Why Iowa? Five Questions with Megan Brandt
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Why Iowa? Five Questions with Megan Brandt


Megan Brandt

Maple Studios

Megan Brandt, Director, Maple Studios 

As director of Maple Studios in Des Moines, Megan Brandt works with the entrepreneurs who call the startup studio home to ensure they have the resources and space needed to drive innovation and collaboration for their businesses.  

Brandt is an Iowa native who earned an associate degree from Iowa Central Community College, a bachelor's degree in journalism from Iowa State University, and a master’s of business administration from the University of Iowa.  She started her career as a communications coordinator for Workiva in Ames when the startup was growing quickly, changed corporate names and went public.   

She spent six years as the program manager at the Global Insurance Accelerator, an innovation platform for global insurance companies to work with innovative insurtech startups. The annual program brought early-stage startups from around the world to Des Moines to work and learn alongside the state’s insurance professionals.

In this month’s Why Iowa? profile, Brandt shares insights on Maple Studios, the entrepreneur and startup ecosystem in central Iowa, and resources that make Iowa the right fit for businesses of all sizes.  

1. What is the Maple Studios model and how does it support entrepreneurship and innovation in Iowa? 

As a startup studio, Maple Studios provides collaborative space and fractional executive services to entrepreneurs. We serve industrial technology companies and physical product builders from startup to growth stage. 

Maple Studios is built within the campus of Ramco Innovations, a 60-year old industrial automation distributor in West Des Moines which was acquired by Sukup Manufacturing Co. in late 2023. The startups who work at Maple Studios can lean on the tenured team at Ramco for guidance and advice, as well as contract paid fractional services directly through Ramco’s team members.  

It is a unique and collaborative arrangement where Maple Studios members can lean on Ramco for back-office work and support so that they can get to work on what they do best. Members also receive space in the form of workbenches, storage space, desks, offices, and collaborative space.   

2. What is your primary focus in working with entrepreneurs?  

Maple Studios was built to fill the gap in the Iowa ecosystem for early-stage industrial companies or entrepreneurs who are looking to build physical goods.  

I am in charge of finding entrepreneurs to call Maple Studios home, coordinating the services that Ramco provides for them, and maintaining a safe space of innovation and collaboration for both Maple members and Ramco Innovations team members. 

We make a lot of connections in the startup ecosystem and entrepreneurial community, so connecting people is a big part of my job. I get the joy of hosting fellow entrepreneurship ecosystem supporters and groups at our Training Center at Maple Studios. We host about two groups per month on average.  

We want startups to find success both in Iowa and in Maple Studios, so we aim for our Maple Studios members to outgrow us and move out to build somewhere bigger and hopefully add more team members and jobs.  

3. What advantages does Iowa provide for startup entrepreneurs? 

Iowa is stacked with programs and opportunities for startups to get started. Programs exist for all types of entrepreneurs from main street businesses to high-growth tech companies. Entrepreneurs can find funding from corporate, angel, private, state, and federal funds. There are programs for high school, college students, and everyone at any stage. Our state government gets involved and cares about listening to the entrepreneurs in our state and their needs.  

4. What advice do you have for someone considering a move or return to Iowa?  

I spent one calendar year living in Chicago when I was working with Workiva. It was a very easy decision to move back to the area once I could. Everything in Iowa is far more accessible and affordable. I am able to forge very close friendships and relationships with the community and feel the difference I can make in it.  
Iowa has so many opportunities for getting involved and taking on leadership roles. This will sound cliche, but you need to put yourself out there and get your hands dirty. Think about what you’re passionate about, whether it feels small or big to you, and get involved. You can volunteer for almost every hobby and interest. You can join committees, donate time or money, support programs you believe in by purchasing or attending events, or just show up. The personal and emotional growth you’ll get from non-work activities will shock you. You’ll make some mistakes and grow as a human.  

5. Please share three recommendations of things to do or places to go in Iowa.  

The bike trails in central Iowa and across the state are unparalleled. The trails also offer the same opportunities for walking and jogging. You can explore hundreds of miles of Iowa trails if you try. We have a lot of outdoor activities available to us and are very close to the metro.  
One way that I met a lot of new people who are eager to work with entrepreneurs or be involved in the startup space was going to events like 1 Million Cups and DSM Startup Drinks.  
Des Moines also has plenty of indoor fun like Teehee’s Comedy Club, Noce Jazz Club, the Des Moines Art Center, the Botanical Garden, and Val Air Ballroom. There is so much to do and enjoy.  


Published April 2024. 


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