Do you have an idea to start a business or currently own a business that you want help in expanding?

If you are an entrepreneur with a disability, check out this opportunity to get free, short-term consulting from a cohort of Drake University students.

Interested applicants can be either local to Iowa or located in the United States. Those unable to participate in person can engage with the students virtually.

Starting on January 3, 2024, The Harkin Institute will host a “J-Term” course of approximately 20 Drake University undergraduate students. The course is entitled, Disability-Driven Innovation and Long-Term Value Creation and will help approximately 20 undergraduate students explore how organizations of all kinds and all sizes can integrate disability inclusion into their business strategy.

The J-Term course will be held at the Tom and Ruth Harkin Center, a fully accessible building located on the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa.

On January 5 and January 8, 2024, selected entrepreneurs will present their idea and / or business to the students in the course. The presentations can be done virtually or in person, depending on the location, schedule, and accessibility needs of the entrepreneurs.

The Harkin Institute will work with each selected entrepreneur to schedule their presentation on either January 5 or January 8, likely between 1 pm – 4 pm CT.

On January 25 and January 26, the students will present their work to the entrepreneurs, either in person or virtually.

The Opportunity for Entrepreneurs

Did we mention that your engagement with the Drake students is free of cost? Well, it is! Consider the Drake students your free, expert consultants.

Selected entrepreneurs will be matched with small teams of Drake undergraduate students in which the students will work with the entrepreneurs. Each team will tackle a “problem to solve” identified by the entrepreneur as critical to starting or expanding their business.

The “problem to solve” could be any kind of need or opportunity faced by the entrepreneur, such as:

  • A new or updated business plan
  • A market entry assessment or strategy
  • An assessment of competitors in the market
  • A social media or marketing strategy to attract new customers
  • Updated website content
  • Feedback on a new product or service before it goes to market

Please keep in mind that “the problem to solve” must be a tangible project that can be accomplished in less than 3 weeks of work by a group of students who also have other academic responsibilities. When The Harkin Institute staff reviews applications for this program, the ability of the entrepreneur to articulate a clearly defined “problem to solve will be a priority consideration.


What is Needed from the Entrepreneurs

To ensure the students provide the entrepreneurs with the best possible work product, be prepared to provide:

  • Additional background on your idea or business
  • One to two hours of your time to provide feedback to the students (by phone, video, email, text message, etc.)
  • Patience and a little bit of good humor (please remember you will be working with undergraduate students who are taking on a unique learning experience)


Course Overview and Participating Students

In January 2024, Bob Ludke, a Senior Fellow at The Harkin Institute, will teach a “J-Term” course at Drake University entitled, Disability-Driven Innovation and Long-Term Value Creation. The course will help approximately 20 undergraduate students explore how organizations of all kinds and all sizes can integrate disability inclusion into their business strategy.

Most students will be from Drake University’s School of Business, but the course is open to all Drake undergraduates.



Key dates include:

  • November 1: Entrepreneur application process opens
  • December 8: Entrepreneur application process closes
  • December 15: Selected entrepreneurs notified
  • January 5 and 8: Entrepreneurs present to all students (virtual or in person) about their business and their “problem to solve”
  • January 9: Students assigned to small groups to work with each entrepreneur
  • January 24 and January 25: Students present to entrepreneurs on their work (virtual or in person)


Submission Materials

If you are an entrepreneur with a disability and would like the opportunity to collaborate with Drake University students to grow your business or scale an idea, please apply!

Each applicant will be required to complete a brief, online application through a secure log-in on The Harkin Institute website. Please submit a PowerPoint presentation with a limit of 10 slides that will include the following information:

  • The company’s mission
  • The problem being addressed, and why it matters
  • The research and development used to address the problem
  • The demographic who will buy/use the product or solution (including the potential to scale to markets beyond persons with disabilities)
  • The reason this concept needs to come to market now
  • The business model
  • Market competition
  • The team

Optional supporting attachments can be included, such as:

  • Business Plan or Business Canvas Model
  • Additional materials such as videos or features of your business
  • Targeted Small Business, Veteran Owned Certificate or Disabled Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE) Certificate through Disability:IN


Accommodations and Accessibility

The Tom and Ruth Harkin Center is a fully accessible building, designed specifically to accommodate persons with disabilities. Should additional accommodations be needed, The Harkin Institute team will work with students and / or visiting entrepreneurs to ensure a fully accessible learning and collaboration experience.


Feel free to contact Bob Ludke at The Harkin Institute by email: