EntreFEST 2019 speakers touch on good deeds, rural potential

Zachary Mannheimer, principal community placemaker at Clive-based McClure Engineering Co., presents on innovation in rur
Zachary Mannheimer, principal community placemaker at Clive-based McClure Engineering Co., presents on innovation in rural America at an EntreFEST 2019 session on Thursday in Cedar Rapids. (Thomas Friestad/The Gazette)

A large swath of Cedar Rapids became a Petri dish for entrepreneurial ideas and strategies during a two-day convention this week.

EntreFEST 2019, which ran Thursday and Friday, offered attendees a mixture of presentations and panels at several venues, hosted by nearly 50 business leaders.

Some 520 people signed up for the event’s app, organizers said Thursday morning.

A crowd of more than 100 listened as keynote speaker Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s, recounted his business’ rise from a storefront ice cream shop to a $300 million global ice cream titan.

Greenfield emphasized the powerful influence businesses such as Ben and Jerry’s can have in using their “voice” to advocate for social issues such as same-sex marriage and racial justice matters.

“There is a spiritual aspect to business just as there is to the lives of individuals,” he said. “As you give, you receive. As you help others, you are helped in return. And just because the idea that the good that you do comes back to you is written in the Bible and not in some business textbook doesn’t make it any less valid.”

Zachary Mannheimer, principal community placemaker at Clive-based McClure Engineering, outlined how rural America has significant potential to grow with new residents, so long as officials are purposeful in seeking to innovate.

Mannheimer pointed to new disruptions taking place elsewhere, including driverless cars delivering groceries in California and 3D printing machines creating houses in China, and said there’s nothing stopping smaller rural towns from attempting something similar.


“There’s this psychology about folks in rural areas, ‘Poor rural, we’ve got to wait for the big stuff, that’s for cities, that’s not for us,’” he said, continuing, “We can do it here and we can do it better.”

Sumaia Masoom was among other EntreFEST speakers who focused more on advice for individual entrepreneurs.

The Huff Post contributor and Visa employee, based in San Francisco, reviewed 10 personal tips for steering clear workplace burnout, such as she experienced after pulling four straight all-nighters finishing her honors thesis while working at a not-for-profit and two on-campus jobs.

The annual conference was produced by NewBoCo and presented by the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, with support from the city of Cedar Rapids and Renew Rural Iowa.

The Gazette was a media sponsor for the event.

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