Growing the next generation of entrepreneurs
For over twenty years, the UNI John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center has provided unparalleled entrepreneurship programming and guidance to students of all ages.
From summer camps that teach 4th graders marketing and sales strategies for their charitable lemonade stands to providing incubation space and guidance to college students running their own businesses right on campus, the UNI JPEC takes great pride in providing a wealth of resources and programming.
One way the UNI JPEC assists students is through the R. J. McElroy Student Business Incubator. Incubator tenants are given office space, as well as the support and resources they need to run their business. Often these students continue their success as entrepreneurs after graduation. In fact, over 70 percent of incubator graduates are still involved in an entrepreneurial related business, a fact that can surely be attributed to the knowledgeable and supportive staff. As the UNI JPEC’s associate director Laurie Watje puts it, “We provide that fertile ground for relationships to bloom."
A prime example of this at work is the story of Scott Burak (Digital Advertising, Interactive Digital Studies '17). When Scott stepped onto the UNI campus in 2015, he wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do. He and a business partner had launched a digital marketing company and were running it out of his basement and his partner’s dorm room on another campus, but then Scott took an internship with a company run by Russell Karim in the R. J. McElroy Student Business Incubator. That was all it took; he wanted to be a part of everything the UNI JPEC had to offer.
After another internship with a larger local marketing firm run by two former incubator tenants, Scott took his ever-growing skillset and moved his business into the R. J. McElroy Student Business Incubator where he started working with Brayden Sprague, a local franchisee of College Pro Painters who was involved with JPEC. Around this time, Scott began attending many networking and community events, which he had learned about through his JPEC affiliation. He participated in student pitch competitions and fine-tuned a 30-second elevator pitch about his business. He took that pitch to the Summit Agriculture Group’s exclusive annual roundtable and ended up working with the group as a client.
In 2016, Scott took the opportunity to attend the Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute (OEI), a weeklong intense entrepreneurial “boot-camp” that brings in students from the three Regent Universities, Buena Vista University and Iowa Lakes Community College. While at OEI, Scott met Bryce Bortscheller (Psychology '17) and the two started bouncing ideas off one another. Back on the UNI campus in the fall, Scott and Bryce joined forces with Darian Jones (Accounting '17) and Nathan Krieps to form Iowa Chill, an apparel and lifestyle company that highlights the state of Iowa.
Today, Scott continues to build on the relationships he’s gained through his JPEC involvement, including taking on the role of Digital Strategy Manager with Red Lab Technologies, a web development and digital marketing company co-founded by another former R. J. McElroy Student Business Incubator Tenant, Greg Jass.
Scott is just one of many students who have built a career out of the skills gained through the UNI JPEC. Students who interact with this program gain an incredible set of skills experience, all backed by the unrelenting support of the staff. The implications of this are clear: the UNI JPEC equips its students for success.