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NAWBO Iowa Business Institute Q&A – Karla Rendall and Lori Wiles

Karla Rendall

Karla Rendall owns an insurance agency in Clive. Her mission is to be a leader in the insurance business through education about insurance and personalized protection plans.

What is your background?

I live in Urbandale with my husband of 14 years and our two sons, Kole and Konnor. We also have two dogs, Dozer and Lily. I was born and raised in Cresco, Iowa. I obtained my bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa in education with a minor in special education. Since I graduated in December and teaching jobs were hard to find, I started working in banking. This turned into a 17-year career in retail and commercial banking, with an emphasis in sales management, commercial lending, and cash management.  

My whole life I aspired to be a business owner. And I wanted to spend more time with my family. So, in 2016, I left the banking world and started my own agency.

What is your business?

I own and operate Rendall Insurance Agency. We offer all types of insurance including home, vehicle, personal, commercial, professional liability, director and officer liability and life insurance.

My passion for the insurance industry is business insurance.  I love meeting business owners and learning how they operate, how they get started and what drives them. I want to get to know them so I can customize protection plans and identify any current gaps they have in coverage. I like the challenge of customizing each package to the individual needs of my clients.

I want to be a resource for people to make sure they understand their insurance options. This is inspired by my teaching background. Education about insurance is a huge gap. I really believe that having all of the information is how people can make the most informed decision for their business or family.

What do you hope to gain from the NAWBO Iowa Business Institute?

I love to learn! My favorite type of book to read is self-development or business, and I am constantly seeking more information and working to improve my skill sets. I will take any opportunity to expand my knowledge!

I hope to get new ideas on how to more effectively run my business. I want to be a well-rounded business owner, and I want to be able to work ON my business, not IN it.

 

Lori Wiles

Lori Wiles owns Lori Wiles Design in Cedar Rapids. Her design firm provides comprehensive interior and exterior design services to clients nationwide for both residential interior design and commercial interior design projects.

What is your background?

I grew up on a farm in Missouri. As a child, I was encouraged to make and build. I spent time painting and sewing and doing hands-on things. I also learned to love the barns and structures in my town. I remember how I would constantly go wander in the old buildings and farmhouses and just be in those spaces.

I was introduced to interior design as a career at the University of Central Missouri. I got my degree and have been doing this work ever since.

I started Lori Wiles Design with just me and a home office. Gradually, my team grew into what it is today. We recently moved into the Gatto Building in downtown Cedar Rapids. We are right on the river and love the location. 

What is your business?

I have an interior design business that specializes in interior remodels. I see my work as making spaces emotionally satisfying and effective for people. We lean more on structural design than surface design, and we work to make it an effective framework for humans through balance, movement and space.

We work with residential and commercial clients, but it is always about people and how they function in a space. We do that by spending the time to learn who our clients are—their backgrounds, their life experiences, what makes them feel good, and how we can get to that with their space. We assess our clients’ needs in a very personal way and come back with what we think would work for them.

I lead an office of three designers (plus myself) and other office staff that makes our teamwork. We are all conscientious people who create a design path for our clients and then guide them as they move toward their goals. Our team brings calm, focused energy to all of our projects.

What do you hope to gain from the NAWBO Iowa Business Institute?

I have never taken a business class. I have a great relationship with my local bank (F&M Bank), which has a program that focuses on women in business. This inspired me to seek more of that in my life. I built my business by learning what I could when I could. I want to be with other women business owners to form relationships, learn from them, and talk about what they find helpful. I also hope to access specific skills and information required to run a business.

The Business Case for Philanthropy

Most of us probably give back to our communities in one way or another. Whatever our reasons—we care about the cause, it makes us feel good, it connects us to our community, or even the tax advantages of larger or planned gifts—we benefit from our charitable activities.

Giving back through your business can be just as rewarding. In fact, a strategic corporate philanthropy program can benefit not just your community, but your bottom line.

What is corporate philanthropy?

Corporate philanthropy is an intimidating phrase that simply means you are using your company’s assets to support a charitable cause. In 2019, US companies gave $21.09 billion through grants, gifts, sponsorships and other giving programs.

Some companies have made a name for themselves with their giving programs, including large, multi-national businesses like Wells Fargo, Google, and Goldman Sachs. Others, such as Des Moines-based Raygun or Gillette, use their brand to raise awareness about issues in their communities. And still others like Cisco donate their product and expertise to help causes closely affiliated with their brands.

As a small business, your giving program can be as small or as large as you want it to be. And, you do not need to have a highly organized philanthropy department to make a difference. Grants and sponsorships, donating a portion of sales, employee-driven campaigns, gift matching and paid volunteer time off are just some of the many ways to support charitable organizations and causes in your community.

Why is it a good idea?

Corporate giving is not just good for your community, it is good for business. Supporting a charitable cause signals to customers that you are part of their community and creates customer loyalty. This is especially true of cause-related marketing—a specific type of corporate giving in which you work alongside an organization to raise money or awareness. In addition, giving programs are associated with better employee engagement and retention.

How do I get started?

If you are ready to start a business giving program, you will need to consider how it will be funded and what you want to achieve. Ensure you have a budget, strategy and ideally a designated person to manage it. You should also make sure that the program has guidelines that tie to your company’s values, brand and image in the marketplace. There can certainly be tax benefits, but there are also limitations, so make sure you have spoken to your tax advisor before making any decisions.

The most important thing to consider about corporate giving is what is the difference you want your business to make in the world. Just like your personal giving, corporate giving strengthens the community in which you do business. Ensuring your customers and their families have safe places to call home, food on the table, arts to inspire or thriving schools is not just good for sales, it is good—period.