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Students To Learn about Entrepreneurship and Development at Iowa Great Lakes

Some of the brightest entrepreneurial minds at Iowa's three state universities will come to Northwest Iowa July 30 to learn about entrepreneurship opportunities in Iowa during a week-long class.

The Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute will bring together 24 students from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa at the Lakeside Labs on the shore of Lake Okoboji. The Institute will not only teach the students about how to start and build a business, it also represents a new way to connect Iowans to their three state universities.

At Okoboji, the students will participate in advanced study of entrepreneurship that will include an entrepreneurial simulation, seminars with faculty from each of the three universities, guest presentations by successful entrepreneurs and business and community leaders, and networking and mentoring to enhance their understanding of entrepreneurship opportunities in Iowa.

But the purpose goes beyond educating the next generation of Iowa's business leaders, said David Hensley, a UI business clinical professor and executive director of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa. He said the institute will show these budding entrepreneurs that the entire state of Iowa is a fertile market for business.

"One of the goals of the Institute is to demonstrate that there are opportunities to create sustainable business ventures across the entire state of Iowa," he said. "The Institute provides a unique setting for students, entrepreneurs, community leaders and economic development professionals to interact and discuss the important roles each play in growing an entrepreneurial community."

The Institute is the brainchild of Tom Bedell, Spirit Lake resident, member of the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, and, as the CEO of Spirit Lake-based Pure Fishing, a successful entrepreneur himself. He said the idea for the Institute came out of conversations he had since becoming a regent in 2005 to find ways the three universities can better participate in rural economic development.

"This is one way how the Regents universities can look beyond their campuses to better serve all Iowans, regardless of where they live and work," said Bedell. "We're using existing infrastructure and existing wisdom to develop the best life-long learning opportunities for all Iowans."

The Institute is also an example of a new way to form partnerships between the universities and local communities, according to Bedell. Local businesses and civic organizations are providing various forms of support for the Institute, including paying the 24 students' tuition, and the students will spend the week living in the homes of local residents.

"It's a unique collaboration between the universities and the Iowa Great Lakes area that's making this event happen, and we hope it leads to people thinking of new ways to explore similar partnerships in other parts of the state," Hensley said.

The Institute is co-sponsored by the Iowa Lakes Corridor of Opportunity, Iowa Department of Economic Development, Iowa Lakes Community College, Buena Vista University and various county and municipal governments.

Hensley said the Okoboji Entrepreneurship Institute could become an annual event with opportunities for greater participation from local residents.

The participants are a diverse group of students who come from a variety of backgrounds and majors across each university, Hensley said. The sessions they will attend in Okoboji include get-togethers with business faculty from all three universities and Q & A sessions with successful Iowa entrepreneurs. Among the guest speakers will be Ted Waitt, Sioux City native, UI alumnus and founder of Gateway Computers, who will meet with the students on Aug. 2.

The students will also break into six teams and spend their mornings on a computer-based simulation that incorporates the creation and operation of a new business and a fundraising round where the teams have to present their plans to community volunteer venture capitalists to acquire capital to fuel growth for their simulated companies. Evenings, meanwhile, will provide opportunities for networking and Okoboji recreation.

For more information about the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, visit www.iowajpec.org.


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