Young Discusses Lighting, Entrepreneurship, and Rural Economic Growth with BIZ Attendees

“I had a real passion for changing the energy equation for the U.S. and the world,” explained Garrett Young, President and Founder of Prism Projection Inc. The passion had led him into plasma physics research, but government funded teams of scientists and engineers moved at what Young deemed a painfully slow pace, “I thought, this is going to take another 50 to 100 years and I’m not going to live that long,” he shared recently with the attendees of the March Business Innovation Zone Luncheon.

Wanting to see a more immediate impact of his work, Young went to work for a leading company in the field of light emitting diodes, commonly known as LEDs. He was immediately struck by the potential for this rapidly evolving technology to generate huge energy savings in lighting applications beyond the home. Again, however, his employer was unwilling to move at a pace to Young’s liking and the entrepreneurial spirit was upon him. Finding a partner and defining a niche where he felt he could develop a better solution, Young set out to build a company.  As it happened his partner’s uncle, Joe Crookham, already had a company, MUSCO lighting of Oskaloosa Iowa that was the perfect home for Young’s vision.

Young went to work for MUSCO as Director of Optoelectronic Engineering, developing some products for MUSCO while working on the first of more than 20 patents that would form the foundation of revolutionary LED lighting for broadcast studio applications.

“We started with the vision of sustainable lighting without compromise,” he says of the task they faced in converting an industry that was convinced that incandescent lighting was the only means to present the intensity and color quality demanded for studio lighting.

By 2008 Young was ready to launch Prism Projection and began to scour small town Iowa for a location. “I knew that a small town would see the connection between a high growth business and the future prosperity of the town,” he said noting that he wanted to remain somewhat close to his contacts at MUSCO. Visiting a dozen small towns and pitching his idea, Sully returned with the best incentives and a shared risk partnership was formed that now puts this small town of less than 1,000 at the epicenter of a revolution in LED lighting and a multi-million dollar business that counts ESPN, the Today Show, Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel, the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and QVC as a few of its more recognizable clients. 

Download a summary of the conversation (pdf file)

Kaylee Williams Strikes a Chord with BIZ Luncheon Audience

“Two years ago, I bought a cat and a car, in that order, and I came to Des Moines and started working as a community builder” recalls Kaylee Williams, now Director of Business Development at Volunteer Local, as she told the story of how she came to be in her current position. With understandings acquired as the day to day manager of one of Des Moines’ most successful tech start-ups, Williams shared insights that belied her mere 23 years under the questioning of Mike Colwell, Executive Director of the BIZ, as well as a large and diverse audience heavily seeded with supporters of this young energetic and well liked local entrepreneur.

Developed originally by local tech guy Brian Hemesath as an aid for the former Des Moines Arts Festival organizer the late Mo Dana, Volunteer Local is a volunteer registration software platform that assists event and non-profit volunteer coordinators to manage the scheduling of, and communication with, volunteers on-line. With one free and two subscription-based models, the software is used by a wide range of groups from small non-profits to large-scale events across the United States and in 30 countries around the world. 

Kaylee began as an intern working remotely from Iowa City before her move to Des Moines and then quickly transitioning from the role of Community Builder.  The job which started out as primarily working with existing clients, grew to one of Director of Business Development, which expanded her responsibilities to also growing the client base.

Understanding the client base was her first order of business for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the users of the free service were an outstanding list of leads for conversion to paid subscriptions. She further discovered that the faith based community represented an unexpectedly large portion of that lead list, causing her to re-evaluate the model in light of a price point that would not exceed the resources of that potential constituency.  Understanding the client base would soon evolved into relationship building. 

Download a summary of the conversation (pdf file)

Best Efforts Sometime Fail!

Sometimes no matter how hard we try things don’t go as planned.  I messed up in recording the video from the BIZ Networking Luncheon with Kaylee Williams of VolunteerLocal.  Kaylee did an outstanding job and is truly an impressive individual.  As a substitute, take a listen to Kaylee from a radio program on 1350-KRNT that […]

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Pitch your company for investment

                  Join us for the 2014 i2iowa, Iowa’s premier networking event for accredited investors and entrepreneurs raising money. The forum is set for April 9 at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in Des Moines, and will include: Fast Paced Presentations by Emerging Companies  Showcase of Entrepreneurial Ideas and […]

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Maerz Shares the Story of Rocket Referrals and Relationships

“If you want an expert, go to Google, I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in any one thing, but my brother Carl and I have a breadth of knowledge, which we feel has been of greater value than specific expertise,” observed Torey Maerz, Founder of Rocket Referrals, during his conversation with BIZ Executive Director Mike […]

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Ohringer Delivers on the Promise to Talk Growth

“Sheldon said, ‘I don’t do slides,’ quipped Mike Colwell, Executive Director of the BIZ, of the man who sat next to him before the November iteration of the Business Innovation Zone Luncheon.  “So I thought we should take an entirely different approach this month,” he explained as he became both chief questioner and moderator of […]

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