Michael Caraway, University of Northern Iowa
Michael Caraway, a junior at the University of Northern Iowa, is a student leader impacting the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Cedar Valley region. For the past year Michael has worked diligently to build a bridge to connect UNI students and the Cedar Valley community, creating lasting impact that is beginning to be recognized throughout the State of Iowa as the newest and hottest entrepreneurial hub. Michael built and led a team of students, UNI staff and community members to bring the first Start-Up Weekend to Cedar Falls. He has spent countless hours researching other communities, having strategic conversations and establishing a plan to make a difference in the Cedar Valley. His goal is to encourage students graduating from UNI to not leave but to continue to reside in Cedar Falls and make an impact here similar to the movement in Des Moines and the Creative Corridor. Michael was instrumental in bringing the 1 Million Cup initiative founded by the Kauffman Foundation to Cedar Falls. He also launched Friday Morning Open Coffee to encourage open conversations between UNI students and community members. Michael is president of UNI Entrepreneurs, a member of the College of Business President Council and co-founder of Monday Creations, a creative agency focused on creating digital experiences.
-William Ruud, President
One year ago today, I was sitting in my advisors office talking about why entrepreneurs always move out of the Cedar Valley. We decided there is no community to support and celebrate entrepreneurs in the Cedar Valley. It was right then that I knew something had to change. I, along with a group of individuals, started looking at successful entrepreneurial communities and what they are doing. I put in the leg work and time talking to people and getting to know the people I needed to know in order to make a difference in the Valley. We identified that we needed to provide networking events, marketing of resources, creative events, and also needed to tie in the University’s support. The point is, we spent a lot of time working toward the un-selfish goal of empowering and celebrating entrepreneurs and creating a community in which we can thrive. I am very proud to say that the Cedar Valley is now being recognized by other communities as an up and coming entrepreneurial hub. I have no intentions of stopping this movement and look forward to continuing it.