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UI Entrepreneurial Contest Winner to Start Green Business

While many University of Iowa students relish the summer as a time for care-free enjoyment of the warmth and sun, senior Brandon Yoder has devoted this season to fine-tuning the business he plans to begin as early as August.

Yoder is embracing Iowa's statewide green initiatives, hoping to create jobs for people in a troubled economy and help people live more sustainably.

Yoder's planned business, Green Transitions, Inc., will install wind turbine generators, solar panels, and geothermal heating and cooling systems in their homes and businesses, moving them to energy independence.

The business plan Yoder wrote for his company recently took first place in the Merle Volding Business Plan Competition for undergraduate and graduate students at the John PappaJohn Entrepreneurial Center. At the annual competition, judges choose a winner based on the quality of the written plan and oral presentation, the potential of opportunity and the commitment the team has to actually starting the business. Yoder received $3,500 in seed money to launch his business, which he will base out of his hometown of Cedar Rapids.

"I am really grateful for the opportunity that The University of Iowa has provided for me for developing my business," said Yoder, 27.

Yoder is currently taking two UI classes and plans to receive his degree in management and organizations with an entrepreneurial certificate through the UI Tippie College of Business in December. But despite class work, he is focusing most of his time on establishing his business. The money-saving company will start with a target market of the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Corridor, but Yoder said he hopes to expand his services to Eastern Iowa and eventually throughout the Midwest.

Yoder emphasized the importance of aligning his initiatives with that of the country, mentioning President Barack Obama's stance on energy independence. Yoder's dedication to his country began when he joined the Marine Corps after graduating from Linn-Mar High School in Marion in 2000. He spent four years as a mechanic on F/A-18 fighter jets, including one year in Iraq. While in Iraq, Yoder achieved the rank of sergeant and was awarded the Marine Corps/Navy Achievement Medal.

"I have a strong desire to help people and serve. Now my mission is to serve the public. Green Transitions is going to help people become independent," he said.

Returning to Cedar Rapids, Yoder knew it was time to pursue his dream of owning his own business. He enrolled atIowa and began plans to start a business that would serve the needs of the state of Iowa and the country he loves.

Yoder's passion for the earth stems from his lifelong love of the outdoors. He said he enjoys boating, playing disc golf, and riding motocross, and describes himself as simply "a green guy."

But Yoder isn't exactly enjoying these leisurely outdoor activities as much these days. He is currently meeting with manufacturers to gain dealership agreements, obtain permits and investors, and working to create a visual logo for the company.

Lynn Allendorf, managing director of the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory in the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, has served as a mentor for Yoder during his undergraduate career and said he was a dedicated member of the program.

"Brandon is providing a turn-key solution to enable his customers to embrace green energy solutions," Allendorf said. "I firmly believe this is what's needed in the industry. The constant fluctuation of energy prices makes it a challenging business but, given Brandon's character, determination, and sales experience, I am sure he will succeed."

So, why Iowa? With Iowa's position as the number-two producer of wind power as well as the availability of government support, Yoder describes Iowa as a state with a lot of opportunity. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu also announced June 22 that Iowa would receive $16 million in federal stimulus package money dedicated to promoting renewable energy. Iowa is expected to receive a total of roughly $41 million from the State Energy Program and is the first state to receive its initial installment of federal stimulus package money.

The company will target businesses and residences with at least one acre of land. He said switching to his green energy sources would guarantee customer payback in between five and 10 years, adding the lifespan of his products will well exceed the payback.

And while saving clients money is a goal, giving business and residence owners the opportunity to create and control their own energy remains the ultimate objective, he said.

"I don't think a lot of people are all that familiar with where they get their energy from and they just take it for granted," Yoder said. "I want to provide the opportunity for people to be sustainable in the long-term and help entire communities become energy independent."

For more information about his business, contact Yoder at 319-721-3583 or greentransitions@gmail.com.


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