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Entrepreneurs in biking action

BY RAPHAEL GELFAND | JULY 20, 2015 5:00 AM

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With the help of some students, the town of Solon will get a little economic boost this week as RAGBRAI rolls through on its way to Coralville.

Five students from the University of Iowa Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center are interning with Solon’s RAGBRAI committee to help local businesses maximize their economic potential as riders come through on Friday.

“We are here working with the town of Solon to help increase their profit potential,” said UI senior Abby Dusen, one of the interns on the project.

The five students are working toward getting Entrepreneurial Certificates through the center, and students in the program will receive academic credit for their work.

“I chose to do this because I am very involved with several entrepreneurial programs at Iowa,” Dusen said. “And I’ve had Bob [Walker] as a professor and really enjoyed his teaching style.”

Bob Walker, a lecturer at the Entrepreneurial Center, is the adviser to the students as they organize for the big event.

“The challenge to the students is 20,000 riders are coming through here, so how do you get them back next week or next month?” he said.

To accomplish this, the students will set up booths and activities along the route and will help businesses in the community as riders roll through.

“During the event, we will be in charge of certain activities,” Dusen said. “Just one example is a photo booth for riders to take their pictures, and the picture will have Solon’s logo with it.”

Dusen and Walker also said the group will set up a hay-bale toss, sponsored by Solon Beef Days and the Entrepreneurial Center.

With this being the program’s first year, only Solon is involved. However, in future years, Walker said, he hopes the program will expand to many small towns on the RAGBRAI route.

“It would be great to get our students out and help maximize the economic impact for the community and businesses as riders go through these small towns,” he said.

The students have been working with the community in Solon in the weeks leading up to RAGBRAI.

“Every Monday, we meet at Solon City Hall,” Dusen said. “We work with the town and specific large businesses.”

One of those businesses is Big Grove Brewery.

“Along with the [center] students, we have about 120 volunteers,” Big Grove general manager Dan Standley said. “And that’s just to help out with all the different stations we will have set up for RAGBRAI.”

Walker, who is riding RAGBRAI while his students organize the booths and activities in Solon, said in future years, he hopes the whole team will ride along as they stop in small communities along the way to have classes or activities every night.

“Since we are the University of Iowa, we are getting our resources out to the small towns,” he said. “Our goal is to have a positive influence throughout the state; we have a lot of out of state students who might see these small towns and think, ‘Hey I might want to stay here after I graduate.’ ”


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