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Des Moines Youth Named Young Entrepreneur of The Year

Jason Jason Heki, 17, a home-schooled junior from rural Des Moines, has been named a Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), an international, non-profit organization devoted to entrepreneurial education.

He was one of 18 students from across the nation to receive the award May 19 at NFTE's annual Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards Dinner in New York City and attended by more than 800 business leaders and other guests. NFTE chose this year's national winners from among its 65,000 graduates.

To be eligible for the award, youth entrepreneurs had to be graduates of a NFTE entrepreneurship education program. Jason attended the 2002 BizCamp last June hosted by the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa, which is co-sponsored by NFTE. At the UI's BizCamp, he won a first-prize cash award of $500 for his business presentation, to be used toward his business or education.

Heki received his award for his business plan and operational business, Green Acres Family Farm, which he started several years ago, growing chemical-free vegetables and selling eggs from free-ranging chickens. His updated business plan, submitted to NFTE, includes free-ranging broiler chickens, raised without antibiotics or growth hormones. As a winner in the operational business category, Heki received a plaque and a cash prize of $1,000 to be used for his business or college education.

"The John Pappajohn Youth Entrepreneur Camp was a wonderful experience," said Heki. "The entrepreneurial knowledge I gained can be applied to any business throughout my life. Attending this entrepreneurship camp while I'm still young has allowed me to get a head start on being a business owner-a dream that most people don't pursue until their adult years, if ever."

During the camp, aspiring young entrepreneur develop their entrepreneurial and business knowledge and network with prominent entrepreneurs and business leaders. This summer from June 24-27, the high school students can earn seed capital to start their business or for future college tuition. JPEC also offers a camp in July for fourth, fifth or sixth grades who want to learn what it's like to start a business by learning about entrepreneurship through classroom and practical experience.

"Learning about starting and running a business while in high school empowers several young Iowa entrepreneurs each year. Through BizCamp, high school students can turn their ideas into businesses, helping grow the next generation of Iowa entrepreneurs," said Dawn Bowlus, JPEC's student activities and outreach coordinator.

With the financial support of such sponsors as The Goldman Sachs Foundation, NFTE has been working with young people Since its inception in 1987, teaching students to channel their creativity and turn their hobbies and dreams into viable businesses. To date, NFTE has taught more than 65,000 students how to start their own businesses.

NFTE founder Steve Mariotti says, "Many neighborhoods are filled with talented children who just need help finding their talents. NFTE's goal is to give young people the skills and confidence to unlock their true potential, so they can improve their lives and their communities."

The 2003 NFTE Young Entrepreneur of the Year award winners are from California, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Their businesses include entertainment, day care, specialty gifts, fashion design and food distribution.

Heki is the son of Rich and Barb Heki and the grandson of Helen Schei, Albuquerque, and Herb & Ivy Heki, Urbandale.


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