By Natalie Betz
All businesses start somewhere, and some University of Iowa students have taken the initiative to create small companies that help aid the community.
Several UI Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center Founders Club students presented their newly established businesses at the Hawkeye Innovation Expo on April 21.
According to the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center’s website, the Founders Club is an exclusive group of business students who have access to special office space to help create business models.
The expo gathered innovative faculty, staff, and students together, said Kristen Tobert, the communication specialist for the Entrepreneurial Center. It’s a great form of collaboration, she said.
“This is a culmination of what [the center] does,” said Tyler Kromkowski, an Entrepreneurial Center ambassador. “It’s kind of like our Super Bowl because it’s our biggest event to show what we’ve been doing and how to get involved.”
Attendees of the public event could give student presenters Monopoly money if they liked the students’ businesses. Whoever had the most money at the end won a cash prize. Student competed for titles such as “people’s choice” and “most creative.”
Amanda Burrell, founder of White Ivy Events, a wedding planning group located in eastern Iowa, won both people’s choice and the ultimate cash prize. White Ivy connects with brides on social media to help them with organizing their weddings.
“Entrepreneurship is a huge backbone of Iowa’s economy, and it is a great way to showcase our design,” Burrell said. “I’ve hired two people in the last week, and I’ve just launched this a week and a half ago.”
In the future, Burrell plans to start a YouTube channel for her company to help showcase her work.
Some other businesses were also promoting their future events.
Erin Mauer, a cofounder of Buddy’s Bowls, a startup business that makes organic dog treats to sell from a food cart at local outdoor events, said the expo is a great opportunity for student entrepreneurs to present their ideas and research.
Buddy’s Bowls had its first event on April 23 at the Thornberry Off-Leash Dog Park, where the business sold its healthy dog treats as well as arranging activities and giving out prizes, according to a handout from its booth.
Local businesses were also able to show off their growth in the field, but they were not eligible for the cash prize.
Kromkowski said seeing the other startups influence the surrounding businesses to work harder on their projects.
Small lectures covered how to start a successful company, how to perfect business pitches, and how to fund small companies. The expo also consisted of a panel luncheon between UI students and faculty and several competitions.
UI sophomore and business major Aunica Harvey said it was refreshing to see students in the same age group creating businesses. It is a great way for fellow Founders Club students to realize they do not have to wait until they are older to start a career, she said.