Meet the Speakers

Meet The Speakers

Mikaela Kate Schaefer

Finding Your Why: Discovering Your Motivation for Your Ultimate Purpose

A speaker, writer, and coach, Mikaela Kate has invested 15+ years in developing leaders from college-age men and women and older.  Her past experience in ministry, leading multiple teams, and engaging in one on one development makes her highly qualified to coach teams and individuals to achieve their goals.  More recently she has worked in the manufacturing industry, the retail and clothing industry, with start-up businesses, independent sales teams, and entrepreneurs.

A graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in marketing, she discovered her love for strategic thinking, big picture ideas, and meeting people where they are at.  Mikaela currently lives in South Carolina.


Mo Collins

Women in Technology in the New Economy

Mo Collins is a New Economy specialist with more than 20 years of academic, non-profit and entrepreneurial experience. She speaks throughout the United States and Canada.

Collins served in progressive, senior-level roles at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) between 1997 and 2014. She raised more than $1M annually to support a wide array of entrepreneur support programs and launched multiple tech-based economic development initiatives. Many of these innovations have been scaled and licensed outside of Iowa, earning personal and programmatic awards from the International Economic Development Council (2014), the University Economic Development Association (2010, 2014), the Technology Association of Iowa, the Midwest Economic Development Council and Association of Small Business Development Centers.

Since 2010, Collins has trained and published for the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), the Economic Development institute (EDI) and a number of universities through the United States and Canada.  Mo resides in Des Moines, Iowa.


Julie Wright

Why They Buy: For High Achievers – Cracking the Code to Achieve Record Sales, Real Wealth, and Build Better Relationships

Julie Wright is a successful entrepreneur, writer, professional keynote and workshop speaker on money, marketing, and high performance mindsets, as well as a business coach and consultant.  She is Founder and CEO of Executive Financial Architects, with clients worldwide.

Julie has spoken to and worked with entrepreneurs, small business owners and professionals globally.  As creator of The 10X Profit Coach Program, she motivates, inspires and helps her clients increase their wealth by growing businesses, so that more communities grow and thrive.

CEO’s, Marketing & Sales Teams, Medical Residency programs, as well as Leadership and Entrepreneurial programs have experienced quick turn-around growth and results from working with Julie and her proven 10X Profit Methods.  She lives in Clear Lake, Iowa.


Christina Moffatt

Featured Lunch Keynote | Owner of Creme Cupcakes  + Dessert, Director of Small Business Resources

After owning Crème Cupcake + Dessert for 6 years and serving 2 years as Regional Director for Mid Iowa SBDC, Christina was approached to be the Director of Small Business Resources for the Greater Des Moines Partnership.  Around 90 percent of Greater Des Moines Partnership’s 6,000 Members are small businesses.  Part of Christina’s role is to make sure that the growth continues by helping small businesses and entrepreneurs be as strong as they can be through connection to resources in the area and programming for existing businesses.

Christina, along with her Crème Crew team of 16, also continues to own Crème Cupcake + Dessert.  From a dozen cupcakes for a single order to 2,100 desserts for the Vice President of China, or 4000 for Dam to Dam more and more people around are turning to Crème Cupcake + Dessert to find a way to satisfy their sweet tooth.

A graduate of DMACC, Iowa State University and University of Toledo CBA Program, Christina not only owns a small business and works for GDMP, she also devotes her time and talents to many local boards.  Christina has won several awards for her business including DSM Top List for Best Bakery, Cityview’s Best Dessert, Sweet Equality Best Dessert, Runner up for the Iowa Mixology Competition and runner up on The Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. Christina has also been featured in Pastry & Baking North America in the Regional Showcase and Baker in Focus. Christina is also a Business Record’s 40 Under Forty, 2012 Deb Dalziel Woman Entrepreneur Achievement Award Winner by the Iowa Small Business Development Center for the State of Iowa, 2013 Woman of the Year by the Metro Women’s Network, 2015 Women Business Owner of the Year by NAWBO Iowa, 2016 Finalist for Iowa Women Entrepreneurial Innovation and Leadership Award by Technology Association of Iowa, 2017 Outstanding Alumni of the Year by DMACC and 2018 Ivy Women in Business Inspiration Award by Iowa State University.

Meet the Investor Panel

Heidi Wessels

Featured Facilitator for Pitch for The Purse | Investor Panel

Heidi Wessels is a graduate of Drake University. Her career spans several industries including commercial construction, pre-architectural planning and non-profit management. She most recently spent 18 months cultivating membership and developing FIN Capital, Iowa’s first women’s angel investing network. Her passion is assisting small business owners and start-ups with development and growth planning.


Adrienne Greenwald

VentureNet Iowa

Adrienne is the Director of Communications and Public Relations at VentureNet Iowa where she shepherds entrepreneurs applying for state funding. She holds a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication from ISU and an MA in Strategic Communication from UNI. Her checkered past includes a variety of political campaigns, women’s health non-profits and teaching English abroad. She’s also an amateur yogi, cyclist, and dog lover.


John LaMarche

VentureNet Iowa

John LaMarche is Principal at VentureNet Iowa, an organization that works with companies commercializing innovative technologies. VentureNet, through its expert network, conducts focus groups that evaluate and assist businesses seeking funding from the Iowa Economic Development Authority. John serves on the boards of several technology companies and actively participates in Iowa ecosystem’s supporting early-stage companies.

Megan Milligan

Iowa Center for Economic Success

Megan is the current President & CEO at the Iowa Center for Economic Success, an organization which helps people grow, strenthen, and stablize their wealth.  Through education & resources, credit & lending programs, and advocacy & networking, the Center aims to help start and grow small businesses.  Work for Megan revolves around one singular mission: empowering people and teams to get and remain relevant in our changing world.


Susan Austin

FIN Capital

Susan has an educational background in Economics and Quantitative Methods, with an MBA in finance. She has worn many hats with experience in Corporate America, starting businesses and a non-profit, volunteering, and stay-at-home parent. Currently she’s an angel investor for Fin Capital, with an additional role as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. Susan’s exploring different avenues and life pivots as she joyfully strives for balanced living with an entrepreneurial lifestyle.

Ryan Gerhardy

Next Level Ventures

Ryan is a Senior Associate at Next Level Ventures, a $40M Iowa-focused venture capital fund. Prior to joining Next Level Ventures in 2014, Ryan worked over five years of in investment banking, equities research and project finance. Ryan is a member of Plains Angels and is actively involved in the startup community in Iowa. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Notre Dame Australia and a Masters of Finance from Curtin University.

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