News & Events

Middle-Schoolers Show Business Sense at Camp

By Madelaine Jerousek

If anyone was going to start a video-gaming business, Trevor Zuck would make the ideal entrepreneur.

Who knows more about the video game market, after all, than a 14-year-old who loves action games and spends four hours a day playing them with his friends?

The aspiring video game engineer is competing with 25 other young entrepreneurs this week for cash prizes to start his business. The sixth- through eighth-grade students are part of the Jacobson Entrepreneurship Academy, a one-week camp intended to teach middle-school students how to start and operate their own ventures.

"When I was playing video games with my friends, I thought it would be cool to make them," said Zuck of Altoona, who hopes to design and sell games through his business.

This is the first year the entrepreneurship camp--affiliated with the University of Iowa's John Pappajohn Entrepreneurship Center--is being offered in Des Moines. It has been held in Iowa City the past two years.

Campers, meeting at the John and Mary Pappajohn Higher Education Center, spent the week hearing presentations from young entrepreneurs, developing business plans and designing logos. Each day, they apply what they learn to their fictional businesses.

Camp organizers want participants to realize that anyone, regardless of age, can use their skills and interests to make money.

"It's a big confidence-builder for kids this age," said camp director Dawn Bowlus . "They realize they can actually bring in more money than just going and working for someone else."

Alice Xu, 14, of West Des Moines hopes to start a violin-tutoring service.

This week, Xu has learned that starting a business is a lot of work, but "you just have to be determined," she said.

On the final day of camp today, the students will present their business plans to a panel of judges in hopes of earning up to $100 in seed capital to get their businesses started. The judges will consider such criteria as professionalism, marketing and cash-flow projections. Six campers will be eligible for prizes.

Earlier this week, Gabriel Riley , 13, worked on a laptop to cut-and-paste a picture of a soapy dog onto her marketing materials. Her dog-washing business, "Pet's Day," would offer customers supplies to wash their dogs. Customers would pay $15 if they wish to wash the dogs themselves and $20 if they want Riley to do it.

"I thought it would be cool to be a businessperson," Riley said. "Instead of following someone else's rules, I can make up my own."

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