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About Us


Almost all of our programs have been either nominated and/or won regional, national, and international awards, including accolades from organizations like: the Mid-America Economic Development Association, the University Economic Development Association, and the International Economic Development Council.  Frequently, UNI CBGI initiatives are heralded as best practice examples for economic development practitioners nationally on how universities can leverage their unique assets to create meaningful impact on regional economies.

Program Recognitions

2014 Finalist

2014 Iowa Small Business Survey
University Economic Development Association

2014 Excellence in Economic Development

Iowa Business Concierge
International Economic Development Council

2014 EntreFEST Entrepreneur Summit

University Economic Development Association

2013 National Award of Excellence, Research and Analysis

Iowa Business Concierge
University Economic Development Association

2013 National Award of Excellence, Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Dream Big Grow Here
University Economic Development Association

2012 Online Marketing Award

Dream Big Grow Here
Mid-American Economic Development Council

2008 National Award of Excellence, Entrepreneurship and Innovation

University Economic Development Association

For the past two decades, the University of Northern Iowa Center for Business Growth and Innovation (UNI CBGI) has built a network of resources and services designed to attract, connect, and accelerate small business and start-up growth with business assistance, capital, partner resources, and valuable connections to their peers.

The success of UNI CBGI initiatives can be attributed to our team’s philosophy to listen to small business owners, imagine what we can do to make life better, and to create solutions leveraging our university and technology assets. Annually, we evaluate how we’ve done in terms of economic impact, user experiences, and potential to scale. We have learned how to better understand entrepreneurs through online interactions, an e-mail listserv, statewide annual survey, regional workshops and outreach events, and EntreFEST- the largest Midwest celebration of entrepreneurs and the people who support them.

The Center for Business Growth and Innovation is a division of Business & Community Services  at the University of Northern Iowa.

Our History

  • 1994 – SBDC expanded to include the UNI Regional Business Center and the 4th Street Incubator located in downtown Waterloo

  • 2003 – MyEntre.Net was created in select counties and included an online community resource for small business owners. Free online webinars were offered twice a week.

  • 2008 – MyEntre.Net went statewide, the first EntreFEST was held, and the Innovation Incubator was built.

  • 2009 – The Regional Business Center moved its offices to UNI campus

  • 2010 – Dream Big Grow Here features a statewide $1,000 contest

  • 2011 – The first statewide Small Business Survey was completed and the Business Concierge began delivering market intelligence to Iowa small business owners

  • 2012 – Advance Iowa began serving mid-size Iowa firms and MyEntre.Net partnered with IEDA to create IASourceLink

  • 2014 – EDA Regional Entrepreneurship Project began through a partnership with the UNI Institute for Decision Making and the first Small Business Report was published.

  • 2015 – The UNI Regional Business Center and MyEntre.Net brands became the UNI Center for Business Growth and Innovation

Over the past 20 years, CBGI has strived to innovate and create new programs to serve the Iowa small business ecosystem. Please visit our program pages and contact us to learn more.

Our Staff

Paul Kinghorn

Paul Kinghorn

Dan Beenken

Dan Beenken
SBDC Director

Sr. Program Manager, Advance Iowa

Patrick Luensmann

Patrick Luensmann
Program Manager

Innovation Incubator / Business Concierge

Jayne Kielman

Jayne Kielman
Business Development Manager

Advance Iowa

Amy Dutton

Amy Dutton
Regional Director, SBDC

Small Business Development Center / Innovation Incubator

Ricki Alford

Ricki Alford
Marketing & Communications Coordinator

Center for Business Growth & Innovation

What Others Say

Advance Iowa had a lot of really good suggestions on how we could develop our business. The process was simple and the time commitment was not large. It gave us an opportunity to take a step back and think about what we are really trying to accomplish here.

Pete Downs, CEO, Waterloo Tent & Tarp

The Business Concierge went above and beyond to provide the most accurate and comprehensive research material. Their team graciously and enthusiastically met every challenge I extended to them, and I do not believe I could have drafted a viable plan without their invaluable assistance.

Cindy Clemen, CC Greens Organic Farm, LLC

Thank you for the free webinars. I find them very easy to use with no travel or fee involved. They have speakers that really know their topic as well.

Laurie Wittmayer-O’Neill, Historic Preservation Publication, Inc.

EntreFEST changed our perception of Iowa. We felt like we were on an island before the conference. Our connections from the event have been invaluable to the growth we’ve experienced this past year.

Rachael Roewe, {made} community

Dream Big Grow Here has provided a wealth of publicity and media exposure and the benefits went far beyond the prize money. Within the first five months we reached our licensed capacity, which we expected would take at least two years. I could not have imagined this happening in a rural community without the help of Dream Big Grow Here.

Deb Vandergaast, Tipton Adaptive Daycare

I used the information on IASourceLink to set up my new business. I appreciated the information, it was easy to follow and the best part…it was all in one place.

Becky Kinney, Small Business Owner

The staff at the UNI Small Business Development Center has been a tremendous resource for us as we have launched and grown this company. They have assisted us with financing, staffing, and marketing issues and their guidance has been critical to our success.

Nate Neuman, System Services

To ensure entrepreneurs get the assistance they need, it’s important that resource providers and other key stakeholders have a clear assessment of the current business landscape. The Iowa Small Business Survey provides an excellent view into the ever-changing dynamics of Iowa businesses; outlining issues to be addressed and opportunities to be cultivated for future business growth.

Amy Kuhlers, Iowa Economic Development Authority

The Innovation Incubator was instrumental in starting my new company. The positive environment and top notch staff at the Incubator are reason enough to launch a business; pair that with a great facility and world class Internet, and I have a difficult time believing there is a better place in the state of Iowa to launch a start-up.

Greg Jass, Red Lab Technology