Last week, Iowa City hosted the 7th annual EntreFEST, in support and celebration of entrepreneurism in Iowa. If I were to give a ‘state of the State’ address based on this event, I would say the State is strong, enthusiastic and supported.
1. No man is an Island
One of the final introductions of the event quoted renaissance poet John Donne’s famous ‘No Man is an Island poem,” supporting the idea of networking which was built into the fest in a myriad of thoughtful ways. A planned ‘let’s do lunch’ event on Friday encouraged attendees to meet with other conference goers outside the venue. Coordination with other supportive networking groups such as the Technology Association of Iowa brought a TechBrew event to the conference. Other supportive groups were highlighted including sponsors like the University of Northern Iowa’s Advance Iowa and Business Concierge initiatives. Bottom line? You don’t have to go it alone to be an entrepreneur.
2. Diversify, diversify, diversify
No state wants to be last in something, especially when it comes to the number of women-owned businesses. The State of Iowa is something like 51st when it comes to this number. And why? Over half of our population is female. Groups like Ascent in Cedar Rapids are trying to provide the encouragement for women to pursue and grow business in Iowa. More than the gender gap, EntreFEST encouraged attendees to join in the conversation about minorities and entrepreneurism – something detailed more by We Create Here. Beyond diversity among people, diversity in skill sets was encouraged – noted by popular sessions incorporating the power of improv and communicating on your feet with facilitators from Theater Cedar Rapids.
3. Iowa is Startup-Friendly
Fusionfarm is proud to have team members participate in entrepreneurial experiences, like Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids. EntreFEST featured many speakers who talked about this event and others like it to encourage innovation in our state. Ben Gilbert, formerly of Microsoft’s Innovation Garage shared about the power of focus at a startup weekend during his talk on Thursday. His most recent weekend occurred in Malaysia. His takeaway? Everywhere he has attended one of these weekends, people knew about Iowa. Our state brand of ‘down-to-earth, hard work’ has serious reach. Our friend at Geonetric, Eric Engelmann’s Iowa Startup Accelerator takes the weekend to another level with a 90 day program for 10 selected teams.
Not every business owner considers themselves an entrepreneur, but what EntreFEST offers is a non-competitive line of support to everyone trying to make something great in Iowa. And hopefully, it inspires even more to pursue this edgy, interesting, and ultimately rewarding role. In the infamous word of John Donne, “And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”
Check out the photo booth pictures from EntreFEST's opening party on our Facebook page.