Student-led collaborative business emerges

Eight UI student-led businesses collaborate to form Foundry IRL, an Iowa River Landing retail space in Coralville, that will open within a month. The space will offer products ranging from apparel to interior-design items.


Katie Goodale

Senior Patrick Hagan, originally from Iowa City, and recent graduate Vako Darjania, originally from the Republic of Georgia, pose for a portrait in their retail space located in Iowa River Landing, Coralville on Sept. 5, 2018. This business will be run as a collaborative retail space for eight undergraduate students and will sell a variety of different products.

Julia DiGiacomo, News Reporter

Foundry IRL will bring together the creative visions of eight University of Iowa student-led businesses. The collaborative store will likely emerge within the month at Iowa River Landing in Coralville.

The retail space will showcase a diverse range of products and brands, including unique apparel, accessories, interior-design items, and a phone-repair service.

“I don’t remember a time when this many student businesses got together for a joint venture,” Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center Director Lynn Allendorf said.

The featured companies will include streetwear-inspired fashion from Almvghty, Elevated Supply Co., and Kulture Vaccine; accessories by Wanderlust Wraps, Yiran Li Design, and Conquer Accessories; and in-store cellphone-repair by Parametics.

UI student Patrick Hagan, part of Almvghty, said Foundry IRL will probably open in mid- to late-September. The collaboration will likely host a grand opening at the location, 920 E. Second Ave., Suite 110.

“The overall goal is to create a place where student entrepreneurs can come and try their hand at retail,” Hagan said. “Hopefully, it will be something that students can use to help grow their businesses and grow a presence in the Iowa City area.”

The concept of Foundry IRL originated from the Founder’s Club, a business incubator in the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.

Hagan said Deanna Trumbull, the leader of the Iowa River Landing project, approached the Founder’s Club with the idea of a student-run retail space. The club was instrumental in getting the established started.

From there, the project took off. The students are decorating their areas and continuing the long process of preparing for customers.

Recent UI graduate Vako Darjania, the founder of Vako Designs, said he is primarily in charge of designing the space. It was a perfect fit for him to use the skills he has learned at the UI, he said. He wants to create a dream environment in which people will enjoy shopping and hanging out.

Hagan said each of the eight stores will have its own general section in the space but with an overall cohesive feel.

“What we’re going for here is kind of a higher-end feel, almost like a gallery, where it really emphasizes a lot of focus on the products,” Hagan said.

The young entrepreneurs will also have the opportunity to build on what they have learned at the Founder’s Club. The students will be responsible for all of the numerous components of businesses, including customer service, merchandising, floor design, etc.

“In general, I think this would be a good place and a good opportunity for any UI student who is thinking of starting a business,” Darjania said.

Allendorf said the UI remains providing the young entrepreneurs mentoring and support through the Founder’s Club and the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Lab. Experienced Iowa City community members help the students with tasks such as strategic planning, long-term banking, accounting, filing taxes, among other items.

“I personally think it’s very exciting that students are balancing going to school, worrying about their long-term future, maybe have another job to help with college, and are also finding the time to start businesses in some area they are passionate about,” Allendorf said.