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Iowa City Kids Are Scooping Up Business Knowledge

Perfecting an ice cream flavor is a challenging process. Would-be inventors need to pick the right toppings and mixin's to create an appealing and original concoction capable of reaching a wide audience. At the Jacobson Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship, they add in one last ingredient: future entrepreneurial skills.

Fifty kids from the Iowa City area spent part of the past week dreaming up their production. Each group was handed a sheet of paper detailing the parameters for their ideas. The list of perspective flavors was winnowed down to just three.

The institute has partner with Heyn's Ice Cream since 1996, where one of the three flavors is chosen. Workers whip up a batch of the recipe and unveil the winner to the 5th and 6th graders.

Chocolate strawberry—a strawberry-based flavor with fudge swirl and sprinkles—won this year, because, as Heyn's owner Peggy Cullivan said, they are always looking for the most innovative combination.

Ten-year-old Sydney Walker, who helped design the entry, said the group was looking to bring chocolate strawberries back.

Invoking the usually romantic treat posed a challenge as Walker said they wanted to make sure their flavor still appealed to kids. By throwing in some sprinkles, and the group found its solution.

"Chocolate strawberries are more of an adult snack, but we wanted this to be made by kids for kids as well."

Beyond the delectable dessert, the institute's camps are geared toward cultivating the entrepreneurship spirit at a young age.

"Kids are just natural entrepreneurs," said Dawn Bowlus, director of the Jacobson Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship. "It's a lesson for all of us to let them go and take the lead. They come up with awesome ideas [for ice cream and other activities]."

Cullivan said she welcomes teaching young kids business basics through activities like the ice cream challenge.

"They get to put their entrepreneurial creativity to work and it could be a total flop or a top seller," she said.

If the new idea sells well enough, it could remain on sale, which is what happened with Monster Mash, a combination of cookie dough, peanut butter and M&Ms.

The partnership was originally done by Paul Heyn, who owned the business until his death. Cullivan, who worked with Heyn for over 20 years, said the event builds on the founder's love for children.

The best part of the competition is when the winners and others bring their parents in, said Cullivan.

"We have so many people come in and try new flavors, but it's not like what the kid's do when their faces light up after trying a new flavor or even the one they create. I get excited with them."

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