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UI BizCamp Student Wins National Entrepreneurship Award

Irene Nissen Young entrepreneur Irene Nissen took the knowledge she gained at summer business camp at the University of Iowa and started a successful video production company in Carroll, Iowa. Now, the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) has recognized Nissen for her success by naming her a Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Nissen, a senior at Carroll High School, will receive $1,000 and be honored at NFTE's Twelfth Annual "Salute to the Entrepreneurial Spirit" Awards Dinner on April 26 in New York City. The award is in recognition of her outstanding operating business plan for her business, Acuto Productions, a video production company.

In summer 2003, Nissen attended BizCamp sponsored by the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) at the University of Iowa. She learned how to size up competition, crunch numbers dealing with finances, and effectively explain what her company is and does.

"Had I not attended the JPEC BizCamp I don't think I would have had the opportunity to create such an organized and effective business plan. JPEC is a great way to gain exposure to the world of entrepreneurship. It really opened a lot of doors for me and helped me to better understand what entrepreneurship means to me," Nissen said.

Each year, JPEC helps Iowa's young entrepreneurs learn about starting and running a business, says Dawn Bowlus, JPEC's student activities and outreach coordinator. "Through JPEC's K-12 programs, middle and high school students can turn their ideas into businesses, helping grow the next generation of Iowa entrepreneurs. Irene is a wonderful example of the entrepreneurial potential that exists in Iowa. We are thrilled with her achievements."

Nissen co-owns and operates Acuto Productions with her long-time friend Mark Kerwood, a student at Iowa State University. The company does a variety of video production, from filming and editing weddings to creating memory slideshows, audio CDs, and 8mm film-to-DVD conversions. In addition to projects for a local hospital, a community orchestra, and a summer camp, Nissen and Kerwood have done various projects all over Iowa, as well as in parts of Nebraska, Colorado, Florida, and Europe. They also have given back to their community by offering their services to many non-profit organizations such as the Relay for Life, All Strings Attached Community Orchestra, and the Carroll Community School District.

"Mark and I always keep ourselves busy with the business. Rarely do we have a period of time when we do not have a project to work on," Nissen said. "It has been a great learning and growing experience for us. Being full-time students with part-time jobs--as well as running a business--is a lot of work, but it's all worth it because we are doing what we love, and we have the opportunity to travel and meet all kinds of new and interesting people every day."

After graduation, Nissen plans to attend Colorado State University this coming fall. She will be double majoring in technical journalism with an emphasis on public relations, as well as restaurant and resort management. When Nissen and Kerwood move to Colorado next year, they hope to keep their business running on the side, and they have plans to expand their business into the field of web page production, as well as some other areas of interest.

Nissen advises other young entrepreneurs to stick with their endeavors, learning some valuable life lessons while making some money. "Anyone can get a part time job, but only those who are truly dedicated, hard working, and passionate can maintain their own business," she said. "If you truly have the entrepreneurial spirit, then starting a business while you are still in high school or college is a great way to get ahead in life and experience many wonderful opportunities that may not have existed otherwise."

For more information about young entrepreneur education at the UI, see www.iowajpec.org/k12.


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