the Seeds of Success
Ed Moldt helps people achieve their dreams. Business developer,
corporate head, and director of the University of Iowas
John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, Moldt has been instrumental
in developing a unique educational partnership between the
Tippie College of Business Administration, other colleges
on campus, and schools around the state. In the process, his
remarkable ability to fulfill his own entrepreneurial dreams
has inspired legions of business start-up hopefuls.
Moldt came to the Iowa City campus in 1994, "on loan"
from the Wharton School of Finance. After launching the entrepreneurial
program, he returned to Wharton, but found he missed the excitement
of tending the unique Iowa effort to mesh students and faculty
in engineering, business, and medical sciences. So Moldt returned
in 1996 and has been at the helm ever since.
"He is the number-one person in this field," says
John Buchanan, visiting adjunct professor of finance and retired
CEO of employee benefits provider Seabury & Smith. "When
he first visited campus, talked with the deans, and saw all
we have to offer, he got really excited."
Modlts expertise comes from experience. He has made
and lost and made again several fortunes. In the early 1970s,
Moldt achieved what he believed to be the pinnacle of his
career when he bought the luxury cruise ship, the Queen Elizabeth.
Within weeks of closing the deal on the Cunard Lines
incomparable dowager, world oil prices soared. Moldt eventually
lost the ship and virtually everything else he owned.
"I had a really great wife and five children,"
he says, "so I really didnt have a choice but to
find a solution to our problem."
So, at the age of 43, Moldt decided that "solution"
was to begin selling shirts at Sears.
After more years of hard work, smart risk-taking, and a string
of successful start-up companies, Moldt was a financial winner
once again. In the process, he acquired something of a mythological
status as an entrepreneur.
Moldt notes that during the last two decades, the changing
nature of technology, international business, and world economics
has redefined opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs. He adds
that while few Fortune 1000 companies are creating new jobs
today, a flurry of young, smaller, and highly competitive
companies now are succeeding in new niches.
"In the past, companies were product oriented and required
a lot of start-up capital," he says. "Employees
performed narrow jobs, often with workbench tools
that were provided by the employer. But todays companies
are fast on their feet and oriented toward service and technology,"
Moldt says. "Workers are becoming knowledge brokers who
work in smaller production units. And at virtually every level,
those who succeed are those who understand both the production
process and the market."
That rule of thumb surely applies to students who have been
inspired to launch their own business after taking courses
through Iowas entrepreneurial program. Moldt describes
one former student, Tara Cronbaugh (pictured with Moldt at
left), as "the poster child for entrepreneurial training."
After learning how to write a business plan, formulate a prospectus,
and develop advertising in one of her entrepreneurship courses,
Cronbaugh opened a popular Iowa City coffee shopthe
first of three.
Iowas program is the first of its kind to award entrepreneurial
certificates to students who complete 18 semester hoursan
additional semesterof course work. In addition, the
University of Iowa program has become one model for othersalso
endowed by Iowa businessman John Pappajohnat Iowa State
University, the University of Northern Iowa, Drake University,
and Northern Iowa Community College.
Moldt thinks of the entrepreneurial certificate program as
"time in the sandbox" for prospective entrepreneurs.
"These courses give students time to practice,"
he says. "To successfully grow your own business, you
have to know a lot about a lot of things. That includes understanding
the potential problems involved in starting and keeping a
business, as well as how to solve those problems inexpensively.
We want to create generalistspeople who are smart, creative,
and flexible. This program provides students with the opportunity
to test their ideas for failure without actually failing."
Of course, not even all graduates of the program will become
successful entrepreneurs with their firstor their fourteenthattempts.
But Moldt believes that Iowa-trained business-starters will
be better able to learn from their mistakes.
"And maybe in the rubble," says this gifted entrepreneurial
phoenix, "they will discover something that will work
the next time."
Jean Florman is a writer from Iowa
For more information:
Iowa Small Business
Development Centers, 800/373-7232
Iowa Business Network
Small Business Adminstration
of Economic Development, Marketing and Business Development
of Economic Development Small Business Resource Office,
Capital Electronic Network, which brings entrepreneurs
and investors together
Iowa Software Association
of Business and Industry site