BY JESSIE SPANGLER
Wooden bowties may not be a common accessory, but it’s the product that Drake spophomore Noah Marsh built a business off of when he was a junior in high school.
He started his business, Against the Grain Bowties, after making one for a high school dance. After receiving multiple requests for wooden bowties from others who had seen his work, he set up a website and started taking orders.
“You don’t feel like you’re laboring toward a chore,” Marsh said. “You’re laboring toward something that you like and enjoy.”
In Des Moines, there is no shortage of entrepreneurial programs for high school students, college students and anyone else looking to start a business.
The Venture School offered by the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center is a six-week startup accelerator that runs twice a year, once in February and again in September. The Des Moines program starts Feb. 27.
The Venture School imitates life at a real startup and is open to everyone, as long as they have a team, are willing to work hard and pay $500 to the program. It runs statewide, with locations available in Iowa City and Des Moines.
“It’s not a business school it’s more about starting a new business. It’s not traditional business classroom sort of stuff,” said Wade Steenhoek, one of the Venture School instructors.
This program helps budding entrepreneurs and business employees research their market, develop a business model, expand their networks and strengthen their knowledge of business concepts and procedures.
“You’re interviewing a lot of customers, upwards of a hundred customers over a six-week period,” Steenhoek said.
Steenhoek also gives lectures for the Enterprise Leadership program at the University of Iowa. He said that there’s been a lot of growth since the program started three years ago.
“As of now we have over 800 students who have declared enterprise leadership as their major,” Steenhoek said. “That’s incredible. It’s mind-blowing.”
The program has seen so much progress that the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa now offers it jointly in Des Moines with the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center. The program is for students enrolled at the University of Iowa and offers opportunities to high school students for college credit.
“That’s the reason we brought this to Des Moines; it’s incredibly popular,” Steenhoek said.
The Enterprise Leadership program is built off of three primary tenets: leadership, communication skills and innovation/entrepreneurial skills. In this area of study, students refine their skills in innovation, entrepreneurship, communication, critical thinking, problem solving and leadership.
Each course is eight weeks long. This makes it possible for students to earn their degree quickly while holding a full-time job.
Another entrepreneurship program that is coming to the Des Moines area this fall is a business startup class. It will be offered to high school juniors and seniors at the Waukee Innovation and Learning Center through the Waukee Aspiring Professional Experience (APEX) program.
According to Nicole Lawrence, who handles media and branding inquiries for Waukee schools, curriculum development is set to begin this spring.
“The class was proposed by our advisory board as an option for students interested in exploring a potential business start up,” Lawrence said.
Topics students will learn in class include business model canvas, market research, design thinking, financing and funding models, patent support, and planning for successful scaling and growth. Students will also have the opportunity to work with a network of mentors.
“That was added because it kind of represents what APEX kind of is,” Lawerence said. “It’s about innovation and finding your own path. Sometimes those paths are things that don’t quite exist yet, so we wanted to give students an opportunity to kind of explore and come up with and create their own ideas.”
The course’s final project is planned to be a pitch modeled after ABC’s “Shark Tank” TV show.