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Member News: C.C. Eship / NACCE Journal Summer/Fall 2009

Exploring the Entrepreneurial Spirit Beyond the Classroom

Friday, September 18, 2009   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
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By Tim Putnam, MPA

Associate Director, John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center

North Iowa Area Community College, Mason City, IA

With busy lives and a multitude of competing interests, it can be a challenge to get students to even identify their options for the future let alone consider pursuing entrepreneurial dreams. Of course, there are always those students who inspire us with their wise-beyond-their-years ability to self-motivate, to commit, and to turn their dreams into reality. Far more common are students who need guidance in how to go about exploring their options and how to build the necessary skills to turn that spirit into success.

In the classroom, students should be encouraged to explore as many ideas, passions, and dreams as possible. The sky’s the limit. The world is full of countless opportunities. There are no boundaries and no limits to their potential. Once the ideas are flowing, students can begin to consider how their ideas might fill a need, meet a desire, or fix a problem. It is important for them to realize that the point of this exercise is not to come out of it with fully formed ideas or business plans, but to begin a process of discovery and eventually understand their entrepreneurial talents.

A recent report out of England’s National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship and The Council for Industry and Higher Education stated that, "Pure business skills are no longer sufficient. To add value to the workplace, graduates will need to distinguish themselves by developing entrepreneurial skills that enable them to seize and exploit opportunities, take risks, think strategically, work flexibly, manage complexity, and acquire the more generic employability skills needed for the workplace, such as team-working, communication skills, and commercial awareness.”

Preparing our students for the workplace of the future means preparing them to be entrepreneurial in their thinking and practice whether they end up working for themselves, for a small business, or for a large organization. We must continue to work together to integrate entrepreneurial concepts into our educational curricula at all levels. Students who are encouraged throughout their educational life to think, dream, and live in possibility and potential are much more likely to be successful in whatever they choose to create for themselves in life.

North Iowa has many ways in which students can be exposed to creativity and entrepreneurial thinking. The Pappajohn Center is educating students in the 3rd and 5th grades with the Entrepreneur for a Day program. Invent Iowa has been a long-running program that challenges young students to identify an opportunity or solve a problem in their day-to-day lives. High school students have several program options that include Entrepreneurial classes, a "Be Your Own Boss” seminar held at NIACC and the Youth Entrepreneurial Academy to name a few. These programs and activities have been invaluable in helping us nurture and grow the entrepreneurial spirit among our students in North Iowa over the past several years.

If you take a close look around, you will begin to see the fruits of these various programs. Visit Bert and Ernie’s Skate Shop in Mason City, owned by Spencer Stensrude, a graduate of the Youth Entrepreneurial Academy. The Britt Lumber Yard is currently owned and operated by Derek and Lizanne Engh. Both are 2004 graduates of West Hancock High School. Derek is also a graduate of the FastTrac® New venture Program and Lizanne was a participant in the Youth Entrepreneurial Academy. Ben Frein, 2004 graduate of Garner High School, is currently attending the University of Northern Iowa and has started several businesses as part of the UNI Student Incubator. Jessica Stenzel, a Forest City native and alumna, is operating out of the NIACC JPEC Business Incubator and has already expanded her business selling college vintage apparel.

These are just a few examples of young North Iowa entrepreneurs who have used and benefited from the various entrepreneurial programs offered through the JPEC. As with all the wonderful programs our schools have to offer, we’d truly like to see more and more students involved in these entrepreneurial programs so we can witness the next generation of young business owners.

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