North Iowa Area Community College: Entrepreneur for a Day

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Kelly Ward and Samuel Scott work diligently as a team, creating their company's new flat screen televisions. Talking about the details as they assemble tiny parts, the two act as if they own the place.

Today, they do.

These fifth grade students from Charles City, Iowa, have become something for a day that many students don't even have on their spelling tests: an entrepreneur.

Fifth grade students from all districts in North Central Iowa are invited to participate in a unique program offered at North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC), which they call Entrepreneur for a Day®.

North Iowa Area Community College Entrepreneur for a Day

The Entrepreneur for a Day® program, known around campus as E4D, is dedicated to teaching fifth grade students the fundamental principles of entrepreneurship and how to start a business. Students learn the distinct differences between becoming an entrepreneur and being an employee.

"One of the goals of the program is to get kids thinking about being a job creator versus a job taker. We encourage them to understand that entrepreneurship is a viable career pathway," said NIACC's School Partnership Entrepreneurial Coordinator, Kelley Crane.

During this two session program, students participate in activities that teach and/or promote business planning, financial literacy, marketing concepts, work place concepts, social responsibility, and team-building skills.

"This is actually the first step in getting entrepreneurship education into the schools," Crane said.

During the first day, trained facilitators at the college visit the students' classroom and get them excited about the program by introducing terms and concepts of entrepreneurship.

The second day, students are invited to visit the NIACC campus where they choose a product, borrow money from a bank, buy resources they will need, make the product, then sell the product and determine if they made a profit.

After students complete the two day program, their visit concludes with a tour of the NIACC campus, which offers students a sense of what a college looks like, as well as campus life and its diversity.

"I love it. I love to design," Kelly Ward said while creating flat screen televisions from Play-Doh on the NIACC campus. Kelly would like to live in Colorado someday and own a company that does research on endangered animals.

Teacher Erik Hoefer has been bringing his class to E4D for the past four years. The enthusiasm this brings to his students is obvious, he said while on a recent visit to campus. "They are pumped. These students are really dreaming. They are learning that they can someday be job creators, not just job takers."

The collaboration that is needed in the business world today is something vital that the students are learning, Hoefer said. "It's absolutely critical," he said. "This program helps them use critical thinking."

The program inspired Hoefer so much that he now brings entrepreneurs from his community into the classroom.

Many teachers across North Iowa have embraced the program.

"In these times of economic uncertainty, the E4D program is more necessary than ever," said Ellen Grady-Manns, a 5th grade teacher from Riceville, Iowa.

During this program, students become more aware of entrepreneurship and the work that must go into running small and large businesses. They experience the organization, accounting, and production of a product, and also realize the importance of quality work and cooperation. They also learn budgeting, borrowing, and importance of the banking system, which may help them understand budgets at home and see the importance of the family working together.

Parent and NIACC instructor, Rodney Zehr, was impressed with the E4D program. The program gives students the opportunity to see how businesses run and how creativity plays an important part in marketing a business. It's a real eye-opener," Zehr said.

My son, Andrew, came home from school very excited that day. He and his friend, Josh, began to create a website called J&A Movies. Although it is not a real company, they had a lot of fun talking about what products and services would be offered if they could start this business. They also created their own J&A bars, which is a combination of granola bars and white almond bark. They packaged and labeled their product, and they took their product to the annual Band Festival parade and gave them away. They also began making digital movies and when the two of them were together, they included my daughter, Sarah, in the movie-making progress. In a two-hour time span, they would create the script, make the movie, edit the movie, and burn it on a DVD. This past summer, they released Detective Sarah: The Complete Series on DVD. Although it is not for sale, they had a lot of fun creating an idea and putting it into production.

"We are so proud of the Entrepreneur for a Day® program and how it generates interest among young people in North Iowa," said NIACC President Dr. Debra Derr.

Many of these students may be visiting our campus for the first time. They may be the first generation in their families to even consider attending college. The campus visit enables the students to make a connection to a college and we are so grateful for that opportunity. Our staff in the John Pappajohn Entreprenurial Center does an amazing job of leading this program.

Contact: Kelley Crane, School Partnership Entrepreneurial Coordinator, NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, 641.422.4234