Erica Cole No Limbits
Friday, December 4, 2020
By Rebekah Tilley

The ability to train your mind to see opportunities is a cornerstone of entrepreneurialism. Erica Cole (BA19) landed a spot on the elite Herky Security team in part because she saw an opportunity—Herky needed Halloween costumes—and her experience designing costumes for her theatre arts minor made her uniquely situated to see the project through to completion. Charging onto Kinnick Stadium on game day, hiking in New Mexico, taking ballroom dancing classes—Cole embraced every opportunity the university gave her with gusto.

Then she lost her leg in a car accident in 2018.

Many amputees spend part of their journey deciding how far they will go to save their limbs. Cole said she was grateful the choice of losing her leg was made for her, and she could move straight into wrapping her mind around life without her left leg. She threw herself into getting back to doing everything she had done before. “It was kind of my mantra. Then there came to be this point, this shift where I realized maybe I can still do all of those things, but the way I'm going to have to do them is going to look very different than everybody else.” It was a sobering realization that Cole grieved in private, episodic moments. Cole brushes off those who call her inspirational and courageous: “You kind of have to be. This is just the new normal.”

Erica Cole No Limbits

Today the same energy and enthusiasm that made her an ideal candidate to represent the University of Iowa mascot are in full force. Mere months after the accident, Cole entered and won a business pitch competition called Idea Storm, sponsored by the university’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC), where she pitched No Limbits, a business to create affordable, custom 3D-printed prosthesis covers. That led to Cole taking advantage of “pretty much everything JPEC offers”: angel funding, coaching, mentorship, and critical networking.

The determination to thrive, not merely survive, is the mark of a successful entrepreneur and a critical skill in seeing companies through hard times, said David Hensley, clinical professor and executive director of JPEC, which in 2020 was ranked 21st in the nation for undergraduate entrepreneurship programming by the Princeton Review. “Right now, we are seeing entrepreneurs incredibly stressed about the viability of their companies, capacity to pay and retain their employees, and ability to deliver products and services in a pandemic.  It takes that entrepreneurial leader, somebody with the vision, creativity, and perseverance to respond to these once-in-a-lifetime challenges.”

No Limbits just closed seed-round funding and spend the summer of 2020 in the Target Incubator working with senior product developers to navigate the manufacturing process that will build the company for scale. “Companies today are looking for innovative, creative problem solvers,” said Hensley. “They need people who are capable of looking at things differently, understand the entire scope of the business, and skilled enough to identify and implement unique strategies.”

This article first appeared in the winter 2021 issue of  Tippie Magazine as part of the feature story titled "Fearless: Tackling professional and personal challenges with the Hawkeye spirit." Read more Fearless stories here


John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center Resources for Tippie Alumni

  • Entrepreneurial training
  • Business planning/strategy consulting assistance
  • Access to Tippie students for internships
  • Opportunities for early-stage funding
  • Connectivity to alumni mentors

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