By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Harol Molina wants to start his own business someday.
The Lexington High School senior has a vision – a gym that caters specifically to athletes like himself – but admits there are pieces of the startup process he knows little about.
“I thought this would be a good stepping stone to see how it all works,” he said Thursday during New Venture Adventure at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Molina and more than 100 other students from 11 area high schools attended the event inside UNK’s Health and Sports Center, where they learned the ins and outs of entrepreneurship.
In its 13th year, New Venture Adventure challenges students to come up with a hypothetical business idea before walking through many of the real-world steps needed to get that concept off the ground. Each team develops a mission statement and financial plan, designs a business card and creates a catchy marketing jingle. They also meet with professionals from the real estate, financial and trade industries before presenting their final plans to a panel of experts during a judged competition.
“Our main goal is to get high school students thinking about entrepreneurship and let them know it’s a real possibility,” said UNK senior Amber Erickson, who serves as project leader for Enactus, the student organization that hosts New Venture Adventure each year.
Erickson, a Central City native studying business administration with an accounting emphasis, said it’s important to plant this seed early on so students can learn more about entrepreneurship and everything it entails before they try to launch an idea.
“It’s always great to have new businesses and new ideas,” said Erickson, who is also interested in starting a small business. “We think it’s really important for community growth.”
Molina is drawn to the independence that comes with business ownership, but he quickly learned there are many decisions that must be made.
“There’s more to it,” he said. “You have to look at the details.”
Based on his internet research, Molina figured it would cost about $50,000 to open a gym. His team’s loan totaled $500,000 after property and equipment purchases, employee wages, insurance and other expenses were factored in.
“This is helping me quite a bit,” Molina said. “I didn’t know anything about how to start my own gym or what I’d have to go through.”
He’s not alone.
Griselda Rendon, a loan specialist with the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project, said many adults have good business concepts – “but as far as the financials, some of them have no idea.”
“You don’t need to be an expert, but you need to have some knowledge about what it takes to start a business,” she said.
That’s why Rendon appreciates the UNK event and what it does to expose high school students to this information.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “I wish they would have this for all the adults.”
UNK’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development hosts several events each year to promote entrepreneurship among people of all ages, including the upcoming Big Idea Kearney business pitch contest.
Enactus, which is also part of UNK’s College of Business and Technology, includes about 30 entrepreneurial-minded students who connect with local business leaders and organize projects aimed at improving the community. The group also operates the Brewed Awakening coffee shop on campus.
BECOMING A JOB-MAKER
In addition to the business competition, New Venture Adventure participants heard from keynote speaker Dusty Reynolds during Thursday’s event.
Reynolds, who lives in Yutan with his wife and two children, has started four different businesses since graduating from UNK in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial distribution.
He understands the value of entrepreneurship.
“There are two different types of folks, in my opinion,” Reynolds said. “There are job-makers and there are job-takers, and there are no jobs to take if someone doesn’t make them. Without entrepreneurs, there are no jobs to be created.”
Reynolds said a strong economy needs a balance of job-seekers and job-creators, so it’s important to introduce students to entrepreneurship early on.
“I don’t think you can start too early to help people understand there are two paths,” he said.
After college, Reynolds started a screen-printing business, then he launched a clothing manufacturing facility in Mali, West Africa, and founded a software company that served the motorsports industry. His current venture, HeavyWorth, is a technology company that helps heavy equipment owners better understand the value of their assets.
The 36-year-old has this message for aspiring entrepreneurs: “Don’t force yourself to take a position that’s not you; go create a position.”
NEW VENTURE ADVENTURE RESULTS
Students from the following high schools participated in New Venture Adventure: Central City, Hastings, Lexington, Shickley, Blue Hill, Southern Valley, Pleasanton, Sargent, Sandhills, Kearney and Overton.
The overall and manufacturing category winner was Community Cups, a business that sells biodegradable cups, straws and lids to companies. Team members were Vincent Harlow of Central City, Robb Foote of Hastings, JC Himmelberg of Blue Hill, Sawyer Quinn of Southern Valley, Tyce Westland of Pleasanton, Kylie Hewett of Sandhills and Nathan Seberger of Overton.
The retail category winner was TecCollar, a tracking collar for pets. Team members were Andy Sebastian of Hastings, Alvaro Mendoza of Lexington, Tanner Lemke and Colten Bohlen of Blue Hill, Madison Woodring of Southern Valley, Katelyn Lindner and Bridgett Darby of Pleasanton and Colt Hesseltine of Sandhills.
The service category winner was Corn Star Park, an attraction that allows people to “surf” on corn using mats. Team members were Spencer Supik of Central City, Sajen Sadd of Hastings, Brayan Zavala-Guerrero of Lexington, Holly Wilcox of Blue Hill, Hanna Graff of Southern Valley, Matthew Krueger and Wyatt Reese of Pleasanton, Evan Hewett of Sandhills and Jonathen Robertson of Overton.