UI students promote their businesses


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A website that tracks information about each of Iowa's golf tournaments — the brainchild of four University of Iowa students — has received more than 2,700 hits in slightly more than a month of existence.

And the creators, members of the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory, aren't done yet.

"In two years, we plan to go global," said UI senior Eric Crawford, one of the business's owners.

GolfTourney.com and 27 other student-run businesses were on display Thursday during the Entrepreneurship Laboratory business fair. The fair was an outlet for business students to share their businesses with the community and a competition that went toward the lab's end-of-the-year progress report. Winners and scholarship recipients will be announced two weeks from today.

The fair served as the perfect place for entrepreneurs to show off their business plans, said UI sophomore Laura Blunk, the vice president of youth programs for I-Envision, the UI's entrepreneurship club.

"It's awesome to be able to watch people start up their own businesses," she said.

Student business owners set up their tables with presentations throughout different rooms of the fraternity house-turned learning laboratory. Those who attended the event received $5,000 worth of play money at the door, with which they could use to "invest" in their favorite businesses.

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The Entrepreneurship Laboratory offers an intensive environment for students seeking to start their own business. The lab was started in 2004, and, although the Bedell program hasn't turned anyone down, there is a two-year waiting list for office space. There are 17 offices assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis. More than 40 students are involved in the program.

Officials are looking to expand to 25 offices and are in need of funding, said Lynn Allendorf, the managing director of the Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory. The expansion, which could cost up to $1 million, will require officials to seek more private funding sources, she said.

UI students Doug Stienstra and Matt Hodges started their company, DataBabies L.L.C., after Stienstra's girlfriend couldn't find a "cute" flash drive. Their fluffy flash drives have been distributed to one store with plans to expand. And the laboratory was key, Stienstra said.

"It's a business incubator to help small start-ups that have limited resources," he said. "It really helps guide us along."

Students are provided with mentoring and business advice. Out of the 28 business, about eight are making money, Allendorf said.

"Between the staff and the students, they're always thinking the same things as you are, and they're always thinking about growing and expanding." said UI senior Kristin Langhammer. "It's such a high concentration of knowledge in one place."

She started her clothing company, Born to Wear Diamonds, in her entrepreneurial class, an avenue many Bedell students have taken.

Nick Lindaman, who owns Hawk City Productions with business partner UI senior Dustin Bigelow, said the center was beneficial for tax and payroll advice.

"It was the best decision we've ever made for this business," he said.

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