after coming back from the trip, Jake had a nagging question — was there a competitive advantage to using rammed earth in the Midwest market? His answer, after much exploration, was that there is little to no competitive advantage right now.

Entrepreneurs Are Decision Makers

So what business idea was he to pursue? He had only 5 weeks left in the program, and he decisively came to the conclusion to not spend more precious time on his first idea.

Breaking up is hard to do — especially with a business owner and their idea. Most people never sever the ties with their first business idea. Instead, they take years to slowly learn the lesson — that there is no market, or that the timing is off, or it won’t be profitable. This realization comes after spending precious time, money, and energy. But in Jake’s case, stopping his first idea allowed him to pursue the opportunity of a new business that he is working on today. This business is called…

Our Anthology is a publishing and media company which collects + connects the stories written by a group of people united across differences of race, culture, space, and time.

Our Anthology distributes journals across the world to capture and connect people through story.

By focusing on his passion (storytelling), Jake now sets out to solve a big problem —we have a world of people who can’t, don’t , or won’t relate to others. They are becoming more and more isolated. Jake is using people’s story in journals, along with technology, to connect small groups of individuals, in order to make the world more peaceful, kind, and positive.

Our Anthology’s first product comes out this fall called the Balancing Book. With the bottom right corner of the book cut at an angle, this pass-around journal weaves the owner of the journal to 40+ strangers who will write their story on its pages. During this travel time, contributors who find the book can track where they spotted the journal. Soon after, they will leave the journal in their favorite spot or pass it on to someone they know.

With time as a limited resource, Jake’s speediness and devotion to his business is starting to pay off. Last Friday he presented Our Anthology to the CYstarters’ community & supporters and received his first collection of names and stories. This fall he plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign for the Balancing Book, in hopes to ship out orders to backers by Christmas.

In the Design school we are taught how to problem-solve by creating, critiquing, tweaking and starting the cycle back over for product design. What is missing is using this problem-solving technique to create and design businesses with true competitive advantages to take to market. CYstarters has been refreshing. I’ve had the opportunity to learn the business side and how I can apply this to designing my own business. — Jake Oswald, founder of Our Anthology.


Business + Chemical Engineering

Falling out of the Student Debt Trap

Next, meet Colby Hixson. Colby graduated this May with a degree in Chemical Engineering from Iowa State University. After his sophomore year, Colby headed back home to the Quad Cities and worked part-time at a pool supply store.

As a natural problem-solver, Colby heard request after request from pool customers for one big need — a pooling cleaning service. Yet, the store he worked for did not want to offer this as an added service. After little thought, Colby jumped in and just did it.

Colby Hixson shares his business to the audience at the CYstarters’ Celebration event on July 28, 2017. Colby is from Orion, Illinois.

Known today as QC Pool Cleaners, Colby is in his third year of business. With a full list of clients in the Quad Cities, Colby entered the CYstarters program with the intention of scaling his business — to learn how to market, scale operations, and lead.

The CYstarters program really helped me to legitimize my business. I was able to get business insurance, form my LLC, and I got set up with a CPA. It was also a great lesson in managing employees, as I got a lot of practice managing while I was away from the everyday operations throughout the program. -Colby Hixson, founder of QC Pool Cleaners.

Saying “No” to Student Debt

People become entrepreneurs for different reasons. For every Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson, there are thousands of small, lesser-known businesses that generate wealth for owners. Colby is experienced in learning how to generate income while going to college. While most college graduates accumulate over $30,000 in student loans, Colby is nearly to the point of being debt-free. His pool cleaning business allowed him to generate recurring income each year, while he also worked part-time jobs to pay his way through college.

Colby is the perfect example of a millennial entrepreneur overcoming the student debt trap at Iowa State.


The 2017 CYstarters cohort, L to R: Judi Eyles, Director of ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship; John Clark, co-founder of True 360; Jake Oswald, founder of Our Anthology; Nolan Herlocker, founder of Propelled Solutions; Chris James, co-founder of True 360; Dillon Hurd, founder of Hurd Health Group; Colby Hixson, founder of QC Pool Cleaners; Brady Trent, founder of RenterGate; Brandi Barrett, founder of Fast Farm; Diana Wright, CYstarters program manager; Nathan Kimle, founder of Duracinct; Tyson Lamb, founder of Lamb Tactical; Andrew Pauley, founder of U-Conceal-It; Emma Oliverius, founder of Ivory Lane Events; Sam Shifflett, co-founder of True 360; Lawrence Mosley, co-founder of BulletMatcher; Eric Hare, co-founder of BulletMatcher; and Nadia Antony, co-founder of BulletMatcher.

Onwards for these 12 CYstarters, who are using the Business + My Passion Approach:

  1. BulletMatcher is a three-dimensional scanning process using an algorithm to prove accuracy for bullet matching during the investigation process. BulletMatcher is co-founded by Eric Hare, a Ph.D graduate in Statistics and Computer science.
  2. Duracinct is seeking technologies licensed from Iowa State’s research with the opportunity to bring them to commercialization. Duracinct is founded by Nathan Kimle, a senior studying Agriculture Business, Economics, and Entrepreneurial studies. Nathan is from Ames, Iowa.
  3. Fast Farm plays matchmaker by connecting farmers to farm equipment sellers & dealers through an online platform. Fast Farm is founded by Brandi Barrett, a recent graduate in Agricultural Business. Brandi is from Kenton, Ohio.
  4. Hurd Health Group is creating the next generation heart ventricular assist device. Hurd Health Group is founded by Dillon Hurd, a Ph.D student in Chemical & Biological Engineering. Dillon is from Ames, Iowa.
  5. Ivory Lane Events is an event planning business catered to wedding planning for brides & grooms in rural communities. Ivory Lane Events is founded by Emma Oliverius, a senior studying Event Management. Emma is from Tipton, Iowa.
  6. Lamb Tactical provides custom pistol holders and mounts to ensure safety is first. Lamb Tactical is founded by Tyson Lamb, a senior studying Agricultural Business. Tyson is from Pekin, Iowa.
  7. Our Anthology is a publishing & media company, aiming to distribute journals across the world to capture and connect people through story. Our Anthology is founded by Jake Oswald, a recent graduate in Landscape Architecture. Jake is from Osceola, Iowa.
  8. Propelled Solutions develops drone attachments to extend the utility of current drones on the market by offering easy-to-attach, individually powered and controlled products. Propelled Solutions is founded by Nolan Herlocker, a senior studying Liberal Arts Studies and Industrial Technology. Nolan is from Cedar Rapids.
  9. QC Pool Cleaners provides pool cleaning and chemical maintenance for existing pool owners. QC Pool Cleaners is founded by Colby Hixson, a recent graduate in Chemical Engineering. Colby is from Orion, Illinois.
  10. RenterGate is a software used by property managers to optimize day-to-day management and communications. RenterGate is co-founded by Brady Trent, a senior studying Mechanical Engineering and General Business. Brady is from Ankeny, Iowa.
  11. True 360 creates a 360-degree experience for zoos and aquariums by using cameras and virtual reality for the ultimate viewing experience for ticket holders. True 360 is co-founded by Chris James and John Clark, both sophomores studying Entrepreneurship & Management. Chris is from Stillwater, Minnesota. John is from Victoria, Minnesota.
  12. U-Conceal-It sells lockable wall safes to conceal firearms and valuables behind a custom-framed picture. U-Conceal-It is founded by Andrew Pauley, a senior studying Marketing and Management. Andrew is from Honey Creek, Iowa.

We are never done.

A core belief of the CYstarters program is that “We are never done.” As staff, we are not done with our work to support entrepreneurs, who themselves are ‘never done’.

CYstarters is a summer program led by the ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship. What started with imagining the ultimate program for student entrepreneurs at Iowa State, CYstarters has grown to become a successful pathway that provides young entrepreneurs a safety net to start something now.

A big thanks to all of our supporters across campus, in the community, and to all the future presenters, mentors, and financial supporters who will be part of next year’s program. Lastly, we cannot forget CYstarters wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the student entrepreneurs who aspire to create, take risks, and make an impact in the world.


A Great Turnout — Over 90 supporters from the community and campus attended the CYstarters Celebration finale event on July 28, 2017 at the ISU Economic Development Core Facility, located in ISU Research Park.

Mentors — Want to get involved? Click here: CYstarters Mentor Network.

Student Entrepreneurs — applications for next summer’s program will open late fall 2017. In the meantime, plug into e-playground at Iowa State by joining the EntreBOLD network.