ISU teams take two top prizes in Pappajohn New Venture Business Plan competition

AMES, Iowa -- Entries by Iowa State University students were chosen as two of the three top prize winners in the statewide Pappajohn New Venture Business Plan Competition.

Corey Kliewer, a freshman in agriculture and systems technology at ISU; and a team of Iowa State graduate students in mechanical engineering -- Cody Ellens, Jared Brown, Anthony Pollard, and Randy Kasparbauer -- each received $5,000 top prize awards for their new ventures, Hired Hands and Avello Bioenergy, Inc. respectively.

Zach Hedrington, a student from the University of Northern Iowa, was the third $5,000 winner.

In the competition, students pitch innovative business plans to a team of professional investors. The winners were chosen on the basis of the content and viability of their plans. A team from Equity Dynamics, John Pappajohn's venture capital firm, reviewed the student plans in the competition. Equity Dynamics Vice President Matt Kinley served as the judge in the finals, which were held at the University of Northern Iowa during the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Iowa Conference on Friday, March 6.

Last August Kliewer started Hired Hands, which assembles agriculture equipment on-site when it arrives from the factory for short-line dealers -- ensuring that the product will be ready for sale on a timely basis. It focuses regularly on specialty equipment, such as transport grain augurs, to increase speed and efficiency in assembly. Kliewer also innovated by charging on a per-pound rather than hourly basis, providing dealers a product with lowered input costs and ultimately increasing their profit margins.

Avello Bioenergy, Inc. is an early stage start-up company specializing in the conversion of biomass into liquid bio-oil via fast pyrolysis. The company will design and market the bio-oil production facilities to include proprietary technology licensed from Iowa State -- selling the complete systems to companies and individuals involved in forestry and agriculture, as well as customers in end use bio-oil markets. Its bio-oil product can be used as a boiler fuel replacement and may be upgraded into liquid renewable transportation fuels in existing petroleum refineries.

Shane Mairet, an ISU senior in horticulture, was also among the 11 finalists for his entry, Mairet's Garden Center.

The competition is open to any Iowa university or college student/team with an interest in starting a business. John Pappajohn -- president of Equity Dynamics Inc., Des Moines, and founder of the five John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers in Iowa -- created the competition nine years ago.

More information is available through ISU's Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship Web site at