How to become an Innovative Entrepreneur


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  • Students take a Leadership class in Epcot along with their chaperones and directors Mrs. O’Donnell and Mrs. Hinman

  • (left to right) Blake Lukert, Jeffrey Gourley, Mitchell Fairfield, Brennan Auth, Chase O’Neal, Shubhang Desai, Alex Hopper, Nickolas Showalter, Brandon Sullivan, Drake Bertrand, Tyler Smith, John Polus

  • (left to right) Taylor Barnard, Micaela Harris, Radiance Campbell, Allyah Evans, Whitney Irmeger, Virginia Dinges, Shannon Doherty, Hailey Wickenhauser, Colleen Connelly, Ginny Gerig, Marcia Rolofson, Sabrina Gomez

  • Students worked with Bellas Landscaping, a landscaping business created by Unit 5 alumni, Adam and Justin Bellas.

  • Students learn to grow their business at Casey’s Garden Center

  • IE students take a group photo with Destihl owner, Matt Potts.

  • Nickolas Showalter and Tyler Smith learn to make t-shirts at Meltdown Creative Works.

  1. Apply! Complete an online questionnaire, then participate in an interview with ISU professors and local entrepreneurs. Radiance Campbell, a current Innovative Entrepreneur gives some advice for the application process.  “I know it’s cheesy, but honestly, just be yourself.  They aren’t looking for a specific answer from you; they’re looking for your passion, your entrepreneurial spirit, and something unique you can bring to the table.”
  2. Meet you class! Out of the Innovative Entrepreneurs class, half of the students come from Normal Community, while the other half come from Normal West.  Campbell states, “We see each other for two hours every day under such odd circumstances, and we have become pretty close… I know I will always help them when it comes to life or business.  We already barter in the business world.”
  3. Visit businesses! The class participates in business tours, and also works in and with businesses.  The class visits restaurants, farms, hair salons, lawyers, innovation teams, insurance companies, real estate, technology companies, auto stores, and even Disney World.  “It was both amazing to see a diverse selection of business models in order to get a sense of what kind of businesses we wanted to be a part of and also to hear how similar the businesses are.”
  4. Work towards your own startup! Each student in the Innovative Entrepreneurs class has the opportunity to open up their own business using the tools they have gained from the class.  Students present their startup ideas to local entrepreneurs and angel investors.
  5. Participate in the end of the year showcase! At the end of the year, the students participate in the Sweet Rewards Showcase, a final presentation.  Local business owners, investors, and the members of the school board are invited.  Three scholarships are given out by angel investors, and a People’s Choice Award is awarded.  The showcase gives people the opportunity to invest in their business.
  6. Grow your business! After the class, students have their very own business, as well as the tools to grow it. Campbell states, “I’m excited to take advantage of the large network this class has given me, especially when it comes to starting my own business…  So much of school is spent preparing to go and do, and we never actually get to test ourselves before we get out in the ‘real world’. Classes like this are crucial, I believe, and I’m so lucky to have been a part of it… I know I’ll be an entrepreneur all my life!”