JPEC connection leads to new sim racing business venture

JPEC connection leads to new sim racing business venture


About a year ago, Zach Everman (Electronic Media ‘09) bought an entry-level gaming wheel to play Xbox racing games with his son. That quickly turned into building a full-fledged rig and computer under the stairs in his basement. About three months later, after meeting racers online from around the world, Zach wanted to be able to share the experience in person.

That spawned an idea: What if he could build his own sim racing lounge?

To help build out the idea, Everman turned to a familiar source, the University of Northern Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC). Everman worked with the JPEC when launching his first business, Pixel Labs, a content and marketing agency, and has been part of several JPEC programs.

“I went to Patrick [Luensmann, director of the JPEC], him being the guy I always go to when I have a random business idea, to tell me it was a bad idea,” Everman said with a laugh. “That’s not what ended up happening.”

That idea has ultimately turned into Grid Lounge, which opened last November at 100 East 2nd Street in Cedar Falls. Luensmann liked the business so much he became a co-owner and valuable adviser within the JPEC.

“I’ll be honest, I hadn’t done sim racing until I went to Zach’s and tried it underneath his stairs,” he said. “I took part in this on the business assistance side, but I couldn’t shake the idea. So I decided to take the risk with Zach and our third partner, Reese Reimers.”

The Grid Lounge space is a little more than 1,100 square feet, featuring six sim racing rigs – all connected to the internet and locally – as well as seating space and screens for folks to spectate. Customers can jump in to race two different ways: paying hourly during open hours or signing up for a membership to use the space during off hours. There are also group and party rates.

Grid Lounge holds weekly challenges and competitions, like seeing who can set the fastest lap on a certain track and with a certain car.

“There aren’t very many spaces like this around the country,” Everman said.

The JPEC has been a valuable resource along the way. Everman’s background is in digital media, so he didn’t have a business foundation to draw from. He has leaned on the people and resources at the JPEC for help and support in all aspects of his entrepreneurship journey.

As for plans for Grid Lounge going forward? Over the next year, Everman and the group hope to solidify the business model and keep bringing in new people. Beyond that, they have eyes to expand the idea to other markets, like the Twin Cities or Des Moines.

“I think by our standards we’ve had great success and reception in these first few months,” Everman said. “We’ve had people ask if we can open one near them, but we’re just trying to figure out how everything works, but it’s awesome we’re getting that interest.”

Exterior shot of Grid Lounge
Inside of Grid Lounge