Entrepalooza is here!

Entrepalooza Event Flier Timeline

Join hundreds of Siouxlanders in celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit in our community by attending the great events taking place during Entrepalooza.  For more information and a complete list of events click here.

2014 Was a Big Year for Startup Successes in Sioux City

Startup Sioux City has seen great growth since it started more than two years ago, but by far the greatest strides – in growth, in recognition and engagement – came in 2014.

So what happened that made is such a big year? Plenty.

For the most part, the success this year came with much greater awareness. Small business leaders, city officials, local colleges, community groups, area Chambers of Commerce and other organizations now recognize and include Startup Sioux City in their events and promotions. They have truly welcomed our vision of promoting a vibrant startup and small business culture across Siouxland and western Iowa.

That didn’t happen by accident. There are countless people in Sioux City and the region who have stepped up to create synergy among startups and the support network they need to grow and thrive. While there are too many people to name here, our thanks go out to anyone and everyone who has attended an event, started a new connection, built a business or reached out to network and grow their company. This is sure to be a big year, and we’re as excited as ever about what’s just over the horizon.

So here’s a snapshot of our biggest achievements in 2014.
We formed a board: Startup Sioux City this past fall elected a board of five people to help direct its vision and govern its growth. This is perhaps the biggest step this organization could make. The board members – Sean Richardson, president; Ryan Martinez, vice-president; Thomas Ritchie, Secretary; Sam Wagner, treasurer; and Renae Billings, at large committee chair – will serve for 1 year, ending on Oct. 5, 2015. Got an idea you want to share – track down a board member at the next Biz Brew.

UNI Regional Entrepreneurship Project: Renae Billings, in her work with the City of Sioux City economic development team, helped Woodbury County and the region create this important partnership with the University of Northern Iowa. The 4-year initiative, a collaboration between Plymouth, Woodbury and Monona counties and UNI’s Business and Community Services division, is aimed at supporting and encouraging entrepreneurship and startup businesses in the region.
Award nominations: Two big award nominations were bestowed upon Sioux City startup leaders. The Silicon Prairie News nominated Sioux City startup Pushlee, owned by Sean Richardson and Blake Anderson, for best new startup of the year, and Morningside senior Ryan Martinez was nominated and won the award for Student Entrepreneur of the Year. The SPN awards are a big deal, and these two nominations are the first for any Sioux City company or person. They include nominations from 3 states – Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas – and honor startups and startup community leaders.

First Startup Weekend: This event, which was held Sept. 5-7, brings together dozens of creative, business-minded individuals who form teams to create a business or product in just 54 hours. The event was held during Launch Week in Sioux City, which was aimed at promoting small business and startup culture. A number of teams on Sunday night presented to a team of judges their business ideas – including a number of apps, a wooden toy company and more. In total, more than 30 people participated in the event.


Growing events: A number of events grew significantly in 2014. Biz Brew, a signature Startup Sioux City event, has grown to attract more than 30 people every month. The largest Biz Brew this year was a collaborative event held July 17 with RXA Technology, who hosts Base 3, an evening of entrepreneurial speakers from around Siouxland and the nation. A final note about events. First Friday Coffee, which is held every first Friday of the month at 9 a.m. at Springboard Coworking, is growing, too. The event features business owners each month who talk about the successes and struggles they face running a business.

There were a number of other notable entrepreneurial events in 2014, including but not limited to the following:

– Sioux City hosted its first Immigrant Entrepreneurship Summit in September. The event helps educate immigrant business owners.

– The company Pushlee launched its app with partner Kum & Go as its first client. The app shares in-store deals with customers at gas stations and is owned by Sean Richardson and Blake Anderson.

– Local colleges stepped up their entrepreneurial game. Morningside College created a May entrepreneurship term. Briar Cliff saw big numbers at its Swimming with the Sharks event, held during Entrepalooza week on campus. Both schools sent students to entrepreneurial events in Iowa and the region.

– The City of Sioux City and The Siouxland Initiative in 2014 lent greater recognition to entrepreneurial events, through sponsorship of events, and as Startup Sioux City sponsoring partners.

Sioux City Growth Organization’s Innovation Market in 2014 had an additional gift given to entrepreneurs at it’s annual event by local business owner Cheri Cosgrove.

Think 29, a blog aimed at promoting entrepreneurship along the Interstate 29 corridor, concluded its first ever entrepreneurial bus tour in Sioux City. The tour started in Fargo, and stopped in a number of North Dakota and South Dakota cities before arriving in Sioux City for a Biz Brew and networking event. Yankton entrepreneur Ben Hanten, owner of Think 29, spoke at the event, held on the patio of the Chesterfield.

Wire Me Awake moved to the University of South Dakota. This annual entrepreneurial conference was moved to USD to greater promote student entrepreneurial growth. The event saw its largest attendance, with more than 200 students and entrepreneurs.

– Greater media coverage from mainstream media, namely local TV, newspaper, and radio coverage, in addition to coverage from Silicon Prairie News.

– Greater attendance at entrepreneurial conferences, including Entrefest, Big Omaha, Big Kansas City, KC Unconference, SXSW, Innovation Expo and more.

– Lastly, one of the most important support systems we have stepped up: the public. We saw greater interest from local businesses and business leaders this year, and a continued support of entrepreneurship events across Siouxland from a number of state and official organizations as well as curious minds who joined us just for fun. This cannot be understated – these are the people who will help strengthen the startup community as a whole by providing support on all levels to new and emerging companies in Siouxland.

There are many more events we could list here, but these are highlights. And while we’re especially proud of the past year, here’s to an even better 2015.

Pub Trivia hits Sioux City!

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Show me a man who doesn’t love trivia and I’ll show you a liar.
OK, not really, but we know that pretty much everyone has some form of trivial knowledge they desire to share from time to time.
What is it? Well that time is now as Startup Sioux City is hosting the first ever Biz Brew Pub Trivia Night. It combines a Biz Brew networking event and a Pub Trivia contest with prizes. Yes, there will be prizes.
Did we mention that there also will be beer and BBQ. It’s going to be epic.
When/Where is it going down? The event is Thursday, Jan. 15 at the House of Q,  2520 Transit Ave., and you’re invited.
How do you get involved? Easy – get together a team of 4 people, bring your brain and be ready for a night of good food, drinks and friends.
To get your trivial mind working, here are a few sample questions:
- Instagram was launched in what year?
- What was the first movie Drew Barrymore starred in?
- What color is brown ale?
See – you are all ready.
RSVP: So sign up now  at http://startupsiouxcitypubtrivia.splashthat.com/Facebook and then show up ready to test your brain.
And if you just want to show up and enjoy beer and BBQ with friends, that’s cool too.
Biz Brew starts at 5 p.m. and the Trivia contest starts at 6 p.m. There will be appetizers from House of Q, as well as lots of opportunities to meet new friends and swap your favorite trivia.
If you’re a beer aficionado, then you will surely appreciate the House of Q, which has one of the best craft beer selections in Sioux City.
See you Thursday. Don’t forget your thinking cap.

Iowa’s West Coast Region Offers the Chance to Dream Big, Grow Here


The economic development organizations in northwest Iowa are teaming up to bring the statewide Dream Big Grow Here business grant contest to our region for the first time. The contest provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs with a need to start or expand their businesses in Iowa’s West Coast Region to submit their business ideas, pitch their proposals, and build support during a public voting period. Those with the most votes will compete statewide for a chance to win thousands for their business idea.

If you’re an entrepreneur with a small business or startup idea and you live in Cherokee, Lyon, Monona, O’Brien, Osceola, Plymouth, Sioux, or Woodbury Counties you can enter for a chance to compete statewide and win up to $15,000 for your business. Here’s how it works:

January 1st – 31st: Open call for proposals. Submit your idea to DreamBigGrowHere.com. You’ll compete on one six industry categories: Pre-revenue, Retail/Wholesale, Hospitality/ Restaurants, Ag/Production, Professional Services, and Manufacturing/Bioscience/ Information Technology. The deadline to submit your idea is January 31st. 

February 16 – March 1st: Online voting period. Recruit family, friends, customers, and everyone you can to view your online submission and vote for yours. Industry category finalists announced March 16th. All entrepreneurs advancing to the statewide contest will also have access to Business Concierge services, as well as receive personalized coaching and mentoring from University of Northern Iowa’s VentureNet Iowa to prepare their pitch.

May 21st: Industry category competitions at EntreFest in Iowa City. Category winners receive $5,000, with prizes for 2nd & 3rd places. That evening, categories winners will pitch their business ideas in the finals for a chance to win the grand prize of $10,000 and a ton of crucial media exposure.

In addition, Iowa West Coast Region will host a regional business plan competition in late April just for those NW Iowa entrepreneurs who have entered the Dream Big Grow Here competition. More details coming soon, but get your submissions in now to DreamBigGrowHere to enter both contests!

Dream Big Grow Here joins the Innovation Market and Swimming with the Sharks as excellent local opportunities to present your business ideas, sharpen your pitch, and win critical startup capital. To get started, submit your idea by January 31st. Time to get out the garage and into the spotlight!

Spotlight on Entrepreneurship: Mara Jorgensen of Fast Solutions


Name: Mara Jorgensen
Company: Fast Solutions, Inc.
Title: Senior Software Developer

Website: http://www.consultfast.com
Twitter: @consultfast
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=11609496&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile_pic

Short bio:
I have over ten years of experience in developing software for large businesses, primarily manufacturing. I enjoy working with business users and implementing software solutions to help increase their productivity. I will see a project through from analysis to implementation to user training.

Give us a short description of your business:Fast Solutions is a small, customer-focused IT organization based out of Omaha, Nebraska. The Fast Solutions team provides superior technical skills coupled with excellent customer service. Our job is to provide you with a customized product in a timely, cost-effective manner. We want to help every business improve their bottom line with software that increases profitability. We commit to delivering an exceptional product using out extensive technology expertise.

What motivated you to start your business?
After working for large organizations, we developed software and experienced processes to help improve these organizations. They desire to help organizations solve problems by identifying gaps in their business processes and improving them.

What’s the biggest challenge you had to overcome as your business has grown?
Having a small business is all-consuming. At times it becomes difficult to seek out the next project because we are so focused on the tasks at hand.

What’s unique about your business?
Travis and I have extensive large business experience, working closely with many business units. We enjoy getting to know team members personally and seeing the project through from start to finish. We are also able to make expert suggestions or recommendations due to the practices we have seen at previous locations – something that isn’t always possible when you have the same team members only working for one organization with the same processes for an extended period of time.

What are you doing to actively promote the startup community in Sioux City? Why is that important to you?
In Sioux City, I have spoken at First Friday Coffee. Travis and I have also attended other engagements and rely on word of mouth and recommendations for most clients.

How can the Startup Sioux City community help your business?
Putting Fast Solutions in touch with other businesses that could use our services – or businesses where we could use their services – is always helpful.

Spotlight on Entrepreneurship: Todd Carnes of Traxter

todd carnes

Name: Todd Carnes
Company: Traxter LLC
Title: Owner

Email: ToddC.traxter@gmail.com
Website: https://s3.amazonaws.com/traxterLandPage/Traxter/landingPage.html

Give us a short description of your business:
Traxter LLC markets a full tracking solution coupled with a free electronic hour logging application to insurance companies. We market to insurance companies, because then we get their client base, they receive data, and the truckers all get the electronic hour logging application that is going to be mandatory in a little over a year. It is an all-around win.

What motivated you to start your business?
I started Traxter LLC to bring a cost effective solution to an upcoming government mandate. Our solution is designed and priced for the little guy that is going to be searching for help when it goes into effect.

What’s the biggest challenge you had to overcome as your business has grown?
Getting the application developed before the mandate goes into effect. We are still in the works and that is why we are seeking funding. We can easily get it done with just one developer going full time.

What’s unique about your business?
Businesses that are already doing something SIMILAR are selling a tracking solution. Then for about the same monthly premium they are selling you the electronic logging application. We are selling it together. And for 50% or more of the price. Simply a dollar a day gets you the hardware and access and support to our entire solution.

How can the Startup Sioux City community help your business?
Getting our name out to someone that might be interested in funding us or helping us find funding. The sooner we can go full time with this, the faster it gets done and we can start marketing to the smaller insurance companies.

Spotlight on Entrepreneurship: Jamie Vondrak of Concierge Services of Siouxland

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Name: Jamie Vondrak
Company: Concierge Services of Siouxland, LLC
Title: Owner/Personal Concierge
Website: www.siouxlandconcierge.com
Facebook: siouxlandconcierge
LinkedIn: Jamie Vondrak

Give us a short description of your business:

Concierge Services of Siouxland is a “do it all” organization. I complete jobs ranging from personal errands like banking and grocery shopping, to business services like setting up online accounts, planning corporate events, or acting as a personal assistant, to relocation assistance for homeowners and realtors.

What motivated you to start your business?
This business was born out of necessity. Many surrounding cities like Sioux Falls and Omaha have concierge service companies, but Sioux City doesn’t have anything like it. With the amount of large corporations and busy working families here, this is a much needed service.

What’s the biggest challenge you had to overcome as your business has grown?
The biggest challenge I have faced is getting people to understand what it is that I do. This is a relatively new concept here, so it takes some convincing for some people to get on board with what I do.

What’s unique about your business?
Everything about my business is unique. I’m a jack of all trades! Where else can you get your utilities transferred to a new address, get your groceries picked up, have your dog walked, and have a payroll tax account set up with one phone call?

What are you doing to actively promote the startup community in Sioux City? Why is that important to you?
The small business and start up community in Sioux City has had a major influence on me, particularly because entrepreneurship is in my blood. I make it a point to frequent local startup businesses for our needs whenever possible.

Are there any people or experiences that were particularly influential in that regard?
My grandmother started her own business over 30 years ago in the Riverside area, and then purchased another location in North Sioux City, which she eventually handed over to my mother. My grandmother was fiercely independent, and a very smart business woman. Watching her grow her business gave me the confidence that I needed to know I can do the same.

How can the Startup Sioux City community help your business?
I feel that the Startup Sioux City community has proven itself to be a very valuable resource for local start-ups, not only because of the marketing exposure, but also because of the tremendous networking potential. Knowing there is a resource like Startup Sioux City available gives start-ups more confidence in their ability to succeed.

Spotlight on Entrepreneurship: Alex Fuller of Saviral

alex fuller

Founder: Alex Fuller
Company:  LegitDesigns, LLC / Saviral Marketing
Location:  Sioux City, Iowa
Website:  http://Saviral.com and http://legitdesigns.com
Twitter: @SaviralOnline
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/saviralmarketing

Give us a short description of your business?
LegitDesigns is an all-encompassing creative digital agency, providing custom creative, web, and now introducing our online marketing solutions with SAVIRAL (Savvy-Viral). With Saviral we assist our clients with social, search, and other brand awareness methods.

What motivated you to start this business?
I found my calling in life while at a young age; some tell me I was lucky. I started researching things I had questions to, like how a website serviced thousands of customers from a singular location. I became actively involved in forums, learning, and teaching things as I became skillful at them. I knew this was something I wanted to do, and I wanted to be the best at it.

I realized there was a huge opportunity, and at the time, we didn’t have any push for this. I valued my hometown of Sioux City, and I wanted to be that digital agency that started and stayed here.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome as you’ve grown your business?
The biggest challenge in the early stages was balancing school (which at the time I was just in High School), work, my personal values with my goals and who I wanted to be. I knew I needed to align everything and put effort in them all in order to get me to where I wanted to be.

What sets business aside from others in the field?
Our agency is down to earth; we’ll speak to you in ways that make sense. I won’t try to impress you with my knowledge to get your business, but I will educate you with things I can do. I think that is something clients really value. We are open, honest, and upfront and do the best we can to explain the complicated world of online media and marketing to you. We educate all of our customers on what methods will work best and what won’t.

Why should a customer choose your business?
For the last 6 years LegitDesigns has been servicing customers worldwide; from Australia to Finland. America to U.K. Our main focus was empowering people’s vision on how a website “should” work, and breaking down the barrier of cliché and bore.

Our solutions are not run-of-the-mill. We provide strategic, in depth and customizable solution to fit any business. We do it all with our client’s best interest in mind.

What keeps your customers coming back?
For most it’s the quality of work they receive. For others it’s our communication, and how we go the extra mile to explain things and pick up that phone no matter if it’s after hours or not. In today’s world if you miss my call I assume you’ll call back when you can, and I do the same for all of our customers.

What geographic region do you serve?
Today we focus on our grass roots and our hometown businesses. Thanks to the push from our startup communities, we’ve grown to know so many locals that need help getting off the ground with their business online. We want to do the best we can do make sure their launch is the best it can be. However we still have active clients all across the United States and the World.

What about your business makes you the most proud?
I’m extremely proud of our team and how well we collectively work on things. I know this is something most agencies struggle with, is finding the right balance of work and synchronizing core concepts with their client’s projects. I’m also very passionate about the quality of designs I do for backend UI and front-end styling. A lot of work I see from competitors are just 1-click styling options, rather than tweaking and taking it many steps further.

What are some future goals for your company?
With our business and our recent ventures we provide so many different things. My biggest goal is to get the awareness out about what we do and help recycle our energy to creative a more positive culture here in Siouxland. We want Siouxland to become another tech location. One that draws others here like it did when Gateway was in North Sioux City. Anyway we can help a company would be fantastic, whether that be Web Design, or through our awesome Online Marketing.

What does this mean to your community as well as the Startup Sioux City community?
I think it means a lot. It creates jobs, it creates a buzz, and fuels the drive that I think a lot of former Gateway employees lost. To this day you still find guys in their 40-50’s talking about how Gateway was such a great company to work for. How sad they were to know they soon had to see it go.

Creating that safe neutral environment for tech gurus is crucial for Sioux City. It allows them to collaborate closely, and help achieve success here in the mid-west.

What can the Startup Sioux City community help you with?
I believe Startup SIoux City is helping  by allowing this article to be posted, and being in existence; helps local startups or small business owners seek hope. Knowing that even though we’re not Silicon Valley, they can still grow their business and be successful in Siouxland. Even if that’s not with my company, I tip my hat knowing they stayed in Siouxland. and that I too am here to lend my hand out if they need it.

UNI to Launch Regional Entrepreneurship Project in Western Iowa

UNI to launch entrepreneurship region in western Iowa

The University of Northern Iowa’s Business & Community Services (BCS) will collaborate with regional economic development groups in Iowa’s Monona, Plymouth and Woodbury counties to launch a new initiative to support and encourage entrepreneurship and start-up businesses. The Regional Entrepreneurship Project is provided through a grant to UNI as part of the US Economic Development Administration (EDA) University Center Program.

A number of economic development groups in the three-county area are assisting UNI to organize this initiative, which was announced at Western Iowa Tech on Tuesday, Oct. 7.

This collaboration includes the LeMars Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of Sioux City Economic Development Dept., The Siouxland Initiative, the Woodbury County Dept. of Rural Economic Development, the Monona County Economic Development Partnership, Western Iowa Power Cooperative, Siouxland Interstate Metropolitan Planning Council and other service providers from across the region.

“The goal of this project is to build upon the interest and passion for entrepreneurship already apparent in the region. The process will develop a shared focus and direction to encourage and support existing small businesses and new start-ups,” said LaDene Bowen, Director of the UNI-EDA University Center.

Continue reading →

Matthews talks business, inspiration and superpowers

Mitch Matthews - google your brain

Business coach, author and entrepreneur Mitch Matthews will give a talk titled “Google Your Brain” at Business for Breakfast on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at 7:30 a.m.

We got a chance to ask him 5 questions today about his talk, who inspired him and even his superpower.

What does it mean to Google your brain?

“Google your brain” is a metaphor to help us remember that our brain functions a lot like a search engine. If you ask a search engine a good question you’ll get better search results. If you ask your brain a better question you’ll get better solutions.

So then it comes down to how do you ask yourself or those around you better questions to uncover those better solutions? That’s what we’re going to dig into on Tuesday.

Name three people who have inspired you.

Great question. Oh and the list is long. But I’ll just go with the top three that come to mind today.

The first is Marty Doane. He owned the bike shop in my hometown of Newton, Iowa. He saw potential in me at 13 and hired me. That changed my life forever. That’s also where the entrepreneurial bug bit me hard.

I’ll also throw out Henry Ford. He got a little sideways in his later years but he truly was a business person who changed the world by bringing it something it didn’t even know it needed. Plus I’ll share a little-known story on Tuesday that makes him a true “solution-based thinking” hero to me. Continue reading →