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Shannon Latham is vice president of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, a family-owned seed company headquartered in North Central Iowa. The company, which celebrated its 70th year of business in 2017, was founded by Willard Latham. Today, two of Willard’s grandsons also own and manage the business.

As co-owner of Latham Seeds, Shannon directs the company’s overall marketing initiatives, including social media, paid advertising and public relations. Prior to joining Latham Seeds full time in 2008, Shannon operated her own communications/public relations business. She also has worked in an advertising agency and served as a state lobbyist for agribusiness.

Shannon is passionate about agriculture literacy and encouraging young people to pursue careers in agriculture. She puts her passions into practice at her Enchanted Acres pumpkin patch in Sheffield, Iowa, where she plans weekly fall events and blogs all year long. For her efforts, Shannon was named to the FarmHer Hall of Fame in 2016.

What entrepreneurship means to me…

Entrepreneurship is a mindset and a way of life. It also comes with a great deal of responsibility as business owners are looked upon to provide leadership within their companies and within their communities. As a person who has always welcomed challenges and opportunities, I find this energizing. I thrive on change and appreciate that there really isn’t such a thing as “a typical day” on the job. I love that each day holds something new, so I’m continually learning. I truly enjoy having a hand in shaping our business and nurturing its growth. I enjoy working with aspiring business professionals and employees on personal growth and development. I take pride that we’re providing good jobs for families in North Iowa. I also take pride in being a part of the agricultural community because we’re literally helping feed the world. How noble is that?

Why students should become involved with AgEI…

You don’t ever have to start a business or own a business to benefit from entrepreneurship classes and activities. Involvement with AgEI provides so many benefits from teaching sound business practices to networking with business professionals. Knowing how to apply knowledge and knowing others are two keys to professional success. In our family-owned business, we seek out employees with an entrepreneurial mindset as they’re problem solvers and innovators. They come up with creative ideas to make our business more efficient, more profitable and even more engaged in the community.

shannon latham

Roger Underwood is a proud Iowa State alumnus from the class of 1980. After earning a degree in Agricultural Business, he worked in the ag chemical industry for two years before co-founding Becker Underwood, Inc. in 1982. 

Under his leadership as CEO, Becker Underwood expanded from a single facility business to a multi-national corporation with operations in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Brazil, Argentina and Australia. Following 23 years as CEO at Becker Underwood, Roger stepped back from daily operations in January 2006. The company was sold to BASF in 2012.

As an Iowa State alumnus, Roger was active in forming the College of Agriculture Alumni Association, serving as its second president and founding member.  In 1996, Roger was named Outstanding Agribusiness Alumni of the Year by the ISU Ag Business Club, and was named Order of the Knoll Outstanding Young Alumni in 2000, and in 2008 received the Floyd Andre Award for outstanding accomplishments in business and service to the College.  Roger is a Board Member of the ISU Foundation Board of Governors, and also serves the Crop Life American Foundation, Ames Seed Capital, and the College of Ag Deans advisory committee.

In the private sector, Roger serves on the Board of Directors for Kent Corporation and Albaugh, LLC. He is also a private investor for start-up agricultural businesses.

What does entrepreneurship mean to you? 

“Creating tomorrow” is what I think of when I coach entrepreneurship to students. While many are happy to work for someone else and execute their business plan—I think of making my own business plan and walking my own path with something I have created.  There is no “right way” to create value in the market place—meaning working for someone else is not only honorable, it is a good decision for many to walk down that path. Tomorrow can be better however, if certain students create their own product, service, or idea and embrace it in the market place.  Creating tomorrow can be rewarding and valuable!

Why should students engage in AgEI activities?  

The Ag Entrepreneurship program can be a warm and inviting place for those who want to create their own path.  The mentorship a student can receive and the excitement they can add to the program through their ideas and energy can create a symbiotic opportunity to grow and emerge a business leader creating wealth for oneself and others around you.  Meeting successful entrepreneurs and challenging others with new ideas, new products, and new opportunities can be the most invigorating parts of any college experience. 

roger underwood

DL Hank Harris is Emeritus Professor of Iowa State University where he was employed for over 34 years. He received the DVM (1967) and PhD (1970) degrees from ISU. He served as Chairman of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Preventive Medicine from 1992-1997.

Harris is co-founder of Genvax (2021) with his son, Joel Harris.  Genvax is the third vaccine company started by Harris in Iowa.  The first, NOBL Labs began in Sioux Center, Iowa with co-founders Jan Schuiteman and Mike Daniels.  NOBL was later sold to BI Vetmedica, a company located in the ISURP.  Harris founded Harrisvaccines Inc (formerly called Sirrah Bios) in 2006 at the ISURP, it was a spin-out of his laboratory at ISU.  Harrisvaccines licensed sa mRNA-virus replicon particle vaccine technology from Alphavax and subsequently gained USDA licenses for various diseases in swine and poultry.  Harrisvaccines was sold to Merck Animal Health in 2015 and is located in the ISU Research Park. 

Harris has received numerous Industry, University and Entrepreneurial awards including the Distinguished Alumni Award (the highest recognition at Iowa State University), Stange Award for Meritorious Service (the highest recognition in the College of Veterinary Medicine at ISU), Howard Dunne Award for service to the Swine Industry, Henry Wallace Award for Contributions to International Agriculture, for Achievement of Economic Development in Iowa, and the Upper Midwest EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

What does entrepreneurship mean to you?

Entrepreneurship means creating a company for the purpose of solving a problem.   To be an entrepreneur a person must have the ‘fire in the belly’ to define the problem and seek a solution even if it means abandoning initial approaches and theories.

Why should students engage in AgEI activities?

There are many career paths available in companies however a start up company is very unique compared to more established Ag businesses.  Participation in AgEI allows the student to experience the thrill of start up company activities to help in choosing a career path.

hank harris
August 3, 2021 9:56 AM

Where does entrepreneurial inspiration come from? Each of us has to answer that question individually, but it is interesting when inspirational themes (or perhaps memes) emerge.

I loved the original Star Trek when I was a kid. The opening line from Captain Kirk:

Business development
June 25, 2021 4:12 PM

What do investors look for when evaluating innovative opportunities? It depends on the investor, but I am in search of surprise. Innovation cannot be predicted. Innovation cannot be planned. It is not foreseeable.

Business development
May 10, 2021 2:25 PM

This semester’s domestic travel course was project-based, the Farm to Fork Project. Twelve students explored the frontiers of entrepreneurial opportunity for direct-to-consumer agricultural businesses.

Business development
November 11, 2020 10:46 AM

Andrew Albrecht (’19 Agricultural Business) grew up on a family farm and has always been thinking of ways to expand the farm. He always wanted to do something in agriculture and become a business owner. Starting July of 2019, he found a market that he figured was there for the taking.

Business incubation
October 16, 2020 11:41 AM

I am occasionally asked by venture capital investors in agricultural and food technology businesses (agri-food tech) about the technology-based interests of the students at Iowa State University.  The investors view student interests as a potential leading indicator of technology trends

Business incubation
September 21, 2020 2:43 PM

We recently made a change in the Wall of Fame, moving ScoutPro’s status to ‘merged/sold’ to mark the business becoming a part of Farmers Edge

Business incubation
August 26, 2020 11:34 AM

At the beginning of my appointment at Iowa State University in 2009, I traveled to Palo Alto, California for a conference for venture investors.  The event, during the height of the financial crisis, had one panel where a representative of the consumer electronics industry had a bit of a rif

Business development
April 16, 2020 3:20 PM

We were delighted to have Jim Fay join students in ECON 334/Entreprenuership in Agriculture recently for a discussion on innovation, prototyping and new product development.

Business development
April 2, 2020 3:17 PM

It was mid-2019, and Jeb Gent (’13 Ag Education) was ready.  “I’ve always had in mind that at some point in my career I would start my own business,” commented Gent.  “My wife and I have been saving money to help make that transition, so we parted ways with my job and hit the ground run

Business development
March 26, 2020 2:09 PM

March 25 was scheduled as a guest-day for ECON 334/Entrepreneurship in Agriculture, part of a regular dose of guest agricultural entrepreneurs that speak to students over the course of the semester in the classroom in Kildee Hall. 

November 27, 2019 4:20 PM

Annie Zeimis, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Marketing Officer of One Hop Shop, took a rather untraditional path on her journey to becoming a Cyclone.

About, Business development, Mentorship, Student program
October 29, 2019 12:04 PM

Hannah Corey, ('18 agronomy and entrepreneurial studies minor) believes that there are many paths to success. Although her career path after graduation wasn't traditional, she has stayed true to her roots, remaining deeply involved in the agriculture industry.

About, Community
October 16, 2019 8:19 AM

EllieMae Millenkamp, a senior in Agricultural Business, grew up feeding calves, collecting milk samples, and completing office work on her family's dairy farm in Jerome, Idaho.

About, Business development
September 24, 2019 12:46 PM

The Student Incubator Program offers students the early resources required for starting and building a business. Dave Krog, AgEI Entrepreneur in Residence, and Joe Riley, entrepreneurial business leader, serve as mentors for the group.

Business incubation, Mentorship, Student program
September 18, 2019 9:21 AM

“Often times we put up our own biggest barriers, thinking we aren’t an engineer or expert on something, so how can we ever build something people want?

Business development, Business incubation, Community
September 3, 2019 2:21 PM

“AgEI gave me the foundation necessary to start my own business. The connections gained through the program and my time at Iowa State have been instrumental to the success of my business, thus far.”

Business development, Community, Mentorship
August 23, 2019 12:19 PM

Elizabeth Hoppe (’13 Finance and Marketing) spends most of her days in a coffee shop. And no, she isn’t blogging, studying, or catching up with a friend.

Business development, Community
August 20, 2019 10:32 AM

The Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative offered a new pilot program during the summer of 2019. This part-time program, the Rural Entrepreneurship Academy, was geared towards students who were interested in opening a business or farm in a rural setting. Those participating in t

Mentorship, Student program
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