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Release: June 9, 1999

UI entrepreneurial program offers mentors to small businesses

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Small business owners who need help solving specialized business problems but who can't afford high-cost consultants have a source for quality advice: a team of mentors available through the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa Henry B. Tippie College of Business.

The Mentor Program is designed to match small business owners with experienced business people who can provide personalized, one-on-one consulting services. Mentors include small business owners, entrepreneurs, executives, lawyers, accountants and faculty who, through their years of experience, have faced nearly every situation practicing small business owners are dealing with, says Robin Simeonsson of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.

"Small business owners often don't have the training or the staff to deal most effectively with some of the situations that come up in the course of running their businesses," said Simeonsson. "Sometimes business people need help with a very specific, targeted problem and would like to talk to a seasoned professional who has dealt with a similar problem. Sometimes they need a sounding board for ideas and concerns.

"Whatever the situation, the Mentor Program can give them high quality advice on a range of issues."

Based on a program at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland, the Mentor Program currently has 40 people available to serve as consultants to businesses. The program is one of several programs for small business owners and entrepreneurs operated by the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.

Before matches are made, the Center's staff pre-screen mentors and business owners to help ensure a good fit between the mentor and the company. Mentors and business people make their own arrangements for meeting times, schedules, etc. There is no required length of participation in the program, which is offered free of charge.

One example of how the program helped a local business and the community is Ibrahim Al-Khattat's experience with Jim Larew of Larew Law Offices in setting up a non-profit organization to support an environmental education project with three local schools. Al-Khattat’s Sustainable Science International, a engineering firm based in the UI's Technology Innovation Center, is working with students to construct a 60-foot pedestrian bridge, using normally wasted local timber resources.

Louise Rauh, a partner at Studiolo art gallery in Iowa City, partnered with Dean Price of McGladrey and Pullen to fine-tune the gallery's accounting practices. Price also offered practical advice on marketing and targeting customers.

"Participating in the Mentor Program has been an extremely positive and informative experience for Studiolo, and we would not hesitate to recommend it to other entrepreneurial ventures," Rauh said.

For more information, contact the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, 108 Pappajohn Business Building (PBB), Suite S160, the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1000 or call (319) 335-1022.