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 2023 Planning Team

and learn why they’re a part of EntreFEST.

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

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

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.”

Jennifer Smith (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.”

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.”