A Leap of Faith from California to DSM

While living in Los Angeles, Paul Richardson had been researching accelerator programs to potentially attend, hoping to continue growing as an entrepreneur and learn how to bring his vision, now known as Tumbleweed, to life. 

During his research in June 2023, Paul discovered that TechStars Startup Weekend was offering sessions in five different cities. The one that caught his eye was taking place roughly 1,800 miles away in Iowa City, starting the next day. On a leap of faith, Paul decided to book the last-minute trip to Iowa. 

“Tumbleweed was born in Iowa,” Paul recalled about his decision to book the trip. “A little over a year ago, I was on a road trip and came to Iowa to memorialize my grandparents who are from here. That was the early stage of Tumbleweed. So, when looking at the five cities I could travel to, it was like, okay, I’m going to Iowa, where the idea was born.” 

Tumbleweed is an end-of-life planning company that offers a thoughtfully curated journey to honor and memorialize lost loved ones. For individuals engaging in proactive planning, it ensures your preferences are securely documented and fulfilled seamlessly. 

Upon arriving in Iowa City, Paul was excited to pitch his idea of a software solution focused on end-of-life planning. He wanted to make it easier for individuals to go through the process of losing a loved one. 

Slated to go last in the pitch competition, Paul patiently waited for his turn. The person before him, Colleen Kinsey, got on stage and pitched the crowd on a platform that could digitize celebrations of life. 

Richardson could not believe it. 

“This has to be a joke. This cannot be real,” Paul recounted as he listened to Kinsey pitch an idea eerily similar to his. “I was pinching myself, like is this really happening?” 

After the pitch competition, the two connected and decided to team up for the remainder of the competition. They worked so well together that they ended up winning first place. 

Together with their third founder, Keisha Chandler, now the company's Chief Operating Officer, they brought Tumbleweed to life. 

As they laid the groundwork for the company, Paul traveled several times between California and Iowa. With each trip, he began to realize that the next step in this business endeavor was leaving California, the place he had called home for the last 17 years, and relocating to Iowa. 

“There was something here,” Paul said. “I was in a conversation with someone, and I was like, 'Oh, Tumbleweed is meant to be here.' Then I was in another conversation, and I was like, 'Oh, I am meant to be here, too.' So I decided to move the business and myself here. I came out on Labor Day weekend, found a place, and moved to the East Village.” 

Over a month, Richardson made the move official. The thing that stood out to him the most as he settled in was the people and their welcoming presence, which he described as making you feel special. 

“The welcoming spirit of every person I was talking to was very unique. It's not to say that people aren't nice in California; that's not it. It's just different,” said Richardson. “There is also a Midwest culture of warmth and the 'Iowa nice' thing. I just felt like, wow, these are really nice people and really helpful. And they continue to be.” 

Outside of focusing on growing his business, Richardson looks forward to exploring the region on his free weekends with his dog, trying local eats, and experiencing Downtown Des Moines (DSM) entertainment. 

Hear more about Paul’s business journey on the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s “Small Business and Startup Stories DSM” podcast.  

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Whether you’re looking to bring your business to life or start the life of your dreams (or both!), you can in DSM. Learn more about making your move here. 

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