University of Northern Iowa

jpec logo

2022 Winter Early Founders Program


The Winter Early Founder's Program is a 4-week program that runs from Monday, December 27th through Sunday, January 23rd. The program will be primarily virtual and will close with an in-person workshop on January 23 at the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.

The Winter EFP is an opportunity for engagement and enhancement of the entrepreneurial mindset while on academic break. Exploring a variety of topics within entrepreneurship, students will be challenged to validate, test, and grow their business ideas or concepts while being exposed to a variety of tools and mentors throughout the four weeks.

Completion of the program will grant students formal affiliation with the JPEC and will place them on a priority list for incubation space at the center. For students already occupying office space, the program will act as involvement credit that will go towards maintaining their residency.

For questions, please contact Maddie Palmersheim (Program Associate) at
Apply today!

2021 Summer Early Founders Program students and their businesses:

The UNI JPEC concluded their third annual Early Founders Accelerator Program (EFP) this summer as a virtual offering. Seven student teams participated in the eight-week program that focuses on validating, testing, and growing their ventures through identifying riskiest assumptions and testing them with customers. Participants grew their connection to the JPEC through a variety of activities and events including E-Fest in Cedar Rapids, one-on-one mentor meetings, weekly group meetings, and monthly workshops. The program closed with final presentations delivered by each team to JPEC staff, alumni, and local entrepreneurs.

Anna Gilbreath – Anna Grace Creates 

Anna Grace Creates is a small batch pottery business that focuses on functionality of handmade ware. Anna creates playful, minimalist designs that are sold at markets and pop-up shops throughout Iowa. 

"As I learn and grow each day in my home studio, I want to cultivate a space for creating thinking and physical challenge. The EFP was  a space for me to continue learning the ropes of small business."


Dylan Kurt - Unzombie Me

Unzombie Me is a mobile app that helps users reduce social media usage through implementing a lock and alarm that prompt users to get off platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, and Twitter. 

“I hoped to learn a lot from EFP, and did! The process of testing out ideas was incredibly helpful along with the mentors at the JPEC who gave great advice, ideas, and perspective.”


Jacob Kurt - Kurt Lawn Care & Wholesale 

Kurt Lawn Care was founded in 2012 and has since grown into a reputable lawn care company across Iowa. During EFP, Jacob Kurt looked to maintain Kurt Lawn Care while also evolving his wholesale business of pillows, totes, and towels to small businesses at Lake Delhi. 

“The summer EFP allowed me to change routes from a service based business to one that focuses on retail. Seeing another side of entrepreneurship was really fun to explore!”


Jeffrey Reicks - Freelance Writing

Combining talent in writing and marketing, Jeffrey Reicks provides individuals and businesses with professional writing for their websites and social medias that properly represents and enhances their brand.

“The EFP provided the accountability, mentorship, and enthusiasm I needed to really start my business.”


Samantha Carpenter - Designs by Samantha

Designs by Samantha is a freelance graphic design service for small businesses with a focus on service based industries like restaurants and salons. Designs by Samantha has worked with a variety of clients across the state of Illinois.

“The program impacted me so much. I have reassurance that after graduation, I will be using my degree and living my ultimate dream- traveling the United States and eventually, traveling across the world!”


Sarena Gerber - Sarena's Workshops

Sarena's Workshops hosts floral arrangement workshops across Iowa. Attendees of Sarena's Workshops are given the tools and instruction to build beatiful, unique, and fresh vases and arrangements.

“The highlight of my experience in EFP was seeing myself and others build their entrepreneurial skills and how quickly everyone’s business took off with the help of their mentors.”


Skyler Ramsey - Teal Phoenix Real Estate

Teal Phoenix Real Estate aims to fill the accessibility gap in the real estate industry. Through intentional planning and design, Teal Phoenix Real Estate chooses items and fixtures that improve the accessibility of commercial and residential properties.

“The EFP and its mentors gave me the tools and confidence to validate the market need for accessible real estate. They also provided me with the resources and skills necessary to launch my business.”