Winners announced in the 18th Annual John Pappajohn Iowa Entrepreneurial Venture Competition

Written by Lindsey Murray, Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship

(From left to right) Allen Bierbaum, Sue Gehling, Russel Karim, Rebecca Arellano, Andrew Guillemette, and Darin Heisterkamp.

AMES, Iowa (August 28, 2023) – The 18th annual John Pappajohn Iowa Entrepreneurial Venture Competition came to a close on Friday, August 25. From a pool of more than 50 submissions, thirteen teams advanced to the final presentation round. The competition winners were announced at a luncheon held at Iowa State University in Ames.

The awards ceremony kicked off with remarks acknowledging the late John and Mary Pappajohn and their generous support of entrepreneurial efforts across Iowa. Their legacy was celebrated by highlighting the impact of the five Pappajohn Centers as well as the Pappajohn Iowa Entrepreneurial Venture Competition across Iowa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Following the presentations, a panel of judges consisting of representatives from the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers, the Small Business Development Center, VentureNet Iowa, and the Entrepreneurial Development Center deliberated over the top three award recipients. The winners include:

Dhakai received first place and was awarded $40,000.  Dhakai enables eCommerce and promotional apparel brands to move from idea to final delivered products ethically, sustainably, and cost-effectively through a single technology platform. Dhakai streamlines the apparel sourcing process by automating design, sampling, quotations, production matchmaking, communication, auditing, approvals, payment processing, production tracking, and logistics.

Russel Karim – Founder

Classroom Clinic came in second place and was awarded $25,000Classroom Clinic provides school districts with timely and convenient access to children’s mental health services using telehealth and related technologies. Classroom Clinic utilizes a proprietary technology platform that not only allows mental health providers to efficiently deliver care right where the students are located, but also allows mental health providers to connect, communicate, and collaborate with educators on behalf of students in need.

Sue Gehling – Founder

Allen Bierbaum – CEO

Enceinte Health received third place and was awarded $15,000.  Enceinte Health has developed a total hardware/software solution to automate the body weight, bowel, and bladder charting process of resident data in nursing homes after every toileting event. Direct care staff have real-time data access to monitor and address health changes early and prevent unnecessary hospitalizations. The universal retrofit kit easily attaches to commodes that nursing homes already own, charts three essential health indicators, and collects data both in the bathroom and bedside.

Andrew Guillemette – President and Founder

First-place winner Russel Karim described his experience participating in the competition and what this funding means for the future of Dhakai, “This competition allowed us to showcase our progress, growth, and to really polish our business…This check for $40,000 will allow us to extend our runway. We will be able to build newer products, and this funding will propel us forward into the next phase of business.”

This year, an additional $4,000 was awarded to each of five companies that received honorable mentions. “We had a really impressive group overall,” explained Judi Eyles, Director of the Iowa State University Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship. “We normally advance eight companies to the finals, but the quality of the businesses was so significant that we accepted 13 companies into the final round of the competition.” The honorable mention award recipients include AugmENT (Michelle Higgins), Easy2Show (Jill Ihrke), PVpallet (Philip Schwarz), Repaint Studios (Billie Kay Asmus), and Stock Cropper Inc. (Zack Smith).

The John Pappajohn Iowa Entrepreneurial Venture Competition, along with support from the Iowa Economic Development Authority, has invested $1.2 million into participating businesses since 2006 and is a true celebration of entrepreneurship across Iowa. The event is a collaborative effort executed by the Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers located at Iowa State University, Drake University, North Iowa Area Community College, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa.

The next John Pappajohn Iowa Entrepreneurial Venture Competition will be announced in February 2024. For additional information about the competition, visit