Josh Krakauer turned a homework assignment into Sculpt—a digital marketing agency that has employed 25+ Iowa students and alumni.
Pivot from idea guy to CEO
Josh Krakauer never had the highest GPA. But at Tippie, he built an innovative company from the ground up. Josh turned a homework assignment into a business plan that launched his own social media and digital marketing agency, Sculpt.
Find out how this Iowa marketing grad tapped into Iowa’s brain trust.
#1: Pay attention to what you’re good at
It wasn’t until his sophomore year that Josh knew he wanted to major in marketing. During an intro course, it hit him: marketing has the power to influence. In class, he watched a documentary that examined how marketers and advertisers influence not only what Americans buy, but also how they view themselves and the world around them.
“I was always a self-proclaimed idea guy who thought differently and understood the power of branding without really defining it that way,” Josh says. “When I watched this documentary, I realized that everything around us has been shaped by how people have messaged and framed stories. For better or worse, marketers influence the decisions you make.”
#2: Recognize the potential around you
A Chicagoland native, Josh found his niche in an unsaturated market. He took a social media marketing course that set the idea rolling. It was the first year the Tippie College of Business offered the course and connected the class to an industry unfolding.
“It was such a new, exciting landscape,” Josh says. “You really felt you were at the cutting edge of a learning experience. The whole class was passionate and engaged.”
Inspiration struck. And Josh and two classmates created Sculpt at Iowa's John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, landing free office space to grow their idea in the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory.
“That social class helped illustrate a market opportunity. It provided an accessible point of entry into what we are doing now. The support from the university gave us the resources, mentorship, and PR for greater visibility. Iowa JPEC provided an infrastructure where we could fail early on and be okay.”
#3: Be social in person, too
It wasn’t until after college that Josh recognized the value of his Tippie connections in the entrepreneurial community.
“As a student, you’re naive. You think you can do everything on your own. You think your instructors are there to grade you—to be that evaluator of success,” Josh says. “It takes a little experience in the post-grad world to realize that those instructors are actually your resource for being successful after college and not just in college.”
He continues to learn from professors such as Professor Ken Brown, who is active in nonprofit work and with various programs around Iowa City.
“He's extremely passionate about students being successful—and having a meaningful experience while they're here—so that they continue to give back.”
#4: Don’t stop at CEO
Josh keeps pace with his fast-evolving industry by reading, blogging, networking, and now teaching at Iowa. He’s a mentor and speaker in Iowa’s Venture School Accelerator, a program that helps entrepreneurs tinker with their ideas while learning about the startup process, and in the Iowa Startup Accelerator, which links tech startups with mentors and seed funding to launch their ideas in 90 days.
He coaches startup teams on everything from thriving in an ever-changing social landscape to building a brand story people believe. And he’s a member of the Iowa JPEC Alumni Advisory Board.
Sculpt’s digital marketing work for Iowa’s Hawkeye Huddles—a social media campaign “It’s Okay to #IowaBrag”—won a District 9 Professional Silver Award from the American Advertising Federation.
As the sole remaining co-founder, he strategically plans his days by what will make Sculpt stronger: team support, client support, new business development, organizational development, and personal development.
“Every single day, nights and weekends, I'm being thoughtful about how we are going to grow, what areas we need to improve, and how we get there with actionable steps this week, this day, this hour," Josh says.
#5: Leverage your status as a Tippie grad
In just three years, Sculpt grew from one full-time employee and a few interns to about 10 full-time employees—a staff that has included 25+ Iowa students and alumni. Josh says that doesn’t happen without taking some risks and learning from industry mentors.
"Tippie provided the spark that drove everything and has a great network of people who you can call on."
“When it comes to our infrastructure and what Sculpt is today, it didn’t evolve from only what we learned in school. Our model is based on experimentation. It's what you learn from the community—the regional entrepreneurial community and the Internet-based community and mentors. Tippie provided the spark that drove everything and has a great network of people who you can call on."
"I've totally leveraged my status as a Tippie alum to meet people who are also Tippie alumni who have been there and done that in my industry. They are willing to give their time and talent in order to help us succeed. That is an invaluable connection.”