Monday, October 16, 2023

When Josh Krakauer crossed the state line to attend new-student orientation at the University of Iowa, it marked his first trip into Iowa.

He made the most of his days in the Hawkeye State.

A native of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Krakauer (BBA ’12) is founder and CEO of Sculpt, a business-to-business social media marketing agency. He has been named the Young Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year by University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC) and will be recognized at the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Honors event Oct. 20.

“At a very young age I knew I was interested in entrepreneurship,” Krakauer said. “Even back in 2008, Iowa JPEC had a reputation as a known entrepreneurial program and that was a major draw.”

Krakauer started at Iowa as a pre-business major, with no particular focus. He graduated with a degree in marketing, but admitted that he had never heard the word until his freshman year of college.

“I was coming in with an ambition and a caveat that I could go to a school and explore entrepreneurship, which I did,” Krakauer said.

As a youngster, Krakauer unintentionally dabbled in e-commerce and internet marketing, which provided background he needed when it was time to found Sculpt. In his early teens, Krakauer taught himself how to take apart, assemble, and tune a specific type of car before he had a driver’s license. That led him to co-found an internet community for a specific type of car they would race and modify.

“I loved being part of an internet community and seeing the power of how early social media could bring people together to transact peer-to-peer,” Krakauer said.

As a student at Iowa, Krakauer and two others started Sculpt as an experiment in managing and testing the demand of social media marketing for small businesses. Within the first year, Krakauer faced common challenges for any startup: a co-founder moving on to another opportunity, hiring and recruiting employees, establishing customers and Sculpt’s place in the market.

“We needed JPEC’s support for all of that because I didn’t have the experience to do so,” Krakauer said. “I come back to the word community — I still have friends from the earliest day of starting a business at JPEC. We would teach each other things.”

Krakauer took advantage of everything Iowa JPEC had to offer: regular interaction with others starting businesses, competitions to win startup capital, mentorship from people a little further ahead, and free office space.

If he is a spokesman for anything, it is persistence, Krakauer said. He started Sculpt when he was 22-years-old and the industry has seen many twists and turns in the 11 years since.

“It has been a journey of multiple phases,” Krakauer said. “The company has evolved quite a bit; we are now a remote, global, b-to-b-focused modern marketing agency. It was something I did not anticipate doing in my 30s.”

Krakauer resides in Washington, D.C., but returns to his office in Iowa City a couple times a year. He takes pride in giving back to Iowa JPEC by joining the alumni advisory board, a network he treasures because it also helped his business grow. He has been a long-time organizer and mentor at events like Startup Weekend and Startup Games, and programs like Startup Accelerator and Startup Incubator.

“It is important that JPEC supports companies that have ambitions of all types,” Krakauer said.

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