CYstarters Cohort 7 Demo Day Recap

by Samantha Dilocker, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship

CYstarters’ Seventh Cohort Comes to a Close

Thursday, July 28, our seventh CYstarters summer accelerator program came to a close. On July 28, we held Demo Day, where each student pitched their business to community supporters, alumni, faculty and staff, and even… mystery judges. Following the presentations from each of the 14 CYstarters businesses, the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship awarded $7,500 to alumni and $6,000 to the current CYstarters cohort. Cohort 1 alumnus Clayton Mooney gave a $250 award as well.


Prior to giving out awards, we wanted to recognize our “super” University President, Wendy Wintersteen. President Wintersteen has been a super leader and advocate for entrepreneurship and innovation across campus. Thanks to former CYstarter Grayson Burgess of Comic Sandwiches, we were able to present President Wintersteen with her own Superwoman shield as thanks for “Starting Something” amazing at Iowa State University in entrepreneurship and innovation.


Thanks to Kimberly Baeth of Golden Openings Inc., $2,500 awards were given to three CYstarters alumni: Dillon Hurd of Haber Technologies Inc. (2017, Cohort 2), Ray Schmidt of Farm Story Meats (2021, Cohort 6) & Linda Tong of Linda Tong Planners (2020, Cohort 5).

Dillon Hurd accepts CYstarters Alumni Award

Since his time in CYstarters’ second cohort, Dillon Hurd co-founded Haber Technologies Inc. Haber Technologies’ patented DRI-Stack grain management system dries and aerates grain using an intelligent technological process. Offering a multitude of benefits to farmers, Haber Technologies has received significant investment support and has surpassed revenues of $3.5 million in its third year.


Ray Schmidt accepts CYstarters Alumni AwardRay Schmidt’s Farm Story Meats is a direct-to-consumer meat company inspired by Ray’s deep-rooted pride in his own family farm and desire to support other local farmers. In its first year, Farm Story Meats has amassed more than $120,000 in revenue and is on track to double that in its second year. Ray is an accomplished entrepreneur who has won numerous pitch competitions, including those on a national scale, is a regular at area farmer’s markets, and employs Iowa State interns.


Linda Tong accepts CYstarters Alumni AwardAnother fantastic CYstarters alumna, Linda Tong of Linda Tong Planners, has garnered a social media following of over 250,000 followers and shipped products to all 50 states and overseas. Thanks to her time in CYstarters, Linda has been able to curate a line of stationery products that can be produced at scale without losing their beautiful creativity. Her beautiful, hand-crafted planners, calendars, and note pads have generated revenues of over $120,000 annually.


D'essence Morris and David Spalding accept Ted Bair CYstarters AwardThe Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship also awarded the Ted Bair CYstarters Award to one current CYstarter and one CYstarters supporter. Ted Bair was Iowa State’s SBDC Director and a huge proponent of the CYstarters program. When Ted passed away unexpectedly in 2020, his family graciously donated monetary gifts from Ted’s service to the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Ted Bair CYstarters Awards were created. $1,000 is awarded to one current CYstarter, and a Hy-Vee gift card (Ted loved lunch at Hy-Vee) is awarded to one CYstarters supporter. The Ted Bair CYstarters award is based on the shared characteristics of Ted: passionate, respectful, work ethic, cheerleader, generous, and supportive. Congratulations to D’essence Morris of HUSTLR ESSENCE and David Spalding, Dean of the Debbie and Jerry Ivy College of Business.


Julio Delgadillo accepts Clayton Mooney awardClayton Mooney, a CYstarter alumni, and founder of Clayton Farms (formerly Nebullam), awarded $250 to a current CYstarter who is open and transparent in sharing metrics and the ups and downs of growing a business in the Midwest. It was important to Clayton this award go to a CYstarter who who has achieved revenue and demonstrates a commitment to growing their venture. Based on these criteria, the Clayton Mooney Award was awarded to Julio Delgadillo of Buoyclub.


Thanks to a generous donation by Kurt and Kristyn Tjaden, we were able to provide five CYstarters with $1,000 Mystery Judge Awards. Kurt Tjaden is the President of HNI International. Five mystery judges were planted in the audience at Demo Day and tasked with choosing one CYstarter whose pitch resonated with them most. Their identities were a mystery to the cohort until the very end of the presentations. In the end, Adrienne Greenwald of VentureNet Iowa chose Micah Walker of Stratus Throws; Laura Jolly, Dean of Iowa State University’s College of Human Sciences, selected D’essence Morris of HUSTLR ESSENCE; Anthony Swindell, former CYstarter and now Director of gBETA at gener8tor, awarded Miranda Keith of Tiny Joy Creations; Donna Ramaeker-Zahn, ISU Startup Factory’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence, chose Julio Delgadillo of Buoyclub; and David Spalding, Dean of Iowa State University’s Debbie and Jerry Ivy College of Business, selected Jassma’ray Johnson of Simply Sámone.


We are grateful for the collaborations and financial support of the Iowa State University colleges and our economic development partners. Overall, it was a phenomenal day with incredible support for our CYstarters. We are so grateful to each and everyone who attended to support our students.