EntreFEST heads to town


By Natalie Betz

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Entrepreneurs statewide will gather together this weekend for the biggest entrepreneurial and innovation event in Iowa to promote businesses, listen to speakers, pitch their business models, and receive feedback.

This Friday and Saturday, EntreFEST will take place at several venues in Iowa City. Attendees can register at the EntreFEST headquarters, 136 S. Dubuque St. from 7 to 9 p.m.To register, attendees will need a business card, according to the festival’s website.

The event includes resources, networking events, and lectures from keynote speakers, said Lynn Allendorf, director of the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.

“It’s the biggest contribution to the ecosystem for entrepreneurs,” Allendorf said. “It’s a mix between inspiring stories, education, networking, breakout sessions, and speakers knowledgeable on topics from their experiences to how to deal with taxes.”

Other lectures will discuss what the best tools to use are, how to use passions to benefit business models, different possible tracks, and how to finance, said Melissa McCarville, the communications manager of Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, a sponsor of the festival.

The festival is expecting around 600 attendees, McCarcille said.

However, because the event is taking place in Iowa City, there will be a high percentage of people from the area, Allendorf said.

During the day, there will be more workshops and speakers, while at night, there are networking events and pitch competitions, McCarville said.

Even if you do not win the pitch competitions, you will still receive good feedback, said Raud Kashef, a cofounder of Backcountry Café.

Kashef said it would be unfortunate for an entrepreneur not to attend because it allows people to remain humble after realizing how much they still do not know, and they learn many different perspectives on how to start a business.

EntreFEST particularly benefits Kashef because he said he is still prototyping his design on making a compact coffee maker for people who camp in the desert, mountains, or forests, so he is looking forward to hearing suggestions on how to “give the customer what they want.”

McCarville said there is also a “crawl” where people can go to local businesses and network. It’s a chance to find space to get to know others, she said.

McCarville also said she highly recommends that people do not miss Neil Blumenthal speak at noon today at the Englert.

According to the EntreFEST website, “Blumenthal is a cofounder and co-CEO of Warby Parker, a transformative lifestyle brand that offers designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.”

She also suggests that people check out the other speakers, such as Nick Saddock, a Google employee who mainly works with data center management and leadership. Saddock will speak at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, also at the Englert.

EntreFEST shows that the state wants to help business grow and thrive, McCarville said.

“I’m looking forward to a great couple of days in Iowa City,” McCarville said.

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