Creating a Resource to Draw Out Entrepreneurial Energy

During the opening of StartUpCity Spencer, co-founder Leanne Jacobsen told the (Spencer) Daily Reporter “We want this to be a resource to draw out entrepreneurial energy.” The former president of the Technology Association of Iowa, and her husband David, turned the renovated and relocated St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on the banks of the Little Sioux River into a haven for Northwest Iowa entrepreneurs.The idea was supported with a $5,000 Ripple Effect community planning grant in 2012. Details of the facility were announced in 2013, and one year later – August 2014 – the grand opening for this incubator was held, celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit of rural Iowa.

Spencer Municipal Utilities (SMU), the city’s full-service utility provider, applied for the $5,000 grant on behalf of StartUpCity Spencer. In addition to the Ripple Effect grant, the city of Spencer, SMU, Clay County, local banks, the Iowa Economic Development Authority and other private donors made significant financial contributions.

In addition to StartUpCity Spencer, the building also houses a frozen yogurt shop, a coffee shop and a restaurant to named after David Jacobsen’s late brother and his inspiring story.

The center will house up to eight companies, which must apply for inclusion, and a co-working space for individuals. 

“The community of Spencer is really a hidden gem,” wrote Brent Comstock, a blogger who writes about rural startups at “Their StartupCity model is fantastic and is a great opportunity to those young(er) people who are studying at the nearby community colleges and universities.” 

“Why not create the venture of your dreams while you’re young? The risks are small when you have space to work on your ideas, people to mentor you along the way, coffee next door and (when it really gets rough) a nice place to relax with a glass of wine…Yes, coffeehouse and wine bar all in one!”

Get started with Ripple Effect!