A recipe for a startup

Earie Seals has long had a passion for baking. Seals grew up on a small cotton farm in Arkansas, baking her first cake at the age of nine in a wood burning stove.

When Seals’ children grew up and started inviting friends with celiac disease over to the house, she discovered a gluten-free opportunity to return to her love of baking. She began offering her products at the Farmer's Market and soon recruited her son, Kwesi Seals, onto her baking team. The Seals heard about Venture School at a local event hosted by the Iowa City Area Development Group. The mother and son duo needed guidance on securing capital, expanding, and advertising. Venture School not only addressed these concerns, but also taught the Seals business concepts like customer discovery and the business model canvas.

"I knew the roadmap for success required a lot of work, planning, money, and manpower. Venture School taught me how to make the necessary pivots to my business plan and take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and expertise in the community," stated Earie.

Kwesi Seals, a former paramedic and firefighter, stated "Venture School awoke the entrepreneur in me."

Many people think you have to be an innovative tech startup to benefit from entrepreneurial resources, but that is not the case. Although technology and high growth startups are the focus of Venture School, it is also designed to benefit non-profits, corporate innovation teams, and small businesses just like E’s.

Venture School Program Manager, Jennifer Banta, remembers Earie’s dedication to the program. "Through her hard work and many hours of mentoring with Venture School instructors and mentors, Earie was able to identify key partners and develop a distribution channel for her delicious goodies. Now Earie has the network and tools she needs to expand her in-home bakery into a cookie empire."

Since graduating from the program, the Seals have focused on building their brand locally, as well as redesigning the company’s website. For other aspiring entrepreneurs, Earie says, "There are numerous support opportunities for small business owners and dreamers in this area, so take advantage of them. Talk to these resources so you can see what needs to be done to make your business successful."

E’s Gluten Free Bakery products are currently sold at HyVee stores in Iowa City and Coralville, as well as John’s Grocery.