Wells Fargo gives $1 million to Drake, Evelyn K. Davis Center for diverse small-business programs

Shaun H. Ruff


Wells Fargo & Co. is giving $1 million to Des Moines programs that help diverse entrepreneurs from underserved communities launch small businesses.

Leaders at the banking giant announced the donation to Drake University and the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families on Tuesday, with senior vice president of human resources Phill Hall saying in a statement that he hopes the gift will “have a positive impact on the entire Des Moines community.”

The institutions will split the money. The Evelyn K. Davis Center will use the funds to hire small-business coaches and buy software to stay in touch with clients. Drake officials, meanwhile, will use the money to boost the school’s new Business Clinic.

Bill Adamowski, executive director of innovation, entrepreneurship, and human-centered design at Drake University, speaks at a news conference about Wells Fargo's $1 million donation to the school and the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families.

Bill Adamowski, executive director of innovation, entrepreneurship, and human-centered design at Drake University, speaks at a news conference about Wells Fargo’s $1 million donation to the school and the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families.

Launched last fall, the clinic hosts an accelerator for entrepreneurs. Instructors assign participants tasks like making connections in the community and trying to cut unnecessary expenses. After going through the accelerators, participants can take part in the clinic’s mentorship program, during which staffers introduce them to business leaders in the community.

Bill Adamowski, who runs the clinic, came to Drake in 2020 after a career that included a stint as the chief technology officer for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. He also launched the Iowa State University Startup Factory in 2015.

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Many of the clinic’s participants so far have come through the Evelyn K. Davis Center, where they take part in a Business Boot Camp designed to teach them the basics of running a small company.

Leaders at Drake and the Evelyn K. Davis Center both emphasized that Wells Fargo’s donation will help diverse business owners, who have made up most participants in their programs.

“We will build a more inclusive economy, providing assistance to help growth-minded small-business owners unlock the potential of their enterprise,” Drake President Marty Martin said in a statement Tuesday.

Evelyn K. Davis Center Director Ahmed Agyeman told the Des Moines Register in an interview that he hopes the donation will help his team more effectively work with entrepreneurs. He said the center has about 1,100 clients, most of whom came to the Seventh Street office after hearing about the center from other people. He estimated that 60% of clients are from Des Moines’ underserved communities.

Curtis Baugh, the center’s business consultant, helps clients with a range of basics like how to write a business plan, get insurance and file paperwork establishing a company. Agyeman said he plans to use Wells Fargo’s donation to hire one or two more business coaches for the next three years.

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He added that hiring the people for those positions will give Baugh more time to focus on other initiatives, such as helping clients obtain loans and preparing them for pitch competitions that can secure more money.

The center also will buy software to help track clients more frequently. Agyeman said clients answer questions online when they schedule meetings, telling the center how many employees they have and what kind of industry they operate in.

The center will add software that helps it stay in touch with clients for months after their visits, perhaps automatically sending surveys to them through emails. Agyeman said he wants to know whether clients are running into problems, particularly if they can identify trends that are impacting business owners in their communities.

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The center also wants to know when clients are doing well and hiring more workers.

“We have the success stories, but we are not perfect,” Agyeman said. “And we want to make sure we’re always looking at improving and getting better.”

The center is a division of Des Moines Area Community College, with funding primarily from United Way of Central Iowa and the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. Agyeman said a donation from Principal Financial Group has funded half the expense of the center’s current small-business coach, with the other half coming from United Way.

More: Top Des Moines private employer Wells Fargo cuts jobs as mortgage business sputters

The Drake Business Clinic, meanwhile, has received donations that include $300,000 from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, $185,000 from the Iowa Economic Development Authority and $100,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

With its home mortgage division based in Des Moines, Wells Fargo is the city’s biggest private employer, employing about 13,000 workers in
central Iowa. The bank reported $21.5 billion in net income last year.

Tyler Jett covers jobs and the economy for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at [email protected], 515-284-8215, or on Twitter at @LetsJett.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Wells Fargo gives $1 million for Des Moines small-business programs


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