Passion, convenience factors in Biz Innovator ideas

Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce, and for students in the Johnston High School entrepreneurship class, their ability to shape a career suited to their passions is looking more and more realistic.

The JHS entrepreneurship class is new this year, but filled quickly, according to JHS teacher Tim Brickley. He, along with fellow JHS teacher Rod Wiebers, lead two sections of the course, with a total enrollment of 47 students.

Students are taught the basics of business, marketing, and start-up know how. This year, students were also required to enter the Biz Innovator competition from the Jacobson Institute at the University of Iowa. Solo, pair, or group entries were accepted into this competition, which garnered 191 entries from around the nation. Competitions are held in the fall and spring and $3,000 in cash prizes are given away each semester for first, second, and third place ideas.

What started as an assignment has gained momentum. Out of the 191 content entries, 12 are chosen as finalists. Four of those 12 just happen to be JHS entrepreneurship students. On December 20, the four finalist/groups pitched their ideas to the Biz Innovator judges. We got a sneak peak into what makes their start-ups prize-worthy.

Natalie Poore, senior. “Ride or Dye” mobile hair salon

Natalie’s idea of a mobile hair salon stemmed from her dogs. That is, her dogs are frequently groomed in a mobile dog grooming van, which is a convenient and easy option for her family. Natalie wanted to bring the same kind of service to people – those who may not be able to leave the house easily, or simply want the salon service to come to them.

“When my mom had a preventative surgery, it was hard for her to leave the house, yet something like going to get her hair cut or nails done would have made her feel really good,” Natalie said. “Creating Ride or Dye was the first idea that came to me, based off my own experiences.”

Natalie, like her classmates, did detailed research on her business idea, looking at everything from the number of similar businesses in the state and area to the licensure and code details. As part of their business pitch, students have to know the price they would charge for a service, such as haircuts in Natalie’s case, and the cost of the equipment needed to get the idea off the ground.

“I think the younger you can start with [business] ideas, the better,” Natalie said. “Time goes fast. We’re studying this today, but will be in the working world soon. Starting my idea now drives me to make it an actual thing when I’m done with school.”

Emily Poss, senior. “Sketchcard” custom, affordable art

What started as a pastime – sketching out landscapes, scenery, and calligraphy on vacation, roadtrips, and at home – has led Emily to her Biz Innovator finalist idea: Sketchcard custom artwork.

“This is an idea that can succeed,” said Emily. “I want to offer art at an affordable price and have it be available to the customer in any medium. Maybe it’s on a shirt, a print, a coffee mug. I think it’s a new kind of art form for people to purchase for themselves or as a gift.”

After interning at Raygun, a Des Moines-based printing, design, and clothing company known for their catchy taglines, Emily saw just how versatile art – and in the case of Raygun, words – could be to different mediums. She spent time learning from Raygun’s owner about getting his business up and running, lessons she is keeping close as her own aspirations take shape.

“A lot of people told me I wouldn’t make anything out of drawing,” Emily said. “This is something I’m very passionate about and if there’s one thing that can lead to success, it’s passion. I’ve also surrounded myself with people who believe in me and this business idea.”

Evan Kramme, senior and Brandon Kantarevic, senior. “Midwest Modified” video and car detailing services

Evan and Brandon see themselves as the perfect business partners. Each brings a unique skill set to the relationship. Evan has years of photo and video experience and Brandon has significant skills in automotive repair and performance. Together, they created Midwest Modified.

“Midwest Modified delivers automotive service/upkeep and cleaning and detailing on the spot to users – like Uber, but for car upkeep,” said Brandon. “Then the video portion is an outlet for people to show off their beautiful cars, whether they are custom built, modified, or their everyday vehicle. People take a lot of pride in their cars and we want to help with that.”

Similar to other students, Evan and Brandon have a passion for their skillset. But the driving factor behind their business is convenience.

“When you look at businesses and ideas that have appealed to society, many are based on an advancement or improvement for our convenience,” Evan said. “That’s what Midwest Modified is. We come to the user, do the services on the spot, and handle all payments through PayPal. People want things that make their life easier.”

Claudia Wulf, senior; Will Stenger, junior; and Alec Parker, junior. “Bill Splitter” accounting service

It’s a scenario common for young adults – they live with roommates, and when it comes time to split the household bills, it can be a bit of a nightmare. Enter Bill Splitter.

“The idea behind Bill Splitter is to take all the bills from a household, consolidate them, and then send each person the needed payment,” said Alec Parker. “We would ensure each bill gets paid, on time, and everyone pays an equal part. It simplifies things for everyone.”

The group came up with the idea by researching things that needed to be improved. Group members said convenience is the primary factor with Bill Splitter. In their business model, they would take a half-percent of each bill they worked with, noting that volume is the key to earnings.

“We weren’t expecting to be finalists,” said Will. “But it’s definitely exciting. We all have future careers in mind in finance, business, or marketing, so the whole project was a good learning experience for us.”