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Pi515 celebrates Girls Entrepreneurship Summit, honors John Pappajohn

Joy Su pitches her company, Potholian, at the Pi515 Day of Innovation event. She was awarded $2,000 as the winner of the 2023 Girls Entrepreneurship Summit. Photo by Sarah Bogaards

Pi515 concluded its 2023 Girls Entrepreneurship Summit on Thursday during its Day of Innovation event at Mainframe Studios and honored John Pappajohn, who died April 22.

For six weeks, 15 girls and young women attended sessions once a week to learn about entrepreneurship and develop their own business ideas with the help of community mentors.

“We know 12 hours is not enough to teach everything about entrepreneurship, but what we believe at Pi515 is that the future of work really depends on young people being empowered and ready to take on whatever challenges that are going to come,” Pi515 Executive Director Nancy Mwirotsi said.

Mwirotsi said Pappajohn was a sponsor of the Girls Entrepreneurship Summit and a supporter of Pi515’s mission. In 2020, he committed $100,000 to the organization.

“Because of him, we’re going to celebrate some girls today,” Mwirotsi said.

New this year, the top three pitches were presented again at the event and judged live. Joy Su was named the winner of the 2023 Girls Entrepreneurship Summit for her business idea, Potholian, which combines paper scraps and concrete to form a new material used to create home decor. Other cash awards given to participants included:

Second place – $1,500 to Peyton Twelmeyer for Chaos to Control, a planner designed for people with ADHD.
Third place – $1,000 to Ealaf Adam for Stroom, a subscription-based streaming service.
Honorable mention – $750 to Nardeen Sabri.
Judges award – $500 to Moriah Long.

All other participants received $350 each.

The event’s keynote speaker was Yen Verhoven, president and founder of Qi Learning Research Group, based in Ames. Verhoven recounted times she felt like giving up and her path to building resilience. A key step was realizing she needed to find her “why.”

She said the advice that helped her through was, “no matter what happens on the outside … you have a strong, unbreakable core, and that core is who you are.”

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Connie Wimer

Pi515 also gave out its Community Trailblazer and Impact and Legacy awards. The Community Trailblazer and Impact awards were awarded to Meta, the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers, Principal Financial Group and John Deere Intelligent Solutions Group for their support of Pi515.

Connie Wimer, chairman of Business Publications Corp., was recognized as this year’s Legacy Award winner.

“I thought I understood what this program was, but sitting here tonight visiting with some of the students, seeing the confidence of the presenters is just overwhelming,” Wimer said.

She remembered John Pappajohn and shared some of her “secrets to success”: Never lose your integrity, dream big and be OK with feeling a little afraid, and do something every day, big or small, to help another young woman.


Sarah Diehn

Sarah Bogaards is a staff writer at Business Record. She covers innovation & technology, HR & education.

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