News & Events

UI Camps Make Entrepreneurs of Iowa Teens

Economic development starts young in Iowa.

A three-week series of camps that teach kids about entrepreneurialism and how to run a business kicked off this week at the University of Iowa. The camps, organized by the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC), introduce students between the ages of 12 and 16 to the concept of running a business and what it takes to make a business work.

Through classroom exercises, field trips and guest speakers, campers develop their own business ideas and in some cases, work on bringing their ideas to the marketplace.

"It's not only fun for the students, but it's also important because these are the next generation of Iowa's business leaders," said Dawn Bowlus, youth entrepreneurship coordinator. "Iowa needs strong leaders to keep its economy strong, and this is where the University of Iowa can help by inspiring young people to start their businesses in our state."

The program consists of three week-long camps held in Iowa City and Des Moines:

  • Youth Entrepreneur Camp sponsored by Hills Bank and Trust, held July 10-14 at the Pappajohn Business Building on the UI campus, for 44 Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area students in grades 4, 5 and 6
  • Jacobson Entrepreneurship Academy, sponsored by the Richard O. Jacobson Foundation, held July 17-21 at the Pappajohn Business Building, for 30 Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area students in grades 7, 8 and 9
  • Jacobson Entrepreneurship Academy, sponsored by the Richard O. Jacobson Foundation, held July 24-28 at the Pappajohn Higher Education Center in Des Moines for 30 Des Moines-area students in grades 7, 8 and 9

Bowlus said the youth camp introduces campers to the basics of starting and developing a business, answering such questions as what kind of business to start and where does the money to start it come from. Campers brainstorm new business ideas and learn how to build their business.

Bowlus said the middle school camp looks at the same questions in more depth, and also uses the expertise of University of Iowa faculty as teachers. Middle school campers also complete a business plan, business cards, a flyer and a Power Point presentation that they present to a panel of judges who award seed capital cash prizes to the top budding entrepreneurs. Many business ideas from past camps become real-world businesses, some of which are still in operation years after the camp ends.

John DeAngelis is one camp alumnus whose business is still operating. In fact, he started and runs two of them: VHS2DVD, which converts customers' VHS tapes to DVD; and Selling For U, which helps customers sell items on eBAY.

"The camps showed me the importance of organization in running a successful business," said DeAngelis, a 15-year old from Fairfield. "You have to have everything organized, from your business plan to market research to finding partners, and learning that has helped my businesses succeed."

He found the camp so worthwhile that he's volunteering as a counselor at this week's youth camp and brought his brother, Mickey, to participate.

"I enjoyed my experience as a camper and want to help other kids have the same experience," he said.

Some of the participants in this year's youth camp are already operating businesses, or have ideas they hope to soon bring to life. Joe Fitzgerald, 11, of Omaha, already operates a pet-sitting business and wants to expand into book-binding, while Lauren Logsdon, 11, of Iowa City, wants to operate a dog-walking business and make gourmet dog biscuits. "Something more than just lemonade stands," she said.

Meanwhile, Reid Botkin, 10, of Cedar Rapids is looking for ideas and inspiration.

"I want to learn about leadership," he said.


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