Women Empowered

Women Empowered

A short film about the leaders driving Iowa’s energy future.

About the Film

Over the past several years, some of the most monumental and groundbreaking solar projects that we’ve designed and implemented here at Ideal Energy have been led by women business leaders.

I’ve had the honor of working with Iowa’s most dynamic female entrepreneurs on these projects and seen firsthand the role that women are playing in reshaping Iowa’s energy future.

Though their industries and paths to success differ, all of these entrepreneurs are creating an energy paradigm that is both highly profitable and environmentally responsible. Because of their projects, we’re all moving closer to a clean, abundant energy future.

This film is a tribute to these leaders, and a way to share their story. I hope that you will join me in celebrating the accomplishments of these trailblazing Iowa women.

Amy Van Beek

Co-Founder & CMO, Ideal Energy

Jenny Steffensmeier
Owner & President, Steffensmeier Welding & Manufacturing

Jenny took over as president of Steffensmeier Welding & Manufacturing (SWM) after the untimely passing of her husband Ben, the company’s founder. One of her first major decisions after taking the reins was implementing a solar energy installation.

Jenny assembled a leadership team to study the pros and cons of solar power. The team’s research showed solar was well worth pursuing. Ideal Energy was chosen to design and build the array. The two companies developed an ambitious ‘net-zero’ design, meaning the array provides 100% of Steffensmeier’s energy needs.

Jenny’s decision is saving SWM over $90,000 a year and has allowed her to invest in her employees by improving benefits and offering additional training, hire new workers, expand production, and give back to the community.

Jenny’s dynamism as president of SWM, and the success of the company’s solar project, have garnered extensive press coverage, visits from Governor Reynolds and former Governor Branstad, and a 1000 Friends of Iowa Best Development Award in the Renewable Energy category. “The coverage has been nothing but positive,” Jenny said. “It has catapulted us into view.”


Mary Sundblad
Owner, Stuff Etc Quality Consignment Stores

Originally trained as an X-ray technician, Mary launched her business in Iowa City in 1985. Then called Kids Stuff and Kountry Krafts, it was housed in a rented 750-square-foot building behind a bar in an industrial neighborhood. Despite modest beginnings, the business’s mix of secondhand kids clothing and new country-themed goods drew a loyal fan base. Within a year the business moved into a 3,000-square-foot building. More – and larger – stores would follow.

In the last 33 years Stuff Etc’s growth has been explosive. Community-oriented values and cutting edge solutions helped Mary grow Stuff Etc from a small craft and second-hand clothing shop into the largest consignment service operation in the nation.

One of Mary’s innovations was her decision to adopt solar energy at her company’s Coralville and Cedar Rapids locations. At Stuff Etc’s flagship Coralville store, Mary chose to build a cutting edge solar and battery energy storage system – the first of its kind in Iowa. Solar energy allowed Mary to control utility costs while reinforcing her company’s commitment to sustainable values.


Lori Weaton-Schaefer
Owner & President, Agri-Industrial Plastics

After a 15-year career working for a publicly traded technology services company as a staff accountant and strategic planner, Lori returned to her hometown of Fairfield to work for Agri-Industrial Plastics Company (AIP), the company her father founded in 1978. She brought her accounting and strategic planning experience into her new role in marketing, before advancing to the position of director of business development. After several years spent building a strong senior management team, Lori became president of the company in 2013.

AIP is now among the largest employers in Fairfield and a dominant player in the field of industrial blow molded plastic parts. The company produces over 800 different products, including plastic fuel tanks for many large, well-known OEMs in the lawn & garden, off-road, and marine industries.

One of Lori’s primary goals as president is positioning AIP as the employer of choice in the region. She believes that, in addition to saving the company a substantial amount of money on its utility bills, her company’s cutting-edge solar + Tesla battery energy storage system will send a message that AIP is a next-generation manufacturer. The state-of-the-art solar project will fit in with AIP’s high-tech robotic automation, sophisticated engineering techniques, and community-oriented culture.

“This solar array is like a giant billboard that says, ‘Guess what? This is not your old-school manufacturing building.’ It’s not dark, it’s not dingy, it’s not unsafe. It’s technical, it’s looking forward,” Lori said. She continued, “I would consider it a strategic investment for our future.”


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