The Pi515 2022 Girls Entrepreneurs Summit concluded last week with the announcement of this year’s pitch competition winner Aerz Johnson, a ninth grade student at Waterloo West High School.
“I didn’t really have a plan before this. I don’t even have an idea to be up here,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know how to pitch, but now this is a great skill to have. I’m so thankful that I know this now. When I do put my business in motion, I know what to prepare for … and I wouldn’t be able to have the opportunity without Pi515.”
The participants, girls and women ages 14 to 22, spent each Saturday of the last six weeks developing their business idea and preparing to pitch it to a panel of judges.
Gov. Kim Reynolds attended the event to meet the participants and hear about their business ideas.
“It was just incredible to hear their stories and really I think just to see their passion about being able to work on this project, to take an idea and turn it into a potential business,” Reynolds said in her remarks.
Pi515 announced during the event that it has committed to “creating and strengthening the talent pipeline and empowering students to realize their full potential” with its 2022 Promise Pledge to raise more than $1 million to reinvest into its communities and youths.
Founder and Executive Director Nancy Mwirotsi said in an interview that Pi515 is seeing more students pursuing careers in the medical field in addition to technology roles, and part of the reinvestment plan is working with local partners to retain students for Iowa’s workforce.
“I think as bad as COVID was, it actually gave us a minute to pause and say the field is equal at the moment,” she said. “We need to support one another. We need to build a robust pipeline that is ready to compete for the future of work, and if we don’t intentionally do that by 2030 we lose economically as a state, as a country, as a people.”
Funds raised for the Promise Pledge will also help expand Pi515 programs to new communities, Mwirotsi said.
At the event, Mwirotsi was recognized as the Iowa SBA Women in Business Champion of the Year and Pi515 presented awards to its community and business partners.
Principal Financial Group received an award for supporting the high school program, and Palmer Group and Meta were recognized for their support of Pi515’s middle school programming. Other awards went to AT&T for their partnership in distributing hotspots and John Pappajohn for his support of the organization and helping build its legacy.
For more information about the 2022 Promise Pledge, contact Mwirotsi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured: Gov. Kim Reynolds at the Pi515 Girls Entrepreneurship Summit talking with Myla Long (left), this year’s youngest participant. Photo submitted by Pi515