JHS Student Spins Up Award-winning Business Idea

For the past ninth months, students in the new JHS Entrepreneurship class have been dreaming up ideas for new businesses, services, and products. For incoming senior Julia Cavanah, all that dreaming has paid off.

Students are taught the basics of business, marketing, and start-up know how in the entrepreneurship class. During the fall semester, students were required to enter the Biz Innovator competition from the Jacobson Institute at the University of Iowa. During the spring, entry into the contest wasn’t required, but Cavanah still submitted her business, “Octo-Punk Fiber Arts.” Solo, pair, or group entries were accepted into this competition, which are held in the fall and spring; $3,000 in cash prizes are given away each semester for first, second, and third place ideas.

Student photo of JHS senior Julia Cavanah

Julia Cavanah

As the school year wrapped up, Cavanah finds herself $1,000 richer for earning second place in the spring semester Biz Innovator contest. Her prize money will go toward business costs for Octo-Punk.

Cavanah explained that her passion for the fiber arts – knitting, crocheting, and spinning wool – stemmed from watching her grandma work with natural fibers to create garments and goods. Cavanah gradually learned how to knit, crochet, and spin wool on her own and has been hooked ever since.

Working independently from the entrepreneurship class, Cavanah did research on social media and social sharing platforms to gain insight into the market of fiber artists and their needs.

“As I made more projects, I realized no one was selling completely customized fiber arts,” Cavanah said. “So, I created Octo-Punk to fulfill a need for completely customized hand-spun, hand-dyed yarn and other fiber art products. It allows an artist to have [more] control over the final product when they are able to work with fibers that directly meet their needs. There’s nothing else like Octo-Punk out there.”

With the creation of Octo-Punk and her prize money, Cavanah will now begin to select where she will buy sheep’s fleece; her goal is to purchase from an Iowa farm and keep her products locally sourced.

As part of her Biz Innovator presentation, Cavanah said the judges were interested in hearing about possible expansion plans and how the prize money would be used.

“A lot of the business start up is purchasing the equipment that will allow me to produce fibers efficiently,” Cavanah said. “Among other things, I will need to get a drum carter and ideally, a spinning wheel.”

In this niche market, Cavanah said keeping the focus on quality products catered to the fiber artists is her goal.

“There’s a lot to be said about keeping a small business small,” Cavanah said. “As a fiber artist myself, I understand how valuable it is to have a product that is completely customized for a specific need and idea. I believe Octo-Punk can do that for other fiber artists out there.”