Inside EntreFest 2019

by Meld Marketing
EntreFest 2019 is May 16-17, 2019 in Cedar Rapids. To learn more about it, Meld’s Jeff Sears visited with Eric Englemann, executive director of NewBoCo. Watch the video below or read the transcript from their conversation.

Jeff: Hi, everybody! My name is Jeff Sears and I am the vice president for strategic marketing at Meld Marketing. Thanks for watching today’s video blog about EntreFEST 2019. With me today is Eric Engelmann, who is the executive director for New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative, or NewBoCo. Thank you for being with us.

Eric: Very welcome.

Jeff: First of all, why don’t you tell us a little bit about NewBoCo?

Eric: Sure, NewBoCo is a little under five years old. It’s a non-profit organization that is focused on building more and better entrepreneurs and small businesses in our community, focused on helping bigger companies be a little bit better through innovation than they were before, and about building the technical workforce that we need to build startups and emerging companies in Eastern Iowa.

Jeff: We know that EntreFEST is coming up. It’s happening May 16th through 17th in a lot of different locations in Cedar Rapids and the NewBo district. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about EntreFEST and who would find value in attending?

Eric: Yeah, it’s really aimed at bringing together entrepreneurs, innovators in existing companies and technologists, software developers primarily, to talk about building new things. Either that’s building new companies or new products in existing companies or new technologies that can spur the growth of those companies.

Jeff: That’s great, and there are speakers, keynotes, and so on. I know that you have a keynote that you are pretty excited about.

Eric: Several keynotes that I am excited about. The overall keynote is Jerry Greenfield, who’s Jerry of Ben & Jerry’s, so certainly the most delicious founder that we are going to have here. There will be ice cream for everyone as part of the deal.

Jeff: One reason to go just on its own!

Eric: Right, absolutely. He is able to tell an interesting story about how they have built a very profitable and big business, but at the same time, they have focused on giving back to their community and being involved in causes that they care about and that alignment of a business with a mission, which I think is very important.

The second one that I am really excited about is Melissa Perri. She is going to talk about product management, which doesn’t sound that exciting, except what it’s really about is understanding how your business delivers value to your customer and does the customer understand the value or not. It’s something a lot of early stage companies miss and even bigger companies, they just start building stuff and they forgot the value the are supposed to be delivering. She actually has a book that I’ve got right here that we are going to give everybody when they show up called Escaping the Build Trap. It’s a fantastic book.

Then the third keynote is April Dunford, and she is really focused on positioning your company to understand how you target the right kind of customer at the right time, which is also something that both entrepreneurs and larger companies tend to miss out on. And woven through almost all of those are the people who build the products that ultimately need to do it and often times that’s software. You’re building a product for a customer in some way. Virtually every company has software in it these days. Kind of merging that into our story a little bit is making EntreFEST a pretty unique event.

Jeff: I know Melinda Pradarelli, who is Meld’s CEO and founder, was a speaker at EntreFEST two years ago, and this year I was honored to be selected as one of the 2019 EnterFEST speakers. I will be talking about maximizing strategic partnerships to help your startup. I will be talking about how do you identify potential partnerships, how do you identify potential partners, and ways to evaluate them. And I am even providing some networking time, which I know is super valuable at EntreFEST, where folks can try to make some of those connections during the session. Can you just share a little bit about how the selection process works? How do you pick your topics? How do you pick your speakers? I know there is an application process that I had to go through to apply and pitch my idea, but if you can just talk a little bit about that.

Eric: Yeah, there are a couple of things. We have a paid staff that happens to focus on all the things we’re talking about at EntreFEST, which is why we run the event. A lot of times they are looking for emerging trends or things where maybe there are a lot of change in that industry and we want to know more about it. The second is we have volunteer groups  within each of the tracks that have said, “Hey, I would love to help you select the kind of topics that I wish I knew in my job.” Or help vet the speakers in understanding what their expertise and background is. And then we take open applications as well. Sometimes the applications come in we’re like “Hmm, that’s an interesting topic that we have never seen anyone talk about around here. We’d love to see that be on the stage.” One of the things we are really looking for is things that are hands-on, and what you mentioned is a great example. It’s ‘how do I go home and be better at my job tomorrow than I was today.’ It’s not just theory or inspirational talk. It’s hands-on nuts and bolts kind of meaty topics that you can say I can be a better marketer or better software developer or better leader in my job tomorrow.

Jeff: I think one of the pieces around just education in general is if these workshops can even help you move the needle, like maybe they are not going to solve the problem, or that’s not going to solve the issue, solve the situation, but if they can at least help you make progress and improve.

Eric: Yeah, each of the categories we focus on, there is such a broad amount of expertise in being a good software developer, being a good entrepreneur, being a good leader, you could never know it all. No college degree could ever give you everything you needed, right? And it’s always changing, so part of the purpose of EntreFEST is to explore a lot of territory with enough depth to go into it. So you at least know maybe things you didn’t know before, and you can go back and use that in a practical way.

Jeff: At Meld Marketing, for example, a lot of times we will have new customers who are reaching out to us, that will either have an idea for a new product or have a solution that they would like to provide—whether it’s a technology solution or maybe even a new service that they think would be valuable. They are starting that first adventure out on their own. They will do a lot of research; they will do a lot of self education trying to figure what are the things that they need to know. Anything that is going to help them better their success. If I am an EntreFEST attendee, what are some of the things I might learn while I am there or some of the benefits of attending?

Eric: I think one of the biggest benefits of it is that it’s local and it’s nearby and pretty inexpensive. And we brought in speakers from all over the country as well as some local and regional speakers, but really you are going to be focused on the nuts and bolts of being a better entrepreneur or business leader or small business owner, or you are going to learn to be a better innovator in an existing company. How do I help change the culture of my organization over time to produce new products more quickly? Or it’s going to be as a software developer, how do I just be better at my craft, what are the kinds of technologies that are emerging that I maybe need to focus on? Some of the practices that are changing a lot and how software gets built. So really it kind of depends on which sort of  group you belong in, but the cool thing about it is if you want, you can jump into any of them. The event has three main tracks, but you can go to any of the sessions that are interesting to you.

Jeff: That’s great! There’s flexibility.

Eric: Yeah, you can. A lot of entrepreneurs have a little technical interest. A lot of corporate  innovators maybe have interest in exploring entrepreneurship or technology trends, so it’s a great mix up of things.  

Jeff: If someone was debating whether they should attend EntreFEST or not or make the investment in attending, what would you share with them? You can even look directly into the camera if you are interested in talking specifically to these folks out there.

Eric: Well, let me put it this way, we work with entrepreneurs, software developers, and innovators every single day, and we’ve designed this to be extremely cost effective and very deep in terms of the material you learn in a very short period of time. In terms of bang for the buck, you are going to spend two days learning at this event across a wide variety of topics. It’s got to be the best bang for the buck out there.

Jeff: I will be there as well. I want to thank Eric from NewBoCo for spending time with us today talking about EntreFEST. If you want to learn more about NewBoCo, you can go to newbo.co. And if you want to learn more about EntreFEST, you can go to entrefest.com and if you do plan to attend, here’s a little discount code for you. 20% off your ticket, you can use my last name S E A R S – Sears – as your discount code for 20% off your ticket. So if you enjoyed this video, I encourage you to visit our website at meld.marketing and learn more about Meld Marketing and the things we offer. Also you can subscribe to Meld Intel, which is our e-newsletter. Roughly once a month or so, you receive updated industry insights related to marketing perspectives from Meld team members and to get other project updates on things we have been working on. Visit meld.marketing to subscribe. If you are a new business owner or someone considering  opening a new business, NewBoCo could potentially help you with that. Or Meld Marketing, we would love to hear from you as well, so feel free to reach out so we can chat and learn more about your business and how we might be able to help.

Thank you for taking the time to watch this video and hope you have a great rest of your day!

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