Students Compete at the 2024 Youth Entrepreneurial Academy Pitch Competition

The NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center conducted the 2024 Youth Entrepreneurial Academy (YEA) on June 3-7. YEA is a free one-week academic camp sponsored by the John K. and Luise V. Hanson Foundation, and is offered annually to all North Iowa high school students interested in entrepreneurship. Each participant receives a $500 NIACC scholarship sponsored by John Pappajohn. A pitch competition is held at the end of the week where students compete for seed money. This year’s academy included 11 high school students from across North Iowa.

The participants and schools represented were:

  • Brisa Agueta-Trujillo, Mason City High School
  • Ian Carolus, Mason City High School
  • Isabella Garner, Newman Catholic High School
  • Moon Gay, Mason City Alternative School
  • Reese Harrold, Mason City High School
  • Dessa Kiwacz, Mason City High School
  • Eric Pals, Mason City High School
  • Fernanda Ramirez, West Fork High School
  • Casey Schilling, Garner High School
  • Chase Sorenson, Forest City High School
  • Brenden Walker, West Fork High School

Throughout the week-long camp, the aspiring entrepreneurs worked diligently to develop a business model canvas. Students had the opportunity to network with local entrepreneurs, develop leadership skills, and gain fundamental skills required when starting a business. On Tuesday, June 11, the students pitched their business ideas by submitting an executive summary that included a company description, financial plans, and business model key measures that included startup costs and sales projections. The students competed against their peers for a total of $2,400 in cash prizes.

The Academy’s director and mentor was Kelley O’Rourke, School Partnership Entrepreneurial Coordinator at the Pappajohn Center. The facilitator was Ashley Page, Director of Entrepreneurship Programs & Client Success at the Pappajohn Center.

Guest speakers for the week were Joyce Martin, Pappajohn Center Marketing and Community Relations Manager; Chris Frenz, NIACC; Caleb Renner, Renner Ag Solutions; Brad and Angie Barber, Cabin Coffee; Stacy Doughan, President & CEO of the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. Students also had the opportunity to explore North Iowa businesses and learn local entrepreneurial stories at Birdsall's Ice Cream and Renovo Media Group.

The students presented their businesses to a panel of three judges: Hunter Callanan; Spencer Stensrude, Ag Ventures Alliance; and Molly Watson, Home Style. The judges chose three businesses to win the top prize of $500, with two honorable mention prizes of $250 and four honorable mention prizes of $100. The winners were:

Top Prizes:

  • Dessa Kiwacz and Reese Harrold, AdVersa - $500 prize
  • Casey Schilling, K2 Enterprises - $500 prize
  • Chase Sorsenson, SubZero - $500 prize

Honorable Mentions:

  • Brisa Argueta-Trujillo, Frosted Home Baked Goods - $250 prize
  • Fernanda Ramirez, Ramirez Sister Renovations - $250 prize
  • Ian Carolus, River City Retro - $100 prize
  • Isabella Garner, Jeweled Stitches Crochet & Jewelry - $100 prize
  • Moon Gay, The Kitty Corner - $100 prize
  • Brendan Walker, Jacket Ink Games - $100 prize
From left: Brisa Argueta-Trujillo, Fernanda Ramirez, Dessa Kiwacz, Reese Harrold, Bella Garner, Brendan Walker, Moon Gay, Chase Sorenson, Casey Schilling, Ian Carolus
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