Social media account showcasing all things Iowa traces its roots back to UNI

Social media account showcasing all things Iowa traces its roots back to UNI

College of Business /

An Iowa-focused social media account showcasing memes, lifestyle, and the overall joys of living in the state has gone viral, garnering widespread attention both online and within Iowa itself. It’s called Iowa Chill, and the brand's story starts here at the University of Northern Iowa.

Scott Burak (‘17), Bryce Bortscheller (‘17), Darian Jones (‘17) and Nathan Krieps (‘20) met while they were students at UNI. All four had entrepreneurial minds and connected through the UNI John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) and mutual friends. At the time, Krieps ran a social media account since 2013 centered on user-generated anonymous “confessions” in his hometown.

Despite initially having a small following, the four individuals brainstormed ways to broaden the account's reach. They concentrated on user-generated content that would appeal to a larger audience across the entire state. As a result, they began receiving and sharing various videos, jokes, and other content contributed by people from all around Iowa. The brand initially started on Twitter but soon expanded its presence to platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and more.

Today the account has turned into two brands – the other is called Midwest vs. Everybody – and has more than 1.7 million followers across all platforms. There’s also a line of branded merchandise, with clothes and other accessories. The four still run the brand, and operate with the motto “Iowa Chill is the brand for the people of Iowa.” They continue to grow their business and added three interns this summer.

“It’s been amazing,” Bortscheller said about the past six years. “To think that we started out as a simple confessions account, and now we've grown to be so much more. I never would have thought this is what I was going to do for a job and a career when I started at UNI or started working on this account, but it’s been fun producing content that people really enjoy.”

Burak said the UNI JPEC was key to the brand’s growth from the beginning. Iowa Chill became a limited liability corporation in 2017, just before they sold their first line of merchandise, and the JPEC staff had a key role in figuring out the logistics, from creating the LLC to shipping costs and packing techniques. Any time the four founders had questions, the JPEC was there to help answer and work through roadblocks.

“They’re very eager to help,” Burak said. “Anything like regulations, stuff that needs to be done by the book, or advice they’ve picked up from all the businesses that have come through the center through the years. Or even just dealing with the stress and workload of being a student entrepreneur. They are just very insightful. I have a lot of shoutouts for the people over there.”

The group has grown exponentially in recent years, working with brands such as John Deere, Kwik Star (or Kwik Trip outside of Iowa) and Culver’s. They hope to be one of the top media outlets in the state. To get there, Burak said they want to dig even deeper into Iowa culture, whether it’s a defined news outlet, food tips, recreation ideas or something they haven’t considered yet.

“It’s awesome to see the growth,” Burak said. “It’s really motivating to keep climbing the numbers, and it’s apparent that there is no slowing down. If anything, we’re growing faster than ever because of all the followers, and there’s more and more reach. It’s just fun to keep growing.”

Check out all of the Iowa Chill social media accounts here.