Director, John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center
North Iowa Area Community College
he North Iowa Area Community College is committed to entrepreneurship education on several levels. Our focus is to educate our students, citizens of our communities, elected officials and existing businesses in the practice of entrepreneurship with the goal of economic development and growth in North Iowa. Sometimes these lofty goals seem far out in the future, especially when dealing with elementary students and helping them see entrepreneurs like rock stars. Or sometimes it seems far off when we work with elected officials from throughout the region and provide seminars and information and assistance to jump start their communities with active support for entrepreneurship and then it doesn’t happen right away or happens in some communities and not others. But sometimes we get to see firsthand the fruits of our labors in a start up of a new business and its growth or success. Here are two short case studies that exemplify the latter and are great examples of why entrepreneurship matters.
Take Tad Andreasen, for example. A NIACC student with a certificate from the NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center in Entrepreneurship, Tad exemplifies what it means to be an entrepreneur. Tad has a passion to drive his business and through the skills he has acquired from his classes in the NIACC JPEC he is already seeing success. Tad has participated in the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization and led it as its president and has been active on campus and has sought out mentoring and assistance from the NIACC JPEC staff.
Through his knowledge and instruction from the entrepreneurship classes, Tad put that knowledge and passion to work building a business plan to enter the statewide John Pappajohn Business Plan Competition for college students. The result? Tad is the first student from an Iowa community college to win one of the top three cash awards since the inception of the competition eight years ago. His business, Andreasen Racing, is a marine sales, service and repair business, which specializes in one thing–selling and maintaining personal watercraft (PWC).
"I love maintaining and repairing PWC. I have literally been a ‘Garage Entrepreneur’ for the past five years repairing, building and painting PWC in my unheated garage. I can relate myself to Bill Gates and other Garage Entrepreneurs,” states Tad. Without the training Tad received it is doubtful he would have been able to articulate a clear business plan, set himself up for success and win the competition. Winning one of the awards brought Tad $5,000, which he will use to jump start his business and begin working full time to drive.
The second case study is one of Latham Hybrids, a high tech hybrid seed corn company, launched three years ago by John and Shannon Latham. Both have achieved advanced degrees, obtaining MBAs from the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. Despite that excellent training, or maybe because of it, when the Lathams decided to launch their business they sought help from the NIACC JPEC. The NIACC JPEC works with start-up companies and existing companies providing training and consulting services. In this case the "entrepreneurship education” came in direct consulting to the Latham’s by the NIACC JPEC staff. They were encouraged to complete their business plan and enter the statewide business plan competition for businesses, which they did with the guidance and assistance of the NIACC JPEC.
John has stated that if it were not for the business plan competition and the assistance of the NIACC JPEC, they would not have completed the plan and as a result would not have thought through all the issues they have subsequently faced. The result of the hands-on work that the JPEC provided to the Latham’s was a third place finish in the state and a $10,000 prize. More importantly the foundation was set for their company to grow and prosper. They have added customers and new products in the ensuing two years and have exceeded the sales goals by a wide margin. The Lathams are frequent visitors to the center for continuing guidance and learning and now are also giving back by supporting the center and serving on its advisory board.
Entrepreneurship education matters, indeed! Whether it is formal classroom setting for credit, getting a certificate, in the elementary schools, in the form of Fast Trac classes or direct consulting support, the NIACC JPEC is making a difference in North Iowa and we believe this integrated model can work elsewhere across the country.