Where big ideas meet opportunity

EntreFEST is a two-day conference, celebrating the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation where professionals at every level can come together, share ideas, and own their success.

Conference History

For more than a decade, EntreFEST has brought together entrepreneurs and industry leaders from across the state and the Midwest to learn from each other and celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation. In 2008, the first ever EntreFEST was held in Cedar Falls thanks to a collaborative group of Iowa service providers led by the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Business Growth and Innovation (CBGI) that had worked on the concept since 2007. Since that first EntreFEST, the annual conference has been held in cities across the state, including Coralville, West Des Moines, Ames, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City.

In 2013, UNI CBGI joined forces with Seed Here Studio’s Andy Stoll and Amanda West to help grow EntreFEST (then known as EntreFest!) as well as the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. Over the next three years, EntreFEST attendance grew rapidly. The conference took a hiatus in 2016 when it found a new home with NewBoCo. In 2017, NewBoCo co-produced EntreFEST with the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance in Iowa City, led by Events Director Jill Wilkins and Events Specialist Laura Kaiden. In 2018, EntreFEST returned to Cedar Rapids for the first time since 2013. EntreFEST 2019, led by Wilkins, was the 11th time the conference has been held.

The common thread of the EntreFEST story is that the entrepreneurial and innovation community in Iowa and the Midwest comes together to make this ecosystem stronger.

Meet Our 2022 Planning Team

and learn why they’re a part of EntreFEST.

Matt Arnold (he/him)

Iowa City, IA – Spark Consulting Group

“EntreFEST, as an event and a community, is something truly special. I consider it a gift to be able to collaborate with this fantastic bunch of smart, productive, and fun people.”

Anthony Arrington (he/him)

Cedar Rapids, IA – Top Rank Solutions

“I believe in collaboration, I love hearing diverse perspectives about business ownership, and I deeply value the desire to ensure DEI is woven throughout the entire conference.”

Sarika Bahkta (she/her)

Cedar Rapids, IA – Nikeya Diversity Consulting

Jess Bertling (she/her)

Anamosa, IA – NewBoCo

“I’ve been lucky enough to experience a handful of EntreFEST’s, and it’s always such an invigorating couple of days. I’m excited to work with the planning team to keep the momentum going!”

Joy Briscoe (she/her)

Waterloo, IA – Waterloo Schools & Career Center

“Entrepreneurship is the one of the founding pillars for innovation in our community and creates spaces for everyone to engage and win in our economic ecosystem. I’m excited to join the EntreFEST planning team as it’s truly the connecting on some of our brightest thought leaders and innovators coming together to fortify Iowa ingenuity.”

Katie Castillo-Wilson (she/her)

Davenport, IA – TapOnIt

“As a female founder of an Iowa-based technology company, I understand the importance of bringing like-minded people together to discuss, recognize and celebrate entrepreneurship. One of my goals has always been to help other people, especially women, in Iowa to take the leap and work to turn their ideas into businesses; working with EntreFEST seems like a great way to start!”

Jay Cooper (he/him)

Iowa City, IA – Cider Finder

“It was an easy decision to say “yes” to joining the EntreFEST planning team! Entrepreneurial events are the lifeblood of startup communities, and EntreFEST has been there throughout the years as a one-of-a-kind opportunity for new and experienced entrepreneurs to come together and share ideas and experiences.”

Maurice Davis (he/him)

Cedar Rapids, IA – Marketing Growth Strategy

“I am passionate about equality in the entrepreneur space. The team at Newbo co is working hard to do their part to ensure that POCs are represented in this space, being on the committee is my way of doing what I can to pay a part in change.”

V Fixmer-Oraiz (they/them)

Iowa City, IA – Astig Planning

Liz Hubing (she/her)

Iowa City, IA – Iowa City Area Development Group

“I have a passion for connection people to opportunity, especially as it relates to entrepreneurship. I think EntreFEST is a great place for people to learn, connect, and inspire. I’m excited to be a part of the team that makes that magic happen.”

Kady Light (she/her)

Cedar Rapids, IA – Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center

“I am thrilled to be joining the EntreFEST Planning Team because it is a highlight for me, our students and our Venture School alumni each year. I love bringing ‘newbies’ to the event and hearing about their experiences and connections they make so being able to have a small part in creating that joy this year is very exciting for me.”

Ben McDougal (he/him)

Des Moines, IA – Techstars

“EntreFEST unlocks the ability for anyone to tap into the unmatched energy of accelerating others. This annual pilgrimage connects students, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and community builders, so of course I said “yes”, let’s pour more innovative energy into this statewide collaboration. Keep building and we’ll see you soon my friends!”

Beth Meyer (she/her)

Iowa City, IA – Iowa City Area Business Partnership

“I joined the planning team because Erin Pottebaum asked (😉), and I’m really passionate about helping entrepreneurs and small business owners grow and succeed in their industries. In the 2+ years I’ve been with the Iowa City Area Business Partnership, I’ve had a front row seat in working with small business owners, and have had an opportunity to work with them on some level almost daily.

Entrepreneurs and small businesses are the fabric of our communities, and it’s exciting to see them succeed – EntreFEST is the perfect jump start many of them need.”

Jennifer Murphy (she/her)

Cedar Rapids, IA – NewBoCo

“I am passionate about learning through experience and stories that people are willing to share. EntreFEST creates a learning environment where we get to learn through the stories of others, create our own stories to teach others, and continue to build powerful ecosystems for growth.”

Monica Nieves (she/her)

Iowa City, IA – Think Iowa City

“I am excited to say “yes” to joining the EntreFEST planning team for two reasons: to start, we are thrilled that this group is returning to downtown Iowa City after being away for a few years. Secondly, I am always grateful for the opportunity to work closely with the team at NewBoCo. Everything that their team does is phenomenal and I was honored to be asked!”

Quinn Pettifer (she/her)

Cedar Rapids, IA – The Gazette

“Entrefest is the unique opportunity to gather creative energies from across the state to dream and build. The recognition and resources the events team puts in to ensuring this is an experience for ALL who wish to build on ideas speaks to the work I do at The Gazette and beyond. Proud to work with this group and can’t wait for the 2022 experience!”

Erin Pottebaum (she/her)

Iowa City, IA – Iowa City Area Development Group

“I am passionate about working with entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in ICR Iowa. The amount of local creativity and brilliance keeps me in constant awe and makes me proud of what is created in Iowa.”

Joe Reilly (he/him)

Iowa City, IA – Iowa City Downtown District

Faith Robinson (she/her)

Cedar Rapids, IA – Jane Boyd

Claudia Schabel (she/her)

Des Moines, IA – Schabel Solutions

Ryan Shenefelt (he/him)

Cedar Rapids, IA – de Novo Marketing

“Having been part of EntreFEST for the last few years, Ryan understands the benefits of the networking and sessions, while also understanding how daunting it can be to attend a conference for the first time. Ryan enjoys getting to help make EntreFEST a welcoming environment for ALL who attend.”

Mikayla Sullivan (she/her)

Ames, IA – ISA Ventures

“Community is critical to success. EntreFest brings people together from around the state and region to learn and build relationships that push the ecosystem to be more collaborative and supportive for founders.”

Catherine Tran (she/her)

Iowa City, IA – Immigrant Entrepreneurs Summit

Diana Wright (she/her)

Des Moines, IA – Greater Des Moines Partnership

“It’s important to support a statewide entrepreneurship ecosystem by partnering with the entrepreneurial support organizations that champion building together. We teach entrepreneurs that it’s better to work together than do it alone, and the same proves for the people creating valuable programming and events for startups in Iowa.”

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