Northern Iowa promotes sustainability through entrepreneurship, draws in hundreds
Jan 27, 2010
Being an entrepreneur doesn’t require creating a new product – sometimes it can simply mean finding a new purpose for an old good. At Garbage Goes Green, 20 people did just this, turning found items (some in trash cans) into a variety of new products and art exhibits.
The event is an annual competition at the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at Northern Iowa Area Community College (NIAAC), and was part of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2009. Purses and clothing items were given a stylistic tweak, and cans and fencing wire was turned into a large shark sculpture. Old furniture legs were turned into a cutting board, while cardboard barrels were turned into new, disposable furniture. And for those gutter-filled leaves, a milk jug proved to be an effective tool for cleaning.
Over 500 people viewed the entries in person, with awards given for categories like best artistic expression and most innovative product.
Despite the small size of Mason City, where NIAAC is based, regional coordinator Tim Putnam was able to bring in a number of experts for local entrepreneurs to gain mentorship from. An Entrepreneurial Exchange featured an expert on Website optimization, who spoke to a crowd of 75.
An Ask the Experts event featured 15 professionals, running the gamut from attorney, to Web design, to CPA and marketing. About 50 people from the community attended the event, taking place in intimate discussions about their entrepreneurial aspirations and where they might lead. This program drew a lot of the same crowd who attends NIAAC’s FastTrac’s programs, which provides existing and aspiring entrepreneurs with key business insights and skills, leadership experiences, and valuable networking and mentoring opportunities they need to start, grow, and lead businesses.
The size of the FastTrac program in recent months has been record-breaking, which Putnam sees as a sign that small business owners and entrepreneurs will indeed be a key factor in the economy in coming years.
Many of these entrepreneurs were featured in the annual Entrepreneurial Marketplace, held on Wednesday of GEW. This event featured goods produced by students, faculty and staff. Twenty vendors participated, more than doubling their sales from last year on items like customized yoga bags, jewelry and artwork.
The sales were particularly encouraging, considering the current economic climate, which is still well in a lull in Iowa. Putnam sees the turnout as a sign of appreciation for small business owners.
“The economy hits the Midwest last, and we’re last to recover, so for people to purchase what they did is a pretty positive sign that people are recognizing the importance of entrepreneurs and small businesses,” he said.
Recognizing the draw of such an event, the college’s Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) chapter set up their own table, selling t-shirts and bake goods to help raise money for their chapter.