University of Northern Iowa



Advance Iowa Team

The Advance Iowa team has the proven capabilities and experience to deliver value to your firm. We have owned midsized businesses of our own and have firsthand experience of what it takes to continually navigate a dynamic business environment.

Paul Kinghorn

Paul Kinghorn is the Director of Advance Iowa at the University of Northern Iowa. He has over twenty year’s consulting with businesses in all aspects of their operations with a special emphasis on ideation, startup, strategy, process efficiency and change management necessary for each client to achieve their desired objectives. He has held a number of management positions within public and private organizations and has been involved in a number of startups and early stage small business ventures. Paul continues to work closely with ownership and management teams to leverage the resources necessary to achieve desired results and to successfully grow and transform underperforming businesses into profitable ventures through targeted strategies. Paul received his Bachelor of Science in finance from Franklin University and his Masters of Business Administration from Ohio University.

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Headshot of Paul Kinghorn, the director of Advance Iowa.

Gary Nesteby

Gary has spent 43 years in the field of continual improvement, Quality and Performance Excellence. As the Founder and Executive Director of the Iowa Quality Center for 21 years, Gary was the leader in the development and implementation of the Iowa Recognition of Performance Excellence (IRPE.) He was a Director of the Alliance for Performance Excellence, which includes all state programs that feed the applicants into the National Baldrige Performance Excellence program.

Gary has spent the last 20 years assessing organizations in manufacturing, education, healthcare, nonprofit and government. His experience in systems thinking and the assessment tools of the Baldrige framework have given him opportunities to lead groups and address organizational gaps. Gary’s alignment with the CEO Peer Groups is a natural fit for business leaders needing to share best practices and learn from each other.

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Sydney Anderson

Sydney started with Advance Iowa as a student in 2016 and is now back on our team as a program associate. She has a specific focus on event planning to ensure our clients have the best experience at workshops, webinars, conferences, peer groups, seminars, and retreats. She graduated from University of Northern Iowa in 2018 with her B.A. in Political Communication and Public Relations and most recently served as a marketing and special events coordinator for a private school in Waterloo. Her experience growing up in a family business is originally what drew her to the center and she looks forward to working with businesses all across Iowa to help them succeed and grow.

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Headshot photo of Sydney Anderson wearing a purple floral shirt.

Deb Giarusso

Deb Giarusso is serving as senior program manager for Advance Iowa, dealing specifically with business ownership transition. She is a wealth strategist with a focus and specialty in serving business owners and their family’s financial resources. Deb has spent 35 years building her expertise in both corporate and investment finance. Her professional experiences include preparing capital budgeting analyses for Oscar Mayer Foods in the early 1990’s, managing a multi-million-dollar family real estate and investment portfolio for over 30 years, and being a founding principal of an RIA firm during the financial crisis of 2008. Additionally, she taught both graduate and undergraduate finance courses at the University of Northern Iowa for twenty years.

Deb’s commitment to the local community, families, and building long-term relationships is reflected in her devoting valuable time to serve on multiple non-profit boards as a financial expert for the past decade. Deb used her skills to lead financial projects, collaborate with board members to develop investment policies, monitored investment advisors, and forecast models by identifying key variables resulting in improved cash flow management and cost optimization, amongst other various roles. Deb proudly holds the designation of CFA® charter holder, CFA Institute and earned her MBA from the University of Iowa. 

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Deb's picture

Janell Crow

Janell is a UNI graduate with a degree in Business Management. She is a lifetime resident of the Cedar Valley and has a passion for the community. Before starting her career at UNI, she worked in finance and also as a small business owner. This is a unique aspect that she brings to our team, she knows what these businesses go through and understands a lot of their struggles. She is currently serving as a program manager and is responsible for the development, scheduling, and implementation of program events. She also assists with program marketing and business development.

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Janell crow headshot

Stacy Mullinex

Stacy is a program manager for Advance Iowa, bringing over twenty years of small business experience to the team. Her career has included owning her own company as well as consultation work for various trades which range from the small family shops to multi-million-dollar operations. Her role at Advance Iowa follows a similar path assisting companies in identifying value drivers for business growth, providing strategic / financial valuation assessments and offering customized succession planning. Stacy holds an undergraduate degree in both Business Administration and Accounting and is currently working on her Master of Business Administration.

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Picture of Stacy Mullinex, program manager

Annette Stevenson

Annette joined our team as a Program Associate in January 2022, and she will specialize in the creation of print and digital design marketing materials and collateral. Most of her graphic design and creative professional experience was gained while living and working in southern Germany, giving our team an international touch. Small family businesses have always been a part of her daily life and she is excited to, once again, promote businesses in the Heartland with their needs and concerns in mind. She is a UNI graduate with her B.F.A. in Art and since her relocation to the Cedar Valley, she has continued her work as an art instructor at the Hearst Center for the Arts in Cedar Falls.

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Annette stevenson, program associate at UNI