Photo caption (left to right): Jayne Lady, Stephanie Andrews, Victoria Newell, and Kaylee Williams.

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Downtown Iowa City was crawling with founders of multinational companies, local non-profits, technology giants, and more during last week’s sold-out EntreFEST 2015, a three-day entrepreneurial conference sponsored by the University of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa, and Iowa State University. 

The annual event brought some of the brightest and most innovative people together in Iowa City to share ideas, expand networks, and learn how to launch new businesses or take existing ones to the next level of success.

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, a major sponsor of EntreFEST along with the UI John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, took some time during the conference to ask attendees about their experience.

Jayne Lady, a volunteer at EntreFEST 2015, said she was excited to be helping at the big event.  Jayne said that she got involved with volunteering for EntreFEST because of her husband, who works for Dev/Iowa, a program within OVPR&ED that provides IT consultation and support to Iowa small businesses. 

“Between running around from building to building I’ve had some spare time to see a few speakers,” Lady said. “Sarah Pearson gave a great talk about the use of creative commons for people who are really interested in working with content.” 

Pearson, a lawyer specializing in copyright, technology, and media law, serves as the Senior Counsel at Creative Commons, a global nonprofit dedicated to increasing creativity and access to knowledge online. 

Stephanie Andrews, Programs and Events Manager for the Technology Association (TAI) of Iowa, said her favorite part of EntreFEST was bumping into many friends and acquaintances.

“I know about a third of the people here so that makes it really fun,” Andrews said. “It’s also great meeting new people as well.” 

She said that as part of EntreFEST TAI hosted TechBrew, an informal gathering of technologists, business leaders, and entrepreneurs. TAI also hosted a Tech Town Hall gathering .

Other attendees said the variety of interests and skills among EntreFEST attendees complement one another.  Kaylee Williams, Director of Business Development for VolunteerLocal, said she came to learn strategies for growing business and sustaining that growth.

VolunteerLocal, headquartered in Des Moines, has been empowering athletic competitions, art festivals, music festivals, non-profit organizations and many other events all over the world since 2003. 

“EntreFEST is great for networking. It really helps people be successful,” Williams said. 

Williams said her favorite part of EntreFEST was the Global Insurance Accelerator, where she learned the “10 Steps to be Investible.”  She added that she loves EntreFEST because it is always evolving. 

“Leaders all across the state come to EntreFEST,” she said. “It’s always changing to meet the community’s needs and will continue to grow because of this.” 

As the community expands, so do local businesses.  Victoria Newell of Cedar Falls was excited to be at EntreFEST because she is founding and growing her own business. 

“My business is focused on identity management and connectivity,” Newell said. “I just went to a talk called ‘Why Women are Silent’ by CEO Jill Liliedahl of SitStay.com and it was terrific.  It was all about the barrier that women face in business.” 

Newell added that she is leaving EntreFEST with more questions than answers, which is good, she said.  For more information about EntreFEST 2015, visit http://www.entrefest.com/ 

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development provides resources and support to researchers and scholars at the University of Iowa and to businesses across Iowa with the goal of forging new frontiers of discovery and innovation and promoting a culture of creativity that benefits the campus, the state, and the world. More at http://research.uiowa.edu, and on Twitter: @DaretoDiscover.