Innovation and Entrepreneurship Academy offers students guidance through starting their own business


Information about the LAS Innovation + Entrepreneurship Academy.

Jack Mcclellan

Every year, Iowa State University offers a variety of experimental courses which tend to take more novel approaches to education, offering real world experiences and more advanced course content. One new experimental program brought to campus by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Academy (LAS 345x).

The two year academy offers students the opportunity to develop their own ideas for a business or entrepreneurial program. As students build up their idea from scratch the academy instructs and guides them through the process. During the two year program students are guided through the process of starting their own business or company, encouraging students to cause positive change at local and global levels.

The Director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Academy, Rebecca Runyon herself is a successful student entrepreneur. Runyon started her first company, Lunchsox, during her junior year at Iowa State to sell wool socks online, while also donating portions of the profits to help stop hunger on both a global and local level. Early 2020 Runyon sold her first business to shift her focus to the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Academy as well as other projects. Her presence in the program demonstrates that the seemingly lofty goal of starting a business or company while still in college is very attainable.

As the director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Academy, Runyon leads meetings of participating students and helps to encourage them in their entrepreneurial development. 

The course itself looks much different from the traditional course layout. With the class meeting irregularly students are pushed to be stronger self starters and to seek out opportunities for themselves to succeed. Real experience in the real world offers students a much more concrete opportunity to learn about the logistics of starting a business.

 “Personally I believe that you can’t learn how to be innovative or entrepreneurial just from reading about it or writing about it, but that you really have to do it,” Runyon said. “The whole idea of learning by doing, hands on learning and making it an experience rather than just a degree requirement.” 

Through its duration the academy will facilitate students and their entrepreneurial ventures, advancing to more tangible ideas with real obstacles to overcome. The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Academy plans to inform students of the variety of ways they can find support on or off campus.

“One of the modules this spring will be on resourcing your idea, and so that will both be from a financial standpoint as well as just the human resources that can help. We’ll expose students to the resources around campus such as the Papa John’s Center for Entrepreneurship, or the Student Innovation Center which is getting a lot of good resources up and running,” she said. “Then we’ll talk about things like, when you’re starting something you may need a good lawyer, or a good accountant. Helping the students understand what all those key resources are and connecting them together.”

“On the funding side, we’re making students aware of different pitch competitions and business plan competitions and other ways of raising funds for a venture because any project is probably gonna take some cash to get up and running,” Runyon said.

The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Academy is beginning its first covert this semester, with the hopes of jump starting young minds into their own career paths while encouraging students to inflict positive societal change.

“If I were to fast forward two years I know there would be some students who have officially launched a business, and have started making money,” she said. “I also see it as a plethora of community projects that students have put together to make society better as a whole.”

“Even if students aren’t necessarily continuing on with the project they do with the academy they certainly will be able to take the skills they learned at the academy and apply them to future ideas,” she said.

The first class of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Academy first met on Tuesday at the Student Innovation Center. As this class progresses into its second year another will begin to keep up the growth of innovative students.

“I think it was exciting to actually see the students’ faces after a year of prepping for the course. It’s exciting to think of the potential when I look out and see these students. Sure today was just introductions and sharing information, but going forward I know these will be the founders of the future movers and shapers of society,” Runyon said about the first meeting.

The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Academy is just one of many experimental courses at ISU. The academy shows promise in helping students to succeed in their own business ventures as well as inspiring them to invoke positive change in the larger world. Through programs like these Iowa State partners with students to help ensure tomorrow is a better day.

For more information on the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Academy on the LAS Innovates website.