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.

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