CYstarters Spotlight: Ellie Lashier

By Lindsey Murray | ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship

CYstarters Spotlight: A 14-part series highlighting student entrepreneurs pursuing their business ventures as part of the CYstarters 2024 summer cohort. Through this program, students have the unique opportunity to prioritize the development of their own startup or business idea. Each individual receives $6,500 and access to resources such as mentorship, networking opportunities, and educational sessions on entrepreneurship and business startup.

Ellie Lashier: Finding Harmony in Entrepreneurship and Music

If you’ve ever walked the Iowa State University campus, you may have heard a chorus of bells ringing out from the Campanile located on central campus. Have you ever wondered who sits in the 110-foot-tall building ringing the 50 bells around noon each day? Is it even a person, or simply a recording? Ellie Lashier, a senior at ISU and member of CYstarters cohort 9 shared the fun fact that she was trained as a Carillon student and played the campanile bells for two years when asked about her background in music.

Ellie Lashier’s life is an intricate blend of music and academia, with an entrepreneurial spirit winding through her experience at Iowa State University. A senior double majoring in Religious Studies and Music with a minor in Entrepreneurship, Ellie is not at a loss for things to fill her schedule. This summer, she had the opportunity to add CYstarters and the pursuit of a business to her list.

Growing up in Johnston, Iowa, Ellie always had a love for the Cyclones. Her decision to attend Iowa State was heavily influenced by the university’s prestigious piano studio. “Dr. Huang (associate professor of Music – Piano) is an incredible pianist, and I really wanted to learn from her mentorship, which is why I ultimately chose Iowa State, and it’s been the best choice,” Ellie explains. This choice has undoubtedly paid off as she thrives in a community that nurtures her dual loves of music and learning.

Ellie began as a pianist in first grade, marking fourteen years of dedicated piano practice. Her musical education is extensive, including participation in choirs, orchestras, and jazz bands, though her primary focus is classical piano. Outside of campus, she contributes to the Ames and Nevada communities as a church pianist for several congregations. In even a short conversation with Ellie, it’s easy to see that playing and making music is at the core of who she is as a person.

A unique highlight of Ellie’s musical journey at Iowa State is her experience as a Carillon student, playing the iconic set of bells in the ISU Campanile under Dr. Tam’s guidance. She even had the opportunity to play at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, which has been a highlight of her time at ISU.

Ellie came from a family of entrepreneurs, but never considered herself as one because she preferred to pursue the arts and her creative outlets. Since her freshman year, Ellie has been teaching piano lessons and knew early on that she had a desire to open her own studio someday. When Ellie connected with the Pappajohn Center her junior year, and after encouragement from Megan Graettinger, assistant director of the Pappajohn Center, she finally understood that this business was a worthwhile entrepreneurial pursuit. What came from Ellie’s realization is Joyful Melodies.

Ellie’s insight into the market gap for continuous, long-term music instruction for young children to adolescents inspired her to create a solution. “I really want to equip students to be successful musicians, but also to love what they are doing, to have fun, and to engage with other students, with me as a teacher, and ultimately with the piano in a new way,” she says.

When asked what challenges she has faced in the development of her business, Ellie acknowledged the obstacle of needing a physical space to launch her studio. However, the CYstarters program has provided her with the mentorship and resources to create a plan and help her prioritize what she can work on now while still a student so that she will be ready to launch post-graduation. “What’s unique about my situation compared to other students is that I’m preparing to be my own boss and start my own business…The next steps I’m taking look different than many of my peers. Having the chance to prepare for those steps now while I’m still in school has been a huge blessing,” she notes.

Ellie hopes to gain new business skills and insights during her summer spent in the CYstarters program, and her goals are clear: develop marketing materials, create a structured resource list, and finalize a two-semester curriculum that is engaging and pedagogically sound. Her curriculum aims to make music education interactive and fun, addressing the lack of engagement students experience with traditional music books.

Reflecting on her entrepreneurial journey, Ellie offered a bit of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: “Anybody can be an entrepreneur. It’s about seeing an issue and thinking, ‘I could solve that…I could do this better’. Don’t let fear or doubt hinder you from taking that first step.”

As Ellie prepares to launch Joyful Melodies post-graduation, she is confident that her experience in CYstarters, alongside an incredibly diverse and motivated cohort of student entrepreneurs, will benefit her in many ways. “My perception of what an entrepreneur is and what entrepreneurship looks like has changed since being in CYstarters. My perspective has broadened in a really positive way, and I can’t wait to see what the summer holds.”