Q&A: Meet Gracen Kostelecky

With two weeks under his belt on the new job at the ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, we want to formally introduce you to Gracen Kostelecky.

After growing up with parents serving in the military and later teaching across major universities, Gracen doesn’t quickly call one place home. His longest stint? 11 years in Ames — the combination of graduating Ames High School, his college career at Iowa State University studying marketing and management, and most recently working as a digital communications specialist within the Ivy College of Business.

In his new role, Gracen will help facilitate entrepreneurial programs and services as entrepreneurship continues to expand within the Ivy College of Business and across campus at Iowa State University.

I’ve had the opportunity to know Gracen over the past couple of years through our close partnership with the Ivy College of Business in their support of CYstarters, CyBIZ Lab, and promoting the entrepreneurial academic programs. We’d like you to meet our newest hire to the small (but mighty) team at the Center.

(Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)


Talk about your career path after graduating from Iowa State.

While I was at Iowa State, I had a few internships in the athletic industry, and my first full-time job out of college was in Chicago working as the director of marketing for the Illinois Junior Golf Association. A few years went by, and the opportunity to come back to my alma mater presented itself. For the last two and a half years, I worked as the digital communications specialist for the Ivy College of Business. There I redesigned and maintained a brand new website and lead all the photography and videography needs for the college.

During my time at the Ivy College of Business, I had the opportunity to partner with the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship on programs like CYstarters, CyBIZ Lab, and promoting the entrepreneurship academic programs.

My experiences working at the Ivy College of Business, working in the high-paced and crazy world of athletics, and owning my own small business, all have led me to the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship.

Why work with students entrepreneurs and businesses?

First off, the energy in the world of entrepreneurship is second to none. When I can work with students or startups in the community who are innovative, passionate, and want to change the world, work does not really feel like work.

What is working well in the Ames entrepreneurship community?

Resources, resources, resources — having Iowa State University at our disposal is very unique. The amount of research, technology, manpower, and resources available is incredible. Plus, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship coming from President Wintersteen, the Ames community is primed to be the next big startup hub in the United States.

Best piece of advice you have ever been given?

“Have one hobby that makes you money, and one hobby that does not.”

For me, the hobby that makes me money is I have a freelance web design and digital media company. I work with clients anywhere from golf courses to dental clinics on their websites and digital marketing. I love doing this stuff, and the fact that I can make money doing it, makes it even better! My other hobby is golf, and in fact, it costs me a lot of money! During the summer, if I am not at the office, you will probably find me on a golf course.

What is a favorite resource? Book?

YouTube’s ‘How To’ videos — pretty self explanatory.

As far as a book goes, I recently read a book called Ten Types of Innovation. It disproves the notion that entrepreneurs are just inventors, and explains that innovation is so much more than a creating a new product.

What would you tell others starting something?

Learn as much about your competition as possible. Dig into their product or service and figure out what they do really well, and what they don’t do well. Use all that information to your advantage, and pivot your idea to maximize your potential. Don’t be afraid to ask your competition questions, or maybe their customers. Obviously, do this in an ethical and professional manner, but you would be surprised at what people will share with you. The worst thing they can tell you is no.

By Diana Wright, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship