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

Iowa Business Concierge
International Economic Development Council
2014 Iowa Small Business Survey
University Economic Development Association
University Economic Development Association
Dream Big Grow Here
University Economic Development Association
Iowa Business Concierge
University Economic Development Association
Dream Big Grow Here
Mid-American Economic Development Council
MyEntre.Net
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 KinghornDirector
Dan Beenken
Dan BeenkenAdvance Iowa Director
Advance Iowa
Patrick Luensmann
Patrick LuensmannSenior Program Manager
Center for Business Growth and Innovation
Jayne Kielman
Jayne KielmanBusiness Development Manager
Advance Iowa
Amy Dutton
Amy DuttonSBDC Director
Small Business Development Center / Innovation Incubator

What Others Say

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
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
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
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, Service Systems
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