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The writings on the wall: Artist Anna Frederick

If you find yourself at the corner of Court and Second Avenue in downtown Des Moines saying “this must be the place” — you’ve experienced the work of Anna Frederick.
photo from Art Beacon Des Moines

What started as a love of lettering during a part-time job at Trader Joe’s has become her very own startup story. Frederick’s artwork is unique in the art world in that her focus is on hand lettering, carrying the local torch in the revival of hand painted signs – a practice that fell off the radar during the ’80s and ’90s.

Since making this her full-time gig, Frederick has led hand lettering workshops in both Des Moines and Omaha, shown in galleries throughout the midwest and most recently, has made a habit of attending Letterheads in both Chicago and Amsterdam.

The arts aren’t always the first thing you think of when you see a startup hashtag, but Frederick proves, often times in paint, her entrepreneurial spirit is alive and flourishing.


C&M: What are you currently working on that’s exciting to you?

Anna Frederick: Everything I get to work on is exciting, at least for me! Each project is a little different: be it a logo for a band or signage for a restaurant; that’s part of why I love this path – every day is new. To be able do what I love to do and get paid for it is a dream.

C&M: What keeps you motivated to pursue this?

AF: Variety and endless challenge. I get to do and learn new things all the time. Plus, I think it’s the first activity in my life I’ve ever really enjoyed practicing! I will say, too – I am a total people-pleaser, and I love finding the right solution to clients’ creative “problems”… it’s a warm, fuzzy feeling like no other.

C&M: Who do you consider to be a mentor? Who do you look for when seeking advice?

AF: I am so very fortunate to have John Parker (founder of Parker Signs in Indianola) as my mentor (and friend). He is willing to share his experience with me on anything and everything, and he does so with great patience and heart. I wouldn’t be doing this without him.

I’ve got some amazing peers and role models all over the world that I connect with through social media and email – we’re able to critique and share notes anytime, anywhere. Instagram really opened a lot of those doors for me; I’ve been able to forge real relationships with people who’ve absolutely changed my life. The lettering/sign painting communities are pretty close-knit, and the folks I’ve met are all more than willing to offer their expertise and friendship.

C&M: What advice would you have for fellow entrepreneurs/artists/startup founders?

AF: Have a financial safety net. Take risks. Do not be afraid to fail in a fantastic way. Find people who are willing to tell you the hard truths and keep them close. Be genuine on every level.

C&M: How do you stay sane or keep yourself level? (i.e. what do you do besides work?)

AF: This was my way of staying sane/level when I was working other jobs full-time, so I’m in need of finding/reclaiming some of my other hobbies and outlets. I love traveling the very most. Spending time with my incredible friends and boyfriend. Being outside. (I love going to the lake to look at/throw rocks.) Photography. Going for drives.

C&M: What are you afraid of?

AF: Disappointing people, failing to meet expectations. And spiders.

C&M: How else do you think your brand might grow?

AF: I’m excited to see how the future unfolds. I have a very avid interest in public art (especially murals), and I’m a big advocate for knowledge sharing. Long-term goal: I hope to find a way to combine the two as time goes by and start teaching the next generation some things. Short-term? I hope to grow my brand by helping others grow theirs. I love that symbiotic relationship.

About Anna Frederick
Age: 34
Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Instagram: @xheart

Jami Milne is the interim managing editor of Clay & Milk. Send her an email at
The writings on the wall: Artist Anna Frederick | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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