Business

EntreFEST returns to Cedar Rapids after five years

About 500 people expected to attend next week

Theatre Cedar Rapids Education Director Zach Parker (left) works on an exercise with Cameron Shorg, a University of Iowa student from Colorado Springs, during the EntreFEST workshop Improv for Entrepreneurs during the 2017 event. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Theatre Cedar Rapids Education Director Zach Parker (left) works on an exercise with Cameron Shorg, a University of Iowa student from Colorado Springs, during the EntreFEST workshop Improv for Entrepreneurs during the 2017 event. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A gathering for Iowa’s entrepreneurs, investors and innovators will return to Cedar Rapids next week for the first time since 2013.

EntreFEST, hosted by the New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative and Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, will kick off with an opening reception Wednesday evening. Panels and other events are scheduled for Thursday and Friday, May 17 and 18.

Organizers expect about 500 people to attend and about 50 speakers are scheduled for various panels and keynote speeches, such as one from Scott Belsky, the chief product officer of Adobe.

While the event will attract members of Iowa’s start-up community, organizers said they also want the conference to appeal to those in more traditional businesses seeking ways to innovate.

“It’s really, how can a more traditional business setting take that entrepreneurial spirit and take some of those principals and apply them in the traditional business, whether it be a larger corporation, a smaller main street business or a nonprofit?” NewBoCo Events Director Jill Wilkins said.

EntreFEST attendees likely will be seen crisscrossing downtown Cedar Rapids and the New Bohemia district as EntreFEST has scheduled speeches, panels, parties and networking opportunities for 15 venues in the area. Those venues include NewBo City Market, the Paramount Theatre, Eastbank Venue and Lounge, Raygun and Parlor City Pub and Eatery, among other sites.

“You have a totally different feeling when you’re in a session with a breakout speaker if you’re sitting in the pavilion at Parlor City, maybe drinking a beer, while you’re listening to somebody talk about the lessons they’ve learned while pitching their business” than a hotel ballroom, NewBoCo Events Specialist Laura Kaiden said.

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Scheduled events such as a pub crawl and a walk along Third Street SE will show off local businesses and the core of Cedar Rapids.

“It’s a really nice opportunity — since this is an entrepreneurial and business conference — by going into these other businesses and facilities, it’s our way to help support them as well,” Wilkins said.

Tickets are available, including a $385 package for all three days, $60 for Thursday’s keynote and smaller amounts for two individual events. They are available at www.entrefest.com/buy-tickets.

l Comments: (319) 398-8366; matthew.patane@thegazette.com

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