Lisa Shimkat recognized for helping small businesses meet their needs


Graphic by Nicole Hasek

For 24 years, Business Record has honored women with this award who have made significant contributions to their communities.

The outstanding contributions that Lisa Shimkat, state director of America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) Iowa, has made to the community are recognized through the Business Record Women of Influence Award.

Shimkat manages the program, which is an outreach program of Iowa State University’s Ivy College of Business, to find what goals they need to achieve in order to benefit small businesses and meet their needs.

“Are we meeting the demands of what clients have out there as far as an entrepreneur?” Shimkat said. “What are they needing? What does the small business owner need? Then making sure that if we do need to add some additional programming, or if we need to reallocate resources somewhere, that’s what we do.”

Nine years ago there was a study done with the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy where they found the average age for a small business owner was 55, according to Shimkat. Helping these small business owners transition into new ownership, either from retirement or deciding to sell the business, is another aspect of her job.

“Some other studies say 60% of businesses don’t have a transition,” Shimkat said. “Then what happens if something happens to that owner and then that business just stops? The economic impact in the community is huge.”

Shimkat described how suddenly losing businesses, like a local grocery store or daycare center, may be devastating to the community if there is no transition.

“[The residents] lose some of these amenities that maybe drew people to those areas,” Shimkat said. “The businesses are what really contributes to a lot of these communities, especially in rural Iowa, for their longevity and for their success.”

When a building collapsed in Davenport in May, the area around the collapsed business was declared an SBA Disaster Declaration, according to Shimkat. Businesses in the area were then able to receive additional funding.

“As soon as we received the disaster declaration, we reached out to the team on the ground there and they were able to get it out very quickly to the businesses in the area and the resource partners as well, just so we can make sure that we are reaching the businesses that need to be reached,” Shimkat said.

Shimkat joined America’s SBDC Iowa in 2014 and nine years later was nominated for this honor by her peers.

Judi Eyles, director of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center in the Ivy College of Business, initiated the nomination. The rest of the SBDC team then joined to help with the application.

“Anyone who’s met Lisa knows that she has devoted pretty much the entirety of her professional career to helping others succeed,” said Austin Strawhacker, associate state director for America’s SBDC Iowa.

In order to nominate Shimkat, recommendation letters were written by Strawhacker, Ivy College of Business Dean David Spalding, Senator Joni Ernst, Secretary of State Paul Pate and America’s SBDC President and CEO Charles “Tee” Rowe. Shimkat was unaware of the nomination until she was announced as the winner.

“She has specifically spent a lot of time in historically male dominated industries and has taken it upon herself to not only carve out space for women around her but also empower other women to follow in her footsteps and be successful,” Strawhacker said.

Receiving this award was a surprise to Shimkat as she was unaware of her nomination, but she said she is honored to be the recipient.

“There’s so much more that I want to do,” Shimkat said. “Sometimes you can feel, ‘Am I doing enough?’ so to be recognized is a huge honor and truly humbling when I look at all the accomplishments the other [nominees] have. It’s amazing.”

An award ceremony will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 3 at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown. Individual tickets and corporate tables are available online.

Other honorees during this ceremony include Barbara Quijano Decker, Angela Jackson, Laura Sweet, Terri Vaughan, Mary Wells, Kim Willis, Maria Volante, Claudia Schabel and Shaimaa Aly.