• Holly Harris

Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment: A Project for Saudi Arabia



From August 26th to August 31st, we hosted a delegation from Saudi Arabia in Eastern Iowa for a project titled “Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment.”

Their first day in Iowa was spent at Kalona Historical Society, where they toured the Amish Dairy Goat Farm and the Kalona Creamery. The next day, their Sunday was free to explore local Iowa City events like the Stanley Museum of Art Opening Celebrations and the Iowa City Latino Fest.


On Monday the 29th, the delegation had their first full day of professional meetings. Their first meeting of the day was at the Tippie College of Business where they met with Jan Finlayson, the event coordinator of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC). The visitors learned about how the University of Iowa (UI) encourages women to get involved in entrepreneurship. Jan then took them to the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory (BELL), a business incubator for entrepreneurial students pursuing the creation of a startup. Their conversation with Jan led to an impromptu Zoom call later that day with a UI Tippie graduate, Mahdi Eghbali. He shared with the delegation the impact the University of Iowa had on his successful startup and connected with many of the international visitors in hopes of a professional partnership one day.

After the meeting with Jan, they had a break for lunch before boarding a bus to Cedar Rapids for their next professional meeting. This meeting was with Women Lead Change, an organization dedicated to the development, advancement and promotion of women in the economy and future workforce. The visitors met with Amy Eaton and Morgan Schmall to discuss the importance of women in governmental roles and in entrepreneurship. After this discussion, they boarded the bus back to Iowa City and had a free evening.

On Tuesday, the group had another full day of professional meetings. They boarded a bus that morning and headed to Cedar Rapids for their first meeting with the Iowa Women’s Shelters and Waypoint Services. The visitors met with Jaye Kennedy, Autumn Paine, Claire Slagle, J’nae Peterman, and Nelly Hill to discuss the various laws pertaining to women’s rights in the United States. They also discussed the different services they provide such crisis intervention programs, supportive services, quality childcare, and advocacy.

“We are so grateful to be a part of this conversation and admire those who come to learn more about becoming better and empowering others to be better,” said Autumn Paine, Chief Development and Marketing Officer at the Iowa Women’s Shelters and Waypoint Services.


After a lunch break, their next meeting was at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance with Ron Corbett, Mike Lukan, Nikki Wilcox, and Jamie Toledo. They discussed how the alliance combines the economic and community development efforts of the former Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Cedar Rapids Downtown District, and the Priority One, and how similar initiatives may be implemented in other communities.

After this meeting, the delegation boarded the bus to Lynnville, Iowa where they met with Phil Ebert of Ebert Honey Company. The visitors were interested in agricultural development projects in rural areas in industries like honey and beekeeping. They toured the bee farm and learned about the industry and how they have grown their honey business. Once the meeting ended, they headed back to Iowa City.

The delegation left the following morning to continue their program in Sioux Falls.

Thank you to the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, Mahdi Eghbali, Women Lead Change, Iowa Women’s Shelters and Waypoint Services, Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, and Ebert Honey Company, LLC for your participation as professional resources for this program!

Thank you also to our volunteers, Melanie Haupert, Newman Abuissa, Arnold Daniels Jr., and Don Kirchner for volunteering to greet and escort this group throughout their time in Eastern Iowa. You truly made their time here special!

If you’re interested in volunteering with Global Ties Iowa, sign up to be on our mailing list and stay tuned for the next opportunities to connect the world and the heartland!

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