Kids get the scoop on small business

BY ALY BROWN | JULY 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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Nina Lavezzo Stecopoulos stood proudly in front of a group of her peers listing the ingredients in her creation: coffee ice cream, chocolate chips, mocha fudge swirl, and toffee.

While it sounds like a drink description from the Starbucks menu, it was the winning flavor in the Pappajohn Entrepreneurship Center's Youth Camp.

The University of Iowa Tippie College of Business camp has worked with Heyn's Ice Cream for roughly six years to give kids a chance to develop their own ice-cream flavors to be sold in the parlor for a month.

Paul Heyn, the founder of Heyn's, initiated the competition, and it continues in his memory.

Diane Fickel, business education teacher at Iowa City West High and a lead camp instructor, said the group was waiting in anticipation for Thursday's tasting for quite some time.

"There has been a big buildup to today," she said Thursday.

Fickel said the camp gives fifth- and sixth-graders an entrepreneurial foundation to start their own businesses later in life.

"More and more people are starting their own businesses," she said. "It's basically the American Dream. We are teaching them to make it on your own without depending on somebody else."

The camp costs $175 for one week of activities.

Lauren Wittig, a UI senior majoring in marketing and program coordinator intern for the camp, said she has enjoyed watching the young protégés embrace business.

"It's a great way to get them into it young," she said. "I just think about my own experiences, and not having the opportunity when I was their age. It's amazing seeing them grow over the week."

Ella Robinson, 10, traveled from Silver Spring, Md., to learn about small business.

"It's really fun to get to go see businesses and hear all of the people's stories," she said. "I learned a lot of things about business."

She is already an entrepreneur, running a business with friends creating duct-tape wallets, purses, and necklaces.

"It's really new, so nobody has bought anything yet," she said.

Heyn's employees chose three final flavors to compete for a spot in the store's cooler.

Ten-year-old Nina joined 11-year-old Gabby Finlaison and 10-year-old Grace Stewart as finalists.

Nina said her flavor was inspired by the camp's field trip to Yotopia Frozen Yogurt, 132 S. Clinton St.

"I had the espresso one, and I was talking to my friends coming up with our flavors, and I came up with it," she said. "I'm really happy with it."

Many of the campers agreed.

Clay Greazel, 10, said he enjoyed the flavor and would eat more.

"It was really good," he said. "I never had coffee before, but I would eat it again."

Eleven-year-old Maureen Fesenmeyer said she loved the winning flavor.

"I liked the coffee and the toffee and the whole thing," she said. "It all went together really well."

But the flavor got some chilly reception from some in the crowd, including Ella.

"I didn't care for it," she said.

Nina said she has learned a lot about business during the weeklong camp.

"I learned a lot of stuff about business and how to start a business," she said.

When asked if she would consider a career in ice-cream flavor development, Nina shook her head.

"My mom tells me this story all the time about how my mom's friends worked at an ice-cream store that had a really cranky owner," she said. "I don't want to deal with that."

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