StartUp Storm allows students to get creative


by Belle Ward, Features Editor

The StartUp Storm event includes both high school and college students and tasks them with creating an invention of their own on Friday, Nov. 16.

John Walker, professor of management and advisor for Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, is the faculty member behind the event this year.

“They’ll be engaging in networking activities, competitions and having fun,” Walker said.

The high school portion of the event lasts from 8:30 a.m. through 1 p.m., and the college portion is from 1 p.m. through 4 p.m. Both sessions take place in the Principal Black Box Theater.

StartUp Storm will host 85 high school students all from Iowa this year, which is an increase from years prior. Walker said more than 100 college students will be involved in the second portion. It is open to all college students, regardless of major.

“We give the opportunity to pitch an idea using a mystery item that we provide when the event starts,” Walker said.

The mystery item is the same item for both the high school and the college students, but the college students receive a head start and are given the mystery item a week in advance.  

The winners of the high school competition receive prizes like Casey’s gift cards and assorted Simpson College merchandise. The college prizes are $300 for first place, $200 for second place and $100 for third place.

Molly Monk, a Simpson alumna who currently works at the New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative in Cedar Rapids, will be speaking during both the high school and the college portion of the event. Other guests for the event include Dereck Lewis who sells Thelma’s Treats, beginning at farmers’ markets, and now sells them throughout the Midwest. Gabe Glynn co-founded MakUSafe, a wearable product that assists with workplace safety. Kay Neumann Thomas, Zack Feser, and Molly Monk will be judging the competition.

“It’s not necessarily geared toward business majors, it’s geared toward people that want to be creative and want to explore new ways of doing things,” Walker said

Senior Emily Sassman is the president of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) on campus.

“My main task is to plan and coordinate everything with it this year,” Sassman said.

This is the third StartUp Storm she will be involved with, this time as the management undergraduate assistant.

“Entrepreneurship is planning, but it is also taking risks,” Sassman said.

She said she did not have experience with the creative process until she participated in her first StartUp Storm.  

“Entrepreneurship takes everyone,” Sassman said. “It doesn’t just take an entrepreneurial mind, it takes also having the practical experienced business person, it takes the creative art major to help with the marketing.”

The mystery item last year was a rubber band, and students had 45 minutes to create an invention using the product. Examples of what the students created were jewelry pieces, slingshots and the winner created an easier way for a USB cord to stay connected to the outlet.

Walker stressed the importance of entrepreneurship in business and job creation.

The business department just announced a new entrepreneurship minor this fall.

“That involves courses in social entrepreneurship, in business StartUp, and utilizing the CEO club,” Walker said.

CEO brings products from conception to reality to the best of their ability, which does not always go as planned.

“We’ve also had some really big failures, and with those failures came learning experiences for students. And they’re learning at the college level, not in a professional business world,” said Walker. “They can make the mistakes here and take those with them as they go forward in their lives.”