Miranda Ekern of Ekern Designs

CYstarters Spotlight Story: Ekern Designs

This story is part of a series featuring each of the fourteen startups in the CYstarters 2022 summer cohort. Each student has the opportunity to focus on their startup or business idea while receiving $6,500 or up to $13,000 (per team), along with mentorship, accountability, and educational sessions on how to build a business. 

By Samantha Dilocker, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship 


Get to know: Miranda Ekern

Age: 21  

Education: Senior majoring in biochemistry  

Hometown: Sioux Falls, SD  


Currently working on: Ekern Designs, a shop that creates unique drinkware to incorporate community through coffee dates, everyday life, and perfect gifts for people.  


Have you always seen yourself starting something?  

I actually have not! I’ve always seen myself doing what my parents did, going into the workforce, but I never saw myself starting something. The pandemic kind of opened up that avenue for me and gave me the time to start something. I come from a family of creatives who love to do things themselves, so I have been excited to merge my creative side and love of coffee into a drinkware company.  


When did you start working on Ekern Designs, and who or what inspired you?  

I started working on Ekern Designs in July of 2020. That’s when I started on Etsy. I think my family really inspired me. My mom always made scrapbooks and invited me to help and integrated a lot of family art projects, and created an avenue for us kids to be creative. During the pandemic, I wanted to do something to get my mind off of everything going on during that time. My family really motivated me to start something myself. My grandparents had their own company, so they were helpful to me in starting my own. My entire family has been so supportive.   


What excites you about being an entrepreneur?  

I love being able to be creative and put my own voice out there! Creating my own brand is so exciting. Seeing other people use my products is so cool to see and hearing great feedback from customers is rewarding. I love to hear that my products have been gifted and loved. It’s so cool to see something you’ve made out in the world and start conversations.  


What is your biggest goal for your business?   

My biggest goal right now is to stop seeing my business as just a hobby I do in my free time but as a real business and something I can really grow and upscale. I’m looking forward to creating a website and putting my own image and what I really want out into the world with Ekern Designs. It’s been a hobby so far, so I’m really excited to see where it goes.   


What has been your biggest challenge thus far, and how have you overcome it?  

Currently, it’s time. School is definitely a lot, and studying takes up a lot of time. Setting time aside for when to make products has helped, but I’m still learning how to balance it all.   


How has entrepreneurship at Iowa State impacted you?  

This has really been my first go-around with entrepreneurship at Iowa State! I started selling at Innovate 1858 last school year and got my foot in the door there, but CYstarters has really allowed me to see the resources and access to mentorship that’s available. It’s been really great. It’s such a supportive community that really wants to see you succeed.  


What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student?  

Get involved in anything you can! If you think you won’t be able to do something, it’s worth trying to see what will happen. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t take the leap! If there’s an opportunity to create something you want for yourself, just find a way. Connect with people around you and find the resources because there are so many. Don’t be afraid to fail. That’s just a part of the journey. It’s going to be hard, but remember why you’re doing it.  


How can we support Ekern Designs?  

You can support Ekern Designs by spreading the word and buying our products! You can find us online at etsy.com/shop/EkernDesigns.