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Women of Influence 2023 Honoree: Lisa Shimkat

State director, America’s Small Business Development Centers Iowa


Click here to watch Lisa’s video

Education: Associate of Arts from Iowa Central Community College; bachelor’s and MBA from Iowa State University

Hometown: Humboldt

Family: Ed Shimkat, husband; Alex Shimkat and Dylan Frascht, daughter and son-in-law; Trevor and Zoey Schorzmann, son and daughter-in-law; Eddie and Katherine Shimkat, son and daughter-in-law; Lea Schorzmann, daughter; Fynlee and Beckett Frascht, grandchildren

Hobbies: Reading, bicycling, mentoring others and volunteering

Words to live by: Show up and do not give up.

Three notable accomplishments: 

  • I have served on the Fort Dodge School Board for 10 years; navigating through COVID and leadership changes has been challenging.
  • I served on the Security and Exchange Commission’s advisory committee for small and emerging companies representing a voice for rural areas and the Midwest.
  • Our family has grown and we have been able to spend more time with family and our grandchildren creating memories.

How have you helped improve organizations you’ve been a part of? 

Throughout my participation in various organizations, I have consistently aimed to delve deeper and comprehend the underlying motives driving them. Understanding an organization’s purpose has been crucial in order for me to identify which skills I possess that could contribute to their cause. Given my financial background, I have frequently provided assistance in the areas of budgeting and establishing long-term sustainability to enable the continuation of their mission. I approach the operational aspects of an organization as a complex puzzle, analyzing each piece to determine the necessary actions required for success and maximizing their impact. By aligning my expertise with the goals of the organization, I strive to create tangible and meaningful improvements that support their overarching objectives.

What motivates you?

I am motivated by a combination of personal and professional factors that have shaped my journey. Firstly, my academic accomplishments, including obtaining an MBA, have provided me with a strong foundation and drive to excel in the business world. As a Hall of Fame recipient for Iowa Central Community College, I have been recognized for my dedication and commitment to my educational pursuits. Beyond my individual achievements, what truly motivates me is the opportunity to make a positive impact on organizations and projects. I thrive on solving complex problems and organizing disorganized systems or projects, as it allows me to apply my strategic thinking and analytical skills. Witnessing the transformation and growth afterward is immensely rewarding. Equally important, I find great joy in teaching and mentoring others to succeed. Guiding individuals to unlock their full potential and witnessing their personal and professional growth is incredibly fulfilling. Whether it’s sharing my knowledge, providing guidance or supporting their aspirations, being a mentor brings me a sense of purpose and satisfaction. One additional aspect that sets me apart is my ability to balance a blended family and a demanding professional career. Despite the challenges of working long hours and assisting with our family business, I have found immense pride and joy in raising my children. Now that they are grown, their happiness and success are my greatest motivators, and I am grateful to see each of them finding their own paths and excelling in what they love. Ultimately, it is this combination of personal fulfillment, professional growth and the ability to contribute to the success of others that truly motivates me. I believe in the power of perseverance, continuous learning, and making a positive difference in both the business world and within my own family. 

Is there a memory or experience from your formative years that continues to influence your approach to life? 

A significant event that continues to shape my perspective on life occurred after my college years. During that time, I received invaluable support from a mentor who imparted three fundamental principles for achieving success. The first principle emphasized the importance of lifelong learning and the constant pursuit of knowledge. It taught me that the process of education should never cease, as it enables personal growth and keeps one adaptable in an evolving world. The second principle that he stressed was the significance of networking. The third principle was that you never need to be the smartest person in the room, but rather it is crucial to recognize the value of surrounding oneself with a diverse range of individuals and leveraging their expertise. This principle reinforced the significance of collaboration and seeking guidance from those who possess the answers. These lessons have profoundly influenced my approach to life, instilling a thirst for knowledge and a proactive mindset when it comes to networking and seeking guidance.

What piece of advice would you give to others who hope to make a difference in their communities?

Making a difference in your community starts with a simple yet powerful first step: showing up. Although it may seem easy, it is often the most difficult task to convince others to take. By showing up, you are already surpassing many who remain passive and never move forward. The act of physically being present demonstrates your commitment and willingness to contribute. Once you have shown up, the second step is to identify your passion. Find something that truly resonates with you, a cause or issue that you genuinely care about. Look for local opportunities to get involved in activities related to your passion. Remember, even a small stone thrown into a pond creates ripples that spread throughout. Consider the needs and complaints within your community. Focus on being a problem-solver, as anyone can get caught up in the challenges, but true leaders and change-makers concentrate on finding solutions and taking action. Take inspiration from your own experience. As you become more involved, you will find that other groups and organizations may approach you for additional projects. Embrace these opportunities, as they offer chances to broaden your impact and connect with like-minded individuals. Remember to stay focused on solutions and keep your attention on the bigger picture. Moving the needle and truly helping your community requires a commitment to effecting positive change. You can become a leader and change-maker in your community, improve the lives of those around you – but first you must show up.

Tell us about a time you failed (or at least you did from your own perception). 

Reflecting on the past, I find myself revisiting moments where I felt like a failure as a parent. There were occasions when other moms prepared elaborate treats for the treat bucket while my children settled for juice boxes. I recall the kindergarten teacher assigning me the simple task of bringing napkins for the entire year, assuming I was too busy to contribute more. And there were times when my children longed for another bedtime story, but my exhaustion prevented me from staying awake. These instances evoked a sense of failure within me, yet they also taught me invaluable lessons about growth. I realized the need to stop comparing myself to others, to redefine my understanding of a wonderful childhood, and to extend grace to myself. By forgiving myself, I could genuinely appreciate the journey and acknowledge that my children are truly remarkable. Despite the occasional hiccups, they displayed resilience and embraced the positive aspects of our story, demonstrating their own capacity for grace.

What is a favorite book, show, movie, podcast, etc. that you’d encourage others to consume? 

My favorite book and movie series is “The Lord of the Rings.” There are truly so many lessons within the pages.

How do you try to find balance and joy in the many activities you take part in? 

Finding balance and joy in the many activities we engage in is a personal journey that varies for each individual. In my experience, I have come to realize that the concept of “work-life balance” can be misleading and unrealistic. Instead, I believe it is essential for each person to determine what is truly important to them and what brings them happiness. It is important to be deliberate in our actions and focus on doing things that bring us joy and move us closer to our passions. By aligning our actions with our values and goals, we can find a sense of purpose and fulfillment. However, it is equally important to bring others along with us on this journey, sharing our joy and making a positive impact in their lives as well. Sometimes it can be tempting to complain or shift our focus when faced with challenges or setbacks. I have found that embracing the difficulties and viewing them as opportunities for growth can lead to a sense of joy and accomplishment. Learning from what some may perceive as failures can be a valuable experience. In my own pursuit of balance and joy, I have discovered that letting go of the notion of balance itself has been amazing. Instead of striving for an elusive balance, I had to focus on embracing the different aspects of my life and finding joy in each of them. I have learned to let go of the need to compete with others (most of the time), especially in areas like being “mom of the year.” Comparisons often lead to unnecessary pressure and hinder our ability to find joy and contentment. Self-forgiveness plays a crucial role in maintaining balance and experiencing joy. Recognizing that perfection is unattainable and accepting ourselves with our imperfections allows us to find peace and be kind to ourselves. By forgiving ourselves for not meeting unrealistic expectations, we create space for growth, happiness and ultimately balance. While I may not have all the answers, I am continuously evolving and moving in a direction that resonates with me and works for me. By prioritizing my happiness, being intentional in my actions, embracing challenges and practicing self-forgiveness, I have been able to find a greater sense of balance and joy in the activities I am a part of. I will be honest, though, and admit that I still have to work on this because stress, life and other pressures can derail us momentarily but I keep reminding myself that it is OK.

What is one of your guilty pleasures? 

I like to binge-watch sci-fi movies.

What’s something many people don’t know about you? 

Growing up, I had a pet calf named Cheebie and would walk it around the farm.

Anything else you want to add about yourself? 

My career journey has been truly blessed, filled with both challenges and triumphs. Whenever faced with obstacles, I took the initiative to seek help and support. There were numerous instances where I boldly proclaimed, “I can do that,” even when I didn’t possess all the knowledge or skills required at the time. It was through these leaps that I discovered my capacity to adapt, learn and grow. My success is not solely attributed to my individual efforts. I owe a significant portion of it to the incredible individuals I have surrounded myself with. Their presence has provided me with unwavering strength, inspiration and guidance. By embracing the power of collaboration and drawing upon the collective expertise of those around me, I have been able to overcome challenges and achieve remarkable outcomes.

What do you consider the greatest barrier to gender equity?

The lack of women’s opportunities for leadership roles can be considered one of the greatest barriers to gender equity. While progress has been made in addressing gender inequality, there are still significant disparities in terms of representation and advancement of women in various fields and sectors. Additionally, there is often a lack of mentorship, sponsorship and networking opportunities for women, which can impede their professional growth. Women may face challenges in finding role models and mentors who can guide them through their careers, provide support and advocate for their advancement, which is why I am so passionate about encouraging other women to step up and support women. 

Who is an empowering woman that you look up to? 

Helen Miller. Helen helped me when I originally began my career. She was a force when she entered a room and she always was encouraging and most importantly, she was real. I appreciated her support and realize now how impactful she was in my life and my career.

What will it take for women to achieve gender parity in leadership positions? 

Providing mentorship and sponsorship programs can help women navigate their careers and overcome challenges. Showing the advantages of diversity in leadership to not only the organization’s culture but their bottom line. It begins with us. We need to create those opportunities and women must support women. That is truly a key to the solution for the future of achieving gender parity.

What support would be most helpful for business leaders to provide for their women and nonbinary employees? 

Be intentional – to increase a company’s success and employee satisfaction, make sure to create equal opportunities, pay equity, employee resource groups to provide support and mentorship, and development opportunities. There also needs to be safe communication channels to offer input and ideas for growth in not only the company’s success but also how to continuously improve the company for all individuals to thrive.

Fill in the blank: If gender equity were achieved, the world would look like ____________.

A place where we do not ask what it would look like but instead, what does it feel like for all and how does it support all without needing to even say a word. Overall, achieving gender equity would result in a world where all individuals feel valued, supported and empowered, regardless of their gender. It would create a society that celebrates diversity and promotes the well-being and fulfillment of every individual, without the need for additional discussions or explanations.

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