Everyday Entrepreneurship


Written by Roger Underwood | Image by Christopher Gannon

Roger Underwood innovator and investor

Roger Underwood (’80 agricultural business), agricultural technology innovator and investor

Start Something, Pursue Fresh Ideas, Take Bold New Steps

I’ve always looked at the "why and how" of any product and wondered: How could this be done more efficiently? As an Iowa State student in the 1970s, I had professors who were teaching me continual collaboration, market efficiency, and cost analysis. What they were really teaching me was entrepreneurship.

These lessons served me well when I co-founded Becker Underwood with Jeff Becker, a childhood friend from Atlantic, Iowa, just a few years after graduation. We took our initial idea of adding colorant to chemicals and turned it into a multi-national agricultural chemical company which we sold to BASF in 2012.

Entrepreneurship is a disruptive process. It’s a product, service, or technology that inserts itself into an existing market. Innovation is entrepreneurship’s close partner – it’s the idea, method, or product that challenges the status quo and brings market efficiency, cost savings, and consumer benefits. Consider the smartphone. It disrupted the camera and desktop computer industries and quickly became an essential part of our everyday lives.

Today, Iowa State University has integrated entrepreneurship and innovation programs into the Start Something Network to encourage undergraduates to pursue their ideas and take bold steps in business, community, and non-profit settings. The Start Something Network helps colleges tailor each student’s experience to meet their unique needs and interests. And the Student Innovation Center is a perfect place for students to come together and refine an idea, build a business, or create a new product.

It’s working.

Iowa State University is a recognized leader in innovation programs, recently receiving the rank of 11th in the Princeton Review’s 2023 survey of undergraduate universities. And the university’s list of successful student-launched businesses continues to grow. 

Mitch Hora (’17 agronomy, agricultural systems technology) started his business, Continuum Ag, as a junior 
at Iowa State. He is now a recognized leader in regenerative agriculture, helping farmers grow crops profitably and sustainably while growing his Iowa-based business. And Linda Tong (’20 music, event management) founded her customized planner business right in the middle of her Human Sciences 474 class. She credits Iowa State’s CYstarters and Start Something programs for helping her learn to scale her side hustle into a full-time business.

As part of the Start Something Net-work, the ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship offers pitch competitions, workshops, clubs, internships, and campus visits by dynamic innovators. Thousands of students like Mitch and Linda benefit annually from these programs.

Just think of the global impact students will have with these dynamic skills. I encourage you to consider how you may join them in thinking creatively and introducing fresh ideas every day at work, in your civic organizations, and throughout your community. How can you start something?