University of Northern Iowa

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Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute

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What is OEI?

Each year, eight students from UNI join 24 other students from The University of Iowa, Iowa State University, Buena Vista University, and Iowa Lakes Community College for the Okoboji Enrtepreneurial Institute (OEI) held in early August at Lake Okoboji.  The students participate in the advanced study of entrepreneurship including an entrepreneurial simulation; seminars with successful entrepreneurs, business leaders and community leaders; and networking. Students find OEI to be one of the most rewarding experiences of their college careers.

What will I study at OEI?

They will work in mixed teams on a computer-based simulation in the morning that incorporates the creation and operation of a new business and a fundraising round where the teams have to present their plans to actual venture capitalists (who have volunteered to participate in OEI) to acquire capital to fuel growth for their simulated companies. Upon completion, students will receive three credit hours from their respective University. Each year, two students from the previous year receive the OEI Pappajohn Award for their continued efforts in entrepreneurship.

When and where will the Institute be held?

OEI is held the first or second week of August. The classroom setting for the Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute is the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory on West Lake Okoboji. The Lakeside Lab is owned by the Iowa Board of Regents and provides a unique classroom setting unlike any other location in Iowa. Activities are planned for other venues in the Lakes area to showcase this attractive area to students from all across Iowa. All students are housed with host families in the Iowa Lakes region.

Who is sponsoring the Institute and how is it funded?

OEI is supported by 30 Okoboji area businesses; the State Board of Regents; the Iowa Economic Development Authority; the Pappajohn Centers at UIowa, UNI, ISU; Buena Vista University; Iowa Lakes Community College; and the Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation.

What have students said about their OEI experience?

“I loved the opportunities OEI presented to me and I cannot wait to tell others about it! Dive in 100% and challenge yourself. You will also meet some of the most well-connected people in the country.”  --Kyle Coogler, senior communications/public relations major and owner of CREO 

“Being able to meet and talk with people who have started their own businesses and hearing their advice was important to me because I can use their insights when I start my own business.” --Nicole Graen, a junior finance major

"The pitch to actual VCs during the simulation made the experience real." --Scott Burak, a senior Interactive Digital Studies major and owner of AdFly Digital

How do I apply for OEI?

Each year in the spring semester, junior and senior UNI students can submit an application and essay to apply for one of the eight spots. A committee will review the applications and essays and will conduct in-person interviews with the applicants. Eight students who have the necessary skills, personality characteristics, and entrepreneurial drive are selected. Graduate students, freshmen undergrads, and sophomore undergrads are not eligible. Juniors or seniors must be returning to UNI for fall classes. UNI graduates will not be accepted. To apply, follow the link below. Please call 319-273-5732 or e-mail jpec@uni.edu with any questions.