The Innovators Podcast

ISU Research Park

The Innovators Podcast was started in 2020 to highlight some of the incredible people in Ames, at Iowa State, and in the Research Park. Hosted by Research Park staff, the Podcast aims to share the stories of innovation and entrepreneurship that often go unseen in our communities.

All Episodes

In episode 27 of the Innovator podcast, we talked with Billi Hunt, the Executive Director of the America’s Cultivation Corridor. She is a long time member of the Ames community having graduated from Iowa State University in 1993. Following graduation, she worked at Dupont as a Government Affairs Manager. She worked there for 20 years until she began at Cultivation Corridor. In the episode, we talked about her job experience, what the Corridor does, and how they invest in innovation. This was a fun episode and we hope you enjoy! Keep a lookout for an upcoming episode with another Cultivation Corridor employee this winter.

Dec 1

31 min 43 sec

On this episode of The Innovators Podcast, we interviewed former ISURP intern, Abigail Miller. Abigail graduated from Iowa State University in May, 2020 with a Bachelor's degree in marketing. She is currently working at Ag Certain Industries as business analyst and talent coordinator and at OEI as a community coordinator. In this episode, we talked about Abigail's past internships along with her current work experience. She has had some incredible opportunities and many of them have stemmed from her time as an intern here at the Park. Enjoy this podcast and hearing from one of the many Iowa State University Research Park success stories.

Oct 26

28 min 43 sec

In this episode, we talked with Katherine Richardson Bruna. Katherine is a professor at Iowa State University in the School of Education. She has a background in educational anthropology. Katherines newest project is a comic book teaching about the unknowns of mosquitoes, titled "Mosquitos Suck".Every day, Katherine has the opportunity to use understandings gained through her training as a social scientist to strive to improve in a practical sense the quality of human experience in our partner communities.More specifically, with a commitment to place- and people-based, responsive, and responsible practice developed through her background in educational anthropology, she works with schools, community-based organizations, youth, and families to create programs and processes that promote human potential through a focus on transformative learning and living.To contact her, email her atkrbruna@iastate.eduThanks for listening!

Sep 24

42 min 13 sec

In our final Cystarter Students episode, we were joined by Eric Diaz and Abraham Polonia-Suarez, the creators of City City Bang Bang, as well as Jacob Schmieder, the creator of Varsity Instrument Lights. City City Bang Bang is a company whose goal is to act as a middle man between the government and citizens. Varsity Instrument Lights is a company that creates lights that activate based on the sound that an instrument plays. This episode took place one week prior to their Demo Day, so both groups are very excited about promoting their businesses. In the episode we talked about their experience in Cystarters, more in depth about their businesses and their plans for the future. Thank you for listening and enjoy!

Aug 9

49 min 46 sec

In this episode, we will wrap up our Cystarters series podcasts! We sat down with incoming sophomore at Iowa State University, Kendra Boone. She is the creator of STGMA, a personal care company bringing awareness to the mental health issues that college students and young adults face. Her products promote self-care and create an informative and supportive online community that will help end the stigma surrounding mental health. Kendra shares details of her vision for STGMA as well as her experience as a Cystarter Student.   Follow along with Kendra's journey through her website: Home | STGMA ( or on Instagram: @stgmaskin

Jul 28

28 min 36 sec

On this episode, we interviewed Sara Wollner. Sara is the Regional Team Leader and Global Planner at Syngenta Seeds here at the Iowa State University Research Park. Syngenta is an agriculture company that sells plant seeds to farmers. Sara talks about her road to get where she is today and dives into her experience as a woman in a male-driven field. She is a mother and during the episode she talks about balancing life as a leader at work and raising a child at home. The past year brought many challenges including the pandemic and the Derecho storm, Sara details how she dealt with each new obstacle and how Syngenta has moved forward as a company. We enjoyed the conversation and thank you for listening.   Learn more about Syngenta through our tenant directory: Syngenta Crop Protection | ISU Research Park (  

Jul 26

24 min 15 sec

This episode continues our Cystarters Students series. We sat down with Gabe Huinker and Isaac Bradford. Gabe is the founder of RecHelper, a website that supports gyms and personal trainers in their planning, financial, or organizational structures. has recently launched and Gabe is excited to build his clientele starting with Iowa State University. Isaac has created the website His goal is to educate people on plant and aquatic life using his uniquely-designed hydroponic system. He aims to introduce his product into schools for more hands on science education. Listen to hear more about their companies, their experiences in the Cystarters program, and where they are looking to take their businesses.

Jul 22

34 min 15 sec

On episode 20 of The Innovators Podcast, we sat down with the Regional Director of the Iowa Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Lisa Shimkat. She has worked with SBDC for over seven years and is very experienced in the innovative areas of small business success in Iowa. In this podcast, Lisa and I discuss her career, advice for students, and her experience with mentorship. To learn more about the SBDC and the services they offer, check out their website: Home - Iowa Small Business Development Centers (

Jul 20

39 min 40 sec

In this episode, we sat down with Jo Allen and Mason Weh. They are both a part of this year's Cystarters Program. Jo is the founder of her business, Jovisuals, a photography company that aims to uplift and empower BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals. Through her photography, she can offer an inclusive and creative experience for all clients. Mason is the founder of Mentoring for Change. His mission is to build, educate, and inspire the next generation of youth to be the change they hope to see in the world. He works with industry and community leaders to provide young adults a chance to use their talents to create opportunities. He plans to make after-school youth art and sports program that will create an opportunity for mentorship. Listen to hear more about their companies and their experience throughout Cystarters.   Follow their social media and website: @Jovisuals Jovisuals - PHOTOGRAPHY ( @mentoringchange Mentoring For Change-Home

Jul 16

24 min 7 sec

On episode 19, we met with Ethan Pitt. Ethan is a Technology and Innovation Start-up Advisor for America's SBDC Iowa. He is a very experienced individual with an excitement for innovation in the technology space. Listen to hear more about what SBDC does and what role Ethan plays as an advisor.   To learn more about SBDC:

Jul 12

34 min 43 sec

On this episode, we interviewed four members of this years Cystarters Program: Cole Schumacher, Isaac Meyerholz, Carissa Moyna, and Andrew Frank. Cole and Isaac are the founders of Renew Bamboo. They sell hand-crafted bamboo straws made by women in India. They are working to empower workers and have a focus on sustainability. Carissa and Andrew have founded Core Living Compost, a compost pickup and delivery service. They are doing their best in the effort against climate change. Listen more to hear about their experience in Cystarters, more about their businesses, and their plans for the future. Be sure to check out and We apologize for any issues with the audio. There were technical difficulties while recording, but it will be fixed moving forward!

Jul 7

32 min 40 sec

On this episode, we interviewed Max Mussell, a 2017 graduate of Iowa State University. Currently, Max is in the process of launching an app for at-home-grooming services called, Updo. Listen to hear more about the future of the beauty industry and about how Max developed this product. Also, be sure to follow Updo on social media: @updo and on Spotify/Apple as "The Updo Podcast"

Jun 9

44 min 20 sec

On this episode, we interview senior ISURP interns, Carter Mumm, Matt Stenzel, Tori Novotny, and Tavin Hays. They share some of their favorite memories of working at The Research Park as well as advice to others and plans after graduation. Each intern was able to mention a few mentors that they have had during their time as an intern and a student at Iowa State University. Hear their stories and learn about what it takes to be a successful ISURP intern.

Apr 23

48 min 7 sec

On this episode we interview Chris James, founder of True 360, a company that creates virtual reality experiences for zoos and aquariums. Chris has been active in various Iowa State University entrepreneurship programs like CyStarters, pitch competitions, and the ISU Startup Factory. It was awesome to hear Chris's story.

Apr 13

28 min 56 sec

On episode 13, we get to sit down with Shane Rothlisberger. Shane is a full-time pastor, full-time father (he will soon have 9 kids!), and part-time athlete. He started his company, Versalifts, after seeing a need in the functional fitness world. Versalifts' product is a raised-heel insert that can go in virtually any shoe to improve range of motion in squat movements.   Check out their website,, for more details. Enjoy the podcast!

Mar 23

36 min 31 sec

On this episode, we have the pleasure of hosting Diana Wright, Program Coordinator for the ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship. Diana's real world startup experience helps her create meaningful programs for students at ISU through the Pappajohn Center. We talk about a number of the programs offered at ISU and how students can get more involved! Enjoy!

Mar 18

27 min 8 sec

On this episode, we chat with Ray Schmidt, founder of Farm Story Meats. Farm Story Meats delivers fresh animal protein directly to customers' doors. Ray was inspired by his father's agricultural career. We get to talk about some of Ray's other adventures throughout his career, including Patches O Pumpkins.   We hope you enjoy this episode, thanks for listening!

Mar 12

25 min 27 sec

Priyankaa Krishnan is a user experience designer, learning experience designer, and educator. She has a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry and as an accidental entrepreneur. She is the founder of Cards For Women, Misfit Noodle and her newest venture How To Educator. She is skilled in Curriculum Development, Design Thinking, User Experience, Graphic Design, Teaching Pedagogies, Educational Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Public Relations.   Priyankaa is currently pursuing a doctoral degree double major in Human-Computer Interaction and Educational Technology. She has a bachelor's and Master's in Industrial Design from Iowa State University. People from diverse backgrounds have informed her desire to create designs where people can share their experiences, find new strategies, empower each other, and expand dreamers' opportunities.

Mar 9

31 min 53 sec

On episode 9, we get to chat with Tom Swartwood, Associate Professor of Practice of Entrepreneurship in the Ivy College of Business and Inaugural Entrepreneurship Fellow for the Pappajohn Center. Tom held positions in law and investment banking before making the move to Iowa and starting his teaching career. We learn all about Tom's background and some of the exciting programs he works with now.   Thanks for listening!

Mar 4

58 min 47 sec

On episode 8, we chat with Jeff Gillis, Kierste Miller, and Greg Boruff. They are the team at Stockguard, a startup that is changing the way the livestock industry thinks about insurance. Jeff and Kierste started the company early last year and recently brought Greg onto the team. Each brings a unique perspective to the business- Jeff worked on the Google Analytics team, Kierste is an epidemiologist and data scientist, and Greg has worked in the ag industry for a number of years after graduating from ISU.   It was exciting to hear about their lean startup mentality, as well as the impactful investment from the ISURP based Ag Startup Engine. Thanks for listening!

Mar 1

37 min 8 sec

On episode 7 of The Innovators Podcast, we get to know student body President Morgan Fritz and Vice President Jacob Schrader. Morgan and Jacob are coming up on the end of their Presidential terms this spring, so we wanted to hear what they had to say about their time in student government, learn about some of their hobbies, and pick their brains about innovation on campus.   Morgan is a junior studying political science, and Jacob is a senior in the Department of Economics. Both Morgan and Jacob got involved in student government early in their Iowa State careers. They give us a glimpse into a day in the life of a student body Presidential team.   Thanks for listening to the podcast. We appreciate all of the recommendations we have received. If there is anyone you know who may be a good guest, connect with us at!

Feb 19

28 min 20 sec

On episode 6, we host Kenny Kyle, General Manger of the TMC Student Training Center located right here in the Research Park. The TMC Student Training Center hosts around 20 interns every year during the summer, fall, and spring semesters. This episode will really appeal to students who might be interested in an internship or career with TMC!   TMC is recognized as an industry leader in flatbed transportation. Their Ames office was opened in 2017 and has since hosted dozens of student interns year-round. Kenny has worked with various universities expanding TMC's internship opportunities. His background in running his own businesses make him a great Innovators Podcast guest!   We loved hearing about some of the great things TMC interns get to work on. If you'd like to learn more, check out their website at!

Feb 15

49 min 45 sec

Episode 5 of The Innovators Podcast features Rick Sanders, President and Director of the Iowa State University Research Park. Rick began his time at the Park in May of 2019 after stints in county government and athletics administration. Rick gave us some insight into his background in leadership that sets the stage for his work with the ISURP, including his mantra of "finding wins for as many people as possible."   In this episode, we explore what makes the ISU Research Park great and what to look forward to in the future! Rick talks about the interconnected ecosystem of innovation in Ames, including (but not limited to) the Ames Chamber of Commerce, Iowa State University, and programs like the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship which you will recognize from our last episode with Judi Eyles. In addition, Rick shares some personal stories of how the Research Park impacted his own family before he ever took the job.   To make this podcast even better, Lehr Thorson joins us from the ISURP intern crew to co-host. Lehr has been behind the scenes thus far, but will be a regular on The Innovators Podcast from now on! We hope you enjoy.

Feb 4

44 min 22 sec

Episode 4 features Judi Eyles, Director of the ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship. Judi has led the Center since its inception and also directs ISU's CyBiz Lab, a student consulting group. Some main topics from the podcast include CyStarters (a summer-long incubator for students), CyBiz Lab, and some exciting news from the Startup Factory, ISU's 52-week incubator program. To learn more about the Center, it's programs, or its staff, check out their website:

Jan 25

38 min 57 sec

On episode 3 of The Innovators Podcast, we chat with Clayton Mooney, co-founder of Nebullam. Nebullam is an indoor farming company located right here in the Research Park.   After spending time at Iowa State and in Europe playing professional poker, Clayton returned to Ames and started his first company, KinoSol. KinoSol manufactures solar food dehydrators for farmer in developing countries. After his time with KinoSol, Clayton co-founded Nebullam, the main topic of our conversation. Check out Nebullam's website at   About The Innovators Podcast: The Innovators Podcast was started in 2020 to highlight some of the incredible people in Ames, at Iowa State, and in the Research Park. Hosted by Research Park staff, the Podcast aims to share the stories of innovation and entrepreneurship that often go unseen in our communities.

Dec 2020

33 min 12 sec

For episode 2 of The Innovators Podcast, we host Jim Fay, ISU alum, inventor of the Diaper Genie, and serial entrepreneur. Jim was the father of Huggies Pullups and Huggies Baby Wipes while working at Kimberly-Clark and later founded the company that invented the Diaper Genie (the #1 non-disposable baby product in the U.S.).   Jim has returned to Iowa State to teach classes in the Engineering and Business Colleges, in addition to his new startup venture, “Fin and Viola”, located right here in the Research Park.   Alison stepped in to host this episode; she and Jim talked about everything from entrepreneurial inspiration to cycling. Check it out and let us know what you think. Be on the lookout for our podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify soon!   About The Innovators Podcast: The Innovators Podcast was started in 2020 to highlight some of the incredible people in Ames, at Iowa State, and in the Research Park. Hosted by Research Park staff, the Podcast aims to share the stories of innovation and entrepreneurship that often go unseen in our communities.

Dec 2020

57 min 44 sec

On episode 1 of The Innovators Podcast, we host Alison Doyle, Chief Relationship Officer at the Iowa State University Research Park. Alison talks about her background, goals for the podcast, and why Iowa State University is the place to be for Innovation!   About The Innovators Podcast: The Innovators Podcast was started in 2020 to highlight some of the incredible people in Ames, at Iowa State, and in the Research Park. Hosted by Research Park staff, the Podcast aims to share the stories of innovation and entrepreneurship that often go unseen in our communities.

Nov 2020

10 min 59 sec