An Afton native has returned to Union County in hopes of igniting the entrepreneurial spirit in others.
Reagan Brown, a 2016 East Union graduate, who graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in May, said she wanted to provided an opportunity for others to learn about entrepreneurship, which she studied and personally implemented over the past four years.
“While I was up [at UNI], I was super involved in the entrepreneurship program, president of the entrepreneurs’ club, started my own business and involved with that John Pappajohn Center up there, and kind of had the idea in the past year thinking that something like this should exist in my community to kind of teach kids about entrepreneurship,” said Brown. “I wish I would had that when I was growing up. I know that they have programs like ... that in bigger cities, but we don’t really have anything like that in smaller communities, small towns.”
While area high schools offer business classes that focus more on finance and accounting, Brown wanted to create a program that not only reached a wider demographic of youth but also focused on the development, implementation and expansion of business ideas. So, she came up with the idea of a “Future Founders” entrepreneurship program.
“Originally when I thought of the name, I didn’t know it was the name of an existing program called ‘Future Founders,’ so I am definitely going to change the name to something like ‘Inspiring Entrepreneurs,’” said Brown.
Over the past month, Brown worked out the details of the program details and with the idea of a week-long day camp in mind, Brown approached Ethan Pitt, director of the Small Business Development Center. He supported the idea and suggested that Brown also partner with the Union County Development Association. Wayne Pantini, UCDA executive director, listened to Brown’s pitch, felt their visions aligned, and committed resources such as space to host the program.
The program will run for one week, with a celebration and showcase of the participants’ work 5 p.m. July 10. The curriculum of the program includes:
• Day 1: Entrepreneurship 101: Participants learn about the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs.
• Day 2: Business Model Canvas Workshop: Participants will utilize tools to turn their business idea into a reality.
• Day 3: Pitch Contest: Participants will create a business pitch as a team and present in front of a panel of judges in a fun competition against other team for prizes.
• Day 4: Small Business Community Tour: Participants will visit businesses in the community and hear the stories of the local entrepreneurs who own the business.
• Day 5: Community Presentations: Participants will prepare final presentations what they have learned throughout the week for the community celebration.
During a business class during her junior year of college, Brown started a secondhand clothing business called the College Rack.
“It’s a second hand clothing business that encourages college students to shop secondhand items – gently used items instead of going to the mall and buying fast fashion items. Really just trying to encourage college students to start shopping second hand instead of buying everything brand new,” said Brown. “The more I learned about it, the more I got concerned about the fast fashion industry, how much it has an effect on Earth and things like that.”
Brown said the idea stemmed from her love of thrift shopping and her friends, who would pay her to find specialty items and attire.
Her business model included pop-up events at UNI, but most sales were through social media, such as the “College Rack” Instagram page.
“It’s actually a pretty big thing on Instagram to sell secondhand clothing,” she said.
Now that she has graduated, Brown has passed the business to an incoming freshman. Based on her experience, Brown aims to become a venture capitalist and help others start their own businesses.
The program in partnership with the SBDC and UCDA is a pilot program for Brown. Through the experience of its participants and with their feedback, Brown will formally file an LLC with the goal of consulting other young entrepreneurs. However, this week-long program is something she wants to continue and expand to as many Iowa counties as possible, starting with Union and Adams counties this year.
“My main goal with this is to help teach youth in rural communities about entrepreneurship,” Brown said.
The Future Founders 2020 program in Creston is open to middle and high school aged youth. The program runs 1 to 4 p.m., July 6 through 10 at the UCDA’s Roundhouse, 301 W. Montgomery St. The cost to participate is $50.
To sign up, visit Future Founders 2020 Union County on Facebook.