Students create own businesses

Story by Hayleigh Syens

The Buchanan Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership in the College of Business and Public Administration has a challenge for the students of Drake University.

The Pappajohn New Venture Student Business Plan Competition is for college and university students in Iowa who want to start their own business.

Students have the opportunity to win a $5,000 grant to fund their business start-up.

“The contest is sponsored by John Pappajohn. About 15 years ago he made a commitment to support university programs to foster more start-ups and entrepreneurs. He put his own money behind it. He has turned himself into one of the most successful individual venture capitalists,” said Assistant Professor of Practice of Entrepreneurship Thomas Swartwood. “He realized before it was trendy that entrepreneurs can be fostered, and, more importantly, we can demystify the process. We can make it less scary. And that’s really the genesis for his commitment, and that’s where the money for the student business plan competition comes from. “

Although Drake is the only private university that receives any money from the competition, professors at Drake invite any college students from the metro area to pitch a business plan.

“It’s been mainly students from Drake, but we also get students from DMACC and people show up from Simpson (College) and Central (College),” Swartword said.

“We also have people from Morningside (College) who are interested this year, as well Grandview (University),”  said Stephanie Cardwell, an administrative assistant in the Buchanan Center.

Students, in teams of up to five, have the opportunity to create a business plan and present their ideas to a panel at Drake.

From all of those students, three teams are selected to move on and present in front of Pappajohn and his colleagues.

Groups from all different regions of Iowa meet up and compete against one another in a statewide competition.

The top three teams in the state competition win a $5,000 grant sponsored by John Pappajohn.

This a competition that Drake students have had success in before.

Drake alumna Meg Fisher pitched an idea of having in-home parties where she would sell baby and maternity clothes.

She won the competition in 2009 and used the grant money to further her maternity and baby clothing line Lincoln&Lexi.

She went from selling clothing from out of her car to a booth in the Jordan Creek Mall to a store space in Jordan Creek.

While entrepreneurship may seem like a profession for business students only, this is not the case.

“I think that there is a perception that entrepreneurship is just for the business students, but every year, at least one of the groups is somebody who doesn’t even have an entrepreneurship major,” said Swartwood. “They can bring a non-business perspective, which can be interesting.”

Pappajohn and his colleagues are looking for innovative and sustainable ideas.

They want to fund interesting and unique ideas that can grow and thrive as an actual business.

“The people that won from the University of Iowa last year were pharmacy students. It was the second time in the past few years where pharmacy students were able to come up with something different,” said President and CEO of Ascent Lydia Brown.

The application for the Pappajohn New Venture Student Business Plan Competition can be downloaded at Intent to compete forms are due by Feb. 24 and business plans are due by March 28.

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