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Iowa City teen runs for-sale-by-owner website

At 16, Jimmy Larew has already ventured into the world of e-commerce, setting up a web site where people can advertise their houses for sale online.

Larew runs a business called For Sale By Owner in Iowa City, a website where people in Iowa City and surrounding areas can post their listings at www.fsboiowacity.com. By filling out a release form, house sellers can list information online about the key selling points of their home -- location, amenities, improvements, price, etc. -- along with their contact information. Customers are provided a yard sign that lists the website where people should go for more information.

Larew, a junior at Regina High School, set up the business after attending BizCamp, a weeklong summer program for young entrepreneurs sponsored by the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center. Students participating in the camp used BizTech, an online entrepreneurial learning program to develop a business plan and begin the process of setting up a business.

"It's a lot of work to start your own business. The program, BizTech, takes you through a step-by-step process for developing a basic business plan. It's good for organizing ideas and finding where you want your business to go," Larew said. "There was also a lot of stuff about keeping finances together and organized."

Jimmy got the idea for his business from his uncle who noticed other for-sale-by-owner services across the country and thought a similar service could be successful in Iowa City.

To begin, Larew determined his start up costs, which included signs, a photo scanner, and web hosting from an Internet service provider. He already owned a computer where he could design his site.

"It wasn't difficult to raise the money. My uncle already believed this would work. After I sold my dad on the idea, the three of us each put in a third of the costs. I was able to put the $300 seed capital grant from BizCamp toward covering my share of the expense."

Larew, his father, Rick, and uncle, Jim McCoy are equal shareholders and serve as advisory board members for For Sale By Owner in Iowa City. In addition, Jimmy is CEO, webmaster, and publicist for the company. He plans to use profits for college tuition.

FSBO-Iowa City's marketing plan includes identifying interested sellers by watching the "For Sale by Owner" section of the newspaper and providing potential customers with an easy internet-based alternative to selling their home. In addition, Jimmy feels that as his customer base grows, more people will learn about his company via word of mouth and by seeing FSBOIowaCity.com yard signs around town.

"I like being an entrepreneur. I get to make decisions about how the business is set-up and organized. My goals are to make money and gain experience now so that I can be a successful business owner in the future," he said.

For more information about Youth Entrepreneurship Programs contact the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa at 335-0985.


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