EntreFEST is picking up where it left off

EntreFEST NewBoCo EntreFEST brings together about 1,000 people in Iowa City over three days for breakout sessions, a fashion show and multiple keynotes. Photo courtesy of Jill Wilkins

A year-long hiatus seemingly made EntreFEST—Iowa’s largest conference for entrepreneurs—stronger.

EntreFEST started in 2008 and was primarily organized by the University of Northern Iowa. It became the place where Iowa’s startup community would meet each year. But the hiatus in 2016 came when the university turned over operations and ownership of EntreFEST to NewBoCo, the Cedar Rapids-based nonprofit.

It had grown larger than the university could handle.

Focusing on the 2017 conference NewBoCo would hire two full-time employees to organize and schedule EntreFEST. And because the 2017 EntreFEST was so successful, organizers say the 2018 festival will be more of the same, in a new location.

“We thought the group of people we had was a nice mix of entrepreneurs to traditional corporate business leaders who have been involved with a company for years,” Jill Wilkins, Events Director at NewBoCo, said. “So we had a nice mixture of backgrounds that made EntreFest unique and interesting. We were really happy to bring it back in that capacity.”

Wilkins said people were excited when she started telling them the conference was returning.

“I was pleased with how it turned out especially after having that year hiatus,” Wilkins said. “There were certainly challenges, just getting the event back on people’s radar. We want to continue to make sure we get the word out that Entrefest is back and continuing.”

But Laura Kaiden, Events Specialist at NewBoCo, said they want to have a lot going on but that they are looking at the most efficient way to schedule events.

She says there’s a definite fear of missing out.

“People get to see a good amount,” Kaiden says. “But then you talk to someone and then realize what you miss.”

EntreFEST features speakers, panels and workshops for entrepreneurs and corporate innovators. Last year was the first time the event was two days.

“In the past we’ve done so many things so maybe we go for a little less is more type of thing,” Kaiden said. “You just get so excited and wrapped up in what everyone is bringing to the table that it kind of grows organically.

“So right now we are setting out to do less is more, and we will see how that goes.”

The 2018 EntreFEST is scheduled for May 17-18 in Cedar Rapids.

Tickets area available now.

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