It was 6 years ago that I experienced my first entrepreneurial event from the generous help and sponsor of John Pappajohn. NIACC’s Youth Entrepreneurial Academy. A summer week-long event for North Iowa’s area high school students to create an idea, write a biz plan, and present to a panel of investors at the end of the week. Granted, the $200,000 investment my team asked for Eagle Endevors (A GPS finder for your golf ball) wasn’t a reality. But it did one thing.
It got our youthful brains to start thinking that passionate ideas should be pursued. No matter what age.
Old school pic back in 2007 at YEA Camp. This is when we had disposable cameras and then you would SCAN your photo to be able to post on Facebook
Next, DW made the transition from high school to college.
I kept hearing the name Judi Eyles and how I should talk to her about ISU Pappajohn programs. So, went to my first ISU Entrepreneur Club meeting as a freshmen and got the chance to meet Judi. Fast forward four years and I consider Judi to be the best academic mentor (even though she can’t be)…I still consider her one. She will go out on her own limb to provide the help and resources for just about anyone. Oh, and she’s a really good connector. Always shooting me personal emails of special opportunities to meet people and business leaders that are always a good fit to work with.
Sophomore year I decide to add an Entrepreneurial Studies minor. Best academic decision ever. Not only were these classes my favorite to go to each semester, but it provided me with real world learning. Yes, not all public education classes relate to the real world. The downfall of ‘textbook only’ classes I encountered. Read an older post I wrote, Wait There’s A Problem With Today’s EDU System.
Hillary and I at this year’s CEO Conference. Enjoying a college game at Dallas Cowboy’s Stadium for one of the evening CEO events.
It was my sophomore year that I attended my first CEO conference, held in Chicago with the ISU Entrepreneur Club. There, I would present in the business pitch competitions to a room filled with 60+ students, and only have 90 seconds to pitch my idea to the panel of judges. 90 seconds sounds easy, but when you have a criteria list of 20 items to cover, it can be a mouthful. Yet great experience. And phenomenal conference. This year will be my 4thconference and most likely my last as I graduate in December. Highly recommend to all students, of any major or interest.
2009 CEO Conference. Got to have drinks with the founder of Redbox, pictured here.
And what was this idea I presented in the biz pitch, you ask? Where is it today? Well funny thing is, I came up with an idea and then wrote a full page business plan for an independent credit for my entrepreneur minor. The name, ThriftyCollegeKids.com, or TCK for short. I spent a over half a year pursuing this idea. I’d listen to the industry. Ask my competitors out for lunch (since people love to help students). And come up with a way that would separate my idea from anyone else’s…find my niche.
Reconnecting with an old CEO friend, Nick Churma. Shout out to his biz, Betterboo.com
Yet, I can admit that I wasn’t wildly passionate. I found this out whenever my mom would really question my idea and where I saw myself in one, three or five years. It became apparent that I had other things on my mind. And my inner self didn’t have the big enough “WHY”.
So as it may be hard to admit this, but I’m glad that I found out before any real big amount of money was spent to put the stop on this. Yet, it was still a great experience learning. Everyday, I would push myself to do 5 big things towards the business that I could cross off at the end of the day. I got to write a business plan and go through the strategizing needed for any start-up. I learned a lot about market research and how it plays a big role, making your naïve idea a lot more sound after. And then of course I learned how to present this idea to friends, family, and a room full of strangers for a prize.
Next up: My Junior year I got the chance to attend Okoboji Entrepreneur Institute. This is weeklong institute with eight budding entrepreneurs from each of the state Universities, the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Iowa, plus students from Buena Vista University & Iowa Lakes Community College.
Best experience of my summer, hands down. Got to receive 3 college credits, network with northwest Iowa’s finest entrepreneurs & mentors, and have a lifetime set of contacts who all experienced one of the greatest events of our summer! Apply for OEI, without a doubt.
Senior year and I really get involved in the ISU Entrepreneur Club and sit as club prez. It was great to be involved and attending every event for ISU and even in the Des Moines area. I had a lot of fun reaching out to ISU students of all majors to get involved with ISU Pappajohn programs.
Then a fall night, a big yellow school bus of ISU students ride down to downtown Des Moines for the Startup Job Crawl, hosted by Silicon Prairie. This was an eye-opener to see how much Des Moines has grown and is really catching the entrepreneurial bug for a place for startups to land. Places like Startup City (incubator), AMICI Coffee (a meeting grounds for entrepreneurs to voice their ideas with another), and then of course 20+ startups blocks away from each other. This event beat any career fair, in a landslide. Everything was informal and casual. You had the chance to talk to every single business owner and hear their story, and what their biggest need was (a programmer, marketing gal, biz dev, etc). It was such a unique networking experience, and nothing like the stuffy career fair where half the companies you were only handing out your resume and then on to the next one.
It was at this time I met Dwolla. At this point they were a startup of only 20 people. They immediately stole the show, least for my eyes. I got the to talk with the crew. For a student, they definitely came across with a fun company culture, innovative, and the idea behind Dwolla was sound. Something that could and needs to change the world and how we view money. And as many of you know from my prior blog post, I joined the Dwolla team for the summer as a community builder intern.
It’s been a great experience as I get to be around a very entrepreneurial minded company, and talk to entrepreneurs in retail, nonprofits, and organizations each day to use Dwolla.
So in a few short weeks I will start my last first day of school. This is a common Facebook/Twitter status but what follows it is usually “eeek”! Sadly, a lot of students my age still have no idea what they want to do after college. I on the other hand feel that I’m paying ISU to keep me behind. I just want to be done (minus football season). This streams from the knowing that from all the connections I’ve made throughout the above experiences and the opportunities that follow.
And this is where I want to gratefully say that I’m appreciative of the multiple experiences I have encountered:
- The Pappajohn college programs (John & Mary Pappajohn) & scholarship
- Okoboji Entrepreneur Institute
- Judi Eyles (ISU Pappajohn)
- Tim Putnam (NIACC Pappajohn)
- The countless mentors, students, and biz owners who share my same passion.
- And of course both my parents. It’s so true that your beliefs are shaped around the people who raised you. And by no surprise, both my parents own their own businesses. Lucky me. I’ve had a job since I was 9 years old…child labor at times Note to self: I’ll have to find a picture to post when I go home next for proof!
My Unfair Advantage…really it can be anyone’s.