EntreFEST 2019

Cedar Rapids became an entrepreneurial hub last week as entrepreneurs, business owners, software developers and other professionals gathered for EntreFEST 2019.

The two-day conference, which ran Thursday and Friday, offered attendees a combination of presentations and panels at several venues, hosted by nearly 50 businesses throughout Cedar Rapids.

Here are some highlights from the event:

Jerry Greenfield tells origin of Ben & Jerry’s

Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, delivered EntreFEST’s first keynote Thursday morning.

 Greenfield shared how he turned a storefront venture into a $300 million ice cream empire by making social responsibility and creative management into strengths instead of weaknesses.

Greenfield emphasized the powerful influence businesses like Ben and Jerry’s can have in using their voice to advocate for social issues.

“There is a spiritual aspect to business just as there is to the lives of individuals,” Greenfield said. “As you give, you receive. As you help others, you are helped in return. And just because the idea that the good that you do comes back to you is written in the Bible and not in some business textbook doesn’t make it any less valid.”

Venture School Launch Day

The University of Iowa’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center held its Venture School Launch Day event in conjunction with EntreFEST on Thursday night.

Venture School Launch Day highlighted eight standout Venture School alumni from the 2018/2019 year. The eight startups each had six minutes to pitch their businesses to a panel of judges followed by a four-minute Q&A.

First place was given to Immersive Development Reality who took home the $10,000 first place prize. Second Place was given to Boundry who took home $5,000. The six other startups that pitched each received $1,000.

Click here to learn more about the eight startups that pitched at Launch Day.

Placemaking in rural America

Zachary Mannheimer, principal community placemaker at Clive-based McClure Engineering, spoke about how rural America has significant potential to grow with new residents as populations along the coast become more and more saturated.

Mannheimer said that in order to prepare for larger populations, officials in rural communities need to begin to seek out purposeful innovation now.

“There’s this psychology about folks in rural areas,” he said. “‘Poor rural, we’ve got to wait for the big stuff, that’s for cities, that’s not for us.’ We can do it here and we can do it better.”

Escaping “The Build Trap

Melissa Perri, founder of Produx Labs, talked about how large companies can often fall into a dangerous place she called “The Build Trap.”

Perri shared how product teams and organizations can restructure their thinking to focus on finding value for the user through experimentation to achieve business goals.

Attendees received a free copy of her book, Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Mangement Creates Real Value.

Things no one tells you about owning your own business

Meegan Hofmeister, founder of The Dostal House, spoke about the unspoken hardships that can come with owning a business.

She shared the ups and downs of her experience opening up a retail store that she ended up closing after running for three years.

“I went into that business with my best friend and we had two very different commitment levels,” said Hofmeister.” And very quickly I had a better understanding of the business than what my business partner did and that started to be a wedge.”

Hofmeister now runs and owns The Dostal House, a retail, coworking and event space for women located in Cedar Rapids.