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Warby Parker Co-CEO to Keynote EntreFEST

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Melissa McCarville, Economic Alliance
319.730.1415 (direct & cell)

Jessalyn Holdcraft, NewBoCo

Warby Parker Co-CEO to Keynote EntreFEST
Leader of Most Innovative Company in the World and other Nationally Recognized Speakers Announced for the May 4-5 Conference

CEDAR RAPIDS, March 16, 2017 – Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker will keynote EntreFEST when it returns to downtown Iowa City on May 4-5, 2017.  

Warby Parker is an online eyewear retailer founded in 2010 on the principle of offering designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses. At just seven years old, the company has expanded rapidly with annual revenues topping $100 million and 50 brick-and-mortar locations across the United States. By manufacturing its own frames, Warby Parker avoids the usual price markup that makes other eyewear retailers more expensive. The company beat out Apple, Google, and Samsung to be named Fast Company’s Most Innovative Company of 2015.

“We are thrilled to have Neil Blumenthal keynote EntreFEST this year,” said Jill Wilkins, Events Director, NewBoCo. “After listening to his story on the How I Built This podcast, we can’t wait to meet him and hear about how he helped disrupt a long standing industry by building an innovative company to be a ‘Force for Good’. He’s the perfect keynote for our EntreFEST audience!”

Beyond his work with Warby Parker, Neil was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company.

In addition to Blumenthal’s keynote, there are seven nationally recognized featured speakers that will inspire, educate and instill critical thought leadership to EntreFEST attendees.

Featured Speakers:

Jim Benson – Jim is the CEO of Modus Cooperandi, author of four books including “Personal Kanban” a Shingo-Award winner. He helps companies and government agencies of all sizes solve management, innovation and efficiency problems through collaboration. Jim’s work focuses squarely on the relationship of effective individual work and how it relates to corporate strategy. Every strategy needs implementation; every implementer needs clear direction and the ability to act professionally. He specializes in building lightweight working processes that allow for transparency, improvement, and completion.

Elizabeth Caven – Elizabeth is the founder of UpCraft Club, a fast growing online marketplace fundamentally changing the world-wide crafting industry through technology. A stand-out startup leader by, the Business Record, TechCrunch, and the Small Business Administration, all who awarded her company first place out of 2,000 InnovateHER competitors in 2016. UpCraft Club was part of Batch 16 of 500 Startups, a top San Francisco-based accelerator. Elizabeth is an experienced entrepreneur having owned and successfully exited from her first company and consulted with organizations in a variety of industries over the past decade.

Nick Saddock, PhD – Nick is currently employed by Google as a data center facility manager, supporting the operations of Google’s Iowa data centers. He has worked in operations for the past decade, focusing on innovations in business process design and development. Previously Nick held positions in engineering, operations, and quality management in the US aerospace manufacturing sector.  In his non-work time he loves spending time with his wife and three girls while contributing to his local Toastmasters club focused on inspiration & motivational leadership talks.  

Paul Singh – Paul is an entrepreneur, speaker, investor and Airstreamer. He is currently Chief Hustler for Results Junkies, which means visits the places that startups actually start (and grow) their businesses. Last year, Results Jukies drove 25,000+ miles and visited 40+ cities across North America. At each stop, they created a week-long series of events for entrepreneurs, investors and community leaders. Along the way, they also mentor thousands of entrepreneurs, visit incubators and coworking spaces, hold investor dinners and dive into the local tech culture. Over the past 5 years, they’ve flown 500,000 miles, raised tens of millions of dollars for venture funds and invested in hundreds of companies around the world.  

Freda Sojka – Freda Sojka is the CEO and founder of Simply Soothing, a family business in Columbus Junction, Iowa. The business began in 2003, making Shea Butter products, wax products, as well as unique air fresheners.  In 2008, Freda created Bug Soother, an all-natural bug repellent.  Bug Soother is sold across the country, in over 5,000 retail locations, as well as the UK, Central America, Grand Cayman and soon Sweden, Norway and Denmark, with more to come. A former employee of the chemical company, Monsanto, Freda chose to take an early retirement to start this fast growing business.

Alicia Syrett – Alicia is the Founder & CEO of Pantegrion Capital, an angel investment vehicle focused on seed and early stage investments. Prior to founding Pantegrion Capital, she held over 10 years of experience in the financial industry, which included her entrepreneurial journey as the first employee and CAO of a multi-billion dollar private equity firm. As if she didn’t have enough to keep her busy, she currently gives of her time on the Board of Directors of New York Angels, Everwaters, and HeTexted, and is a member of WomenCorporateDirectors. Beyond sharing her tips and best practices on pitch decks, attracting investors, and raising capital to grow a business at EntreFEST, she’ll also touch on pitfalls to avoid and how building a robust Advisory Board can propel your business forward.

About EntreFEST

EntreFEST, Iowa’s largest entrepreneurial conference will return May 4-5, 2017 in various locations throughout downtown Iowa City. The two day event expects to bring more than 1,000 attendees including business owners, startup founders, corporate innovators, students and innovation ecosystem builders. The event is co-produced by the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and the New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative (NewBoCo).

To purchase tickets and for more information about EntreFEST, please visit

EntreFEST is sponsored by the University of Northern Iowa, The University of Iowa, Iowa State University, University of Iowa Office of Outreach and Engagement, Iowa Farm Bureau, City of Iowa City and the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers.[/text_output][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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