Jumping Off Iowa’s Entrepreneurial Excitement, Journalists Launch Innovative Conversation Series

Talking Start-up Shop
What’s possible when journalists host future-focused conversations with members of their local start-up community? That’s what team members with the Iowa media firm, The Gazette Company, are poised to discover.

Jumping Off Iowa’s Entrepreneurial Excitement, Journalists Launch Innovative Conversation Series

Team blends community conversations, media-making to heighten possibilities for connection, change and learning

Entrepreneurs may be the new celebrities in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, if the buzz that’s surrounding them these days is any indication. An event in November to launch 10 “baby” enterprises that had been carefully nurtured for three months prior drew 900 community members. This is a city that typically only sees that kind of crowd at a college football game or celebrity music concert.

  The topic of the Nov. 19 conversation was building a start-up culture that supports innovation and entrepreneurship.

Right in the thick of it all have been journalists Sarah Binder and Ben Kaplan, eagerly seeking to memorialize all the bright spots. Between them, they produced a slew of video and written content about the evolution of the start-ups, right up until their moment in the sun at the Nov. 6 Start-up Accelerator Launch Day.

Now that that big event is over, Sarah and Ben are looking to do more — and have decided to jumpstart their own innovation — a series of small-group conversations on start-up topics. As Sarah has experienced through her close ties with the start-up community — it’s impossible not to rub shoulders with these bright-eyed entrepreneurs and not be inspired to up your own game and try new things.

She describes the conversation series as a venue for people who have been jazzed up by the possibilities they see in the start-up community to connect with others, explore specific topics, learn together and even inform the media coverage that Sarah and Ben plan to develop out of these conversations.

Sarah is excited about the series for a few reasons.

  Cedar Rapids’ Catalyst Cafe hosted the Nov. 19 conversation.

One is that it’s intended to have a future focus, hence the title, “What’s Next.”

“We’re really trying to encourage that big picture and futuristic thinking,” she says. “How do we keep making sure we continue to be a really thriving start-up community into the future?”

She also sees great possibilities in the focus on small-group conversations. “I think that’s when you see new ideas happen, when you take people and knowledge and mix them up in new and interesting ways,” Sarah says.

And she’s eagerly anticipating how this effort will provide the opportunity to explore something she’s very keen on – weaving together community conversations and media-making in a way that heightens the possibilities for strong connections, learning and change across the start-up community.

  A few of the insights cultivated.

“One of the questions we’re having people ask when they get in their small groups is, ‘What can we all do together that none of us can do alone?’

“That’s the spirit that I want to encourage through this project,” Sarah says.

On a personal level, she’s looking forward to honing her skills in an area that she as a journalist doesn’t get much opportunity to develop — hosting a conversation.

Several local entrepreneurs have agreed to support the series through both the donation of space and by promoting the series to their networks.

A first conversation on start-up culture took place Nov. 19. Future topics include mentors and models, infrastructure and resources, plus much more.

To learn more, click here.

Sarah and Ben are team members of The Gazette Company, a Cedar Rapids media company that is engaged in the production of news and communications services ranging from a print newspaper to radio, television and web offerings. They work from the company’s own innovation, called We Create Here, a team focused on developing community-building narratives.

Sarah is willing to chat with those interested to learn more about her experiences with the conversation series experiment. To connect with her, email sarah.binder(at)thegazettecompany.com.

You can comment on this story below, or e-mail michelle(at)axiomnews.com.

Writer Bio

Michelle Strutzenberger's picture
Michelle Strutzenberger

Generative Journalist


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