News & Events

Iowa Students Build Business, Get Help from Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute

John Slump and Jared Garfield knew they had a good idea for a new medical product, a device that prevents worker and patient exposure to hazardous medications.

They knew there was a market for their product -- not only does it increase safety, it also improves productivity and reduces overhead. They knew how to design and build it, too. But they still had a lot of questions. Who would build it? How long would it take and how much would it cost? How would it be distributed and marketed? Who would sell it?

"There were a lot of things we weren't sure of," said Slump. So last year, the Sioux City native and then senior-to-be at the University of Iowa's Tippie College of Business attended the Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute. The institute is an opportunity for college students in Iowa to learn about how to start and build a business through a weeklong series of classes, seminars, workshops and meetings with prominent Iowa business leaders.

"The Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute helped us to formulate a plan to address our questions," said Slump.

The third annual institute will be held this year Aug. 3-8 at the University of Iowa's Lakeside Labs on the shore of West Lake Okoboji. Forty undergraduate students from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa, Buena Vista College and Iowa Lakes Community College will attend.

"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," said David Hensley, who oversees the institute as director of UI's John Pappajohn Entrpreneurial Center (JPEC).

As a result of that one week at the institute, Slump left the Iowa Great Lakes area with a good idea of how to fill in the blanks.

"We're so much better prepared this year than we were last year, thanks to things I learned at the Okoboji Institute," said Slump, who graduated last May from the UI's Tippie College of Business with a degree in finance. "It was the most educational and enjoyable experience of my academic career."

Many of the contacts Slump made at Okoboji still offer him advice today. "The people are what make the experience so unique," he said.

Slump's and Garfield's start-up company, J&J Solutions, Inc., has designed a patent-pending drug handling system that keeps hazardous medications from coming in contact with people while the drugs are being prepared, administered and disposed. The device is designed to protect health care workers, patients, custodians and others by preventing exposure to the potentially harmful medications.

Today, Slump and Garfield have a designed prototype device and have applied for a patent. They are also conducting market research, seeking advisors, and contacting other partners to handle such things as beta testing, manufacturing, distribution and marketing.

Slump said the most helpful thing he learned at Okoboji was the importance of networking, which opens a multitude of doors that would otherwise have been closed.

"I had never been around that many successful people at once, and I didn't know what to expect," said Slump. "But I found out they were laid back and modest. They were successful, but they didn't let that success go to their heads. That was a good lesson."

A computer simulation game the students play also demonstrated the importance of effective negotiations.

"You can play hard-ball, but then everyone walks away with nothing," he said.

Slump was named the top entrepreneur at last year's institute, which comes with a $2,500 gift from Des Moines venture capitalist and institute supporter John Pappajohn.

The experience was so worthwhile that Slump encouraged Garfield, who will be a UI senior in the fall, to apply for this year's institute. He was accepted and will be in attendance when it starts in August.

For more information on J&J Solutions, Inc., contact innovate@jjsolutionsinc.com.


Return to top of page