University of Northern Iowa

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The Summer 2021 Early Founder's Program Wraps Up

Posted on Thursday, August 5th, 2021

The Summer 2021 Early Founder’s Program wrapped up their third summer cohort. Consisting of eight student teams, the program ran through the months of June and July in a virtual setting. The EFP was led by former JPEC tenant and program assistant, Maddie Palmersheim,“The Early Founder’s Program is an opportunity for student ventures to take a deep dive into their business. Whether they are validating a concept, testing their model, or growing their venture, the program connects them to a variety of opportunities and mentors to get them to their next level.” 

A core part of the program consisted of weekly meetings and monthly workshops hosted by Keevin O’Rourke. O’Rourke has developed a program that helps grow businesses fast through performing a variety of quick tests that help validate concepts or ideas. Each week students set up a hypothesis to test within their business that must be completed and analyzed by the following week.

In addition to mentor meetings with Keevin, students also were required to attend EntreFest in June, engage in discussion on Slack, and attend weekly group meetings that were spent in large group conversations or meeting with an Iowan entrepreneur. Palmersheim reflects,“I had gone through the program twice-- once in the summer and once in our mini-winter sessions. As a student I was able to see the aspects that were incredibly valuable while also seeing areas that have room for improvement in terms of engagement. I wanted to provide a large range of opportunities for our participants that would be both beneficial and fun.” 

Among participants was Sarena Gerber, an upcoming sophomore who worked on a floral business that provides workshops for flower arrangements. Gerber completed the summer by hosting her first workshop that was a huge success. Gerber reflects on her experience in the program, “Through the Early Founder’s Program I was able to work more with customer discovery to see if my concept was able to gain any traction and interest. Based on a combination of that and analyzing other aspects of my business model, I was able to validate the usefulness of my concept.”

Participants that completed this program included: Samantha Carpenter (senior), Sarena Gerber (sophomore), Anna Gilbreath (sophomore), Dylan Kurt (freshman), Jacob Kurt (sophomore), Skyler Ramsey (senior), and Jeffrey Reicks (senior). 

The program rewarded participants with a $1,000 scholarship after completion of the eight-week program.