Early Days

Through a generous gift from John and Mary Pappajohn, the University of Iowa created the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) in 1996. JPEC's mission is to instill the entrepreneurial mindset in university students, faculty and staff, and accelerate entrepreneurship and economic growth.

Through a strong commitment to engage people of ALL AGES in entrepreneurship education, JPEC began offering entrepreneurship summer programs to area elementary school youth in 1996.

In 2000, JPEC received a grant from the William Zimmerman Foundation supporting the development of a high school entrepreneurship education program, including both teacher education and in-class curriculum. Additional funding from the Coleman Foundation in 2003 allowed for development of an online entrepreneurship toolkit.

In 2005, University of Iowa Professor Kenneth G. Brown conducted a comprehensive evaluation and needs assessment of entrepreneurship education in Iowa classrooms. The results impacted the content and design of what was called the YouthBizCentral online entrepreneurship curriculum.


In 2007, Richard Jacobson, founder and chairman of the board of the Jacobson Companies, made the creation of the Jacobson Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship possible. The Jacobson Institute is now a nationally recognized program built around teacher education, innovative curricula and outreach that enriches the lives of students K-12.

The Institute supports the University of Iowa’s broader economic development efforts by providing educators with professional development and curriculum resources, equipping them to teach the “entrepreneurial mindset” – that is, to encourage creativity, innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, and to prepare students for success in their chosen career path.

The Jacobson Institute bridges connections between STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and economic development. Through a research-driven approach, as well as strategic collaborations, the Jacobson Institute helps create an entrepreneurial culture which enhances economic development.

Research Driven

A multi-disciplinary team of high school educators helped design and develop the YouthBizCentral curriculum. In spring 2009, the YouthBizCentral curriculum was evaluated with 454 high school students spread over 45 classrooms. This research concluded that secondary students who complete the curriculum have increased knowledge of entrepreneurial processes and confidence in their ability to engage in entrepreneurship:
Pre- and post- student assessment results

  • 24% increase in entrepreneurial knowledge test scores
  • 8% increase in entrepreneurship self-efficacy

Teacher feedback

  • 75% highly satisfied with overall curriculum content
  • 96% rated website as easy to use

Since 2009, the curriculum continues to be refreshed with current stories and latest methodologies. Feedback is received from teachers each year and incorporated into the program.

Going National

The YouthBizCentral curriculum was released nationally in spring 2013. Within two weeks, YouthBizCentral was being used by teachers in 48 states.

Based on teacher feedback, the Jacobson Institute developed an Online BizInnovator Teacher Certification program, providing educators with content training in entrepreneurship and a step-by-step guide to incorporate YouthBizCentral into classroom curriculum.

Business-certified high school educators who successfully complete the certification program may be eligible to offer the class for college credit.


In spring 2014, YouthBizCentral announced that its name would change to BizInnovator. BizInnovator better communicates the key role that innovation plays in entrepreneurship. Along with the name change, BizInnovator released a redesigned website and enhanced curriculum for fall 2014.